How Can We Understand and Grasp the Glory of God?
There is an interesting conversation Moses has with God in Exodus 33. Moses asks God to show him His glory. What an amazing request by Moses to see God in his splendor. As fascinating as the request was, even more amazing is that God honored his request and showed him, but only to a degree.
I bring this story to your attention because it makes me wonder – have you ever stopped and considered what the glory of God is? Have you ever been bold enough to ask God, like Moses did, to show me your glory? I mean what is this thing that Moses was desiring?
The glory of God has multiple meanings in Scripture. It could refer to the display of his magnificence. It could also mean praise and honor being showered upon his great name. Regardless of the understanding that is still just the tip of the iceberg, there is more to the story.
God’s glory has depths and measures that go beyond our comprehension, yet I want to try to help you today. I want to attempt to unpack for you an answer to this question – what is the glory of God?
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What Does Glory Mean?
The word glory comes from the Latin word “gloria” which means fame or renown. In a secular sense when people speak of glory the term can have two meanings. In one instance, it is the bestowing or showering of high honor or praise on a person, usually for some achievement. For example, if you do well in school you may be put on the honor roll or the dean’s list, these are types of glory.
Looking through another lens, glory can also be used to signify magnificence or awesome splendor. This can be applied when something of value is restored, we might say the ship has been restored to her former glory.
In a biblical context, the definitions don’t change much. One of the things the Bible does highlight is the struggle in the heart of men when it comes to seeking glory. There are many warnings about the dangers of seeking glory and the praises of others. Here are two:
“Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets” (Luke 20:46).
With these definitions in mind how do we apply this to our question what is the Glory of God?
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What Is the Glory of God?
When you apply this definition in relationship to God, the two meanings we mentioned earlier remain. However, there is one more that needs to be added to the mix. Let me give you three examples in Scripture to help clarify.
1. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
His magnificence and splendor displayed in the heavens and the earth point to his glory, simply from the works of his hands.
2. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Honor and praise are bestowed upon his name because of the things we do. In essence, we make him look good.
3. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
In this way God shows up and his manifest presence invades a place. It could be in a church or even your home. The reality and experience of his presence transforms those who are in the midst.
To understand the manner in which the term is being used, you simply would have to look at the context. Let’s do that. I want to show you two examples from Scripture where we see the glory of God on display.
Why Is God's Glory So Important?
To understand why God’s glory is so important let’s consider it from the three definitions of glory we established earlier
His wonder – Seeing God’s glory in the heavens and the earth points to how amazing and wonderful he is. We see his power and majestic beauty.
His goodness – When we give God praise it reminds us of how good he is and it is also a testimony to others of how loving and kind God really is
His desire for personal intimacy – When God’s presence shows up, it makes God real and personal. He is no longer just the God who exists in the heavens, but he is the God who comes down wanting to dwell among men. He wants to be with you. There is no greater place then to be in God’s presence, sensing the warmth of his love and the joy of his spirit.
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Where Do We See the Glory of God?
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty’” (Isaiah 6:1-5).
Isaiah literally experienced all three aspects of God’s glory. If you asked him what the glory of God is, I am sure he would point back to this experience.
In the book of Acts we read the story of Saul’s conversion and another example of God’s glory:
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’” (Acts 9:3-6).
These are both examples of the splendor of God, but also examples of God manifesting his presence. In both cases God used the revealing of his glory to bring some form of revelation to these men. What I find interesting is the responses of both men; they were humbled. One of the things to understand about the manifest presence of God is that when it shows up, all your pride, ego and bravado simply goes out the window. His glory is just too great.
I remember a time when I was praying at home with my mom and sister. As we were praying the presence of God showed up in a very real, tangible way. His presence was so strong that I literally could not stand up – all I could do was kneel. Even if I wanted to, I had no strength to stand up.
It gave me greater understanding when Paul said in Philippians, “every knee will bow.” By the way I would not say this is the normal everyday experience but it was a small glimpse of the awesome nature of God’s presence and God’s glory. When God’s presence or glory shows up in this manner, the reaction will be like Isaiah and Saul. You will see how wonderful, majestic, and holy God is and how sinful and unworthy you are. There will be no room for boasting of any kind.
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What Does It Mean to Have God's Glory upon You?
To think about the glory of God upon you I want you to focus on the Holy Spirit within you. The amazing thing about what God did when he saved you is he deposited the Spirit of God in your heart. I don’t know if we often get this all the time, but God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit dwells within your heart. This means God’s strength, God’s wisdom, God’s love, God’s peace, God’s joy all dwell within you. As you deepen your walk with God and yield more to the Holy Spirit, then you will experience more of God’s glory flowing in your life.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
How Can We Catch Glimpses of God's Glory Today?
God still displays his glory in the heavens and the earth, that hasn’t changed. One of the major displays of God’s glory today is the work he does in ordinary people like you and me. In the Old Testament after Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai, he returned to his people and his face was glowing from being in God’s presence. His face was glowing so much they put a veil over him to cover it.
Today you and I have access to the very presence of God, but in a better way than Moses. He experienced the glory of God for a moment and eventually that radiance would go away. We have God’s spirit within us so that radiance never has to go away. God’s presence doesn’t just come and go, God’s presence is ever with you because he dwells within you. As you surrender more and more to the Holy Spirit you become more of the trophy of God’s grace and the evidence of God’s glory within you will radiate to those around you.
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A Hard Question to Answer
We began with what really is a loaded question: what is the glory of God? It is not loaded because it is a trick question, it is loaded because it has so many answers. How do you take the one who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, holy, glorious, and try to wrap all that glory into an answer? It is hard to do.
I hope you see that God’s glory goes far beyond even our human comprehension. I fully believe it will take eternity to fully understand and experience the wonder of God’s glory. My final thought is to point you to heaven and our eternal home. Here is a glimpse of the reality of the glory of God.
“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. … I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:10-11; 22-23).
May we live lives that truly honor him and bring the glory to his name that it so richly deserves.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.