Summary: This is an introduction to exploring the meaning of the Glory of God.
The Glory of God is what??
Sept 16, 2012
What actually is “the glory of God”? It’s a familiar phrase, we read it in Scripture, it shows up in our songs, sometimes even in our language or our prayers we hear ourselves using that language – “the glory of God”. But do we know what it is we are actually talking about? What is “the glory of God”?
Last week many of us were at a church retreat. We appreciated James leading us on Saturday, and (among a number of other things) one of the statements that stood out for me was when James said “we need to experience the glory of God”. Let me put it in context – we were working through Is 43:19, our theme verse for the weekend and a key part of the whole section of Is 40-44 that we have been studying together for the last month or so. Beginning in vs 18: “18 “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?”
We led through a bit of work thinking about the past and letting it go – particularly the harmful, hurtful things, so that we could then turn our attention to what God wants to do next – the “I am about to do something new…” part. And a key part of that begins with that line that James used that grabbed hold and resonated within me: “we need to experience the glory of God.” And we did begin to experience that together throughout the weekend, we did see God beginning new things, we did hear testimonies of God revealing His glory and His healing, and we rejoice in that together.
So then, in my preparation for our Sunday morning service at the retreat, I felt God take me back to the beginning of our section, Is 40, and bring these lines to life:
“3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
4 Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
I shared about how I read those lines, which are supposed to be filled with hope and power and optimism and excitement about the anticipated coming of God – He is coming!! Get ready!! Prepare the way!! God is about to show up in power to save and redeem and restore!! And I read those lines and just felt really tired. I saw them not from the end result, which is amazing and incredible and restorative and life-giving, but rather I saw them from the perspective of how much work it is. Clearing paths, building highways, filling valleys, leveling mountains, that is a lot of work!
So, as with any huge project, we have to keep the end goal in mind. And the very next verse tells us what that goal is:
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”
There it is again – “the glory of the Lord.” It will be “revealed”, and we will all get to see it “together”. Notice it is a communal thing, not an individual thing. But again, what actually is it?
Is “the glory of God” some bright blinding light that will someday appear in the sky?
Is “the glory of God” an unapproachable fire that will consume and destroy us if we get close?
Is “the glory of God” a state of awe induced by nature?
Is “the glory of God” the outward manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit (think miraculous healings, exuberant singing and dancing, tongues and prophecies and words of inner healing)?
Is “the glory of God” the coming to faith of someone who was far from God but turns towards God and experiences forgiveness and restoration?
Is “the glory of God” a church of people who love one another deeply through all the everyday messiness of life this side of eternity?
If we are to work really hard clearing a path, making a nice straight highway through the wasteland, filling valleys and leveling mountains and straightening curves and smoothing out rough places, and that is all so that “the glory of the Lord will be revealed”, then wouldn’t it make sense to have some idea of what “the glory of the Lord” actually is?
We aren’t going to figure it all out this morning. It is going to take a little longer than that… but we can get started.
And I want to get started with a blast to the brain. I’m quite sure we will not be able to fully grasp the glory of God this side of eternity, “now we see as through a mirror darkly”. And I know that the point is not just a more-full intellectual understanding of the glory of God – in fact far more powerful is, to again use James’ phrase from last Saturday, “experiencing the glory of God”. So this is a starting point, perhaps a bit of an outline for some of the things we will see in the weeks ahead, and I offer it with the hope and expectation not that you will grasp it all, but rather that the Holy Spirit would ignite one or two phrases or ideas and nurture you with those.