Dr. Richard L. Strauss
April 27, 1980
When young people want you to know that something is of major importance, they sometimes say, "Man, that's heavy." [Editor note: The 1970s had just wrapped up, remember!] The subject of glory is in that category. God's glory is heavy! As a matter of fact, the most common word for glory in the Old Testament (kabod) comes from a root that means literally "to be heavy." In Old Testament times, a person's weight was his glory.
Now I know what you're thinking! So please let me explain that statement. It doesn't mean that overweight people were any more glorious than underweight people. And it certainly doesn't mean that we all ought to start eating more to increase our glory. It simply means that a person who was considered to have glory in that day was usually one who had the "weight" of riches, power, or position (see Genesis 31:1; 45:13). A man's glory referred to what he was and what he had, his honor and his reputation.
1. The Biblical Reference to God's Glory
As we read through the Old Testament, it does not take long to discover that God has glory. It was first mentioned when the people of Israel grumbled because they had no food. Moses promised them a miraculous provision of manna from heaven, which, he said, would be an evidence of "the glory of the Lord" (Exodus 16:7). That God took care of His people was part of His weight of glory.
As the Old Testament progresses, it becomes evident that God not only has glory, He is glory. He is a glorious God. David calls Him "the God of glory" (Psalm 29:3) and insists that his glory is great (Psalm 138:5).
The phrase "the glory of the Lord" begins to appear with such frequency, it becomes evident that it is more than just one attribute; it is the Lord Himself. When we read of the glory of God, we're reading about God in all His intrinsic and eternal perfections, the sum and substance of all His attributes, the totality of His inherent majesty. God's glory is who He is, what He possesses, and what He is like. God's glory is God in His essential being.
When He promised to show Moses His glory (Exodus 33:22), it was God's mercy, God's grace, God's long-suffering, God's goodness, God's truth, God's forgiveness, and God's righteous wrath against sin that Moses witnessed (Exodus 34:6-7). God's glory sums up everything. That's why I'm presenting it last in this series on God's attributes, because it really sums everything we've said thus far about the Lord. God's glory is who God is.
When David called God "the King of glory," it was His power that was foremost in David's mind. You know these verses:
"Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." (Psalm 24:7-8).
When the readers of Psalm 96 were exhorted to declare God's glory (Psalm 96:3), things such as His honor, majesty, strength, beauty, sovereignty, and righteousness were mentioned (Psalm 96:6, 10, 13). God's glory is all that God is. God's glory is the sum and substance of His attributes.
Consequently, He can never lose any of His glory and still be God. That isn't true of human beings. We can lose anything we might be known for—our position, our reputation, our money, or anything else—and still be human beings. But God would not be God if He lost any of His glory. That is one reason He doesn't want us trying to give any of it to any other god.
"I am the Lord; that is My name! I will not yield My glory to another or My praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8).
God must exercise His wrath against people who exchange His glory for images (Romans 1:18-23). He cannot allow anyone to diminish His worth or detract from His majesty.
There have been occasions in human history when God has allowed His glory to take limited visible form. It had to be limited because no man can look at His full glory and survive. And it has always been revealed in terms of brightness and radiant light. For instance, when He gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, His glory covered the mountain in a fiery cloud (Exodus 24:16-18). When Moses came down from his encounter with God on the mount, the Scripture says that "the skin of his face shown" (Exodus 34:29), another indication that God had revealed Himself in resplendent light.
When the Tabernacle was constructed, we read:
"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34-35).
Again that cloud of glory seems to have been brilliant light. It was called by the Jews the Shekinah (pronounced shek-eye-nah). You won't find that word in the Bible; it's an extra-Biblical term derived from a Hebrew verb meaning "to dwell," emphasizing God's presence among His people in that shining cloud of glory. The same Shekinah glory filled the Temple years later when it was completed (1 Kings 8:10-11). When Ezekiel saw a vision of the glory of the Lord, he described it in terms of brightness.
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
"This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking" (Ezekiel 1:28).
Other Old Testament appearances of the glory of the Lord as well make it clear that the word came to denote God's brightness and radiance.
When we turn to the New Testament, the same idea is present. The New Testament word (doxa) comes from a verb that means "to think" rather than "to be heavy." It's a different connotation. It referred to a man's opinion of himself (what he thought of himself) or his reputation (what others thought of him). But when it is applied to God, it carries over the Old Testament idea of His majesty and splendor—the totality of His essence.
And it doesn't take long before His glory is visibly manifested in brilliant light. When a group of shepherds heard the announcement of Messiah's birth from an angel of God, Luke tells us that "the glory of the Lord shone round about them" (Luke 2:9). God's glory shines.
The Apostle John told us that God is light (1 John 1:15). The Apostle Paul taught that God "lives in inapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). Just as no man can look directly at the brightness of the sun with his naked eye without damaging his eyesight, so no mortal man can gaze at the undiminished brightness of God's glory without being consumed (Exodus 33:20). Yet there have been sufficient veiled glimpses of His radiant glory through history to give men some idea of the majesty and splendor of His being. And even today we see the evidences of God's glory.
2. The Present Revelation of God's Glory
We learned when we were studying God's wisdom that God must exist to glorify Himself. That usually impresses unbelievers as being rather selfish, but that is because they view Him as just another imperfect, finite being showing himself off. God is infinite and absolute perfection, however. There is no one higher or greater for Him to glorify than Himself. His supremacy over all requires Him to demonstrate the perfections of His person. We can expect Him to keep on revealing His glory, and He does it in several ways.
a. God Reveals His Glory in Creation
Just as we saw God's goodness and His wisdom in creation, so also do we see His glory. Almost everyone knows this verse:
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1, NASB).
It is impossible for honest men to contemplate the starry heavens and fail to see the glory of God. They reveal that God exists, for such a glorious creation demands a Creator. They reveal His power, for such a powerful effect demands a more powerful Cause. They reveal His wisdom, for their amazing design demands an all-wise divine Designer. And they reveal His infinity, for scientists have not yet been able to discover their end. The heavens reveal the glory of God.
But the heavens are only the beginning. The earth also reveals His glory. As one of the seraphim cried to Isaiah in his vision of God, "the whole earth is filled with His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). It is impossible for honest men to contemplate the beauty of a flower, or the perfection of a snowflake, or the loveliness of a tree, or the strength of the mountains, or the vastness of the oceans, or the incredible instincts of the animal kingdom, and fail to see the glory of God.
But the highest of God's glorious creation is man. He reflects the very image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
"You have made them [humans] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5).
It is impossible for honest men to contemplate the intricacies of the human body, the capabilities of the human mind, and the complexities of the human personality, and fail to see the glory of God. And no honest man can contemplate God's dealings with the human race through history and fail to see His glory, particularly God's love, God's grace, God's mercy, and God's long-suffering, as well as God's wrath against sin. God's relationship with man has demonstrated His glory.
b. God Reveals His Glory in Christ
But nothing can possibly reflect the glory of God like the God-man Himself. Jesus Christ claimed to have possessed equal glory with the Father. While praying what we call His high-priestly prayer, Jesus said:
"And now, Father, glorify Me in your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began." (John 17:5).
Jesus Christ shared equal glory from eternity past with the Father. When He came to earth, those who saw His glory recognized it for what it was:
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).Grace and truth are attributes of God, and Jesus Christ possessed those attributes because He was the glory of God. His divine glory was veiled during His earthly life. The veil, according to the book of Hebrews, was His flesh. But on one momentous occasion the veil was pulled aside, and He "was transfigured."
"There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light" (Matthew 17:2).
Peter, James, and John beheld the magnificent glory of the eternal God demonstrated visibly that day. Peter wrote about it years later. We "were eyewitnesses of His majesty," he said (2 Peter 1:16b).
"He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased'" (2 Peter 1:17).
All other manifestations of God's glory paled in the light of this revelation in Jesus Christ. I love what the writer to the Hebrews said about Him: He called Jesus "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being" (Hebrews 1:3).
That word radiance is translated brightness in the New King James version. It indicates a radiance that shines out from its source. Just as surely as the brilliant light that flooded the Old Testament tabernacle was the visible manifestation of God's glory, so was Jesus Christ. He was the Shekinah glory of God because He was God in flesh, the express image of God's person, the very impress of God's being.
In the same way an image on a coin exactly matches the mold from which it was cast, so Jesus Christ bears the exact stamp of God's nature. The exact representation of God's being. Both Paul and James called Him "the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1). He is continually being revealed to us in the Bible, and we have the exciting prospect of personally beholding the glory of God as we get to know Him through His Word.
"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
3. The Proper Response to God's Glory
I had a professor in seminary who used to say, "Revelation demands response." The primary reason God reveals His truth to us is to transform our lives. If we profess to know the truth, but refuse to let it affect the way we live, we are guilty of hypocrisy, and nobody appreciates a hypocrite. God has revealed to us His glory. What then should our response be? What are we going to do about it?
It would seem that if God's ultimate goal for all things is His own glory, and if He goes to great lengths to manifest His glory, then we as His children should also establish our highest goal in life the demonstration of God's glory.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31; see also Romans 15:6.)
That's an amazing verse of Scripture. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do. When you go home tonight and have your dinner, God says, "I want you to do that for My glory." And if you relax after dinner with a cup of coffee or some dessert, God says, "I want you to do that for My glory."
"In fact," God says, "I want you to do every single thing in life for My glory."
The Apostle Peter desired "that in all things God may be glorified" (1 Peter 4:11).
Is that the desire of your life: that in every single facet of your life you would glorify God? Well I guess to have it as a goal in life, we need to understand what it means to glorify God.
To glorify God simply means to bring His innate glory to light, to expose it, manifest it, reveal it, demonstrate it, make it known. It is to show God off for who He is.
Suppose you decide to take up painting and you work very hard to develop your talent as an artist. You finally reach a stage of advanced proficiency that permits you to paint what you think is a real masterpiece. What are you going to do with it? Hide it in the attic? Hardly! That painting gives testimony to your talents. It is your glory. So you hang it in a prominent place. You show it off. And I don't think that's wrong. You want to enjoy your talents. When we glorify God, we bring His glory to light for others to see, just as tat painting brought your glory to light. We make His attributes prominently known.
How can we make His attributes known? There are two major ways:
- Heartfelt worship
- Holy living
a. Making God's Attributes Known through Heartfelt Worship
When Moses saw the glory of the Lord, there was no question about what he should do.
"Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped" (Exodus 34:8).
That is the right response of the human heart toward God. To worship God is simply to acknowledge His glory. The Psalmist said:
"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness" (Psalm 29:2).
That's our memory verse this week. Give God the glory due to Him. How? By worshipping Him.
God wants us to admit who He is, to confess that we understand who He is, and to bow in submission to Him as He is. That is worship.
Some people seem to feel that worship is following a prescribed form of service where we say that the right thing and sing the right song in the right order. Worship may take place in that setting but it doesn't necessarily happen that way. Worship is basically the joyful response of our hearts to the revelation of who God is and what He has done. It cannot take place unless we are growing in our knowledge of Him. But when we know Him, and when we rehearse His glory and greatness in appreciation, gratitude, praise and adoration, He is glorified.
"Whoever offers praise glorifies Me," says the Lord (Psalm 50:23a).
b. Making God's Attributes Known through Holy Living
Jesus told us the second major way to glorify God:
"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8, NASB).
We don't have time to fully develop the topic of fruit in the New Testament, but I can tell you now that there are four basic kinds of fruit:
- Converts brought to Him through our witness (John 4:36)
- Contributions made for the needs of others (Romans 15:28)
- Christlike character (Galatians 5:22-23—what we know as the fruit of the Spirit)
- Conduct that honors Him (Colossians 1:10)
Whether what Jesus was talking about includes the first two types of fruit, I'm not sure. But I am convinced that a character like Christ's and conduct that honors Him is the fruit that glorifies God. Jesus was talking about the way we live when He said:
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
Our manner of life, lived like the Lord Jesus, brings glory to God. A holy life brings glory to God.
Paul was talking about holy living (he was particularly dealing with the sin of fornication) when he exhorted us to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits which are God's.
"You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
We begin to glorify God when, by an act of our wills, we yield ourselves to His authority and decide that we want our lives to express His character, particularly things like God's holiness, God's love, God's grace, God's mercy, God's long-suffering, God's forgiveness, God's goodness, God's truth, and God's faithfulness. When we let the very character of the Lord be revealed in the way we live our lives, that glorifies God.
I'm sure the source of many of our problems as Christians is our unwillingness to accept God as He is and bring our lives into conformity to Him. We try to remake Him as we want Him to be, so we in turn can live as we want to live. We make God in our image rather than submitting ourselves to Him.
But when we know God, love Him, and submit to Him as He is in all His glory, then we shall reach our highest goal in life: glorifying Him. That alone leads us to ultimate happiness. There is no greater satisfaction in life than to fulfill the purpose for which God made us and saved us.
We cannot reach that place so long as we are glorifying in ourselves or in any earthly thing. So many Christians are glorying in worldly things: their own position, their own attainments, their power with people, their money and possessions, their personal appearance, their athletic prowess. Jeremiah told us about this:
"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Three things many of us love to glory in: riches, strength, and wisdom. But life's greatest joy is in knowing God in a personal, precious, loving, intimate, yet submissive relationship.
It isn't that "good buddy" relationship which some talk about flippantly and irreverently. It isn't that "get God on my side" attitude that is motivated by a desire for success in worldly pursuits. Lots of evangelical Christians today want to get on the right side of God so He will bless their business so they can make lots of money. No, it's not those types of relationships.
The type of relationship that glorifies God is a Creator-creature relationship that recognizes His lordship, His right to be God in our experience, His right to mold our lives in His image. When we abdicate the throne of our lives and let Him be our sovereign Ruler, our King of glory, then and then alone will He be glorified.
Most of us will struggle with this until our dying day. As our knowledge of God grows, we will discover additional areas of our lives which have not yet been brought under His control, and every new call for surrender will meet with new resistance from our stubborn sinful natures. But we've got to surrender. Yielding our will to Him is the only thing that can bring glory to God, and consequently, true satisfaction to our lives.
Thank God, someday the struggle will be over and we ourselves shall be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). That doesn't mean we will assume any of God's glory. We shall not take the place reserved only for God. Rather, it means that our stubborn natures will be changed and we shall be made like our glorious Savior (1 Corinthians 15:52; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2). We shall become vessels that are perfectly fitted to express His glory throughout eternity. And then God's purpose for saving us will have been fully realized—our entire existence will be perfectly and uninterruptedly dedicated "to the praise of His glory" forever (see Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).
"To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen" (Jude 24-25).
Glory awaits God's children.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
There is no glory ahead for the unbeliever. The Bible says there is only the fearful anticipation of judgment. Friend, there is no need for you to experience that judgment. Jesus bore that judgment in your place and died on that cross for you. Now God is ready to forgive you, and receive you, and assure you of eternal glory, if you will acknowledge your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Will you do that?
With heads bowed and eyes closed, in at attitude of reverence and submission to God, I'm going to ask those who have never acknowledged their sinfulness and have never received Jesus Christ as their Savior to make that decision right now. God will deliver you from judgment and assure you of glory if you will acknowledge your sin in these moments. Admit to God that you are a sinner. Tell Him you believe Jesus Christ paid the debt of your sin. Then put your personal trust in Him. Invite Jesus to be your Savior.
Heavenly Father, we pray that the revelation of Your glory may be used by Your Spirit to attract the lost to the Lord Jesus, in whom they will find life and eternal glory. We ask it in His name. Amen.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.
Psalm 29:2 NIV