We encounter God as God first encounters us. He initiates us coming to know Him. First there’s the revelation, then a measure of understanding, and depending upon our experience, at some point there’s a sense of wonder and of an awe of this God who has encountered us. To the Hebrews, the revelation and awe of God defined everything they did. Obedience was what He wanted as a part of their relationship with Him and they gave it to Him unquestioningly. Because of who He is.
They had witnessed the miracles of what He did to free them from Egypt. They then experienced His profound and even terrifying holiness and glory on the Sinai mountain. He made Himself personally known to them…. to every single person! And then He invited them to be His people through whom He would make Himself known to the world. They agreed and He gave them commandments to teach them how to live a holy life unto Him. When they walked with Him, they obeyed His Word out from a holy reverence and great respect for Who He is. And so began a relationship that continues to this day.
Ask a reverent Jewish person today why they observe the Commandments, and they will tell you it’s because they are His people and they do so out of love and reverence of Him. It also has to do with why Jews still keep Passover, aside from the fact that He said to. They remember! They tell the story yearly of the Exodus from slavery and of God meeting them on the Sinai mountain. They also keep the feasts and Shabbat, those who do, to give Him the honor due Him. It is not to gain His favor as is often thought of the Jews. They already know they have His favor in that they are still His chosen people.
Unfortunately, the church was robbed of the whole Passover event by Constantine in the 4th century and it remained a complete loss until recently. But it was meant to be ours as Believers in Yeshua, who are also His chosen ones, though the revelation came differently. Passover is being restored increasingly to the Church today and the profound revelation with it of how it was a rehearsal of God's greatest deliverance through Yeshua's death, burial and resurrection, from an even more evil dictator than Pharaoh, and not just for Israel but for the whole world, for whosoever wishes to receive it.
While the New Testament Hebrew writers certainly shared this same awe and reverence for both God and their Messiah, in time Greek and Roman mindsets began to introduce interpretations of certain aspects of Scripture that would be foreign to the understanding of any of the original Jewish writers or believers. The short version is that ideas were introduced to the church that were more based on Greek and Roman philosophical thinking than on Hebrew revelations of God and His Son. Many of them are still with us today, including that we tend to often be introspective rather than God-focused and may pick and choose the Scriptures we like or which meet our needs without a real sense of the wholeness of the revelation of God in what brings amazement and wonder and a holy sense of awe before Him. Many of us read the Scriptures selectively (I've done so myself), so we may be at a loss when it comes to understanding the whole council of God from the beginning to the end. Reading it this way, we may find ourselves without words at the astounding majesty of it all in its greatness, perfection, diversity, balance…. Feel free to add your own words here.
(Regarding "the end" the Bible, the book of The Revelation has several hundred references to the Original Covenant (OT) which help to make the book understandable, as well as consistent with the Hebrew perspective. Bibles are available with footnotes to take you to them.)
All that said, we are, it appears, to be in a time of increasing restoration of a number of things of God. We would be wise to ask, just what is being restored? How we answer that question could bring us to a place of understanding that particular aspect. If it’s a revival of evangelism, that’s what we’ll pray for, focus on and likely experience if we act as if we expect it to happen. If it a matter of restoring Hebrew roots to the church, as is what I am addressing here in part, then that is what we will be focused on and experience in some form or another.
I’d like to suggest that in the restoring, the going back to the ways of the Hebrews in the aspects that are appropriate for us today (without a temple and the entire sacrificial system, of course), that a good part of what needs to be restored is a sense of marvel, of wonder, of awe, of who our God is! Though the New Covenant was written by Hebrews with a Hebrew message, the church has been under a Greek influence for almost 2000 years in many ways. Correspondingly we have lost, or at least misplaced, a sense of wonder, of awe and of the mystery of our God that was foundational to Israel’s relationship with Him as the Almighty.
Consider this thought from a Hebrew perspective: “The fear (reverence, awe) of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). [You may wish to stop and consider here what this statement means to you.]
Following are some of my own random thoughts. Read them if you wish or skip down to Awe.
I am awed that God created that birds flap their wings and actually fly, even thousands of miles to get to ‘home’, and that fish can breathe under water. And that every species only mates with its own species. How do they know that? Instinct? How do they find one another? It awes me that God created most of the earth soft enough to plant things and hard enough to walk on without sinking. And that the sun warms us without burning us up and that we depend upon it for so very much. And that Yeshua (Jesus) is as the rays of the sun to us who are unable to look directly at the sun, it being like the Father, unapproachable and too bright in His holiness to look at or come near, at least here on earth! Ponder these words of John:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life, the life (which) was manifested which we have seen and bear witness and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father was manifested to us….” (1 John 1:1-2).
Even so, I am amazed that God is as equally involved with creating the tiniest microbe as the largest solar system. Size or distance mean nothing to Him. Why do the sugar ants in my kitchen that I can’t get rid of march in lines? How tiny their organs must be. I wonder, do they have ears? Can they hear?
How many ways are we are created in God’s likeness? How much of the likeness is still there after Eve at the apple? How beyond our full understanding is that the Spirit that Adam forfeited at the cost of that apple is restored to us through the death of God’s Son. We never would have thought of that!
We need to sleep, but it doesn’t appear that God does. How is it that our minds don’t stop thinking while we sleep? Are there some things He communicates to us in those times I wonder? Why did God give us dreams rather than just tell us things? Do we need the rest from the struggles of a fallen world?
Scientists tell us that when a sperm meets an egg, there is an instantaneous and infinitesimal burst of light. Is that when the image of God enters that child-to-be? Is God Who is everywhere and Who knows everything there at that moment to witness a child being conceived in His likeness?
I’ve wondered often, almost every time it happens, why God created us with tears, and that we cry when we’re sad or sorrowful, but also in moments of joy. Are tears also in the likeness of the Almighty?
I marvel that my dog knows when I am sad or needing some cuddling. I marvel that trees stand so strong and as tall as they often are. Where do Squirrels sleep? I marvel that flowers grow in places where no one but God sees them. And we have learned that there are a great many more sounds and colors than we are capable of seeing or hearing. Did He create them for his own pleasure?
When He created all those galaxies and planets and suns… are we really the only people in all that vastness? Did Jesus die for any others anywhere else? Why is it that God put us so in the confines of time and space that we can’t even imagine outside of it? So much so that when I think that He created the world out of nothing, I still picture nothing as a space! Awe is indeed all around us!
Awe: a feeling or emotion aroused by profound respect or reverence mixed with dread and/or wonder, often inspired by something majestic or powerful. Overwhelming wonder, admiration, or respect. An overwhelming feeling of admiration, fear or wonder produced by that which is grand, sublime, and extremely powerful. It can come in moments of being in touch with the mystery of reality! (Or should that be the reality of mystery?) Awe can also mean dread for one who is out of God’s will. The opposite of Awe is: contempt, arrogance, scorn, disrespect, boldness or irreverence.
When we consider the marvelous inexplicable (unable to explain) ways of God who is so vastly beyond all we can really imagine and yet, He is so intimately close to us… and when I consider the ways of the world in these days we are in, it would seem that we need a great deal of wisdom to navigate the days ahead. So what’s the key to obtaining that needed wisdom? Consider these words from Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leading Jewish theologian:
“A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom.”
True wisdom is derived from a reverence for God of what He could bring about that is beyond ourselves. God’s perspectives (if you will pardon the expression) trump logic or clever thinking. Have you ever had the experience of trying to figure something out and then you pray, acknowledging how far beyond your own thinking God’s is, and asking Him for insight and wisdom and then suddenly, you have the answer! I actually had that happen this morning. I was trying to explain something to a friend, and we weren’t connecting. So we began to pray and as we did, the whole thing became clear to both of us of something more than what either of us imagined. The result: Awe inspired praise!
Reverence + Trust in God = Wonder and Joy!
The greatest insights come from moments of awe. We are changed by those experiences. In a Hebrew way of thinking, they can bring us to a sense of consecration – of regarding something as sacred, holy, entirely of God and God alone. It’s in moments like these that we realize, if we send our thoughts in that direction, that we are a part of belonging to something so much bigger than we are, and more mysterious and glorious than what we are ordinarily aware of. It is all there for us if we will turn our thoughts to God for His great grace and consider the likes of what we've been sharing here.
One pathway to such wisdom is Awe! Our awe of God is expressed in how we relate to Him, how we consciously choose to look to Him in wonder and reverence, respect, and honor. He is so far beyond anything we can fully grasp or begin to understand. And for us as believers in Yeshua, the reality is that He meets us in our most intimate thoughts, and that He knows each one of us so personally, even beyond how we know ourselves, and even more astounding (I wish I had a better word), is that one day we will stand before Him as our Almighty King in whom is ALL authority, basking in His infinite glory…. How awe is that?!