Awe versus fear

In Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s classic book God in search for Man there is the following quote

According to the Bible the principle religious virtue is yirah. What is the nature of yirah? The word has two meanings, fear and awe. There is the man who fears the Lord lest he be punished in his body, family, or in his possessions. Another man fears the Lord because he is afraid of punishment in the life to come. Both types are considered inferior in Jewish tradition. Job, who said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” was not motivated in his piety by fear but rather by awe, by the realization of the grandeur of His eternal love.

Fear is the anticipation and expectation of evil or pain, as contrasted with hope which is the anticipation of good. Awe, on the other hand, is the sense of wonder and humility inspired by the sublime or felt in the presence of mystery. … Awe, unlike fear, does not make us shrink from the awe-inspiring object, but, on the contrary, draws us near to it. This is why awe is comparable to both love and joy.

In a sense, awe is the antithesis of fear. To feel “The Lord is my light and my salvation” is to feel “Whom shall I fear?” {Psalms 27:1). “God is my refuge and my strength. A very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change, and though the mountains be moved into the heart of the seas” (Psalms 46:2-3). Invite someone today to take a closer look at Christ and his church.