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Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” - Exodus 33:18 (NIV)
The verse above will serve as the centerpiece for our time together this week. The entire glory of God is incomprehensible, but we’ll put our focus here because there is nothing that compares to it… and to grasp even a shadow of it is to literally be changed forever. I realize it’s Monday and we might not be ready to jump in the deep end, but it’s good for us—so here we go!
The Hebrew word for glory is kahbod (kaw-bode). The word literally means heavy. To the Jew, of which Moses was one, it encompassed everything about God. God’s honor, glory, power, and majesty were expressed by the word kahbod. God’s being and presence is truly heavy, and it’s impossible to ignore His work in the world.
God created everything we see in nature (see Genesis 1). We are products of His grand design. He has the power to speak entire galaxies into existence. He decided how the solar system would work and set into motion the orbit of this planet around the perfectly distanced sun, which sustains the complex and amazing life we see in our world.
In Exodus 33:18, above, we jump into a conversation between Moses and God. Moses was the person chosen to represent God to His people, and vice-versa. Their exchanges, as recorded in the book of Exodus, are astounding to read and consider. Moses’ request to see God’s glory comes out of a back-and-forth exchange like many you’ve witnessed a hundred times over between good friends. Their conversations are real and intimate. Moses even seems to bargain a bit with God. God is powerful and weighty and glorious and willing to carry on a conversation with Moses, operating as a friend to this man. Amazingly, this weighty God is a friend to not just Moses but to me and you as well.
“But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” - Exodus 33:20 (NIV)
My favorite seasons of the year, in order, are summer, spring, fall, and winter. Winter is a distant fourth. It might be my childhood spent in Central Florida, or that I’m a thinner fella without much “cushion” to keep me warm. Whatever it is, I love the sunshine and long days at the beach or by a pool. Summer vacations are some of the most special times you can have as a family. One key ingredient with all of this is, of course, the sun.
When I think of glory, I think of the sun. You cannot escape its influence. The sun is essential to life on Earth. Without it, the earth is a frozen blob floating along in the universe. Even on a cloudy day, we depend on the sun to sustain life. Its powerful rays can burn your skin and damage your vision. We are totally dependent on the sun, but its power carries a degree of danger with it. It’s similar in ways to our relationship with God.
God’s power is unmatched, and we are fully dependent on Him. He created and sustains life. As we see with Moses, no human can engage His glory fully. God told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” We aren’t just fully dependent on God for our physical lives, which were brought into existence by Him, but we are also fully dependent on Him for our spiritual existence.
The Bible teaches us there is no life outside of Him. Ephesians 2:1 states that we were dead in our sin and transgression. Only God can revive our dead souls, and He did it through the work of His Son, Jesus.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14 (NIV)
On Monday, we focused on a passage of scripture that records Moses’ request to see God’s glory. It was a bold and naive request that was partially granted when God had Moses hide behind a rock and “catch a glimpse” of His glory. He couldn’t experience God’s full glory because he’d have been incinerated on the spot (or something like that), as God told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Interestingly enough, Moses’ request was granted more fully during Jesus’ life on Earth. Jesus was up on a mountain with a couple of disciples He was really close to. He then “transfigured,” as Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe it in their recounting of Jesus’ life and ministry. As Jesus’ appearance changed and He became essentially illuminated, Moses and Elijah appeared. Moses was right there in the midst of God’s glory.
This is all truly remarkable but isn’t even the best part. As Peter, John, and James go from nodding off to fully awake (see Luke’s account, above), Peter speaks up and suggests building a shelter for them to hang out in. At this point, God Himself speaks from a cloud and says, “This is my son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” This encounter with God’s glory pointed the disciples to Jesus and made it clear that Jesus was the Son of God and that they should listen to Him. As we consider God’s glory this week, let’s also listen to God’s instructions to listen to Jesus.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” - 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)
I watched a fascinating show the other night about our universe. To say it was amazing is an understatement. Supernovas and black holes are far from my expertise, but it was incredible to hear astrophysicists describe what has been discovered to date, as well as theories about far off galaxies and their current activity. The vast expanse of the universe and the study of it revealed astounding scientific brilliance.
As the show went on, they hypothesized about the origin and beginning point of our universe. For all that is known scientifically, there is much that is unknown. As I watched some of the most brilliant minds of the western world pontificate, I wondered why they would see all of this complexity and power and not recognize a grand design and designer. I don’t say that arrogantly, rather compassionately. For all the glory that the universe reveals, the question is begged, How did all of this get here? Who/what was the originator? How did the matter and gas involved in the formation of the universe appear? From a very young age, I have firmly believed that God did indeed create the heavens and the earth. It’s Him, God, who created all that is known and unknown in the universe.
God’s glory is on display in our planet, our solar system, and our Milky Way galaxy (solid candy bar too, by the way). As we recognize God’s glory on display, let’s give Him credit for it and use it to fuel our worship of Him.
...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
I was in a conversation with some pastors the other day about people we know and dearly love who live with destructive addictions. While we lamented just how difficult and almost impossible it is to help, we concluded that we are all capable of addictive tendencies. In reality, all humans have a draw toward destructive things.
As many brilliant Christian thinkers have described, from Pascal to Lewis, there is a longing in our lives that will never be filled by temporary things. In other words, the deepest longings of our hearts lead us to realize we were made for something more glorious than can be satisfied here in the temporary. We pursue so many things of limited worth and vanishing glory because we long to be fulfilled. Nothing but the glory of God and His goodness will ever satisfy.
The Westminster Catechism was developed in the mid-1600s by the Church of England, and it includes a powerful statement of faith. It states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” Our ultimate purpose is to glorify God and, in glorifying God, our lives will find true joy. In the words of the apostle Paul, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) When we use our lives to bring glory to God, we will be satisfied. Jesus said it this way: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
May we lose our lives for the sake of Jesus and, in doing so, find ourselves fulfilled in the glorification of our great and glorious Creator, God.