~by Randy Bushey
…the whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3).
Have you ever tried to define the term glory?
Where would you start in explaining its meaning to a 12-year-old?
The word gets associated with Christmas, at least in the biblical narrative of the birth of Christ: and the glory of the Lord shone around them; Glory to God in the highest heaven; a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
Glory appears to be an expression of resplendent beauty, magnificence, value, riches, dignity, and honour. Because an antonym helps to sharpen our understanding, think of glory as the opposite of shame.
The Old Testament Hebrew term kabod, and the Greek word doxa found in the New Testament both carry the sense of weight or heaviness, significant in a culture where value was often measured by heft or mass. (This carries over to our current vernacular, as in “her opinion carries a lot of weight with our customers”).
In the OT, God’s glory was depicted as a heavy cloud blanketing Mount Sinai, and then as a consuming fire atop the mountain (Exodus 24).
It was sometimes called shekinah, based on the Hebrew word “to dwell” because although His people understood that He existed everywhere, in some sense God evidenced His presence by visibly displaying His overpowering glory, showing that He was there dwelling among His people.
Back to that 12-year-old awaiting your answer.
John Piper explains that some words are just very difficult to define, and he uses the term beauty as an example. We all know it when we see it; but to define its character, its dimensions – that is best done by demonstrating, or pointing to something that is intrinsically beautiful.
Glory is a word like that.
Piper then contrasts glory with holy asserting that when we consider God, the terms are more closely related than maybe we realize.
If holy is what God is, then glory is the “manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going public of his holiness. It is the way he puts his holiness on display for people to apprehend.”*
Piper goes on to look at the antiphonal response of the cherubim in Isaiah’s vision: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
If you were hearing this famous verse for the very first time, Piper points out you might expect the line to end, the whole earth is full of His holiness. But of course, it doesn’t.
The eternal fact that God is thrice-holy results in the earth being full of His glory.
Glory evidences the holiness of God.
Like His holiness, His glory is without limit. And there is nothing we can do to increase or diminish it.
But as those who are created in His image, and are being transformed into the image of Christ, we have the opportunity to reflect the glory of God.
Takeaway: For God, glory is intrinsic, inherent. For us, if it exists at all, it is always reflected, much like the moon reflects the rays of the sun.
But we can only reflect His glory well when the character of Christ is seen in us.
That’s because the perfect glory of God is seen in the Incarnation. The Person of Jesus. The enfleshment of God.
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).
~ graphic by Brad Harrison, freeimages.com
*a version of this post appeared in April 2016.