Tag Archives: Glory

Glory!

 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”
Isaiah 60:1 (NIV)

There is a piece of the creation story that is often overlooked. Even those who have a mere trivial knowledge of the Bible know that “Let there be light” was the first act of creation in the Great Story. What most people don’t stop to realize, however, is that the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day:

“And God said, ‘Let there be light in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.’ And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.” Gen 1:14-17

Fascinating. The universe begins with light, but not from sun or stars or moon, but from a mysterious unmentioned source. What makes this even more intriguing is that end of the Great Story also contains light without sun or moon:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… The city does not need sun or the moon to shine upon it, for the Glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Revelation 21:1, 23

So there is the theological answer to the riddle. God’s “Glory” is the source of the light. The same Glory that radiated so brightly off Moses’ once he encountered God on the mountain that he had to cover his face. The same Glory that radiated off Jesus so brightly on the mountain top that Peter, James, and John were reduced to frightened, babbling fools. The same Glory that literally blinded Saul on the road to Damascus.

In today’s chapter Isaiah prophesies the coming of God’s Glory amidst the dark days of his current national circumstances (defeat, destruction, death, exile). He prophesies a Moses-like radiance for those who look to the Light:

Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy;

He goes on to offer precursor to John’s Revelation:

The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.

Most of us are familiar with the word “glory.” We sing “Gloria” in Christmas carols and may even utter a “glory hallelujah!” in exclamation. I’m sure few of us stop to consider what that “glory” is. It is Light direct from the divine source. Its power is terrifying. It is blinding Light that fills dark voids. It is Light that cuts through evil like the most powerful cosmic laser. It is light that radiates off those whom it fills.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Like a lot of people I’ve been feeling the shadows creeping over my soul of late. A dark sludge of anger, conflict, bitterness, doubt, and fear seems to have flooded our collective cultural consciousness. I have to believe it was even worse for Isaiah considering the realities he and his contemporaries were facing. We are so self-centered to think we have it bad when just a hint of historical context reminds us we don’t have a flippin’ clue. Nevertheless, I identify with the darkness Isaiah describes in his prophetic poem and am encouraged by the Glory-ous Light he prophesies.

I’m praying for a little Glory to penetrate my spirit and radiate out through the creeping shadows today.

Presence

glory templeThe glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east.
Ezekiel 43:4 (NIV)

According to the ancient writers, the “glory” of God came in the form of a cloud. It began with Moses on the mountain, continued to reveal itself this way when the Israelites fled Egypt and wandered in the wilderness. The cloud of God’s glory went before them and when they pitched their portable temple known as the Tabernacle, the cloud of glory filled it. When Solomon’s permanent temple was completed, the cloud of glory filled the temple and was so thick that the priests had a hard time seeing to do their sacrificial duties.

This morning as I ponder this descent of God’s presence in the temple, I am reminded of many contrasting weekly gatherings of my fellow Jesus followers. Some Sunday mornings can feel rather empty. It’s not that it isn’t worthwhile or that good things aren’t happening in the worship, it just feels like we’re going through the routine motions. Jesus promised that wherever two or three believers gather, He would be present. I have found, however, that much like His chronicled appearances after the resurrection He sometimes chooses not to reveal himself in quite the same way.

There are times, however, when I have physically felt the presence filling the room. It is not prescriptive and there is no formula for making it happen. I have come to observe that God cannot be tamed or placed in a box of our making. I know that may sound crazy and subjective to some. There many special moments I can recall, however, when I have felt God’s presence fall and fill the room in a special way just as Ezekiel describes.

Today, I’m thankful for the promise of Jesus’ presence whether He remains quietly present or whether He makes His presence known in powerful ways. I seek Him however He chooses to reveal Himself.

It’s Not an LSD Hallucination…Really!

Ezekiels Vision

Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. The cloud filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord.

Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim.
Ezekiel 10:3-4, 18 (NIV)

For those reading the prophetic visions of the ancient prophets for the first time, they must seem like nothing more than the recollection of an LSD induced hallucination at a Grateful Dead concert. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make sense of these visions in the vacuum of the chapter itself. There is a broader context that has to be considered in order for things to start making sense. Think about it, if someone simply read the “prophecy” about Harry Potter and Voldemort revealed at the end of The Order of the Phoenix and didn’t know anything about the rest of the story, would it make any sense by itself?

For me, there were three pieces of information outside today’s chapter that brought Ezekiel’s vision out of the haze and into focus:

  1. Moses experience on the mountain of God. Way back in the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, Moses goes up the mountain to receive the tablets with the commandments on them. He sees God “face to face” and when he returns from the mountain his face is “radiant,” so bright that he had to cover it (Exodus 34). It wasn’t sunburn, it was God’s “glory” or radiance. In fact, at the end of the Great Story when eternity is described, there is no Sun or Moon (or day and night) because God’s glory provides all the light needed. God’s glory throughout the entirety of God’s Message is a sign of God’s presence.
  2. The dedication of Solomon’s temple. When the temple was built by King Solomon and the ark of the covenant (think Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) was brought into the temple, God’s presence filled the temple in the form of a cloud. The cloud, like the veil over Moses’ face, was a sign of God’s presence and a protective covering for the bright radiance of God’s glory (Did you notice when Indy opened the vault that contained the ark it glowed? That was Hollywood wizardry doing their version of the glory of God) . After the dedication of the temple, God warned Solomon: But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land,which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 This temple will become a heap of rubble.” (2 Chronicles 5,7)
  3. The context of the last few chapters. Today’s vision is part of a broader vision Ezekiel is recounting from chapters eight through 11. It began with God revealing to Ezekiel the idolatry (the same idolatry He warned Solomon about) in and around the Temple and it continued with God’s judgement on the idolators. Today, what Ezekiel is seeing from the spiritual realm is a further consequence of the idolatry and further fulfillment of  God’s warning to Solomon. God’s glory and presence is being taken out of the temple in preparation for its destruction.

Today, I am mulling over the events Ezekiel describes in this broader context of the entirety of the Great Story being told throughout God’s Message. When God warned Solomon about idolatry, He knew very well what would eventually happen. It’s a grand word picture of my own personal experience. Despite my best intentions, I fall short of spiritual perfection. Look close enough (actually, you probably don’t even have to look that close) and you’ll find plenty of ammunition to accuse me of hypocrisy. Guilty as charged.

And, that’s really the main point I find in these Old Testament stories. Try as we may, we can’t achieve an acceptable spiritual level on our own that meets God’s standard. We keep slipping back into our own personal forms of idolatry by choosing our own way. The results, as Ezekiel is seeing in his vision, are disastrous. It seems like God was trying to let humanity fail so we’d learn the lesson the same way a wise parent sometimes let’s a child fail for the same reason. “You can’t do this on your own,” God seems to be saying. “If you are to escape the deathly consequences of your own choices, you need a savior to save you from yourselves.”

[cue: enter Jesus, stage right]

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 17

Isenheimer
Isenheimer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because I am righteous, I will see you.
    When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
Psalm 17:15 (NLT)

This morning as I read David’s lyric that he would “see [God] face to face” I was struck by the notion. In fact, what seems to be a simple thought seemed to be an audacious statement. In all my journeys through God’s Message, I’ve come to understand that seeing God “face to face” is a momentous deal. Few people in the recorded histories of God’s Message actually saw God face-to-face and those who did reacted to the experience – most commonly falling face down to the ground in awe and righteous fear. In fact, whether they knew it or not, their encounter with seeing God’s face was a life threatening experience from which they were graciously spared. God told Moses directly: “No one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

If you’re interested in a little extra-credit research, here is a short list of a few who saw God face-to-face and their experiences:

  • Abram (Genesis 17)
  • Jacob (Genesis 32)
  • Moses (Exodus 3)
  • Isaiah (Isaiah 6)
  • Peter, James & John (Luke 9:28ff)
  • Saul (Acts 9)

Today, I’m reminded that I serve Jesus who, God’s Message says, is the risen and glorified Creator of the universe. I trust His promise that I will someday see Him face-to-face and will dwell with Him in His glory. I’m equally reminded that my finite human mind cannot comprehend the enormity of it.

Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 9

Moses and Aaron entered the Tent of Meeting. When they came out they blessed the people and the Glory of God appeared to all the people. Fire blazed out from God and consumed the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the fat pieces on the Altar. When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence. Leviticus 9:23-24 (MSG)

The sacrifices resulted in God’s glory and God’s presence, which resulted in worship. There was an order to the process. Sin separates man from a holy God. When sacrifice for sin was made, and the price for sin was paid, then the separation between God and man was lifted and the way was made for God’s glory and presence. The people, awed by God’s glory and presence, bow in reverence and worship.

Fast forward 2500 years. Jesus made the sacrifice for sin and conquered sin’s consequence, which is death and the grave. The result was a glorified Christ appearing to his followers and God’s presence in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the hearts of all believers. The result is our grateful worship.

sin>separation>sacrifice>presence>glory>worship

Once again I find that the systematic set of sacrifices and offerings was a foreshadow of God’s ultimate plan. All of the laws, rules, and sacrifices set out in Leviticus serve to remind the human race what an impossible state we were in. Trying to attain perfection in the keeping of every law and the offering of every prescribed sacrifice was a heavy burden. No one could do it perfectly, and that was the point. We don’t earn forgiveness and salvation by systematically and sacrificially doing good things. We are graciously given forgiveness and salvation by what God did for us on the cross.

Chapter-a-Day Judges 7

Give thanks. God said to Gideon, "You have too large an army with you. I can't turn Midian over to them like this—they'll take all the credit, saying, 'I did it all myself,' and forget about me." Judges 7:2 (MSG)

As I write this post, plans for Thanksgiving are in full swing. In just over two weeks we will gather with family and friends to share in a feast and to give thanks. I've always loved Thanksgiving. Unlike most holidays, there is something about Thanksgiving that still repels commercialism. Thanksgiving is a humble holiday. It is a simple holiday. It is one of the few holidays we celebrate that still lends itself to introspection.

In a culture steeped in rugged individualism, self-seeking, and the perpetual pursuit of 15 minutes of fame, I find the idea of stopping to give thanks is a welcome moment of sanity. Like Gideon's army, we are at constant risk of taking all the credit for what God has done to bless us.

Several centuries ago, Thomas a' Kempis wrote a wonderful treatise on the difference between nature and grace. "Nature willingly accepts honor and respect," he wrote, "while grace attributes all honor and glory to God."

Today, I'm mindful of the many ways my natural self seeks to hoard respect and glory for myself. I'm reminding myself that God deserves all respect, honor, glory…and thanks.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and soulrider