When young people want us to know that something is of major importance, they sometimes say, “Man, that’s heavy.” The subject of glory is in that category. It is heavy! As a matter of fact, the most common word for glory in the Old Testament comes from a root that means literally “to be heavy.” In Old Testament times, a person’s weight was his glory.
Now please let me explain that statement. It does not mean that overweight people were any more glorious than underweight people, or that we all ought to start eating more in order to increase our glory. It simply means that a person who was considered to have glory in that day was usually one who had some kind of weight, such as the weight of riches, the weight of power, or the weight of position. A man’s glory referred to what he was and what he had—his honor, his reputation, or his possessions.
When 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 would be an evidence of the glory of the Lord (Exodus 16:7). God’s faithful provision for His people was part of His weight of glory.
As the Old Testament progresses, it becomes evident that God not only has glory, but also that He is glorious. David calls Him “the God of glory” (Psalm 29:3), and later declares, “For great is the glory of the LORD” (Psalm 138:5). The phrase “the glory of the LORD” appears with such frequency, we begin to suspect that it refers to more than just one attribute of God. It is the Lord Himself in all His intrinsic and eternal perfections, the sum and substance of all His attributes, the totality of all His inherent majesty. God’s glory is who He is, what He possesses, and what He is like. God’s glory is God Himself in His essential being.
When God promised to show Moses His glory, He revealed His mercy, His grace, His long-suffering, His goodness, His truth, His forgiveness, and His righteous wrath against sin (Exodus 33:22; 34:6-7). When David asked, “Who is the King of glory?” the answer came back, “The LORD strong and mighty” (Psalm 24:8). His glory in that case referred primarily to His power. When the Psalmist said, “Tell of His glory among the nations” (Psalm 96:3), and “Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name” (verse 8), things such as His honor, His majesty, His strength, His beauty, His sovereignty, His justice, His righteousness, and His faithfulness were mentioned (verses 6,10,13). God’s glory is all that He is.
Furthermore, He can never lose any of His glory and still be God. That is not 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 as human as we ever were. But God would not be God if He lost His glory. That is one reason why He cannot share any of it with any other god.
I am the LORD, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images (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, and it has always been revealed in terms of brightness and radiant light. The Psalmist said, “For the LORD God is a sun and a shield” (Psalm 84:11). Evidences of His brilliance are found all through the Bible. For instance, when He gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, His glory covered the mount like a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16-17). When Moses came down from that encounter with God “the skin of his face shone” (Exodus 84:29), another indication that God had revealed Himself to Moses in resplendent light.
When the people of Israel finished constructing the tabernacle, an amazing thing happened. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to 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). That cloud of glory seems to have been brilliant light, so bright that Moses could not look at it or stand before it. It was called by the Jews the Shekinah, a non-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 Solomon’s temple years later when it was completed (1 Kings 8:10-11). When Ezekiel saw a vision of the glory of the Lord, he too described it in terms of brightness: “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ezekiel 1:28).
A similar idea is present in the New Testament word for glory, a verb that means “to think.” It referred to a man’s self evaluation (what he thought of himself), or his reputation (what others thought of him). When it is applied to God, it carries over the Old Testament idea of His majesty and splendor, the totality of His essence—what He is and how He expresses Himself. It does not 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, “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9). God’s glory shines!
The Apostle John wrote that “God is light” (1 John 1:5). He predicted that the New Jerusalem will not need the sun or moon, “for the glory of God has illumined it” (Revelation 21:23). The Apostle Paul taught that God “dwells in inapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). All through the Bible God is depicted as light. Just as no man can look directly at the brightness of the sun with his naked eye without destroying 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. Even today, we see the evidences of His glory.
God must exist to glorify Himself. There is no one higher or greater for Him to glorify, so we can expect Him to keep on demonstrating the perfections of His person and revealing the radiance of His glory. He does this in several ways, the first being in creation. Just as we saw God’s goodness and His wisdom revealed in creation, so also do we see His glory.
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).
It is impossible to contemplate the starry heavens and fail to see the glory of God. They reveal that He 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 their extent defies discovery by man’s best scientific efforts.
But the heavens are only the beginning. The earth likewise reveals His glory: one of the seraphim cried to Isaiah in his vision of God, “The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:8). It is impossible to contemplate the beauty of a flower, the perfection of a snowflake, the loveliness of a tree, the strength of the mountains, the vastness of the oceans, or the amazing 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). David wrote concerning him:
Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God,
And dost crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:5)
It is impossible to contemplate the intricacies of the human body, the capabilities of the human mind, or the complexities of the human personality and fail to see the glory of God. No man can contemplate God’s dealings with the human race through history and fail to see His glory, particularly His love, His grace, His mercy, His long-suffering, as well as His wrath against sin.
Nothing, however, can possibly reflect the glory of God like the God-man Himself—Jesus Christ. Christ claimed to have possessed equal glory with the Father before the worlds were formed (John 17:5). When He came to earth, those who saw His glory recognized it for what it was: “glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). His divine glory was veiled by human flesh throughout His earthly life, but on one momentous occasion that veil was pulled aside: “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2). Peter, James, and John beheld the magnificent glory of the eternal that day. When Peter wrote, years later, about his thrilling experience, he said, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’” (2 Peter 1:16-17).
All other manifestations of God’s glory grow dim in the light of this revelation in Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews called Him “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Just as surely as the radiant light that flooded the Old Testament tabernacle was the visible manifestation of God’s glory, so was Jesus Christ. He is the Shekinah glory of God because He is 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. He is, as the Apostle Paul called Him, “the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). Since He is continually being revealed to us in His Word, we have the exciting prospect of personally beholding the very glory of God as we get to know Jesus Christ. “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
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. God has revealed to us His glory. What then should our response be? What are we going to do about it?
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 as our highest goal in life the demonstration of God’s glory. We should live to glorify Him. The Apostle Paul said that very explicitly: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31; cf. also Romans 15:6; 1 Peter 4:11).
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 put God on display and show Him 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 proficiency that permits you to produce a 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. You hang it in a prominent place so others can see it. You show it off. In the same way, when we glorify God, we bring His glory to light for others to see. We make His attributes prominently known.
There are several ways by which we do that. The first is by heartfelt worship. When Moses saw the glory of the Lord, there was no question in his mind about what he should do: “And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship” (Exodus 34:8). To worship God is simply to acknowledge His glory. The Psalmist said,
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array (Psalm 29:2).
God wants us to acknowledge who He is, to confess that we understand who He is, and to bow in submission to Him as He is. That is true worship.
Some people think worship is merely following a prescribed form of service in the proper building, saying the right thing, and singing the right song in the right order. Worship may take place in that setting, but it does not 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 can take place any time, anywhere, and should take place regularly—not just when we are in a church building. But it cannot take place unless we are growing in our knowledge of the Lord. When we know Him and rehearse His attributes and acts in appreciation, gratitude, praise, and adoration, He is glorified.
One lone Samaritan leper showed us how. Jesus had healed ten lepers and sent them to the priests for the cleansing ceremony. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Jesus asked, “Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:15-16,18) By rehearsing God’s love, His mercy, His goodness, and His power, and by thanking Him for His act of healing, that leper gave glory to God. People learned something about God that day through the leper’s thanksgiving, and in that way God was glorified. The Lord said, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me” (Psalm 50:23 KJV).
The second means by which we can glorify God is holy living. Jesus said, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8). The fruit Jesus spoke of may have included converts brought to Him through our witness (John 4:36), or contributions made for the needs of others (Romans 15:28), but it certainly includes a Christlike character (Galatians 5:22), as well as conduct that honors Him (Colossians 1:10)—in other words, holy living. Jesus was also talking about the way we live when He said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The quality of our lives should be such that the very character of the Lord is displayed to the people around us.
The Apostle Paul was talking about moral purity when he exhorted us to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). We can actually display the holiness of God by keeping ourselves from sexual immorality. We can demonstrate other aspects of God’s character as well by the way we live. When we submit to His will, we display His sovereignty. When we accept others unconditionally, we display His love. When we show kindness to those who have wronged us, we display His grace. When we reach out to those in need, we display His mercy. When we are honest, we display His truth. When we pray, we display His power. When we trust Him, we display His faithfulness. In all these, He is glorified.
When we fail to glorify God because of sin in our lives, we must confess and forsake that sin in order for Him to be glorified. A greedy Israelite named Achan took clothing, silver, and gold for himself during the conquest of Jericho, contrary to God’s command. Joshua confronted him: “My son, I implore you, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me” (Joshua 7:19). When we acknowledge our sin and turn from it, our holy God is glorified.
The most significant means by which we can glorify God is simply getting to know Him as He is. The source of many of our problems as Christians is our unwillingness to accept God as He is. We want to remake Him as we would like Him to be so that we can live as we want to live, and the result is heartache and tragedy. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we focus our attention on God’s glory and get to know Him as He truly reveals Himself, we become progressively more like Him. His character rubs off on us and we begin to display Him more perfectly. That brings glory to God.
We will never give much time or attention to knowing God, however, as long as we are glorying in ourselves or in any earthly thing. “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Life’s greatest joy is knowing God in a personal, precious, loving, intimate, yet submissive relationship. It is not that “good buddy” relationship which some talk about flippantly and irreverently. It is not that “get God on my side” attitude which is motivated by a desire for success in worldly pursuits. It is a Creator-creature relationship that recognizes His lordship, His right to be God in our experience. 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 sovereign control. Every new challenge will meet with new resistance from our sinful natures and will require new surrender to His lordship over our lives.
But someday the struggle will be over and we ourselves shall be glorified (cf. Romans 8:29-30). That does not mean we shall take the place reserved only for God, but that our stubborn natures will be changed and we shall be made like our glorious Saviour (cf. 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. Then God’s purpose for saving us will have been fully realized; our entire existence will be perfectly and uninterruptedly directed to the praise of His glory forever (cf. Ephesians 1:6,12,14).
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
List some of the things you are doing which you believe bring glory to God. Thank Him for the desire, the ability, and the privilege of so glorifying Him.
List some of the things in your life which do not glorify God. Ask Him to help you change them.