How often have we prayed to God to show us His glory? Do we know what we are praying for and what to expect?
DEFINITION OF GLORY
The Oxford dictionary defines glory as fame and honour won by great deeds; adoration and praise in worship; beauty and magnificence. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Scriptures vary slightly but offer a more accurate description of God's glory.
Kabod (Hebrew) means to be "heavy"; "numerous"; "rich" and "honourable". Kabod means "weight"; "splendour" or "copiousness". Its basic meaning is that of something "weighty" in a man that gives him importance. In relation to God, it implies that which makes God impressive to man, the force of His self-manifestation - a manifestation that makes a highly significant impression on man.
Doxa (Greek) has a wide application and the KJV translates it as radiance, dignity, honour, praise and worship. The Septuagint used it for pomp, power and earthly majesty. Above all doxa is used for God's glory and power. Kabod focuses on the luminous manifestation of God's Person, while doxa also points to His essential nature, divine reality or manner of existence.
About 200 scriptures in the Old and New Testaments refer to God's glory. An analysis of these scriptures reveals that:
· The glory of God was, is and will always be active.
· The source of the activity is God the Father.
· It is executed by His authority for His purposes.
· This activity takes place in particular places and has certain effects on the places and the people present.
· Its results are aimed at man who has certain responsibilities towards it.
· Nobody can be ignorant of God's glory.
Ownership and Authority
More than half the scriptures that mention God's glory, state that it belongs to God, that is, he owns it. They also show that glory is a quality of God's character that emphasizes His greatness and authority. God's possession of glory and His right to transfer possession to others is confirmed in statements such as the following, (~ means glory):
~ of the Lord; My ~; His ~; Your ~; King of ~; Lord of ~; God of ~; ~ of the God of Israel; Lord's ~; ~ of the Holy One of Israel; ~ of His Father; ~ begotten of the Father; ~ given to Jesus; ~ of incorruptible God; ~ of the Father; ~ of Christ; Father of ~.
In the Old Testament, God is the Father (Creator, Owner and Exhibitor) of glory. In the New Testament, He transferred His glory to Jesus who manifested it through His miracles, acts, transfiguration, ascension and exaltation. Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His Being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. He shared His divine glory with His followers (Joh 17:22, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil 3:21)
Verbs used to describe the activity of God's glory create a sense of absoluteness. No adverbs are used to describe the activity. This is so much like God: our God is not small, medium or large - He is God. Typical verbs used are: "covered", "filled", "rested", "sanctified", "passed", "appeared", "came", "dwells", "stood", "gone up", "departed", "break forth" and "shone". We can study each of these verbs individually and conclude that no further qualification is required because God does not work in half-measures. He did not reduce the intensity of His glory when He passed by Moses. He rather hid Moses in a cleft in the rock and He allowed Moses to see a degree of His glory. The glory of God filled the temple - it did not first peep out from the Holy of Holies, tiptoe through the sanctuary and became quietly visible throughout the temple. God's glory is active, absolute and purposeful in what it must achieve.
Places of activity that scripture specifically mentions are:
Buildings (in the tabernacle, the temple and its thresholds and gate, the sanctuary and the house of the Lord)
· People (among Israel, the nations, the Gentiles)
· Cherubim (over and above them)
· A city (in the midst of Zion, over her dwelling and assembly places)
· A mountain (Mt Zion)
· The earth (whole earth)
· Above all (covered the heavens, above earth and heaven)
· Jesus (through, in His face, His crown)
· Holy Spirit (Spirit of glory).
Different places are specified, yet together they extend from the uncreated Trinity to the entire creation in both the physical and spiritual realms. God's glory is not apart from Him. Where His glory is, there He is. God is omnipresent, so is His glory. Every place God's glory touches, becomes holy, consecrated or separated to Him. No wonder He is jealous of His glory. (Isa 42:8)
Effects and Results
The verbs showing the activity of God's glory are absolute, but adjectives that qualify it, are abstract, such as “powerful”, “everlasting”, “transcendent”, “blessed”, “great”, “full of grace and truth”, “incorruptible”, “rich” and “excellent”. The adjectives further describe God's characteristics, attributes and are a summary of the truths about what He is and what He does. The result of the exhibition of God's glory, is the revelation of His Person to man. God wants us to see His glory - to know His Inner Being. The "plot" of the Bible summarises the effect that this revelation had on people:
Man sins - God reveals - man falls to his face in fearful worship and repents - man sins again - God reveals - man falls to his face in fearful worship and repents – ad infinitum ….
Yet the scriptures are clear about our responsibility towards the glory of God (~ means glory):
Declare His ~; give ~ to the Lord; do not turn His ~ to shame; exalt His ~; look for His ~; mouth to be filled with His ~; all nations and tongues and people to ~ in God, people created for His ~; give ~ to His name; do all to ~ of God; be messengers of His ~; be filled with fruits to His ~; Disobedience resulted in curses, great fear, struck by an angel and exclusion from His ~.
Surely, we must know His glory before we can declare it. The scriptures reveal that believers should know His glory and we should continue to seek more (~ means glory):
You shall see My ~; ~ appeared to all children of Israel, men have seen My ~ and the signs; ~ appeared to all the congregation, He has shown us His ~; Israel saw His ~; heavens declare and people see ~; nations shall see His ~; they shall speak of His ~;~ shall be revealed and all flesh see it; ~ will be seen upon Jerusalem/church, we beheld His ~; He makes known the riches of His ~; light shone in our hearts to give light of the knowledge of His ~; Father of ~ gives us spirit of wisdom and understanding to know riches of His ~; God willed to make known His ~; have seen His ~; Jesus prays that man behold His ~ given to Him by Father.
· "...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." (Eph 1:17)
· "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth..." (Joh 1:14)
· "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 the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2Co 4:6)
We already know about the glory of the Lord; the scriptures saw to that (1Joh 2:20). However, we are not only supposed to know about it but know it. We will never fully understand it, but getting there depends on our relationship with Him. The deeper our relationship, the more we will see and understand God's glory.
The scriptures on God's glory do not only reveal more about His glory but they also reveal more of God. Besides describing the glory, they also refer to it in three different senses that tell us more about God:
· The breath-taking display of His perfection as a visible presence.
· The incomprehensible value of His infinitely lovely, pure and holy Person.
· The glory and praise believers give to Him.
The OT abounds with descriptions of God's spectacular "shekinah" glory - His presence manifested through the appearance of fire, light or clouds or an act of power. Some examples from the OT are the pillar of cloud and fire (Ex. 13:21), the Lord's deliverance of the Israelites at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:19) and especially His glory in the tabernacle (Lev. 9:23-24) and Temple (1Ki. 8:10-11). NT references to the “shekinah” glory are seen in Joh 1:14 and in Luk 2:9. We could wish that we were present during these awesome displays of divinity. However, first consider the "substances" that God chose to manifest His glory in OT and NT times:
Light and Colour
The glory is described as a rainbow, bright, shining, radiant, blinding, clear as crystal, as jasper (translucent stone of various colours, especially that of fire). God is the Creator of light. Light illuminates and repels darkness; it represents truth, goodness, purity, holiness, God's redemptive work, His word that enlightens and guides and finally it represents Jesus (and His followers) as Light of the world.
In the wilderness, the cloud served as guide, to show God's presence in the tabernacle and as protection. As a visible mass of particles of water, ice or dust, a cloud contains the promise of refreshing (rain/water) or ruin (flood and hail). It also offers protection from heat (Egypt/the world).
Fire was used by God to guide Israel in the wilderness at night and to show approval, acceptance and consummation of offerings. Either fire purifies or it destroys. It is used as symbol of God's judgement on unbelievers and for purifying believers. The Holy Spirit is also symbolised as fire.
The acts, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus were, are and will forever be the most powerful testimony to God's perfections.
Is it possible that if we were present in biblical times, we would perhaps have been too awestruck to notice the deeper revelation of God's attributes? Do the "substances" God choose to manifest His presence, reveal more of God's perfection, purity and holiness than the manifestation itself? If they do, then God chose them for our (believers of today) benefit too. Think about it: When God decided a few thousand years ago which "substance" to use, He was also considering the effect it would have in increasing our knowledge of Him.
ULTIMATE VALUE OF GLORY
God's inherent divinity, eternity, sanctity, moral beauty
and perfection of character are spoken of as His glory. His glory also refers
to His transcendence and everlasting power as revealed through the magnitude,
variety and splendour of creation. This is the quality that all people lack
(Rom. 3:23) and that is beyond man's understanding (1Cor 2 7-9).
We are naturally drawn to things of value. In his book on the Nature and Character of God, W.A. Pratney suggests that we attach great worth to things or people that show properties of
· beauty (fitness, perfection, attractiveness),
· permanence (precious gems and metals),
· luminosity (just look at the popularity of fireworks or laser light displays),
· uniqueness (originals are worth more),
· rarity (for example stamps) and
· power (or any source of energy and power).
However, the total worth of all the valuable things we can ever imagine, cannot measure up to God's ultimate value. God's ultimate value is the basis for our relationship with Him and our daily righteous living. This is what believers seek when we pray to see God's glory. Our spirits, prompted by the Holy Spirit, need to know more of our God. It is only with our spirits that we will "know" God; our minds are too limited to digest His amazing qualities.
At times God's glory is referred to as the honour, love, worship and audible praise that we give to Him for His endless goodness. The Scriptures command us to declare God's glory; not because God needs it, but for our benefit. As we seek God (and find what He reveals), we will honour Him in all our ways, do all for His glory (1Cor 10:31) and contribute to promoting His glory and Kingdom within the world and ourselves.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The scriptures on God's glory reveal to us that it is active, absolute and purposeful. We see that God is the source of the activity and that it is executed by His authority for His purposes. This activity takes place in particular places and has certain effects and results aimed at man. We have certain responsibilities towards God's glory and we cannot be ignorant of it. In addition, Scripture uses the word in different senses to reveal the God of glory, His perfection, His Person and the praise believers give to Him. God's glory is therefore the exhibition of His divine attributes and perfections and the impression this creates on man. It is who He is, what He does and how He shows Himself.
The glory of God is God revealed in His intrinsic nature, character and attributes. It is also who Jesus is. Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His Being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. He now shares His divine glory with His followers (Jn 17:22), so that in our lives, Christians are transformed and matured into the glorious image of God (1 Jn 3:2.)
So, pray "God show me Your glory", focus on Him; get a close-up view and be prepared to see something that words cannot express.
The book, You Can Know God speaks more about knowing God and
how to do it.