Tuesday, June 17, 2014
God Is Glory
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. Ezekiel 1:28 (NIV)
To the prophet Ezekiel, God’s glory appeared like fire and brilliant light (Ezekiel 1:27-28). Ezekiel saw God’s bright light around the cloud and an enclosing fire within the cloud. Both were reminders of God’s holiness and power for “our God is a consuming fire” (Exodus 3:1-5; Exodus 19:16, 18; Deuteronomy 4:24; Acts 2:3; Hebrews 12:29). With Ezekiel’s vision, Ezekiel realized that he was beholding the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 1:28). The glory of the Lord is one of the key themes in the Old Testament book Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:12, 23; Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4, 18-19; Ezekiel 11:22-23; Ezekiel 39:21; Ezekiel 43:2, 4-5; Ezekiel 44:4). Overwhelmed by God's holy presence and his own sinfulness and insignificance, Ezekiel could not help but fall down and worship God out of reverence and awe (Ezekiel 1:28). This same experience of reverence and worship also occurred with the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-7). The prophet Isaiah also saw the Lord God in all His holy glory (Isaiah 6:1-4) and resulted in Isaiah’s responsive worship, praise, and adoration of God (Isaiah 6:5-7). The prophet Isaiah’s vision of God (Isaiah 6:1-7) included both the awareness of God’s practical features and the nature of God, particularly God’s holiness (see also John 12:41).
The prophet Ezekiel was inducted into his prophetic mission (Ezekiel 1:1) with an overwhelming vision of God’s glory – much as the prophet Isaiah was granted a glorious vision of God enthroned high and lifted up. When God’s glory was symbolically revealed to both the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah, the glory took the form of brilliant light (Exodus 40:34; Isaiah 6:3). What is remarkable about the prophet Ezekiel’s experience is that God’s glory had for centuries been associated with the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:11; Psalms 26:8). Yet, the prophet Ezekiel witnessed God's glory leave the Jerusalem Temple and go over the Mount of Olives. Because of Israel's sins, God’s glory left the Temple. But God promised Ezekiel that one day the city of Jerusalem and the Temple will be blessed by the glorious presence of the Lord. The city will be called "Jehovah Shammah—THE LORD IS THERE" (Ezekiel 48:35).
And the Lord went before them (the Israelites) by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He (the Lord God) did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22 (NKJV)
In the Holy Scriptures, visible appearances of God’s glory came with God’s magnificent and brilliant light covered by a cloud. God’s cloud enclosed “the glory of the Lord” which otherwise would blind those who saw God’s glorious presence (see Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 16:10; Exodus 19:16; Exodus 24:15-17; Exodus 34:5; Exodus 40:34-35, 38; Numbers 9:15-16; Numbers 16:42; Deuteronomy 5:23; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Psalms 26:8; Psalms 68:4; Ezekiel 10:3-4; Haggai 2:7; Matthew 17:5; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 9:7; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 9:34-35; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:9; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 14:14-16). Whether with the lighting flash or in the blinding splendor and brightness, a light and a cloud often accompanied God’s powerful and majestic appearance (Theophany) (e.g. see Exodus 24:16-18). Moreover, God often spoke to the people from the cloud (see Numbers 12:5-6; Deuteronomy 31:15-16; Psalms 99:6-7). Even more, the presence of God’s glory signaled the presence of God Himself among His people (Exodus 24:16; Exodus 33:22; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; Ezekiel 1:1-28).
God’s glory dwelling in the Tabernacle (see Exodus 40:34) and later the Temple (1 Kings 8:11) assured the ancient Israelites of God’s holy, yet gracious presence among them. At the dedication of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:11), God’s glory filled those structures, indicating God’s approval of them and that His presence would now reside there. With that proclamation came an awe-inspiring physical manifestation of God, the Shekinah, a bright shining cloud that could look like fire, white-hot (see also Exodus 24:17). The Shekinah was itself called the glory of God and appeared at significant moments in the Holy Scriptures as visible signs of God's active presence on earth (see also Exodus 33:22; Leviticus 9:23-24; Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 8:4; Luke 2:9; Acts 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). God is called “Glory” (see 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 106:20; Jeremiah 2:11; Hosea 4:7; Hebrews 9:5).
Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys. Exodus 40:34-38 (NLT)
A pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night guided and protected the ancient Israelites as they traveled across the wilderness (Exodus 13:21; Numbers 9:15-22). For forty years, God had graciously led Israel by His fiery cloud. The cloud and the fire were not just natural phenomena but were the vehicle of God's presence and direction for His people. God’s glory was also revealed in nature, such as in a thunderstorm (Exodus 19:16; Job 37:2-5; Psalm 29:3, 7). Glory’s glory can also be a unique manifestation, such His revelation on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 5:23-24). Similarly, the glory of God sent the fire that kindled the first sacrifices of the sanctuary (Leviticus 9:22-24). Such revelation did not reveal all of God for no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:18-23; see also Isaiah 6:5). The greatness of God’s glory is something that we can never fully comprehend, but before which we can only stand in awe and worship.
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him (Moses) and proclaimed His Name, the Lord. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished . . .” Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)
When Moses requested to see God’s glory, “Show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18), God answered Moses' plea by revealing to Moses His goodness, moral beauty, and holy character (see Exodus 33:18-34:7). In other words, God’s revelation of Himself to Moses was the visible manifestation of His moral character and holiness (see also Isaiah 6:1-7). God's glory is revealed in His mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice (Exodus 34:6-7). We too can respond and give glory to God when our lives and character resemble God’s glory (see Micah 6:6-8). To “give glory to God” means to speak or act in a way that acknowledges God’s glory (Joshua 7:19; Psalms 22:23; Psalms 86:12; Isaiah 6:1-7; Isaiah 24:15). “O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NLT).
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son (Jesus Christ). God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God. Hebrews 1:1-3 (NLT)
In the New Testament, God now reveals the glory of His nature, character, power, and purpose in the person and role of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:14-18; Luke 9:32; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Hebrews 1:1-3). The Gospel writer John spoke of the glory of Jesus and made no distinction between the two, attesting to Jesus’ oneness with God (see also John 17:1-5). God is called the glorious Father (Ephesians 1:17) and Jesus Christ is the full glory and image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the Light of the world (John 1:4; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). As John testifies, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14). The aged Simeon saw the baby Jesus brought to the Temple and described Him as “a Light to reveal God to the nations, and . . . the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).
God’s glory was mentioned with the announcement of Jesus Christ’s birth to the shepherds: “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them (shepherds), and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them” (Luke 2:9, NLT). Also, God’s glory was evident at the Mount of Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:2-5) and later manifestations included the revelation to the apostle Paul at the time of his conversion (Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:9-18) and to apostle John on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:12-20). Most importantly, God’s glory was revealed in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (John 17:1-5). The display of God’s power in raising His Son from the dead is labeled glory (Romans 6:4). The apostle Paul declared that the presence of Jesus Christ in the lives of believers provides assurance that we will shares in that glory (Romans 5:2; Romans 8:17-18; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Colossians 1:27). When Jesus Christ returns again, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man (Jesus) will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30 (NIV); see also Matthew 26:64). Jesus Christ will further manifest God’s glory in His restored kingdom (Revelation 21:11, 23). The heavenly city yet to come will a city that has “no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23, NLT)
Jesus Christ: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)
Today, the church and believing Christians is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:10-23; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:20-22). God today does not live in buildings but in His people (Acts 7:48-50; see also 1 Kings 8:7). Our responsibility is to glorify God individually (1 Corinthians 6:20) and collectively as the church (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). Quite amazingly, God made humans to reflect His glory – light, moral character, and holiness (see also Leviticus 11:45; Leviticus 19:2; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16). God wants to share His presence with His people. If we live for Jesus Christ, we will shine like lights and reflect God’s glory. The apostle Paul teaches believing Christians are being “changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18; see also Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15). Though we do not now find ourselves surrounded by a visible light, there is a brightness, a splendor, or light all believing Christians should reflect in their daily lives.
Our sins and wickedness can cause God’s glory to depart (see Ezekiel chapters 8 through 11). In other words, our sins can drive God’s glory away from our lives and churches. When you read Jewish history, God’s glory that once dwelt in the Tabernacle departed when the priests and the people sinned against God (see 1 Samuel 4:21-22). When Solomon dedicated the Temple, God's glory once again came to dwell with His people (1 Kings 8:10-11), but departed again as Israel’s sins drove God's glory away (Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4, 18; Ezekiel 11:23).
God expects everyone, particular His followers, to carry on His Light through good deeds (e.g., mercy, kindness, goodness, compassion, forgiveness etc.) (Matthew 5:14; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; Philippians 2:12-15). Our good deeds and works in the world brings honor and glory to God (Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Besides, the ultimate purposes of all our actions are to bring God glory (see Psalms 29:1-2; Psalms 86:9, 12; Psalms 96:7-8; Psalms 115:1; Luke 2:14; Romans 11:36; Romans 16:27; Ephesians 1:12, 14; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:12; Revelation 15:4; Revelation 19:1, 7).
Certainly, God wants to be loved, respected, and exalted for His greatness and goodness. The to-and-fro of seeing God’s glory and giving God glory is the true fulfillment of human nature at its heart (Isaiah 43:7; Zephaniah 3:14-17). Human praise to God can be false or half-hearted. Glory is also humans’ recognition of God’s holiness, greatness and might with a response of confession, worship, and praise. (Compare Isa. 58:8; 60:1.) All of life’s daily activities, too, must be pursued with the aim of giving God love, allegiance, and pleasure, which is glory-giving on the practical level (1 Corinthians 10:31; see also Jeremiah 3). Most important, God will NOT share His glory with another. This is why Reformation theology was so insistent on the principle, "Glory to God alone" (soli Deo gloria), and why we need to maintain that principle today with equal eagerness. God's glory-showing requires our glory-giving!
Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle. Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies— He is the King of glory. Psalms 24:7-10 (NLT)
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