The Glory of God (part one of five)

by Sean Foster on September 15, 2013

Exodus 33:17-23

The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Romans 3:21-26

But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

I Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

A-men.

Today I am beginning a new series. I decided to work on and preach this series because we are approaching the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. One of the most important things that came out of the Reformation are the five sola’s. They are the five only’s, or the five alones that are the bedrock to our faith and beliefs as Protestant Christians.

We believe that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, that the Bible alone has the unique authority to speak about this and we believe that life is to be lived to the glory of God alone.

So these 5 sola’s, these five alones we will look at one at a time over the next few weeks.

The first one we will look at is soli Deo Gloria. We believe that all glory belongs to God.

Our children’s hymn this morning was: This is my Father’s world. We sing it as a children’s hymn, but that simple little hymn is full of theology. This is my Father’s world. There are some really important implications to that statement. I mean, if it’s God’s world, then it’s not my world. If all glory belongs to God. If we really mean all, then, it doesn’t belong to me. It is not soli meo gloria it is soli Deo Gloria.

This is not just some abstract idea or belief that we are suppose to affirm. This is foundational to who we are as God’s people.

All glory belongs to God. Truth is, most of us would not disagree with this statement. Most of us would readily affirm that all glory belongs to God, but what do those weighty words mean? What are we saying when we say that all glory belongs to God?

For example, here’s something to think about. When someone sings God’s word in music, many times we respond with applause. But who is the applause for?
• Is it for the person or people who sang, or for those played an instrument.
• Are we clapping as appreciation?
• Are we clapping as praise to the person because they shared their talent?
• Is it because they blessed us with their music and brought us closer to God?
• Or, is the applause actually for God?

There is nothing wrong with applause. I happen to like it, but if we say, if we believe that all glory belongs to God, what do we mean when we say that?

Paul the Apostle in his letter to the Corinthians say’s something interesting. He writes, whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, do it all to the glory of God.
(I Corinthians 10:31) What do you suppose Paul meant by those words. How is it that we eat and drink to God’s glory?

Well, let’s begin there: what do the Scriptures have to say about this word glory?

To the writers of the Scriptures, the great truth about God, is that God is glorious. And they say that it gets proclaimed everywhere.

Psalm 19:1, the Psalmist writes: the heavens declare the glory of God. Now, don’t misunderstand this. Lots of people use this as a text to prove or show that God exists, but when the Psalmist wrote these words, people had no problem with believing in God. What the Psalmist is saying here is that the heavens, and creation tell us something about God, and it is unbelievably wonderful. The glory of creation:
• its beauty
• its wonder
• its mystery
• its power
they are reflect the kind of being that is God.

Glory is …. the … particular excellence of something that makes it praiseworthy. So, glory is that particular excellence that makes it worthy of praise. So,
• the glory of a flower would be it’s beauty;
• the glory of a strong man would be his strength.
We understand glory. The glory of a waterfall, or a sunset, or ocean, mountain, a night sky, even a perfectly thrown curveball. We know and even recognize beauty.

Here is what the Psalmist is saying. He is saying, if you like creation, you’re going to love the Creator! The heavens are declaring the glory of, the majesty of, the wonder of, the splendor of, our God. And when we recognize it, and revel in it, and celebrate it, we give glory to God. That is what we were created for. Ascribe to the Lord, glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord, the Glory due his name. (Psalm 29:1b-2)

Now why does God want us to do this? I mean, doesn’t this sound a little needy – God asking that we give Him more glory? Doesn’t it sound like God has a bit of a weak ego here? However, I do not believe that it is because God has unmet ego needs, it actually has more to do with our ability to pick up on and detect glory.

If you see something glorious, for example: a really fabulous sunset, or a glorious comet, incredibly spectacular Northern Lights.

This summer the girls and me saw a blue heron walking through some weeds and tall grass. Now a blue heron could not be considered a graceful bird watching it walk through tall grass. We pulled over and watched for a while and then finally it took off and flew away. A flying blue heron is absolutely glorious. And I don’t know about you, but when I see the glory of something, I want to tell someone. You have to see the majesty, the splendor, the wonder, the beauty of Niagara Falls for example. It is so glorious, you want to share it and tell others.

God is glorious and to recognize it
• and to see it,
• and to know it,
• and when we get to be part of it,
it is natural for us to want to share it with others and give praise and glory to God.

Now, if we are going to talk about glory, there are two Hebrew words that we should learn. The first word is Chabad, and to pronounce it properly, it should sound like you are trying to clear something from your throat. The heavens declare the chabad of God.

But the other Hebrew word that we should learn, and it is not actually a word that you find in the Bible, it is Shekinah. Rabbi’s will use it to describe the shekinah glory of God. And what it means is the manifest glory, the manifest presence of God, or that God’s presence is actually palpable. The shekinah glory of God.

Now, as I was preparing this sermon, one of the resources that I found really helpful was an essay written by C. S. Lewis. entitled: The Weight of Glory. It was such a helpful resource. Let me just quote one paragraph.

Lewis writes: I turn next to the idea of glory. There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and early Christian writings. Glory suggests two ideas of which one seems wicked and the other seems ridiculous. Either glory means fame, or it means luminosity. He writes, as for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to be a competitive passion and therefore hell, not heaven. As for the second, who wants to become a living lightbulb?

Now this idea of luminosity is actually a really important description of God’s glory. You see, when the Scriptures describe God’s glory it is often as something bright and luminous.

When God is present in Exodus 24 on the mountain; to the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like an all consuming fire. The glory of the Lord is like a fire, radiant and bright. Now, we like fire. We are mesmerized by it, but we also know that it is dangerous. We recognize that we can’t live without it, but it is a dangerous thing, the glory of God.

People are drawn to the chabad of God. But as you read that story in Exodus 24, you can’t help but notice that the people kept their distance because they were afraid that the fire, the glory of the Lord would consume them.

Remember the shepherds in the story of Jesus birth? An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. (Luke 2:9) The Old King James Version actually reads they were sore afraid of the glory of God.

Paul the Apostle wrote: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Now here’s our dilemma. We love glory, but we can’t manufacture glory. Glory is something we only know because we are part of God’s creation. All glory comes from God and the glory that we see, recognize or even participate in – is reflected glory of God. It’s sort of like the moon. The moon cannot produce its own light – it can only reflect the light of the sun. And we too are reflectors of God’s glory.

No one knew this better than Moses. We are told that the Lord would speak to Moses face to face as we might a friend. And the glory of the Lord was so strong that Moses face became radiant – it glowed. We are even told that the Israelites were not able to look at the face of Moses for long because of it’s glory.

This is why Lewis writes that glory is luminosity.

It is the same reason that the angels glow – because they have spent time in God’s presence and glory.

Now, Moses actually advocates for the people and he suggests to God that God should stay with the people. He say’s, if your presence doesn’t go with us, then how will the world distinguish us as unique people from the rest of the peoples of the world. (Exodus 33:15) So, agrees to go with them.

And so after Moses has negotiated and convinced God to remain with the people, Moses then say’s, Lord, I want to see your glory. This is a fascinating and really one of the most remarkable passages in Scripture. Moses say’s, show me your glory. (Exodus 33:18) And God responds, I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you. (Exodus 33:19) Now here this… The most glorious thing about God is that He is good! God actually gives his people as much of his glory as they are able to handle.

At the end of the book of Exodus, we are told, Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34)

And so throughout the Old Testament, the place where God lived and dwelt, was in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies.

Now I know that I am getting a little heavy here, but let’s jump into the New Testament. God comes down to live among us, and John’s Gospel writes it in a particular way. He writes, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14) John uses a particular Greek word, skene which translated means tent or tabernacle. So, the verse could be translated to read: The Word became flesh and tented among us.

Now remember, that Hebrew word shekinah. God’s glory is now made manifest is a real and palpable way. When John writes about Jesus birth or coming into the world, He say’s: we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, (the glorious Father). (John 1:14b)

So, now at last we can know how glorious God is: I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you … and you shall call his name Jesus.

At the Last Supper, before Jesus died on the cross, he prays, Father the hour has come. Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. (John 17:1) Now I realize that dying on the cross may seem like a strange kind of glory, but it is through the cross that we really see the glory of God.

Before Jesus dies, Jesus prays a staggering prayer for you and for me. First he prays for his disciples, and then he prays, I pray also for those who will believe in me through them, that all of them may be one Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. Now get this, Jesus then say’s: I have given them the glory that you gave to me. (John 17:20-22)

This is incredibly good news! You see, more than just being able to recognize glory, we want to be part of it, and this is the gift that Jesus has given to us.

OK, let me turn one more time to C. S. Lewis. He writes: We do not merely want to see beauty…. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. At present, we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We discern the freshness and purity of morning (The heavens declare the glory of God) but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see, but all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the humor that it shall not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

Now Paul the Apostle writes: we reflect God’s glory, so that’s what we do now, but Paul continues, and we are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord. And this is what C.S. Lewis was writing about in that last quote I shared. And it is really deep theology, But let me see if I can dumb it down a bit. What it means is that one day we will share in and be part of God’s glory.

So, when God created, you will remember that each day God would look at what he had created and would say: that’s good! God delights in what he has created. He looks at it and say’s:
• that’s good!
• I love that!
• That makes me really happy!

Now one last quote form Lewis before I close today. And I have to close with these words because they are so remarkable.

When the redeemed soul, beyond all hope, and nearly beyond belief, learns that they have pleased Him who they were created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. They will be free from the miserable illusion that it was of their own doing. As it is written: We shall stand before Him, shall appear and shall be inspected.

The promise of glory is so incredible, and only possible through, the work of Christ. It is Christ’s gift to us.

Frank Laubaugh writes: The most wonderful discovery that has ever come to me is that I do not have to wait for this glorious hour. This hour now can be heaven. We can learn to do every moment of life to God’s glory, because, the glory, the chabad, of God is right here, right now.

Paul would write it this way: Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria.
• We give glory to God alone by wanting to put God first in our lives.
• We give glory to God, by enjoying God’s presence in our lives,
• and immersing ourselves in God.
• We bring glory to God by reflecting God’s glory to the world.

A-men.

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