The Glory of God

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (vv. 1–2).

- Isaiah 60:1–3

Any study of God’s glory would be incomplete without a look at what the term glory actually means. Setting forth a precise definition of the word glory, however, is no easy task. Like many other theological concepts, God’s glory is a concept that we have an awareness of without necessarily being able to describe it in all its fullness.

When we think of the glory of the Lord, the image of brilliant light often comes to our minds. That is certainly appropriate, as Scripture often describes the glory of God in terms of a light that shines brighter than anything that we experience on earth. For example, today’s passage speaks of the glory of our Creator and not the sun being the light that shines forth in this dark world, revealing itself through God’s people that they might point the pagan nations unto the Lord of all (Isa. 60:1–3). Revelation 21:22–25 tells us that in the new heaven and earth, creation will have no need for the sun by day or the moon by night because the glory of the Lord shall illumine all of creation.

Other biblical passages connect God’s glory with his holiness and weightiness, that is, His significance. We see this with particular clarity in Leviticus 10:1–3 and the account of Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire before the Lord. Moses does not tell us precisely what “strange fire” means, but it is clear enough that Nadab and Abihu acted irreverently in their actions. In other words, they did not approach God with proper reverence and awareness of His divine dignity. They did not glorify the Lord, and so they were consumed by fire from on high.

Besides helping us see that glorifying God requires us to understand His significance, holiness, and weightiness, Leviticus 10:1–3 also informs us of the seriousness with which the Lord takes His worship. Coming together with God’s people to praise His name is a distinct privilege and not something we should take lightly. Worship is a matter of life and death, and not just under the old covenant. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:29–30 that partaking of the Lord’s Supper without giving due attention to its significance can kill us. We do not worship a God who can be regarded in a flippant or otherwise careless manner.

Coram Deo

Augustine often spoke of the gravitas of worship, the seriousness of mind that we must have when we enter into God’s presence. We worship a weighty Lord, so we must always consider whether the worship we offer is light or weighty. Does our worship reflect the full significance of all of God’s attributes, or does it treat Him merely as our “best pal”? To glorify God is to give Him the honor He is due, so let us never offer anything less to Him.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 19:1–20:21
Jeremiah 13:16
Luke 9:28–36
2 Corinthians 4

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