I praise God for the revival that by all accounts has been sweeping over Asbury University in Kentucky and perhaps to other campuses as well. May God be glorified in the opening of the eyes of many to His glory.
One way some of us have been harmed is how “the glory of God” has been emphasized in our churches. Like, it doesn’t matter what happens to you, as long as God is glorified. God’s glory is all that matters; you don’t. As my friend Brenda Linn has said:
“Glory” is often treated like the light of an atomic bomb—with fear. Horror, even, assuming that such power and brightness will destroy us.
For me, “glory” became a reminder of “god’s” desire to get attention for himself, possibly at my expense, His power to scare and intimidate me. Commands to give glory to “god” really hurt.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to meet people who want to seek Jesus, God the Son, but feel fear of God the Father. This has been so devastating to so many, that even though I’ve addressed it before, I want to address it again.
But first, where I’ve addressed it before:
Other Here’s the Joy blog posts / articles on this topic
I’ve talked about God’s glory in many of my posts, but these, I believe, are the most pertinent right now.
I wrote Glory, Glory, Glory (not-so-great title, but a pretty decent blog post) in 2012 when I was studying 2 Corinthians and I was also just beginning to learn about horrific abuses going on behind the scenes in our churches and other Christian organizations.
Is God Glorified Through Our Suffering? distinguishes when and how God is and is not glorified through suffering, including 4 ways the Word of God relates suffering to God’s glory. This lengthy article will most likely get edited into a chapter in my next Untwisting Scriptures book, which will talk about suffering, as well as Death (including death to self) and Life.
So, heads up, sneak peek of the next book available to those who are paying attention.
What’s the Best Way for Us to Bring Glory to God? is a post that spring-boarded off of the previous one (it was posted the next day).
It’s a fairly intensive Bible study, but I hope that won’t put you off, because in it I’ve walked through what I believe are some of the most important truths about God’s glory, for us to live this life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And how practical these truths are in our lives!
The Thick Darkness Where God Was: This very personal piece, published ten years ago, was actually written more like 15 or 20 years ago. It was born out of personal pain and the uplifting of soul that was a big part of the reason I started this blog in 2009. It describes a significant aspect of the “experience” foundation for what I’ve written since then about the glory of God. (I’ve emphasized many times that the “knowing” of intellectual truth of the Word of God must be accompanied by experiential “knowing” in order for us to have the strength in the Spirit that we need to have as we face off with darkness.)
Those two glorious mountains
When I was reading the Pentateuch recently (specifically Exodus and Deuteronomy), I was reminded again.
You remember how the Glory Cloud of God led the Israelites away from Pharaoh when they were leaving Egypt? That was the cloud that Moses went into up on Mt. Sinai when he received the Law.
It was very frightening to the rank and file Israelites.
Exodus 16:16-20 describes the thunders and lightnings, the light and darkness and fire and smoke and sounds that made the people all tremble. In fact, the people trembled and the mountain—Mt. Sinai—trembled too, as in an earthquake. The presence of the Lord was fearsome in holiness and glory.
And wouldn’t that make sense? They were coming out of Egypt, where their neighbor Egyptians “worshiped” false gods in incredibly depraved and perverted ways, including orgies. The true God was taking time to distinguish Himself in dignity and grandeur and holiness from the warped view of “god” they had imbibed (and which showed itself in the “worship” around the golden calf in Exodus 32).
Deuteronomy is the record of Moses’ retelling to the next generation the history of the people since their Exodus from Egypt. Chapters 4 and 5 again recount this specific time, again emphasizing how afraid the people were to hear the voice of God (but they were not afraid enough to keep from worshiping a golden calf a few days later while waiting for Moses to come back from the mountaintop).
The glory of God was terrifying, and it seemed to them to be beyond comprehension.
But then, about a thousand years later, Jesus came. In every way possible, He actually embodied the glory of God the Father.
And after His coming, and His death, resurrection, and ascension, the writer of Hebrews drew a glorious distinction.
This distinction is in the very next verses after that “root of bitterness” passage that I addressed in Untwisting Scriptures book #1. It’s related, because this is about life in the New Covenant.
This is the difference between the Old Covenant and the New. We are not at Mt. Sinai, the place of the giving of the law. We are at Mt. Zion, the place where our Lord Jesus Christ died for us and reigns for us.
And this makes all the difference!
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24:
For you have not come to what may be touched [the physical things of the Old Covenant],
a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. . . .
But you have come to Mount Zion [the place of spiritual things, which are Better]
and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,
and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
This breathtaking contrast is displayed again and again in the New Testament, as I’ve referenced many times in this blog. When you recognize it, you’ll see it over and over, in the gospels, in Acts, and in almost all the epistles.
We cannot live in the terror of the Old Covenant. Because we live in the glory of the New.
More thoughts from Brenda Linn on “God’s glory”
We are not doomed to forever be frightened of it, like the Old Covenant people of God. We see it as beautiful, loving, and helpful (like the New Covenant people of God that we are).
Here are more bits of wisdom Brenda Linn (who doesn’t have her own blog yet, but hopefully will before long) shared with me about God’s glory.
What is glory?
Glory is a holy light, a glow, rays of supernatural illumination. (Luke 2:9)
Glory is a kind of honor, reverent exaltation, laud and praise. (Revelation 4:11)
Glory is a kind of awesome beauty. An untouchable, pure, shining greatness. Something too much for humans—something so bright that we can’t stand to gaze upon it—that glory would cause us to fall to our knees or on our faces and tremble with awe and fear. (Revelation 15:8)
God Almighty, the True and Living God, is showing me Who He really is. And He is showing me what those Bible words really mean.
Glory is evidence of the presence of Almighty God. And if you have received the blood of God the Son as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, and you have committed yourself to love for God your Father as His child, the presence of Almighty God is in you.
I believe that glory is also something else to us human beings. Something precious and personal.
Imagine that you have experienced a catastrophe: you have suffered a destructive earthquake or a war—and you have been buried in rubble. You can’t move and you can’t see. You are trapped in the dark.
Or you have been accused and condemned and imprisoned. You are alone in solitary confinement. You are trapped in the dark.
Or maybe you are in a prison of your own making. You have entangled yourself in sin and shame until your soul is buried in it. You are trapped in the dark.
Or maybe someone else has trapped you. Alone. In the dark. In the dark.
What would you do?
I would cry out. “Somebody help me!” If I knew somebody who cared, I might call that person. I might call God. “God! God! Help me!”
Eventually, someone hears my cry and digs and scratches and pries and heaves until they break through to where I am trapped in the dark.
And light shines into my darkness.
That is glory, when Hope shines in.
In the Lord Jesus Christ, the glory of God is not a warning to stay away, but an invitation to come close.
Andrew Peterson’s beautiful song “Is He Worthy?” gives us the line “Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is.” So many Scriptures could be cited as the inspiration for that line. His glory is the light that shines into our darkness, with hope.
I have one more blog post to refer you to. Though it doesn’t mention the word “glory,” it does address the tension many believers feel between the Son and the Father. The Son, whom they see as gracious and gentle, and the Father, whom they see as harsh, exacting, and always angry.
“Jesus as Intercessor”: Barely Restraining God’s Wrath? emphasizes the oneness of purpose of both the Son and the Father. When we see the glory of the Son, we are in fact seeing the glory of the Father.
If you are His child, He is for you.
There is so much more that could be said, but I would love to invite you to explore for yourself the glory of the New Covenant—the “glory that excels,” according to 2 Corinthians 3. Explore the light and shining associated with Jesus (who fully represents God the Father), which glory is also, incredibly, associated with us as His people. As His people, through Jesus Christ, we can boldly approach His glory and reflect it to others.
Ask Him to manifest to you how the works of Father and Son, their glory, are unified. You can anticipate with eagerness that He will do this for you.
Beautiful, encouraging post. Thank you, Rebecca!
I wish I had the time to speak as clearly as you have, but in the time I have I want to say that I think that in Matthew 5 (what is typically called the Beautitudes) Jesus Himself is proclaiming the New Covenant. It is the first time he “opened his mouth” to the disciples as he was looking at the people around and I think He proclaiming Himself as the fulfillment of the blessing and giving blessings. Matthew, being the tax collector that he is – took note of each thing he said and I don’t think it is a coincidence that there are 10 of them and that Jesus is sitting on a mountain WITH the disciples. Compare this story to Moses on Mt. Sinai and it is Jesus erasing the fear and dread and replacing it with Himself as the fulfillment of the law and giving blessings to the least of these. That is why after the 9 “blessed’s” and the 1 “rejoice” of Matthew 5, he goes on to call us “salt” and “light” and to say very specifically – don’t think I am replacing the law or nullifying it by saying these things – I have come to fulfill it.
This is beautiful, Terra. Thank you. I hadn’t thought about all these parallels. (But yes, for sure I’ve thought about how He said He came to fulfill the Law–so important!)
Rebecca — Thank you (and Brenda Linn) for this particular piece.
I (still) have mixed emotions about the Glory of God. It’s not His fault.
I didn’t know what it meant growing up — never explained, but referred to occasionally…. Tha changed in my late teens when I started hearing the phrase innumerable times in college — as the reason we do anything we do — but I didn’t realize what it meant or how to apply it to my life… but it “sounded good” and something to pursue in its mystery. Having heard it so much, I pondered it more. Everyone else seemd to already know what it meant. Over time, I began (I think) to understand it more, and found it to be something to ponder and pursue.
The next prominent usage of the phrase came a decade or more later– most notably heard in church, generally to beef up the offerings and special gifts “to glorify God” with a new building project, a new nursery, a big deal community outreach or to pave the parking lot.
The term became odious to me, because when it was trundled out, it felt like a bait and switch or a walk through the garden path leading to a trap door at the end. It began to sound like a hollow excuse to do something someone deemed “the right thing to do.” I rarely felt like the Spirit of God was driving these next steps or efforts…. it was a nice idea in general, but tacking on the phrase cheapened it, because if you didn’t participate at a significant level, then you were less than and failing God Himself. =(
I see His glory in transformed lives, in unexpected strength for the journey, and knowing He alone provided this from His loving and kind hand. Perhaps mostly in ways I see that acknowledge Him as Who He is, more so than small creatures and beings providing for themselves. I see glory to God when there is a crack of Light and Hope in the midst of deeply dark and troubling times. I see glory to God when someone is rescued. I see glory to God with every morning sunrise and evening sunset — no matter what is happening, His faithfulness speaks of Who He is amid the turmoil and chaos of a broken world.
Thank you, Rebecca and Brenda, for beautiful and strong words of Hope, Truth and Love.
And to you for these beautiful words, Susan. Thank you.