God shares this attribute with us, in manifesting his presence, even visibly sometimes. God’s glory can even include material prosperity. Don’t believe it?
This is a post in the series Do We Really Know God? We have a saving knowledge of him, and we pray to him, but do we really know him?
Let’s go deeper now with this biblical topic.
The Old Testament is written in Hebrew, and in that language the main word, used about 200 times, is chabod, which means “honor” or “glory” that is connected with “dignity, wealth, or high position.” But more commonly it is more theological: his “manifest presence.” Another Hebrew word is used about 50 times—tip’eret, which means “splendor” and “honor.” Hāḏār (or heḏārāh), used only five times, means the same thing.
The New Testament is written in Greek, and in that language the word is doxa (166 times), which has the same meaning as the Hebrew words.
Renewal Theologian J. Rodman Williams defines glory as follows: “radiant splendor and awesome majesty of God Himself” (vol. 1, p. 79).
Let’s look at what Scripture says about this attribute or perfection of God.
The NIV is used here. If the reader would like to see the verses in context and in other translations, please go to biblegateway and type in the references.
1.. God has crowned humans with dignity and honor.
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. (Ps. 8:5)
That verse indicates we as humans share in God’s glory, which he grants us in dignity and honor.
But sometimes humankind exchanges his God-given glory for false gods.
They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. (Ps. 106:20; cf. Rom. 1:23, 2)
God bestows glory on us humans, but we fail to recognize it and trample on it.
2.. Wealth is exhibited honor on a human level.
Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth [chabod] from what belonged to our father.” (Gen. 31:1; see also Hab. 2:9).
Those two verses indicate God is willing to share his attribute of glory and honor on a social level.
3.. Glory and splendor and holiness are linked.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor [heḏārāh] of his holiness. (Ps. 29:2)
We can praise God or tell of his greatness by ascribing glory to him.
4.. The most common theological meaning is God’s manifest or visible presence.
In Ex. 16:7, the manifest glory of God goes with Israel in the desert, referring to the glory cloud:
[A]nd in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord. (Ex. 16:7)
On Mt. Sinai, when the covenant was revealed, fire and glory are equated. The glory of the Lord is a consuming fire:
To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (Ex. 24:17)
Moses witnessed God’s manifest glory:
When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Ex. 33:22).
This glory is clearly God’s manifest presence (33:14, paneh [singular] / panim [plural], in Hebrew or “face”). Man cannot witness his glory in full manifestation, represented by Moses seeing only the “back” of God.
The glory-cloud of the Lord filled the temple at its dedication, so that the priests could not perform their service:
And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple (1 Kings 8:11).
In the parallel passage, the priests could not even enter the temple (2 Chron. 7:1-3).
The glory of the Lord would be manifested during the sacrificial system:
God’s glory is revealed when he is above all of his creation as sovereign Lord:
Even the heavens themselves reveals God’s glory:
The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1).
The glory reveals God to be the sovereign ruler over his people, manifested in his power, splendor and holiness:
Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence (Is. 3:8).
The glory of the Lord fills the temple and the whole earth, and Isaiah could not bear it in his humanity:
And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3).
In the last days, the glory will be manifest to bring salvation to Israel; the glory of the Lord is seen as the light of God:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Is. 60:1-2)
And in the last days the glory brings about the conversion of the nations (Zech. 2:5-9).
In that linked passage God is called the Glorious One.
To conclude, God shares his glory with this people, and sometimes it overwhelms them when heaven breaks through and spills out on a sacred place that God designates—the temple or Jerusalem, or humankind.
For the relevance to our Christian life, please see Part Three
Written by James Malcolm
1. The Glory of God in the Old Testament