Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen! (Psalm 72:18-19).
The subject of glory is, without doubt, not only the grandest but perhaps one of the most difficult themes for the human mind to grasp. What does the word “glory” mean? What does the expression, “glory of God,” mean? Why is His name glorious? What does it mean for the whole earth to be “filled with his glory?”
“The word normally refers to the manifested presence of God” (Reformation Study Bible). When we go to the Old Testament passages that speak of the presence of God there is also the idea of His glory being His guiding presence. When the tabernacle was finished according to God’s instructions…
“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 settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34-35).
The cloud referred to here was the bright cloud that went before Israel when they were in the wilderness after God had delivered them from Egypt. By day it was a pillar of cloud and by night a pillar of fire. They knew that as long as the cloud was with them God was with them. When the cloud filled the tabernacle they were again assured of the abiding presence and blessing of God.
John Piper expands on this definition of God’s glory…
“The term “glory of God” in the Bible refers in general to the beauty of God’s manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what God is like in his magnificence and purity. It refers to his fullness of all that is good. The term might focus on his different attributes from time to time like his power and wisdom and mercy and justice because each one is awesome in its magnitude and quality. But in general God’s glory is the perfect harmony of all his attributes into one infinitely beautiful being.” (John Piper, The Glory of God as the Goal of History).
There is a very strange and interesting account about Moses, before leaving Mt. Sinai, asking God, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18). He had first asked God to “please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” (Exodus 33:13b). To this request God replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14). Apparently the presence of God and the rest he promised Moses would make His ways evident. They would reveal His glory and His grace.
Moses comes back and then ask God to show him His glory. To this request God replied,
“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19).
In this text, God’s glory is all His goodness, His grace and His mercy. It is what is involved when the “name” of God is referred to or when anything is done “in the name” of God.
When giving assurance to the people who were to be taken into Babylonian captivity of their return to their homeland, God said…
“I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:6-7).
These people who were called by God’s name were created for His glory. In fact, everything God made was made for His glory. Everything God created was said to be “good.” It accomplished its purpose. It reflected His glory. The living creatures and the twenty-four elders in John’s vision of the throne room of heaven proclaim…
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11).
He is not just due glory because He created all things, but all things he created exist to manifest His glory. This is the reason for man being created in the image of God. He did not create us thus just on a whim, but that we might be a manifestation of His glory in and to all creation.
Not only was everything created to show His glory, the redemption of fallen man is for His glory as well…
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
The glorification of His grace was the reason He sent the Son into the world. When Jesus came to the end of His ministry He prayed to the Father…
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27).
In His final prayer He prayed…
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:4-5)
Our transformation into the image of Christ is by the Lord.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This transformation happens as we “behold the glory of the Lord” with “unveiled face.” When we can see the glory of God without the obscuring veil of human weakness and limitations – see Him as He is in the face of the Son – we will become like Him with ever increasing glory.
Finally, the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17 is realized through the glory the Father gave the Son – which, in turn, the Son gave to the disciples.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23).
Of this glory, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series says…
“…glory refers to the revelation of God in all his beauty of being and character. But, also… glory is a manifestation of God himself—not just a revelation about him, but his actual presence” as when Moses asked to see God’s glory. (BibleGateway.com).
Jesus had revealed God to His disciples.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”(John 1:14).
It is the glory of the Father – His beauty, His love, His power, His mercy, His grace – and His presence among His people that brings them together to begin with and which must be the controlling, determinative factor in the continuing unity of His people.
We began this article with the scene of the presence and glory of God filling the tabernacle. In much the same way, the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit fills the spiritual temple today. He came on the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and is promised to every person who is added to their number (Acts 2:1-4; 38).
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
These disciples together are…
“…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22)
For what purpose? Why, for no other purpose than for the glory of God! Paul says as much in the very next chapter…
“…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21).