If you spend much time in church, you hear God’s glory mentioned all the time. Contemporary songs and classic hymns celebrate God’s glory. Traditional worship services often include the Gloria Patri: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit...” Preachers tell us we should seek to glorify God in all we do. In my Reformed tradition, we are often reminded that the chief purpose of our lives is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
But, have you ever wondered what the glory of God really is? When we speak of God’s glory, what are we talking about? If someone were to ask you, “What is glory?” would you know how to answer?
Ezekiel 10:4 helps us to glimpse and understand God’s glory: “Then the LORD’s glory rose from above the winged creatures and moved toward the temple’s threshold. The temple was filled with the cloud, and the courtyard was filled with the brightness of the LORD’s glory.” The word translated here as “glory” is kabod in Hebrew. Curiously, this word is derived from a root with the basic meaning of “heavy.” From this root came, among other things, a word meaning “rich.” Speakers of ancient Hebrew would refer to a rich person as “heavy in wealth” much as we might say someone is loaded. A similar extension of the literal sense of kabod included being loaded with power, reputation, or honor. It’s from this use of the word that we get the meaning of glory. God’s glory is God’s weightiness in wonderful qualities such as might, beauty, goodness, justice, and honor. When it comes to these characteristics and so many others, God has them in superabundance.
Thus, when we think of God’s glory, we remember that God has all good things in greater quantity and quality than we can ever imagine. Notice, too, that God’s glory is solid and substantial. It isn’t mere reputation. It isn’t dependent on anyone or anything else. God’s glory reflects his essential nature.
Moreover, God is the source of all good things. He actually shares his glory with us. When we receive his plentiful gifts with gratitude, when we use them to enhance his honor, when we acknowledge him as the source of all goodness, then we are glorifying him.
Today’s reflection does not exhaust the Old Testament sense of God’s glory. I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the word “glory,” what do you think? How have you experienced God’s glory? How might you live to glorify him in your life and work?
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
and ever shall be,
world without end.
The "Gloria Patri" in English