Conclusion. Is glorifying God (and enjoying Him forever) the only end for which God created man or did He have other ends in mind as well?
I mentioned in the introduction to the previous blog, “Behold His Glory,” that I had begun that study (which led in turn to this one) in response to questions a man in our church asked me after a Sunday School class was finished one day. If I understood his questions correctly, when they were “boiled down,” most of them had to do with whether God manifested His glory for no other purpose than to give Himself the credit He is due (with the understanding that He had every right to do that) or whether He had other purposes in mind as well. He asked the same sort of questions about the responsibility God has given people to glorify Him. Again, his basic question was whether glorifying Him is the only end for which mankind was created. I think he asked his questions because to see glorifying God as His only purpose would seem to be inconsistent with His character as it is revealed elsewhere in Scripture. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, He portrays Himself as a giving God. He wishes to have a relationship with His people. (I traced that theme through the Bible in my first blog, “Immanuel, God With Us.”) Therefore, as we conclude this study I would like to address the question which originally prompted my writing this paper: Is glorifying God (and enjoying Him forever) not only the chief end of man but the only end for which God created man or did He have other ends in view as well?
In order to answer the intention of this question adequately we think I should distinguish between the character of the “chief end” God had in view and other “ends” associated with the chief end. To use a human example, suppose Susan’s “chief end” is to win the gold medal in figure skating in the Olympics. Steps necessary to achieve her chief end might include hours of practice, listening to her coach, and winning lesser competitions. She might call these “intermediate ends.” Furthermore, having achieved her chief end, she might be given the opportunity to endorse various products for additional income or speak at certain events to motivate younger athletes. He might call these “resultant ends.” Susan may or may not have foreseen various steps she would have to take or results that occurred because she achieved her chief end. They just happened. That being the case, they should not be viewed as “ends,” for they were not the goals toward which Susan was intentionally working. With God, there are no unforeseen steps or consequences. He is omniscient. So, in His case we could call the steps necessary to achieve the chief end “intermediate ends,” and we could call the activities that resulted from achieving His chief end “resultant ends.” However, in an attempt to avoid missing the centrality of the “chief end” God had, I will call the former “intended steps” and the latter “intended consequences.” With that in mind I would like to change the question above to read, “What other intended purposes did God have in mind as He ordained that the chief end of man would be to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever?
First, we will look at “intended steps” necessary to accomplish His chief end. As we saw in the Introduction to this paper, glorifying God means giving Him the credit He is due, responding appropriately to the manifestation of His attributes. That step is both crucial and enormous. In chapter 2, we saw that God performed various actions to manifest His attributes, which was a step toward achieving His chief end. Those deeds manifested His power in the Exodus, His holiness in the Achan episode, His faithfulness in sending the Messiah, His power, compassion, mercy, and love in the miracles of Jesus and the Apostles, and His love, grace and sovereignty in converting Paul and Gentiles. In chapter 3, we saw that God moved His people to respond appropriately to those manifestations, that is, to glorify Him. That moving of His people was another step. It included enabling people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, helping Paul to see something of God’s plan for saving Gentiles as well as Jews, enabling Paul to see His wisdom in saving the “foremost of sinners,” revealing to John some of the wonderful aspects of our salvation, and causing His people to long for Him to be glorified.
Now we will examine the matter of “intended consequences.” In chapter 1 we looked at 1 Samuel 2:30-34. I would like to note part of verse 30 for a different purpose. It reads, “Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” (1 Samuel 2:30, ESV) Both uses of “honor” translated the Hebrew word “glorify.” Because of the contrasting elements of the verse, to honor or glorify is the opposite of “despise” or “lightly esteem.” An intended consequence for those who honor, glorify God is that God will honor, glorify, or highly esteem them.
A similar example of “intended consequences” may be found in Isaiah 48, which we also looked at in chapter 1. As God looked at Israel’s disobedience He said, ““For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11, ESV) Clearly, God’s chief end in this passage was His being glorified (by being obeyed and honored), but if we read further in this same context we see an intended consequence that they would have enjoyed if they had glorified Him [by obeying Him]. “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.”” (Isaiah 48:18–19, ESV) Blessing does come to God’s people as they glorify Him. One day when all of creation glorifies God as He deserves to be glorified, the world will be as it was designed to be originally.
Consider the fact that today God has given us the amazing privilege of willingly and joyfully living in such a way that our lives can constitute steps that lead to accomplishing the chief end for which God created man (and everything else)! We have been called to glorify God by helping others see the greatness, majesty, holiness, justice, faithfulness, truthfulness, love, grace, mercy, power, wisdom, knowledge, sovereignty of the mighty Creator God of the universe who is also our Father because of the work of Christ! Furthermore, we can do that every day in ways such as by receiving answers to prayer, by praising Him, by reflecting His character in our lives, by growing in love, by using our spiritual gifts to honor Him, by living in harmony with one another, by using our wealth to honor Him, or by suffering for Christ, to name only the few ways listed earlier. In other words, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, [you can, and should,] do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV) What an awesome responsibility and privilege. How can we even begin to fulfill it? The only way is to remember that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13, ESV)
Chapter 5. Ways in which God can be glorified today
God has not left us in the dark as to ways in which we He can be glorified today. Some of the ways in which His people have glorified Him in the past, such as praying that He would be glorified, are still to be used today. In this chapter, we will look at ways in which the Bible explicitly says God can be glorified today.
By receiving answers to prayer
Passages in both testaments show the connection between answered prayer and glorifying God. “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”” (Psalm 50:14–15, ESV) In the preceding verses of this Psalm the Lord reprimanded His people for having a wrong attitude toward Him. They had lost sight of the awesome nature of the God, while merely paying Him lip service. They needed to offer sacrifices out of hearts of gratitude because every good thing which they possessed came from Him. They needed to fulfill the vows they had made because of the nature of the One to whom they had made their vows. They needed to call upon the Lord (rather than looking elsewhere) in their time of trouble. In short, they needed to treat Him as their God. In response, He would deliver them, and as a result of that deliverance, they would glorify (praise) Him.
In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus told His disciples, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, ESV) Asking for something “in Jesus’ name” almost certainly means making the request with the authorization of Jesus, or asking according to His will. For our present purposes, the interesting thing is that Jesus says that He will do what is asked “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The point seems to be that if people make requests of Jesus which He grants, the Father would be praised, honored, because of the Son’s connection to Him. Throughout His ministry, Jesus was always bringing glory to His Father. This would continue after His ascension. The point is that when God’s people receive what they request in prayer, they (should) respond by glorifying (praising) God.
By thanking God for His blessings
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”” (Psalm 50:23, ESV) This verse follows up on verses 14-15, which were quoted in the previous section on receiving answers to prayer. Here, however, the statement is applied to any situation in which one has experienced God’s goodness (without reference to whether it is as an answer to prayer or not) and thanks Him for it. God is glorified when His people thank Him because in doing so they give Him the credit He deserves for His blessings.
By doing deeds that reflect God’s character
The Bible suggests many ways in which we can, and should, live so that God would be glorified by our behavior. Both Jesus and Peter state the general principle which teaches this. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV emphasis added) In similar words, Peter wrote: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12, ESV emphasis added) Opinions differ about the meaning of “the day of visitation.” In any case, the point is we are to behave in a way that shows the resemblance between our lives and the character of our God and Father, with the result that He will get the credit (glory), for our good behavior. John records Jesus using different terms but conveying the same meaning when He says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8, ESV) As we live godly lives, bearing much fruit, knowledgeable people will see the similarity between our lives and the life of Jesus and give God credit (glory) for what they see.
By growing in love with knowledge and discernment
The Apostle Paul prayed that the Philippians would experience spiritual growth, intellectually and behaviorally, in order that God would be glorified. He wrote, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9–11, ESV) It is interesting that when Paul states the end of the growth for which he prays, it is not just that the Philippians would be better people, intellectually and behaviorally, but that God would receive glory and praise (again this is probably a hendiadys to emphasize the point).
By using our spiritual gifts in a God-honoring way
As part of a little paragraph which deals with miscellaneous instructions about matters of Christian behavior, Peter includes some instructions about the use of spiritual gifts, abilities. He divides them into two categories: speaking and serving gifts. He writes, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10–11, ESV emphasis added) By calling the abilities “gifts,” he expresses the fact that those abilities have been given to people by God. That being the case, the recipients have a responsibility to God to be good stewards of what He has given them. Peter elaborates on how we are to do this. If we have a speaking gift, we are to use it to speak words God would want us to speak. If we have a serving gift, we are to use it to accomplish what God would want done (because He is the one who is providing the strength for the task). In both cases, the recipient is to remember that the gifts come by way of God’s grace, so He deserves (and should be given) all the credit, the glory.
By living in harmony with one another
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”” (Romans 15:5–9, ESV)
By using our wealth in a way that honors the Lord
The Bible makes it clear that we can, and should, glorify God by the way we handle our finances. “Honor [Hebrew “glorify”] the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” (Proverbs 3:9, ESV emphasis added) “In Israel, honoring the Lord with … the firstfruits of all one’s crops was a way of expressing gratitude to Him for His provisions (Deut. 26:1–3, 9–11). It was a way of acknowledging God and His help (Prov. 3:6). “ In other words, give God credit for giving you the wealth that you have and for giving you the firstfruits of the harvest, which is both an expression of thanks for what has been received and an expression of faith that He will supply the rest of the harvest. The manner in which one was to honor or glorify the Lord with one’s wealth undoubtedly included what was stated in another passage in Proverbs as well. “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors [Hebrew “glorifies”] him.” (Proverbs 14:31, ESV) Proverbs also explains why the way one treats the poor will either insult or honor the Lord. “To take advantage of poor people is like sinning against God (cf. 17:5) since God is the Maker of all people (cf. Job 31:13, 15) and because He defends the cause of the poor (Prov. 22:22–23).”
The New Testament also bears witness to the fact that the use of finances can bring glory to God. Part of Paul’s purpose in writing 2 Corinthians was to encourage the Corinthian believers to do their part in adding to a collection that was being taken for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering from a famine. After mentioning that he was sending an unnamed brother to be part of the group that would take the collection to Jerusalem, Paul adds: “And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.” (2 Corinthians 8:19, ESV) In other words, the goal for taking this collection and delivering it to Jerusalem was two-fold: It would both glorify God and show the good will which the believers in Europe had toward their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. It would glorify God by showing the love God had placed in the hearts of the mainly Gentile believers in Europe for the mainly Jewish believers in Jerusalem. God deserved the credit for developing this love in their hearts.
By suffering for Christ without shame
An unexpected way in which we can glorify God is by the attitude we have when we experience persecution because of our faith. As he addressed believers who were suffering, Peter wrote, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:16, ESV) I think the NET Bible’s translation makes the meaning of the verse plainer: “But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name.” (1 Peter 4:16, NET) If that interpretation is correct, the idea is that we should praise God because we have the honor of being called Christians. The early Christians seem to have had that attitude. After being beaten and forbidden
 Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 912). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 936). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Before we look at some ways the Bible says we can glorify God today, I want to examine some instances of God being glorified in heaven, where His will is done perfectly. All of these examples come from the book of Revelation, and they include accounts of various beings in heaven giving glory to God. Although the focus of this paper is on human beings glorifying God, there are truths we can learn from all of these scenes that will help us to glorify God more effectively.
The first such instance is described in chapters 4 and 5. Seven times in those two chapters we are told that various groups of beings in heaven give glory to God, proclaim that He is worthy to receive glory, express the desire that He receive glory, or exhort others to glorify God. Chapter 4 begins with John being invited up to heaven (4:1), where he sees the throne room of God (4:2-6a) with a heavenly court surrounding the throne (4:6b-8). Then we read that various beings around the throne give glory to God and also proclaim that He is worthy to receive that glory. “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”” (Revelation 4:9–11, ESV) They give Him glory, and they proclaim that He is worthy to receive it. The reason why He is worthy to receive glory is that He created everything that exists. Everything and everyone that exists owes that very existence to God, the Creator. He certainly deserves to receive our glory and praise for that fact as well.
The worshipful scene in chapter 4 is interrupted in chapter 5 by something John beheld. He saw a scroll, sealed with seven seals, in the hand of God, but no one was found who could break the seals and open the scroll. (Revelation 5:1-4) We know, from reading the rest of Revelation, that unless the seals were opened, the judgments contained in the rest of the book and the blessings at the end of the book could not take place. The seal judgments would lead into the trumpet judgments, which in turn would lead into the bowl or vial judgments, which would lead to the destruction of the enemies of God and the establishment of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Everything depended upon the scroll being opened. Then it was proclaimed that a Lamb, standing as though it had been slain, who was also the Lion of the tribe of Judah, could open the scroll. (Revelation 5:5-7) God’s plan for the culmination of history would be fulfilled. In response to this discovery, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders sing a new song, praising the Lamb for redeeming multitudes of people from all over the world by shedding His blood for them. Next, John hears the living creatures, the 24 elders and multitudes of angels proclaim that the Lamb is worthy to receive glory, “saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”” (Revelation 5:12, ESV) Then John said, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”” (Revelation 5:13, ESV) It was because of the work of the Lion/Lamb that God’s plan would be completed. It is no wonder that John hears every creature everywhere offering glory to the Father and the Son. God will bring to a conclusion His great plan for all of time! How could those who love the Lord have any other response to this news than offering praise and honor and glory (which are synonymous terms here) to God?
In the second scene, a multitude that no one could number, from every people group on earth proclaims that salvation belongs to God and to the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-10). (That multitude is later identified as a group of people who have come out of the great tribulation and have “washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14)). Next, we read, “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”” (Revelation 7:11–12, ESV) God and the Lamb are here given glory, praise, and worship because of the salvation they have accomplished for these multitudes of people.
The last scene in Revelation in which it is stated that glory is given to God is in chapter 19. Chapter 18 recorded the destruction of the enemies of the Lord on earth. In response to that victory there is great rejoicing in heaven. John writes, “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,” (Revelation 19:1, ESV) Then, a few verses later, as the rejoicing continues, we read that John heard “what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 19:6–8, ESV) The victory over the enemies of God has been won. The time for the marriage of the Lamb has come. All of heaven rejoices and gives glory to God for vanquishing evil. God’s plan for all of time is about to be concluded.
When put together, these here scenes tell us that God deserves glory for several reasons. He created all that exists. He made it possible for guilty sinners to be made right before Him. He brought to a conclusion His plan for all of time so that the New Heavens and the New Earth will be all that God intended for His creation to be.
So far, we have looked at various ways in which God was glorified in the past and ways in which He will be glorified in the future. Now we will look at some ways in which the Bible teaches that we can glorify God today. That will be the topic addressed in the next chapter.
Chapter 3. God moved His people to glorify Him.
As stated above, there are two conditions necessary in order for God to secure the end for which He created mankind, which is His glory. First, He must perform deeds which are indisputably deserving of glory. We looked at a number of examples of such deeds done in the past in chapter 2. Second, He must enable people to see and be willing to acknowledge that He is the one who deserves credit for them. There is a sense in which we observed that fact in the accounts discussed in chapter 2. If God had not moved those individuals to glorify Him, they would not have done so. Then why devote another chapter to discussing God’s work in the hearts of people as He moves them to willingly ascribe to Him the credit that is His due? I have two reasons for doing so. First, I want to show Biblical examples of people seeing the amazing works of God, but refusing to give Him glory. These examples provide a contrast against which to view my second reason. That reason is the examples I will cite showing the strong desire of people to give God the glory He is due. The examples provided in chapter 2 highlighted the magnificence of God’s works. The examples we will examine in this chapter highlight the inner motivations of the people involved.
Before we look at the examples, however, we will look at a few instances in which people were not willing to give God glory. We have already seen one of them in Chapter 1. It was found in Romans 1:20-27, where mankind was unwilling to glorify God as God and has been reaping the consequences ever since. They had seen, in nature, powerful evidences of God’s power and deity. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor [glorify] him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:20–21, ESV) The problem was not in the availability or strength of the evidence. The problem was the human heart.
Another example is found in the ministry of Jesus. It involved people who were healed but did not glorify God as they should have. Luke records the event in which ten lepers were healed by the Lord and then walked away. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”” (Luke 17:15–18, NASB95 ) Again, the miracle was amazing. The deliverance the nine other lepers experienced was life changing. The problem was the ingratitude of the nine for the kindness of God. These two examples remind us that it is possible to see God’s glory manifested in miraculous ways and then take those acts for granted and not give Him the credit He deserves. The implication that flows out of Jesus’ question is that the others who had been healed should have taken the time and effort to give God the credit for the blessing of healing that they had received. To omit doing so was to deny Him the praise (glory) He should have been given.
A third example is in Revelation. In this case the response of the people mentioned is one of outright rebellion. Following horrendous judgment after horrendous judgment poured out on the earth, some people did give glory to God. “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13, ESV) However, after still more horrendous judgments others did not repent. John tells us, “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.” (Revelation 16:9, ESV) This is an indication of the hatred and hard hearts of these people.
So, why do some people give God glory while others do not? Why do some people adamantly refuse to give God glory while others do so willingly, if not joyfully or enthusiastically? Paul gives us the answer in Philippians. After calling his readers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, he writes, “[F]or it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV) Human beings who do give God glory do so because God has been working in their hearts moving them to be willing to do so.
He commissioned angels to acknowledge the birth of the promised Savior.
The first people to hear of the birth of Jesus were shepherds out on the hills near Bethlehem. The news came to them from one angel who was then joined by many others. “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” (Luke 2:10–14, ESV) The angels were uniting in expressing the wish that, as a result of the coming of the Messiah, God would be glorified in heaven, and that on earth there would be peace among people with whom God is pleased. It could also be a statement that those things are true. They knew that the mighty Creator of the universe had somehow taken the form of a helpless baby, and that the wonderful plan of salvation, conceived in eternity past and prepared for throughout the preceding centuries, was at that time actually beginning to be executed. The promised and long-expected Messiah had been born. The most important event in all of history had commenced. The angelic host was not only willing, but exuberant, in their desire to glorify God by giving Him honor and praise for what He was doing.
He enabled people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and respond to Him accordingly.
Years later, when Jesus entered Jerusalem for His Triumphal Entry the crowd was saying something that included an element that was very similar to what the angels had said at Jesus’ birth. “As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” (Luke 19:37–38, ESV) Since “heaven” and “the highest” appear to be parallel, I take it that they both refer to the same thing. These people did not know what the angels knew at Jesus’ birth, but they knew about the miracles Jesus had done combined with prophecies of the works which the Messiah would perform (such as Isaiah 35:5-6), and they undoubtedly knew Zechariah 9:9. For reasons such as these, these people were expressing a sentiment very much like that of the angels in Luke 2:14. They were praising God because they believed that the promised Messiah had arrived. The one the nation had longed for had finally come. Again, honor and praise are involved in their desire that God would be glorified. So far, angels and people have expressed the desire that, in heaven and everywhere on earth, God would be glorified; that is, given credit for what He was doing.
Numerous doxologies in the New Testament express the desire that God would be glorified. On seven different occasions Paul writes a doxology in which he expresses the wish that God’s glory (praise, honor) would endure forever. Hebrews, 1 Peter, Jude, and Revelation also contain similar doxologies. All of these passages deserve careful consideration but we will look at just three of them, two written by Paul and one by John.
God enabled Paul to see how He was bringing salvation to Gentiles while still preserving a special role for Israel and moved him to compose a doxology in praise of His wise plan.
In Romans 9-11, Paul gives a brief survey of Israel’s role in God’s plan of redemption. In chapter 9, after expressing his own profound love for his fellow Israelites, he reviews the privileges Israel has enjoyed. Then he explains that many Gentiles achieved a righteous standing because they believed in the Messiah, while many Israelites did not receive a righteous standing because they did not believe in Him. In chapter 10, after expressing his love for Israel again, he supports his position that people are made right with God solely on the basis of faith. Then, in chapter 11, he addresses Gentiles, explaining to them that God has not forsaken His people, Israel. “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”.” (Romans 11:25–26, ESV) At the conclusion of this wonderful summary of God’s plan for the nation of Israel is his beautiful doxology summarizing God’s absolute supremacy: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, ESV) Leon Morris comments on the first half of this verse, “The meaning is nicely expressed in Moffatt’s translation “All comes from him, all lives by him, all ends in him.” Paul is speaking of God as the Originator, the Sustainer, and the Goal of all creation.” God had planned the partial hardening of Israel with the result of Jesus’ being rejected, dying for sinners, and the spread of the gospel to Gentiles. But that hardening will only last for a time, after which Israel will turn to the Messiah. As Paul thinks of the wisdom and sovereignty of God demonstrated in this plan, he responds spontaneously with a doxology. He wishes that God would receive glory, honor, praise (different terms meaning nearly the same thing but used for emphasis) forever. If we think about what Paul has described in the context, how can we respond any differently? “That God is to receive glory means that he alone is worthy to receive credit for the successful accomplishment of redemptive history.”
God helped Paul to recognize that He had converted the “foremost of sinners” to show that none are beyond His reach. The result was Paul’s doxology.
Early in his first letter to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul offers praise to God for his salvation and transformation. He proclaims that, in his case God has changed the “foremost” of sinners into His ambassador. He then declares that God did this with him so that in Paul God would have an eloquent example of the change God can bring about in anyone’s life, even if he or she is a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” He concludes his rehearsal of the enormous change that God had brought about in his life with this beautiful doxology: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV) Paul did his best to put into words a description of the greatness and majesty of the God who had wrought such a radical transformation in his life. He acknowledged God’s power and then expressed the desire that He would receive honor and glory (probably a hendiadys, both terms being near synonyms here) forever and ever. When we consider the way God showed His grace and sovereignty in the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle, how can we respond any differently? It was extremely important to Paul that God would receive the credit He so richly deserved for what He did for him.
He revealed to John some of the wonderful aspects of our salvation which involved how He loved, redeemed, and exalted guilty, vile, and hopeless sinners, again resulting in a doxology.
It was also important to John that the Lord would be glorified. At the end of his introductory greeting in the Revelation John wrote a doxology: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, ESV) The stated basis for this doxology is much briefer than those of Paul noted above, but that brevity does not indicate unimportance. What John includes in this doxology is of immense importance. John says our Lord loves us. The wonder of that fact can easily be taken for granted if we forget that He loved us even while we were His enemies. (Romans 5:8-10) He has freed us from our sins. (Romans 6:14) We are free from their power over us and free from the penalty for them. He did this by shedding His blood for us. (Romans 5:8) He has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. (1 Peter 2:9) Translations vary as to their understanding of these terms, but in any case, the point is that we have a very high status and we are authorized to serve as priests serving God. That is an enormous privilege. When John thought about the power and grace of God that were demonstrated in the salvation that has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not a surprise that he would break out into the doxology we read in verses 5-6. Acknowledging what He has done by giving Him glory and recognizing His dominion are appropriate responses to all His great works.
Taken together these three doxologies are a powerful testimony of the wonderful works of God and the intense desire of New Testament writers to give Him the glory for what He has done. Over and over again, God’s people express the desire that He would be glorified everywhere and forever.
God enabled His people to see His glory as important enough to be a basis for prayer.
Another evidence of the fact that God has placed within the hearts of His people the desire to glorify Him is the fact that they have seen it as a basis on which prayer was offered. “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (Psalm 79:9, ESV) In verses 1-7, the Psalmist laments the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of her enemies and pleads with God for deliverance. Next in verse 8, he asks God to forget her former sins. Then in verse 9, he calls out to the Lord as the “God of our salvation” and asks Him to deliver the nation for the glory of His name. Unquestionably, Asaph, whom the superscription names as the author, is concerned for the deliverance of his people, but that is not his only motivation. If granted, Israel would praise God for His forgiveness and deliverance, and the surrounding nations would also see the power of God. Moses had based His plea that God would not destroy Israel because of their disobedience, on the same premise (see Exodus 32:11). The word “glorify” was not used in that context, though the idea is certainly there.
God moved His people to progress from gratitude to a determination to glorify Him.
In Psalm 86, David thought about God’s sovereignty and consequent ultimate victory. On the basis of that recollection he was convinced that God would meet his current need. With that in mind, David asked God to teach him how to be obedient. As David thought about God’s character and faithfulness, the spontaneous response of his heart was, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12, ESV). It is no wonder that he purposed to glorify the Lord’s name (by honoring it) forever. This is the kind of response all of us should have to an awareness of the character and works of our God. Moses, David and Asaph were passionately concerned that God would be glorified.
He moved His people to pray that He would be glorified.
Another way in which we can see the desire of God’s people that He would be glorified is the fact that they prayed that He would be glorified. One prayer to that end is the refrain seen in Psalm 57:5 & 11. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (ESV) The superscription of this Psalm tells us that it was written by David when he hid from Saul in a cave. Verses 1-4 and 6-10 of this Psalm contain cries for God to deliver David from his enemies interspersed with expressions of trust in God’s faithfulness. Both of these sections conclude with an expression of desire that God’s glory would be over all the earth. It seems as though, as David thinks of his immediate need for deliverance, his mind goes to a future time when such deliverance will no longer be necessary, and he expresses his desire for that day to come. The very same refrain is found in Psalm 108:5, as David prays that the Lord of all the earth would fulfill His covenant promises to him (vss. 6-9). I think the motivation for David’s desire for God’s glory to be over all the earth here is because he knows that when that occurs, David will no longer need to fear his adversaries.
Psalm 115 begins with a prayer that God would glorify Himself. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1, ESV) This desire introduces the rest of the Psalm. Verses 3-8 of this Psalm give reasons why God deserves to be glorified. He is completely sovereign (3b). Conversely, the idols worshipped by others are lifeless. Idolatry is utterly foolish. Having demonstrated the inability of idols to do anything, the Psalmist calls Israel to trust in the LORD (vss. 9-15). He closes with an assertion that he and his fellow Israelites will bless the LORD forever (vss. 16-18). As the Psalmist considers the love and faithfulness of God combined with His great power, especially in contrast with lifeless idols, he asks God to glorify Himself, to make sure He is given the credit for being who He is and for doing what He has done. That way, the nation will see the reason for trusting in the LORD, and his people will be motivated to bless His name forever. What could be more important to us than that God glorifies Himself so that we see Him clearly and respond appropriately?
The chief end of man is indeed to glorify God (and enjoy Him forever). In the past, he has performed many deeds and has revealed His matchless attributes. They all demonstrate that He deserves the credit/glory for them. He still uses some of those ways to show that He deserves glory. Furthermore, He has worked in the hearts of people enabling them to observe what He has done and moving them to delight to give Him the credit that He is due. What are some ways in which the Bible teaches that we today can glorify God? We will look at some answers to that question in the next chapter.
 Romans 11:36; 16:27; Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18
 Hebrews 13:20-21; 2 Peter 3:17-18; Jude 24-25; Revelation 1:6
 Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 429). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
 Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 194). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
Chapter 2. Actions or attributes for which God has been glorified in the past
In chapter 1 we saw evidence demonstrating that the chief end of man is indeed to glorify God. What has God done in order to secure the accomplishment of the end for which He created mankind? Generally, there are two conditions that are necessary in order for someone to be glorified (to receive credit) for admirable behavior. First, someone must do notable good deeds or demonstrate significant character qualities which demonstrate that the person under consideration is worthy to be glorified. Second, one who observes these deeds or character traits must be willing to acknowledge the connection between the deeds or the traits and the agent who performed the deeds or possesses the traits, giving the appropriate credit or glory. God, Himself, has sovereignly determined that both of these conditions would exist (and He will do so in the future). Obviously, no human being could compile anything even remotely like a comprehensive any survey of the works of God that merit His being glorified. As I wrote in the previous section of this paper, I am limiting my citations to those in which the Biblical text explicitly says God is glorified. In this chapter we will survey Biblical records of amazing deeds that God has performed and manifestations of His attributes in the past for which the Bible tells us He was glorified.
God gave Abraham amazing promises.
Chronologically, the first action in which the Bible explicitly says someone gave God glory was Abraham’s response to the promises of God to him. We are not told in Genesis that Abraham glorified God, but Paul tells us in Romans that he so did when he describes Abraham’s faith. Abraham glorified God as he believed in the Lord. Speaking of Abraham, Paul wrote: “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:18–22, ESV) To say only that Abraham glorified God by honoring and praising Him would not do justice to the use of the term in this context. Abraham believed in the Lord. Regarding this event in Abraham’s life, Moses wrote: “And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6, NASB95) God made an amazing promise to Abraham. At that point in the narrative Abraham had no offspring and yet God promised that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham responded to God’s promise with faith. In the previous paper I wrote, “God’s glory consists of those unique attractive attributes that distinguish Him from everyone else.” It makes sense that “to glorify God” would involve responding to Him in the light of the attributes exhibited in the manifestation of His glory. That is what Abraham did. He responded by believing in the Lord.
God demonstrated His power over Pharaoh and his army.
The next time we are told that God was given glory was in the account of the Exodus. When Israel had approached the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army was closing in upon them and the people were terrified, God said to Moses, ““And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.” (Exodus 14:4, ESV) “And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”” (Exodus 14:17–18, ESV) God manifested His mighty power by causing the sea to part allowing Israel to cross it on dry land and then by causing the sea to close in over Pharaoh and his army. This was certainly a notable feat which was good for the Israelites, and it was showed that God was worthy to “get glory over Pharaoh and all his host.” There is no indication that the Egyptians verbally acknowledged God’s existence or sovereignty but they certainly knew that He was the LORD, the great I AM. Furthermore, Israel gave credit to the Lord for His victory although that is not explicitly stated in the text.
He uncovered and punished sin in the nation.
The next instance in which we encounter the subject of God being given glory is in the account of Achan taking booty after the fall of Jericho. After Israel conquered Jericho and then was repulsed in their attempt to defeat Ai, Joshua cried out to the LORD asking for the reason for this disaster. “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”” (Joshua 7:6–9, ESV) Joshua is accusing God of bringing the nation into the wilderness to kill them. He then asks how this will affect God’s name or reputation. Joshua is told that the reason Israel was defeated was because they had sinned. It was then determined by lot that the fault lay with Achan, who was summoned to Joshua. “Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”” (Joshua 7:19, ESV) No one outside of Achan’s family, except for God, knew of his disobedience. The omniscient God knew. He brought it to light and decreed his judgement. Joshua called Achan to give glory (in the form of honor) to God by confessing his sin. Until he did so, God was being blamed for unjust treatment of Israel. When Achan confessed his sin, he was blamed (and punished) for what he did and God was vindicated. God was given glory in that He was shown to be just. What God did was right. This was a great benefit to the people of Israel because it helped them trust the Lord’s faithfulness. As long as Joshua and the nation did not know why God had not enabled them to conquer Ai, they were in danger of thinking that God was not being faithful to His word. When Achan confessed his sin and the nation understood the reason why they had been defeated, their confidence in God’s faithfulness was restored. Giving God glory/credit He was due in this instance brought about the difference between Joshua and Israel believing in God’s faithfulness or doubting it.
He announced the arrival of the Messiah.
Chronologically, the first New Testament record of humans glorifying God comes at the end of the account of the announcement to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus. After they went to see Jesus, “[T]he shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20, ESV) Although “glorifying” and “praising,” are not precisely synonymous terms (there are other ways than praising to glorify God), they do overlap in meaning to a large extent, and are often found together as descriptions of peoples’ responses to the work of God. Praising God is certainly one way of glorifying Him. What the shepherds had seen and heard convinced them that God had fulfilled His promises about the coming of the Messiah. Thus what they had seen and heard manifested not only the splendor, majesty, and power of God, but also His faithfulness to His promises. Their actions of praising and glorifying God were appropriate responses to give Him the credit which He was due.
Jesus performed miracles and taught the people as no one else did.
On several occasions, accounts of people glorifying God came in response to the miracles of Jesus. For example, when a paralytic was brought to Jesus, the Lord began by declaring that the man’s sins were forgiven. When He was accused of blasphemy for such a statement, Jesus offered evidence of His ability to forgive sins by healing the man. Luke records the results of the miracle. “And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”” (Luke 5:25–26, ESV also in Matthew 9:8 & Mark 2:12). The healed paralytic was glorifying God and so were the people who had seen the miracle. Matthew’s record of the responses adds a bit more insight to what was happening: “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:8, ESV) In that miracle the man who had been healed and the observers had seen miraculous evidences of God’s forgiveness and power and goodness (proven by the miracle). They responded by glorifying Him (acknowledging that He was the source of what they had seen) and holding Him in awe.
Luke records other examples of healings that resulted in God being glorified. One concerns a woman who was crippled. “Now he [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.” (Luke 13:10–13, ESV) This woman had been a cripple for 18 years! Jesus simply laid His hands upon her and she was able to stand upright immediately! That was amazing. It is no wonder that she glorified God for her healing. Undoubtedly she was praising God by giving Him the credit for her being healed.
Another example is of Jesus healing a man who was blind. “As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:35–43, ESV) Jesus simply spoke the word and the man received his sight. Again, the response was the same.
Matthew tells of a time when Jesus healed many people of various diseases. “And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:30–31, ESV) In this case, not only was one person healed but “great crowds” of people brought folks with all kinds of maladies, and Jesus healed them all. No one doubted in light of this amazing demonstration of the power and goodness of God. Again, giving God the credit (including praise) must have been involved in what they did.
Luke records an even more spectacular event. “Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”” (Luke 7:11–16, ESV) Not only did Jesus heal lots of people with various diseases, but here He actually brought a dead man back to life! This was astonishing beyond amazing.
Sometimes it is specifically stated that Jesus is the one who was glorified. Very early in His ministry, people glorified Jesus in response to His teaching. After He was tempted by Satan, Luke makes this simple comment, “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” (Luke 4:15, ESV) Matthew gives us a bit of background for this verse. “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, ESV) Even at this early stage in His ministry people recognized that His teaching was different from what they had heard, and of course His teaching was accompanied by miraculous signs. The end result was that He was “being glorified [praised] by all.” A few chapters later in Matthew we read why His teaching was so obviously different. At the conclusion of Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount we read, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:28–29, ESV) He did not need to quote other leaders for He spoke with His own authority. His healing of every disease confirmed his authority.
On one occasion we read that glory was given to God and to Jesus. It is in the account of the raising of Lazarus. When Jesus received word from Lazarus’ sisters that he was ill, Jesus commented, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”” (John 11:4, ESV) John does not record people glorifying God after He raised Lazarus, but the implication is surely that at least some of them did. An astounding miracle had been performed and of that there was no doubt.
God enabled the Apostles to perform miracles.
Not all of the records of people glorifying God were in response to accounts of miracles performed by Jesus. In Acts, Luke records the same kind of response being given following the healing of a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:2), but this was through the ministry of Peter and John. After the council instructed Peter and John to stop preaching in the name of Jesus (although Peter and John refused to obey them) we read of the council, “When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;” (Acts 4:21, NASB95) When the people saw the miracle, they knew that behind it was the power and kindness of God. He deserved the credit and they said so.
God converted all kinds of people.
When news spread around that Paul had been converted people glorified God. Of Paul’s early post-conversion life he said, “And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:22–24, ESV) When the believers in Judea heard of the amazing transformation that God had brought in Paul’s life, they responded by glorifying, praising, honoring God for what He had done. They knew that such a change in Saul of Tarsus was every bit as much a miracle as raising the widow of Nain’s son from the dead. In a spiritual sense, that is exactly what happened to Saul when God took a man dead in trespasses and sins and made him alive in Christ. What an amazing feat that was!
Believing Jews also glorified God in response to the news of the conversion of others. After the believers at Jerusalem heard from Peter that the household of Cornelius had believed and received the Holy Spirit, we read that: “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”” (Acts 11:18, ESV) Years later, when Paul returned to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey and gave the leaders of the church there a report about his efforts, “And when they heard it, they glorified God. (Acts 21:20, ESV) In both cases, when Jewish believers in Jerusalem heard that God had granted Gentiles repentance leading to salvation, they glorified God. “Praised” is the sense of “glorified” that best fits the context here. As in the case of Saul of Tarsus becoming Paul the Apostle, the conversion of these Gentiles was understood to be the result of the amazing work of God.
God continually sanctified His people.
In His High Priestly prayer Jesus said to the Father, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:10, ESV) James Boice suggests five ways by which Christ is glorified in His people. “How is Jesus glorified in us? There are several answers. First, he is glorified in us by saving us. … Second, Jesus is glorified by our trusting him in this life…. Third, Jesus is glorified in his own people to the degree that we live a holy life…. Fourth, we glorify the Lord by our confession of him before the world. … Finally, we may glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by our efforts to extend his kingdom, that is, not just by our speech but also by our activity.”
Referring to the suffering Paul had experienced (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) and
of the promise of the resurrection and eternal life with Jesus that had motivated him (4:13-14), Paul wrote, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15, ESV) He knew that as more people were brought to faith in Jesus the response would be that God would be glorified, praised for what had happened.
As Paul thought about the response the saints in Jerusalem would have to the offering going to help them from the believers in Corinth, he wrote, “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,” (2 Corinthians 9:13, ESV)(.) As believers in Jerusalem received the gift from their brothers and sisters in Corinth, who were mostly Gentiles, Paul knew that they would glorify, praise God for the gift.
“As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 8:23, ESV) “The delegates are said to be “the glory of Christ” in that they were “an honor to Christ” or “a credit to Christ” either by their exemplary lives and service or because they were trophies of Christ’s saving grace; or in that they were an embodiment or worthy reflection of Christ’s glory; or in that they were “men in whom Christ is glorified”; or in that they promoted Christ’s glory (cf. 3:18; 8:19).”
All of these effects in the lives of fallen, sinful people can only be explained by the regenerating work of God in the hearts of people. For that He deserves the credit. Each of these examples of Christian growth and godly living occurred because of God’s powerful work in the lives of those mentioned.
God superintended the death of Jesus and of Peter.
Near the end of His earthly ministry Jesus was the source of God being glorified by means of His death. After observing the way Jesus died, we read: “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47, AV The ESV translates the Greek verb as “praised” but the normal translation of the term is “glorified.”) By recognizing and acknowledging the character of Jesus demonstrated in His death, the centurion (whether he recognized it or not) gave glory to God by asserting Jesus’ innocence.
During one of Jesus’ last appearances to the disciples after His resurrection, He said to Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”” (John 21:18, ESV) John then explains the significance of that statement. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)” (John 21:19a, ESV) In both of these cases there is no doubt about the fact that God, in His gracious sovereignty, superintended the deaths of both Jesus and Peter to bring glory to Himself.
Jesus ascended into heaven and took His place of exaltation.
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus made an amazing offer. He said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”” (John 7:37b–38, ESV) Many years later John explained what Jesus was talking about in that offer. “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39, ESV) Likewise, when John reflected on the events involved in Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, John wrote: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” (John 12:16, ESV) When Jesus took up His exalted place in heaven He was given the honor that was due Him. Paul elaborates on this exaltation in Philippians. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV)
In chapter one we saw that the chief end of man is to glorify God. In this chapter we have seen instances in which God performed amazing deeds and demonstrated His attributes in clear ways that manifested His worthiness to receive glory. The fact that people did indeed give Him glory is implicit evidence that God had worked in their hearts to cause them to be willing to give Him the credit that was due Him. In the next chapter we will look at explicit evidence showing that God worked in the hearts of angels and people moving them to desire that God would be glorified.
 Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (p. 1285). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Harris, M. J. (2005). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 612). Grand Rapids, MI; Milton Keynes, UK: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Paternoster Press.
Robert M. Spicer
Why are you here on this planet at this time? Knowing the answer to that question is always important, but knowing it during a time of uncertainty and upheaval, such as we are facing during this coronavirus pandemic, is crucial. It is important at all times because without a purpose or goal for our lives we wander aimlessly through life. In times of major upheaval like we are facing right now it is crucial that we have the right purpose for our lives and that we keep that purpose in mind constantly. It is easy at a time like this to lose our bearings, wondering what is happening or what we should do or what the outcome will be. If we choose a wrong purpose we will end up disappointed and disillusioned. Suppose your purpose is determined by your vocation. You are a teacher, a plumber, a nurse, an attorney, an IT worker or whatever. If you lose your job or retire, have you lost your purpose in life? Suppose your purpose is determined by relationships. You are a wife and/or mother, husband and/or father, son or daughter, friend or neighbor. If the connection involved in those relationships changes by the passing of years or by circumstances beyond your control like alienation, distance or death, what will happen to your purpose for living? Suppose your purpose is determined by accomplishments. You are striving for success, wealth, status, approval of others or pleasure. If you fail to measure up, has your life no meaning? If you reach those goals will you still have a reason for your existence? Having the right purpose for our lives is always important. We must know what that is and keep it firmly in mind and clearly in view.
One of the most famous attempts to address the question of why we are here was the answer given to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism written in London in the 1600’s. The question was, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer was, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In this blog I plan to concentrate on the first half of that purpose statement, “to glorify God.” In this paper I hope: 1. to explain what it means to glorify God, 2. to show that the Bible teaches that glorifying God is the chief end of man, 3. to give examples of ways in which Scripture says we can accomplish that purpose, and 4. to show why glorifying God is so very important.
Before I begin, I should note that this study is the second half of the one begun with my previous blog, “Behold Your God,” which was posted several months ago. In that blog, I examined the use of “the glory of God” in the sense of glory that God possesses as a part of His essence, a reference to the manifestation of His attributes. In this blog I plan to examine the topic of “the glory of God” in the sense of glory that is given to Him by others. What does “glory” denote in that sense? In other words, what does it mean “to give glory to God” or “to glorify God”? (They are synonymous phrases.) Obviously, no one can add anything to God’s essence or attributes. What people can do is respond to Him appropriately in light of His manifested attributes. They can draw attention to those attributes, help others to understand what they say about God, and respond to Him accordingly. That response might include adoration or praise or honor or fear being given to Him. It might also include obeying Him or confessing sins. One way or another those actions are what the Bible means by giving Him glory (honor, praise etc.) so that others will see His glory (His manifested attributes). As we go through this paper I will frequently take note of the various nuances the phrases “glorify God” and “give God glory” have in each passage to give an understanding of the full range of meanings those expressions can have. As in the previous blog, although I am convinced that the concept of glorifying God is found in multitudes of verses in Scripture, I have limited my survey to those passages where the actual terms are found in the original languages of the Bible.
The glory of God is indeed the chief end of man because of what the Bible says about that act. There is no statement in the Bible declaring that the glory of God is the chief end of man. If it is so important, why would that clear declaration not be made, not once but many times? I think the reason is that God wants us to use our minds, to think. He does this on more than one occasion. For example, the word “trinity” is never found in Scripture. Neither is the word “triune” and yet the orthodox church affirms that God is one in essence but three in persons. We do that because the Bible distinguishes between the persons. When Jesus was baptized, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) The Father was distinguished from the Son. The evening before He was crucified Jesus told His disciples that He would soon be going to the Father who had sent Him but He would send the Helper who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 16:5 ff.) He was referring of course to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is distinguished from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet we believe God is one in essence because of passages like Deuteronomy 6:4 which, tells us that the Lord is One. In other words the Bible teaches that there are three persons but one essence of God. The Bible teaches the triunity of God indirectly. We are to know what the Bible says, and we are to think about what it says.
Similarly, when John the Baptist, sitting in prison, heard the evaluation various people were making of the ministry of Jesus (that He was a prophet), he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the One who should come (the Messiah) or if they should wait for another. In response, Jesus did not say, “Yes, I am the Messiah.” Instead, He said, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”” (Luke 7:22–23, ESV) Jesus knew that John knew what the Old Testament prophesied, that when the Messiah came he would do the very things Jesus had been doing. (Isaiah 35:5-6 & 61:1-2) Jesus expected John to put two and two together and get four. He affirmed his messiahship, but He did so indirectly. Likewise, the Bible teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God, but it does so indirectly. We will begin to see how it does so by examining what the Bible says about the importance God places upon glorifying Himself.
Chapter 1. It is important to God that He is glorified
God created people for His glory
As I said above, nowhere in Scripture do we find the statement that the chief end of man is to glorify God. However, we do find something close to that in a verse in Isaiah. In Isaiah 43:1-4, the Lord expresses His love for Israel. Then, in verses 5-7, He promises to regather them from the nations into which they will have been dispersed. “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” (Isaiah 43:6–7, ESV) God had created the nation of Israel for His glory. Although this text speaks specifically of the nation of Israel, as we will see in the next sections of this chapter, the implication is that God has created everyone for His glory, but the way they will glorify Him will differ depending upon their relationship with Him.
God commands people to glorify Himself.
The next piece of evidence that we will consider, that indicates that it is important to God that He is glorified, is the fact that He commands people to glorify Him. After David looked at the adversity that God had brought upon him, and then experienced deliverance, he exhorted his people with these words: “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” (Psalm 22:23, ESV) Although David was the human instrument who spoke these words, ultimately God was inspiring David to write them. God was commanding (the verb is imperative) the people to glorify Himself. Since “glorify him” is parallel with “praise him” and “stand in awe of him,” I believe these ideas explain more specifically what was meant by “glorify him” in this verse.
Isaiah also records a command to give God glory. After portraying the future judgment of God upon the whole world, the righteous everywhere (east and west) are commanded to give glory to God: “Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.” (Isaiah 24:15-16a, ESV) What is the response that those who love the Lord are called to have? They all are to glorify the Lord. In response to the command issued in verse 15, verse 16a records people giving glory to God by singing songs of praise to Him. The form of glory being given to God here is that of praise.
Jeremiah utters a similar call to the nation of Israel in his day. “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness.” (Jeremiah 13:16, ESV) This verse comes near the beginning of a song in which Jeremiah is pleading with his people to turn back to the Lord lest they end up in exile. They were exhorted to give glory to God, to give Him the honor that was due Him as their God in order to avoid judgment. The meaning of glory here is not praise. Jeremiah is calling his people to turn from their sinful behavior and honor and obey the Lord. The whole book is replete with examples of the way Israel was dishonoring God by their disobedience. They were being exhorted to repent and live lives of obedience which would honor the Lord. The glory they were being called to give was in the form of responding to God in the light of His character and commands. This is consistent with the meaning of “glory” we saw in the previous blog. In that paper “glory” referred to the manifestation of God’s attributes or character. The glory that Jeremiah was commanding them to give to God was a response to the glory that was a manifestation of His character (covered in my previous blog); that is they were to glorify God by living lives that reflected His attributes.
The New Testament also contains commands to glorify God. As Paul concludes a warning to the Corinthians not to use their bodies for immoral purposes, he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV) Then, later on in the same epistle, at the end of a section instructing the Corinthians about the matter of Christian liberty, he concludes: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV) In this passage the meaning of glorifying God is the same as in the previous passage in Jeremiah. People were being called to glorify/honor God by obeying Him, by responding to Him in the light of His character.
In prophecies of the last days we read what an angel declares to everyone living on the earth: “And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”” (Revelation 14:7, ESV) Since “give him glory” seems to be parallel with “worship him” I take it that the meaning here is primarily that the people are being called to worship/praise the Lord, the Creator of all, because He is finally executing judgment on the earth which is described in verses 8-11.
He commands heavenly beings to glorify Himself.
God’s commands that He be glorified are not limited to those directed to human beings. Psalm 29 is an example in which heavenly beings are called to glorify God. “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” (Psalm 29:1–2, ESV) The body of the Psalm extols the mighty power of God over nature. It does so in two ways, first by naming some of the elements in nature over which He exercises His power, and second, by stating that the instrument by which He exercises His power is simply His voice. He just speaks and the waters (29:3), the mountains (29:6), lightning (29:7), and the wilderness (29:8) all obey His bidding. The heavenly beings are called to glorify the LORD because of His mighty power demonstrated by His deeds. In this case the form of glory they are to give to God is that of praise/worship as they ascribe glory (give credit) to Him.
God is (rightly) jealous of His glory being given to others and He imposed severe penalties on those who did not give Him the glory He deserved.
Two indications of the value God places upon His being glorified are the facts that He is jealous for His glory and that He imposed serious consequences when people have refused to give Him the glory He deserves. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire on the altar and were immediately executed by God for doing so. “Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.” (Leviticus 10:3, ESV) Nadab and Abihu dishonored God by not sanctifying Him by following the directions He had given for the offering of incense. He is holy. He is the mighty creator God of the universe. When He speaks He is to be obeyed. By their disobedience they did not glorify Him by treating Him according to who He is. They were executed as a consequence.
Apparently that lesson was not learned by all of the priests because years later a similar kind of attitude was found in the sons of Eli the priest. So the Lord sent a prophet to Eli saying: “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor (Hebrew glorify) me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.” (1 Samuel 2:30–34, ESV) The severity of this sentence of judgment shows how very important it is to God that He is glorified, obeyed, and treated with respect and reverence, especially by the religious leaders of the day.
The second indication of how very important it is to God that He receives the glory which He deserves can be seen in the fact that He is jealous of His glory. Isaiah 42 provides an instance of this. In Isaiah 42:1-4 the LORD describes His commissioning of His Servant and a description of the Servant’s victorious work. In verses 5-7, the LORD reminds His listeners of His mighty work in Creation and then prophesies what He is going to do with His Servant (the Messiah). Among other things, He is going to give Him as a covenant for the people and a light for the nations. Furthermore, He will enable Him to open eyes of the blind and set free captives. Then in verse 8, He says: “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8, ESV) In the next verse He says: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”” (Isaiah 42:9, ESV) The point is that giving this prophecy and fulfilling it will provide evidence that He is alive and omniscient and sovereign. Because that is true He will not share His glory/praise/honor with lifeless images. With that in mind, in verses 10-11, the LORD calls people throughout the world to praise Himself. Then in verse 12, speaking through Isaiah the LORD gives this command to all people: “Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands.” (Isaiah 42:12, ESV) “Glory” is synonymous with responding to the LORD appropriately in light of who He is and what He has done. That would mean praising and worshipping God by giving Him the credit He deserves. God’s unwillingness to give His glory to another is partly because He alone is worthy of it. Another reason is to provide evidence and motivation to declare to those everywhere that the Lord alone is God.
Isaiah provides another example of God’s jealousy for His glory. In Isaiah 48:1-8 the Lord recounted the sins of Israel. Then, in 48:9-11 we read why God had not exterminated the nation because of her moral treachery, ““For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11, ESV) “Glory” is synonymous here with both praise, honor and recognition of who God is. Obviously, in this case God desires to receive glory for His own sake, but the remainder of the chapter is composed of God’s plea to His people to repent of their sin and return to Him which I believe to be the ultimate goal of the passage. Notice the following verses. ““Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.” (Isaiah 48:12, ESV) ““Assemble, all of you, and listen!” (Isaiah 48:14, ESV) “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18, ESV) When God refuses to give the glory He deserves to another in this passage, the ultimate purpose is to call His people to return to Him. It was for their benefit.
In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, the problem of not honoring/glorifying God was still seen among the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. Through Malachi, the Lord said to priests in the nation, ““A son honors [Hebrew glorifies] his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor [Hebrew glory]? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.” (Malachi 1:6, ESV) “Honor” is a good translation for the Hebrew word behind it. “Fear,” being parallel with “honor,” is also a good interpretation for the Hebrew word behind it because of what is involved in the idea of glory/honor in this verse. The Lord was indeed a father to the nation and He deserved to be treated as such. He was indeed their master/lord and He deserved to be treated as such. Both honor and fear are included in giving God glory here. A few verses further on in the text, the Lord tells the people what He has and will do to punish them unless they amend their ways. “If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor [Hebrew glory] to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.” (Malachi 2:2, ESV) God was very angry that his people, especially the priests, did not glorify Him, give Him the honor that was due to Him. If they did not repent the consequences would be serious.
The most graphic New Testament example of God’s being jealous of His glory occurred in the life of an individual who gave God’s glory to another. That individual was King Herod. “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:21–23, ESV) Herod did not give God the glory when he accepted for himself the praise that his was the voice of a god and not a man. He should have immediately denied that praise and given the praise to God.
Perhaps the most powerful demonstration of the jealousy of God for His glory is the example recorded in Romans chapter 1. It tells us what He has done with mankind as a whole when they have given His glory to others. Verses 20-23 describe the way in which mankind has given God’s glory to others. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:20–23, NIV84) Then, verses 24-27 reveal God’s response to their giving His glory to others. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:24–27, NIV84) Because mankind had given to other beings the glory, praise, credit for all that He had created, God withdrew His hand of restraint upon evil and allowed the human race to pursue their depraved desires, diving deeper and deeper into sin.
The persons of the Trinity glorify one another.
The fact that the three persons of the Trinity give glory to one another confirms how important to God it is that He be glorified. Isaiah portrays the Servant of the LORD explaining God’s estimation of Him with these words, “And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored [Hebrew “glorified”] in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength….” (Isaiah 49:5, ESV) “Honored” is a good translation because that is the idea of the Hebrew word, glorified, in this context. The Messiah (Christ) said He was glorified, honored by the LORD.
Jesus was given glory by the Father. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.” (Acts 3:13, ESV) Human beings dishonored Jesus, but God honored and glorified Him.
During His earthly ministry Jesus spoke several times about being glorified by the Father and in some cases of Him glorifying the Father. In a debate with various religious leaders who did not believe in Him, Jesus asserted that the glory that He had was given to Him from the Father. “Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’” (John 8:54, ESV) After His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, when a number of Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship asked to see Jesus, He began again to speak of His coming death. As a part of that brief discourse He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23, ESV) As He thought about it, He added: ““Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”” (John 12:27–28, ESV) At the Last Supper, after Judas left we read: “When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.” (John 13:31–32, ESV) Then, a short time later, as He begins His high priestly prayer, we read: “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” (John 17:1, ESV) When these words were spoken, Jesus must be referring to His coming death, resurrection and ascension. I believe that the meaning of “glorify” in these verses has the meaning of honoring by means of revealing the character of the one being glorified. In verse 1, Jesus was asking the Father to honor Him in His death by revealing His (Jesus’) nature and character so that by doing so Jesus would honor the Father by revealing His (the Father’s) character as well. In this mutual glorification we see the holiness, justice, and love of the Father displayed as in no other place. In the mutual glorification in verses 4-5, we see that Jesus glorified the Father by honoring Him by the obedience He demonstrated throughout His ministry. We also see Jesus’ request that (after His ascension) the Father would glorify the Son by manifesting His attributes in the splendor in which they had been shown before Creation. “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:4–5, ESV) In all of these cases the glorification in view must be a combination of honor and revealing the attributes of these two persons of the Trinity. Jesus was honoring His Father in what He did throughout His ministry and especially in His death. Furthermore, simultaneously, the Father was honoring Jesus and revealing His attributes as well. God’s holiness, justice, grace, love and mercy were abundantly revealed in all of Jesus’ ministry but uniquely in His death, burial and resurrection.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus deserved the honor the Father gave Him. “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” (Hebrews 3:3, ESV) Then, in the following verses he elaborates on the glory to which he referred: “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6–7a, ESV) Christ is worthy of the glory/honor of being God’s Son over God’s house which is the church. He deserves the credit of being called God’s Son because that is what He is. The same writer explicitly tells us who gave Him that honor. “So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”.” (Hebrews 5:5, NASB95)
The Apostle Peter also testified to the source of the glory Jesus received. Referring to Jesus he wrote, “who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21, ESV) John, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter all agree that Jesus was given glory by the Father. In all these cases the basic idea of these passages is that the Father honored/glorified Jesus.
Finally, Jesus was glorified by the Holy Spirit as well as by the Father. In the last discourse Jesus gave to His disciples, speaking of the Holy Spirit, He said, “When the Spirit of truth comes … He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13–14, ESV) Although honor must be involved in the glorifying mentioned here, it is not all that is involved. The last phrase of verse 14 explains some of what would be involved in the Spirit’s glorifying of Jesus. The Spirit would take truth about Jesus and explain it to the Apostles. Honor is certainly involved here, but it is honor of a particular kind. It is honor that revealed the character and work of Jesus so that the Apostles, and we too, could understand more clearly what a wonderful Savior we have.
A time will come when the Lord will be glorified by everyone and everything.
In the future, Scripture tells us that various groups will glorify the Lord. For example, Isaiah prophesies a day when those who are unlikely to do so will glorify the Lord. After recounting acts of judgment performed by the Lord (verse 2), Isaiah draws this conclusion: “Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.” (Isaiah 25:3, ESV) Since the two phrases are parallel I take it that “strong peoples” (and “cities of ruthless nations”) refers to people who had been enemies. “Glorify” is parallel with “fear” which could either mean “revere” or “be afraid of.” In light of the facts that the previous verse described acts of devastating judgment, and the fact that this verse begins with “therefore” and speaks of “strong peoples” and “ruthless nations,” I believe the idea is real fear. That being the case, “glorify” must mean something like that. They would glorify Him in the sense that they would fear Him by acknowledging His sovereignty and justice and power.
In a passage in which Paul describes the final judgment of those who have opposed the Lord, he says that, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9–10, ESV) On that day, Jesus will be glorified “in his saints.” I take that to mean that He will be praised/honored for the salvation that He has accomplished in them. Paul does not say who will do the glorifying but since the next phrase refers to “all who have believed,” I would think they are the ones who do the glorifying.
About half way through the record of the judgments to be poured out in the Revelation we read, “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13, ESV) The text does not say whether the form of the glory they gave was. Because of the placement of this verse in Revelation, with many more judgements to come on a rebellious earth, I think that the glory to God they gave did not include repentance. Rather, they were simply acknowledging His power which was being demonstrated in the earthquake.
One day not only humans, some of whom were righteous and others unrighteous, will glorify God but even the wild animals will glorify Him. ““The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people.” (Isaiah 43:20, NASB95) How they will do so we are not told, but the fact that they will glorify Him bears testimony to the universality of the glorification that He will receive one day.
One day everyone and everything will glorify the Lord. Interestingly, David wrote a Psalm in which he was moved to prophesy a day when all the nations will glorify God. “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” (Psalm 86:9, ESV) Earlier in that Psalm David had lamented the fact that he was needy and afflicted. As He pleaded with God for help he remembered God’s character (vss. 5, 8, 10) and used that a basis for his prayer for deliverance (vss. 2-4 & 6-7). Part of his recollection of God’s character included the knowledge that the Lord alone was God (vs. 10). For that reason he knew that in the future all the nations that He has made will one day glorify Him (vs. 9). No purpose for glorifying God is given in the context of this passage. That is not the reason why it is mentioned here. It is mentioned because all of the nations glorifying God will be a characteristic of the time when the Lord reigns supreme, when the world will be as it should be. That awareness of God’s sovereignty strengthened David‘s trust in God for his immediate needs. With that in mind, David asked God to enable him to be obedient. He then promised to glorify God’s name because of His deliverance. “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12, ESV) In both of these cases in Psalm 86 the fact that God is glorified is not a means to an end but rather an end in itself. It is a description of a time when the Messiah reigns and when things are as they ought to be. That will be a wonderful time for all of God’s creation.
The New Testament also contains prophecies of that day. At the conclusion of the great kenosis passage outlining the humiliation of Jesus, Paul recorded the exaltation of Jesus: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV) John speaks of this time in the Revelation: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”” (Revelation 15:4, ESV)
The passages we have examined above show that God places great importance upon His being glorified. Those passages make clear that glorifying God is the ultimate reason for creation’s existence. From that, it is certainly reasonable to draw the inference that glorifying God is the main reason for our own existence. If God created people for His glory, commands people to glorify Him, commands heavenly beings to glorify Him, is jealous of His glory being given to anyone else, imposes severe penalties on those who do not give Him the glory He is due, glorifies other persons of the Godhead, and has determined that in the eschaton everyone and everything will glorify Him, does it not make sense that the chief end of man (and everything else) is to glorify Him? We do not need an explicit statement that the chief end of man is to glorify God in order to come to that conclusion.
Several months ago, following an adult Sunday School class in
our church a young man asked me some questions about the glory of God. When his
questions were “boiled down” most of them had to do with whether God manifested
His glory simply because He wanted to display it (with the understanding that
He had every right to do so) or if He had other purposes in mind. He asked the
same sort of questions about the responsibility God has given people to glorify
Him. I had done studies on the topics of the glory of God and glorifying Him in
years gone by, but I did not recall doing any studies where I focused on the
purposes God had in mind in those two matters. As I began to think about his
questions it occurred to me that I also had not thought about the forms in which
the glory of God was manifested. I decided I would like to do a study on this
topic to try to address his questions.
Additional motivation to restudy this topic was provided as I
realized the fact that the glory of God is an extremely important topic in
Scripture. When Moses received the Lord’s instructions to begin the journey to
the Promised Land in Exodus 33:1, he requested two things. First, he asked the
Lord to show him His ways (33:13). Second, he asked the Lord to show him His
glory (33:18). Why was seeing God’s glory so important to Moses? Then, many
years later, after asserting His sovereignty over the earth the Lord spoke these
words through His servant Habakkuk, “For the earth will be filled with the
knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV) Why was (and is) it
important to God that the knowledge of His glory fill the earth to such an
The purpose of this paper is to restudy the topic of “the
glory of God,” focusing attention on what this concept means, what form or
appearance it took, why it was so important, what God’s purpose for it was and
is, and how knowing about it is relevant to us as believers.
In order to understand why the glory of God was so important to
Moses and why it is so important to God, Himself, we need to address two other
questions. The first is, “What is the essence of eternal life?” It is
not endless existence because people in hell have that. It is not the absence
of death, sorrow, pain, etc., (although all of these blessings will be
included), for we do not experience them yet and we have eternal life now. It
is not forgiveness of sins (although that is certainly included), because
although we experience that now, it still would leave us without the one
element that we desperately need. Jesus told us what the essence of eternal
life is. He said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3,
ESV) The essence of eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus. That
“knowledge” is not just knowing their existence. It is not like merely knowing
the multiplication tables. It involves knowing them in the sense of having a
relationship with them. It is more like knowing members of your family with
whom you have a relationship. It is the kind of knowledge Paul spoke of in 2
Timothy when he was explaining the reason why he was willing to suffer all that
he had endured: “I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed
and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him
until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NASB95) Like all knowledge of persons
that we care about, it was a knowledge that involved a relationship with the
Person known. Furthermore, in Philippians when he was relating the central goal
of his life, Paul said that he counted his previous status as rubbish “that
I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10,
ESV). Paul’s knowledge of the Lord involved a continually growing intimate
personal relationship. It is this kind of knowledge, which Jesus referred to in
John 17:3, which is the essence of eternal life.
This brings us to the
second question we need to answer in order to understand the importance of the
glory of God. It is, “To what does the “glory of God” refer?” One dictionary
lists possible meanings for “glory” as “thought or opinion, especially favorable human opinion,
and thus in a secondary sense reputation, praise, honor (true and false),
splendor, light, perfection, rewards (temporal and eternal).
Corinthians 15:38-41 Matt. 6:29] The same source says:
glory of God must mean His unchanging essence.” It goes on to say that includes
His “glorious moral attributes, excellence, perfection.” The most
accurate and poetic definition of the glory of God I know of I think I heard
from Marv Rosenthal many years ago. He said the glory of God refers to His
“intrinsic, eternal perfections.” His glory is intrinsic because it is as
aspect of who God is. It is eternal because His nature has not changed, and
will not change. It refers to His perfections because everything about Him is
just that, perfect. Still, for our purposes, a simpler definition will serve us
better. We will simply say that it refers to His attributes, those attractive
attributes that characterize Him uniquely. We see a similar use of the word in
1 Cor. 15. “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of
the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There
is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of
the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” (1 Corinthians 15:40–41,
ESV) The glory (the unique attractive attributes) of the sun differ from those
of the moon and of the stars. The glory (unique attractive attributes) of the moon
differ from those of the sun and of the stars. God’s glory consists of those
unique attractive attributes that distinguish Him from everyone else. (There is
another sense in which the “God’s glory” is used in the Bible. In that sense it
refers to something people give Him as opposed to something that He innately
possesses. I hope to look at that usage in another paper.)
If knowing God in the sense of having a personal relationship
with Him is the essence of eternal life and if God’s glory consists of those
unique attractive attributes that distinguish Him from everyone else which
would enables us to know Him in the sense of having a relationship with Him, it
makes sense that His glory is of absolutely supreme importance to us. No finite
human being can know God comprehensively, but we can certainly know about Him
what He has revealed to us, and we can have a relationship with Him that
reflects our knowledge of what He has revealed. With those truths in mind let
us dig into what God has revealed about His glory to us.
In what kinds
of forms does the “the glory of God,” appear in the Bible?
Before doing the research for this paper, I thought of the
glory of God solely as a visible manifestation of localized splendor in
a form such as a cloud, fire, or light, intended to inspire fear or awe or
reverence. In many cases God’s glory certainly did appear in forms like that
and did indeed have that kind of effect upon people, but I have come to believe
that there are also many instances where God’s glory was manifested in forms
other than splendor as well. God desired to manifest certain of His attributes
in addition to His splendor with the goal of revealing aspects of His character
so that His people could know Him better. Furthermore, in those instances where
God’s glory was manifested in the form of splendor, the purpose never seems to
be only the manifestation of splendor for its own sake. There is always another
purpose in view. For the purposes of this paper, when the form of His glory is
that of localized splendor or brilliance, I will call that “overt.” When the
form takes another shape that is less obvious I will call it “covert.” Although
I am convinced that God’s glory is manifested in many places throughout
Scripture, I will limit my survey to those passages where the glory of God is explicitly
mentioned. Rather than looking at the pertinent passages in the order in which
they appear in Scripture, we will examine them in more of a topical sequence
grouping the passages according to the similarities between them and the
apparent purposes God had in mind for manifesting His glory in each case.
Overt and Covert manifestations of God’s glory seen
The glory of God revealed His faithfulness and power by
miraculously supplying the physical needs of His people with the goal that they
would know and believe in Him.
Not long after the record of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea,
we read (in Exodus 16:1-3) that the nation began to grumble against Moses and
Aaron because they lacked food. In response to this verbal attack, having heard
God’s promise to meet their need, Moses and Aaron told the people, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of
Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your
grumbling against the Lord. … And
Moses said, “When the Lord gives
you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full ….
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of
Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord,
for he has heard your grumbling.’ ” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the
whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness,
and behold, the glory of the Lord
appeared in the cloud. And the Lord
said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to
them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled
with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”” (Exodus 16:6–12, ESV)
The glory of God is referred to twice in this passage. In verse
7, Moses and Aaron told the people that they would see the glory of the LORD in
the morning. In verse 8, Moses said they would have “bread to the full” in
the morning, and in verse 12, the LORD, Himself, said the same thing.
However, in verses 13-16, in the record of the people gathering the manna in
the morning we read nothing about a manifestation of the glory of God then.
Unless Moses was wrong about their seeing the glory of God in the morning or
unless they saw it but it was not recorded, the only conclusion I can come to
is that when the nation saw God’s provision in the manna they were seeing a
sort of covert manifestation of the glory of God. What they saw was God
providing for their material needs. The second mention of the glory of God in
this passage is in verse 10, when the LORD “appeared in the cloud” and told
Moses what is recorded in verse 12, referred to above. In this case the glory
of God appeared overtly to the entire nation as He spoke to Moses. God’s glory
was seen overtly in the presence of the cloud (verses 10-12) as He
declared the way He would provide food for them and covertly in the
morning when He actually provided it. In this and the following instances when
the glory of God appeared, I would think that an underlying purpose was to
remind Israel of His “awful” majesty and splendor so that they would not treat
Him with disrespect.
The stated purpose for God’s provision of the nation’s physical
needs was that they might know that He was the LORD their God. As a
result of the plagues of the Exodus and what they had seen up to this point the
nation knew to some degree that the LORD was their God, but they needed to know
that in a greater degree. They knew Him as deliverer, but they needed also to
know Him as daily provider. Israel needed to recognize that the source of their
daily sustenance was the LORD their God. In order to teach them that lesson God
allowed the nation to be in need of food and water. He did this to make very
evident the fact that He was supplying those needs. He did it to demonstrate
that He was the LORD their God. The purpose for the revelation of God’s
glory in this case seems to have been to demonstrate His faithfulness shown by
His provision of their needs. They were manifestations of God’s glory displaying
His faithfulness by providing food for them.
The next instance of the glory of God appearing in connection
with His provision for their needs comes in Numbers 20. After the death of
Miriam, there was no water for the congregation and they complained to Moses
and Aaron. “Then Moses and Aaron went
from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and
fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord
appeared to them, and the Lord
spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and
Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So
you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the
congregation and their cattle.”” (Numbers 20:6–8, ESV) God’s glory
appeared here in the process of telling Moses what to do to provide water for
the people. As in the situation where God provided manna and quail, the purpose
for the revelation of God’s glory in this case seems to have been to reassure
Moses and the entire nation of His faithfulness by the provision of Israel’s
needs. Thus, the primary purpose for the manifestation was to benefit Moses
Overt manifestations of God’s glory
The glory of God, manifested overtly in the
form of a cloud and fire, revealed His holiness to inspire fear of Him in the
hearts of His people.
The first passage we will consider reveals the glory of God
being manifested in an overt manner. It is Ex. 24:16-17, which comes after
Moses had received the stipulations of the covenant in chapters 20-23. Having
heard the stipulations of the covenant (24:3), the people agreed to obey all of
them. What followed was a ceremony in which the covenant was ratified by the
nation (24:4-11). After that ceremony was completed, the LORD invited Moses to
come back up the mountain where He would give him the stone tablets on which He
had written the commandments for the nation (24:12). Moses and Joshua went up
but the elders and Aaron and Hur remained on the plain to deal with any
problems that would arise (24:13-14). Moses went up and a cloud covered the
mountain (24:15). Then, “The glory
of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called
to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of
the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight
of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 24:16–17, ESV) We are not left in
doubt about the effect this had on the people, for Moses tells us later exactly
what that effect was. Near the end of his life Moses reminded the people of
their response to that manifestation of God’s glory. “And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory
and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day
we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should
we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord
our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard
the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and
has still lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak
to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’”
(Deuteronomy 5:24–27, ESV) God’s purpose was to impress upon the nation His
holiness, but that is not all. In the incident recorded in Exodus 24:16-17,
the appearance of the glory was described as “like a devouring fire.” Although
it was possible for people to hear the voice of God, those people must never
lose sight of His holiness, represented by the glory of God appearing “like
a devouring fire.” God revealed that He
was holy as He manifested His glory on Mt. Sinai. This manifestation of His
glory was also for the benefit of His people. It was for their protection.
A similar form and
purpose for the manifestation of God’s glory may be seen in Num. 14 when the
spies had returned from the land and given their report. When the people heard
what the 10 spies had to say, that there were giants in the land and that
Israel would never be able to defeat the inhabitants, the people wanted to kill
Moses and Aaron. “Then all the
congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to
all the people of Israel.” (Numbers 14:10, ESV) Although it is not
stated as such I would think that the form of God’s glory that appeared was
similar to that which had been revealed before, in the form of a cloud or fire.
In the following verses God further spelled out the punishment He would inflict
upon the unbelievers when He told Moses (Numbers 14:28–34, ESV) that everyone
twenty years old and above (except for Joshua and Caleb) would die in the
wilderness but their children would live to enter the land. Clearly one purpose
for this manifestation of God’s glory was to stop the people from stoning
Moses and Aaron, but another was to pronounce judgment on rebellious
This same attribute was displayed in a similar fashion just two
chapters later. Korah, Dathan and Abiram objected to the leadership of the
nation being confined to Moses and Aaron. “Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance
of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord
appeared to all the congregation.” (Numbers 16:19, ESV) After God
punished the rebels with death, the congregation blamed Moses and Aaron for
their deaths and were ready to kill them. “And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against
Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting. And behold, the cloud covered
it, and the glory of the Lord
appeared. And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and
the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a
moment.” And they fell on their faces.” (Numbers 16:42–45, ESV) Moses
then instructed Aaron to take his censor and make atonement for the people.
Still, 14,700 people died besides Korah and his crew. God manifested His
glory to protect Moses and Aaron again and also as part of an act of judgment
on the rebellious people. He literally was a consuming fire. In both of
these instances the purpose for revealing His glory was to deal with sin. He
prevented harm from coming to Moses and Aaron and also executed judgment on unbelievers.
In these cases as well, God manifested His glory for the effect it had on
people. Moses and Aaron were rescued and others were condemned.
There are two examples
in the New Testament of the glory of God being manifested in a similar fashion.
There it also has the appearance of splendor. Both are found in Luke’s
writings. The first is in a description of events surrounding the announcement
to shepherds of Jesus’ birth. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the
glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.”
(Luke 2:9, ESV) The appearance of the glory of the Lord must have been one of
brilliance, manifesting something of God’s majesty and holiness. The effect was
that they were filled with great fear. Important as that response is to God, He
also wanted the nation to understand that He was also a God of love who wanted
to dwell in the presence of His people so that they could enjoy fellowship with
Him. For that reason He created the whole Tabernacle/sacrificial system.
The second is in Luke’s account of the martyrdom of Stephen, he
writes regarding him, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven
and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at
the right hand of God.”” (Acts 7:55–56, ESV) Exactly what Stephen saw is
not stated, but I would think it was brilliant, perhaps like that recorded in
Luke 2:9. The purpose for this manifestation of God’s glory seems to have been
to encourage and strengthen Stephen for the ordeal of martyrdom which he was
The glory of God manifested overtly revealed His love
for His people and desire to dwell with them.
The next reference to the glory of God that we will consider
comes near the end of Exodus 29. Verses 1-35 of that chapter describe the
ceremony by which the priests were to be consecrated for their service. Verses
36-37 describe the manner in which the altar was to be consecrated. Verses
38-42a describe the daily offerings that were to be presented to the LORD.
Referring to the sacrifice to be offered on the altar at the entrance to the
tent of meeting, verses 42-43 read: “It
shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance
of the tent of meeting before the Lord,
where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. There I will meet with the
people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory.”
(Exodus 29:42–43, ESV) The place where God would meet with His people in a
special way (the Tabernacle and the Temple) would be set apart (sanctified) by
the act of God revealing His glory in those places in a special visible way. I
believe that there was an initial fulfillment of this promise in Ex.40:34-38.
Exodus 40:1-33 records the construction of the Tabernacle and its erection in
preparation for its function. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the
glory of the Lord filled the
tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the
cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord
filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34–35, ESV) Here again, the purpose of
the revelation of God’s glory is not stated, but coming where and how it does,
I think it is clear that the purpose was to show that God was “taking up His
residence” in the Tabernacle and later the Temple, placing His stamp of
approval on them and indicating His willingness to manifest His presence there. There were continuing fulfillments of the
same kind in relation to the Temple in 1 Kings 8:11 & 2 Chron. 5:14 &
7:1-3. The purpose God had in mind is not expressly stated, but I think we can
reasonably infer the purpose. God is spirit. He had forbidden any physical
representation of Himself. How would one construct anything that would
represent a spirit anyway? It is impossible to give an accurate representation
of God in any physical form. How would the nation know that God had “taken up
residence in their midst? They would know it by His glory filling the place in
the form of a cloud of smoke, and that is exactly what happened. Here again,
the implied purpose of the manifestation of God’s glory was for the benefit of
the nation, to assure them that God was “living” in their midst. We see a New
Testament parallel in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We do not see Him, but
His fruit is visible. “The wind blows
where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes
from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.””
(John 3:8, ESV)
Further fulfillment of the promise given in Exodus 29:42-43 can
be seen in the next appearance of the glory of the LORD. It is a record of
Aaron being installed as a priest and the events surrounding that act. How
would the people know that Aaron was approved by God to be the High Priest for
the nation? How could they be assured that his taking of this office was not
simply a matter of Aaron’s and Moses’ deciding that this would be the case?
Later, the authority of both of them was questioned, so now when all of the
ceremonial system was being inaugurated, how would they know that the authority
they had had been given by God rather than taken by men? After God gave instructions about the kinds
of offerings to be presented to the LORD, the whole congregation drew near, and
Moses addressed the nation saying, “This
is the thing that the Lord
commanded you to do, that the glory of the Lord
may appear to you.”” (Leviticus 9:6, ESV) After Aaron fulfilled the
command of the LORD by offering the prescribed sacrifices, we read, “And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of
meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of
the Lord appeared to all the
people. And fire came out from before the Lord
and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when
all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” (Leviticus
9:23–24, ESV) As when the Tabernacle was filled with the glory of God to
signify God’s approval of it, I believe the appearance of the glory of the LORD
here was intended to show that the Lord had approved of Aaron’s being
consecrated as High Priest. God’s acceptance of the sacrifices was
signified by the fire that came out from the
LORD consuming the burnt offering (and possibly reminding all the people
that He was a consuming fire as well). Here again, this manifestation of
His glory was for the benefit of Israel, demonstrating His approval, but doing
so in a way that would also manifest His holiness and power. Together these
manifestations of God’s presence were designed to meet the spiritual needs of
The glory of God, manifested overtly at the Tabernacle, provided
comfort and inspiration for His people.
David speaks of the manifestation of God’s glory in the
Tabernacle: “O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where
your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8, ESV) David’s mind is drawn back to
those times when his soul has been refreshed as he worshipped the Lord and
beheld the powerful manifestation of God’s power and majesty [in the
shekinah?]. Another passage reveals a similar sentiment: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land
where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding
your power and glory.” (Psalm 63:1–2, ESV) In this wonderful psalm
of praise David recalls times when he has seen the manifestation of God’s glory
in the Tabernacle, and he expresses his intense longing to do so again. David
knew the truth of a hymn that would not be written for centuries: “Turn your
eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will
grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Obviously these
manifestations of God’s glory powerfully benefited people. Manifestations
of God’s glory were not limited to meeting the physical needs of His people or
to demonstrating His holiness or His desire to have fellowship with them. He
also wanted to assure Hi servants that He would equip them for the tasks that
He would assign them.
The glory of God manifested overtly revealed His
faithfulness to equip His servants for their ministries.
We will now consider the appearance of the glory of God in
connection with the commissioning of Moses, Isaiah and Ezekiel for the service
God called them to fulfill. After Moses had been given the instructions for the
design of the Tabernacle in chapters 25-31, we have the record of the sin with
the golden calf in chapter 32. Chapter 33 begins with God instructing Moses to
begin the trip to the Promised Land with the notation that God Himself would
not go with them. In response to Moses’ intercession for the nation, pleading
with God to forgive them, God relented and agreed to accompany the nation
Himself. At that point, in verse 18, Moses makes an interesting request. “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.””
(Exodus 33:18, ESV) Moses had seen God’s glory already. Why does he make this
request again? Perhaps, in light if the immediately preceding verses Moses
wants a fresh revelation of God’s character, or perhaps he wants to have a more
intimate relationship with Him. Whatever Moses’ specific intention may have
been, surely the overall goal was that Moses knew he needed to be equipped for
the ministry that God was assigning to him. God’s response sheds light upon the
aspects of His character that were revealed in this manifestation of His glory.
In direct response to Moses’ request to be shown His glory, God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you
and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’
And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you
cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by
me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I
will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I
have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but
my face shall not be seen.”” (Exodus 33:18–23, ESV) In 34:5-7, as the
LORD passed by He proclaimed some of His attributes, specifically His
gracious willingness to forgive sin but also His determination to judge sin.
Moses “saw” God’s glory, not with his physical eyes but with the “eyes” of his
understanding. God is just (determined to punish sin) but also
gracious (willing to forgive sin when there is repentance). The purpose for
this appearance is not stated, but the context leads me to believe that its
purpose was to prepare Moses for the challenging task that God had assigned to
him for Israel would sin repeatedly and need to experience God’s forgiveness.
This conclusion receives strong support from an incident mentioned above in
Numbers 14, when the nation believed the ten spies’ report stating that they
would not be able to conquer the inhabitants of Canaan. When God threatened to
wipe out the nation (14:12), Moses used the very words of this text to urge the
Lord to relent and not destroy the nation (14:17-18). I believe it also led
the way for Moses to plead with God to go with His people and forgive their
sin. “And Moses quickly bowed his
head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in
your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a
stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your
inheritance.”” (Exodus 34:8–9, ESV) On more than one occasion Moses
would need to remember that God was holy and just but also gracious. This
revelation of God’s glory was a profound benefit for Moses.
This manifestation of
God’s glory to equip Moses for the work that lay before him has at least two
other parallel situations. One concerns Isaiah and the other concerns Ezekiel.
We will first examine the record of Isaiah. Although the text of Isaiah does not
say that Isaiah saw God’s glory, John tells us that is so. “For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their
eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand
with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things
because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” (John 12:39–41, ESV)
What did Isaiah see when he beheld God’s glory and what was
God’s goal in that revelation? The text reads as follows: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the
Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe
filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two
he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full
of his glory!”[We will come back to this last statement later in this paper.]
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and
the house was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1–4, ESV)
There were three aspects of Isaiah’s response to this
revelation of God’s glory. First, he was aware of his sin as he saw the
holiness of God. “And I said: “Woe is
me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of
a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:5,
ESV) Isaiah saw the utter hopeless peril of his situation. He was as good as
dead! Second, God cleansed and forgave him. “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal
that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin
atoned for.”” (Isaiah 6:6–7, ESV) He was no longer a “dead” man. Third,
God commissioned him to be His messenger. “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who
will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say
to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing,
but do not perceive.’” (Isaiah 6:8–9, ESV)
The form in which Isaiah saw the glory of God was different
from what Moses saw. Isaiah saw the glory of God in the form of a mighty king.
He was “sitting upon a throne, high
and lifted up.” He was surrounded by His “court.” What was God’s goal in
revealing His glory to Isaiah in this form? Isaiah ministered during the reigns
of four kings. “The vision of
Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days
of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (Isaiah 1:1,
ESV) He was called in the year that King Uzziah died (Isaiah 1:1) so he had
little or no opportunity to minister to him. We know of no connection between
Isaiah and Jotham. We do know that Isaiah ministered directly both to King Ahaz
(Isaiah 7) and King Hezekiah (Isaiah 36-39). In order for Isaiah to have the
courage to tell kings what they should and should not do, he needed to have it
firmly fixed in his mind that the God who directed him to do this was the King
above all kings. There was no comparison between the majesty and splendor of
the King of kings and any earthly monarch. Isaiah could tell Ahaz and Hezekiah
that they need not fear other earthly kings because of the promise of the LORD.
He could even pronounce God’s judgement on their wrong behavior because the
LORD was sovereign over all. Isaiah benefitted greatly from this
manifestation of God’s glory by equipping him for his specific ministry.
References to the glory of God in Ezekiel are much more numerous
than in any of the other OT books. For that reason we will devote more space to
review his contributions to this study. We will begin by examining his
description of the glory of God as he saw it. Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of
God was different from either that of Moses or Isaiah. What he saw was very
strange. In verses 4-28 of chapter one, we read a description of what he saw.
It included a sort of chariot with four “living creatures,” each one being
composed partly of human and animal parts. When they flew they made a very loud
noise. The wheels of the chariot had other wheels within them. Above the
chariot was an expanse. Above it was a sapphire-like throne on which sat
someone that looked like a human except that he was brilliant. We are explicitly
told that it involved a vision of the glory of God. “Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain,
so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance
of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
(Ezekiel 1:28, ESV) In the next verses we have a record of Ezekiel’s
call/commission. “And he said to me,
“Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to
me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking
to me. And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel,
to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have
transgressed against me to this very day.” (Ezekiel 2:1–3, ESV) Then a
few verses later we read words of comfort and a repetition of the commission.
“And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words,
though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid
of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious
house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse
to hear, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:6–7, ESV)
Why did God reveal His glory in such a strange fashion in the
process of calling Ezekiel? Of all of the writing prophets Ezekiel was
instructed to do the strangest acts as visual messages to the nation of Israel.
He was told to cut a hole in the side of his house and carry through that hole
various items. He was told to cut his hair with a sword. He was told to cook
food using dung as the fuel. He was told to lie on one side for many days and
then on the other side for many days. He was told that God would take his
beloved wife from him but he was not to mourn. I believe God prepared
Ezekiel for this strange ministry by revealing His glory to him in a very
The actions of the glory of God revealed His holy hatred
of Israel’s sin.
Ezekiel’s record of the appearance of the glory of God, which
we will discuss more fully below in connection with his call, was not limited
to a description of its strange appearance. Ezekiel also speaks about the
activity of the glory of God. After the record of his original
call/commission, Ezekiel was led by the glory of the LORD to the exiles to whom
he would minister (cf. 3:15). “Then a
wind lifted me up and I heard a great rumbling sound behind me as the glory of
the Lord rose from its place,”
(Ezekiel 3:12, NET) After being told that he was to be a watchman to the house
of Israel (3:16-21), Ezekiel was told to go out into the valley where God would
speak to him (3:22). “So I arose and went out into the valley, and
behold, the glory of the Lord
stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell
on my face.” (Ezekiel 3:23, ESV) This verse seems to describe God’s
preparation of Ezekiel for receiving the instructions from the LORD about what
he was to say and do next. The next few chapters describe the abominations that
were being committed in the Temple and the judgements that would come because
of them. In the midst of the descriptions of those abominations we read this
brief statement without commentary: “the Spirit lifted me up between earth
and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of
the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the
image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God
of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.” (Ezekiel
8:3–4, ESV) I think the reason why these verses are inserted in this location
is to emphasize the heinousness of the sins being committed. The abominations
described were being committed in the Temple building in the very presence of a
manifestation of the glory of God! This prepares us for what comes next. For
only a few verses later we read, “Now
the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested
to the threshold of the house.” (Ezekiel 9:3a, ESV) This verse describes the movement of the
glory of the LORD to the threshold of the Temple from which he gave
instructions for the execution of the multitudes of people who had been
involved in the idolatry and abominations committed in the Temple. The next mention of the glory of God is in a
verse that seems to describe the action of the glory moving from above the
cherubim in the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the Temple (house) in
preparation for leaving the Temple. Before leaving, His glory fills the Temple
so that when He leaves His absence will be even more obvious. It is as though
He is saying a powerful “Goodbye.” “And
the glory of the Lord went up from
the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the
cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4, ESV) The
next step is for the glory of God to ascend to His chariot. “Then the glory of
the Lord went out from the
threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up
their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with
the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the
house of the Lord, and the glory
of the God of Israel was over them.” (Ezekiel 10:18–19, ESV) The final step is
for Him to go out of the city. “Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with
the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. And
the glory of the Lord went up from
the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side
of the city.” (Ezekiel 11:22–23, ESV) We will not encounter the glory of the
LORD again until the last section of Ezekiel. There we find predictions of the
return of the glory of God to the Temple. Since that section deals with
eschatology, it will be considered in the last section of this paper. These
verses which describe the glory of God leaving the Temple were for the benefit
of His people. They needed to see that because of their sin God had to leave
His residence among them.
Covert manifestations of God’s glory
The glory of God, manifested covertly in the form of
judgment administered through pestilence and military conquest, revealed His
holiness and sovereignty to inspire fear of Him in the hearts of gentile people.
God’s judgment should also inspire fear from Gentile nations. Ezekiel
was instructed to prophesy against Sidon. “Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon,
and I will manifest my glory in your midst. And they shall know that I
am the Lord when I execute
judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her; for I will send pestilence
into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in her midst, by
the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 28:22–23, ESV) This
manifestation of God’s glory was designed for their benefit to enable the
Sidonians to know that the LORD is God. It would be a painful lesson but it
would reveal truth from which they could profit if they were willing to heed
The glory of God manifested covertly in the ministry of
Jesus revealed His deity.
The first occurrence in the ministry of Christ during the days
of His flesh when we are told that His glory was covertly revealed was when
Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. When John looked
back on this miracle, he wrote, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at
Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in
him.” (John 2:11, ESV) This manifestation of God’s glory through the
miraculous provision for physical needs is similar in kind to the provision of
manna and water to Israel in the wilderness. There is no record of a visible
brilliance, but there was a provision of need. I believe the ultimate purpose
for this manifestation of God’s glory was revealed in the last words of the
verse, “His disciples believed in him.”
Paul adds to this in 2 Corinthians 4. In this passage we see
that the glory of Jesus covertly reveals the character of the Father. Speaking
of those who do not believe, he says, “In their case the god of this world has
blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of
the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we
proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your
servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4–6, ESV) This passage
teaches us two things. First, the Gospel is about the glory of Christ. Second,
He is the image of the Father. As such, we see the glory of the Father in the
face of Jesus Christ. The glory of God is revealed in “the face of Jesus
Christ” … “who is the image of God.” If we want to see a form of God’s glory
that we are presently able to look at, we must look at Jesus as He is revealed
in the pages of Scripture.
The writer of Hebrews adds a similar comment. Speaking of
Jesus, he writes, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact
imprint of his nature, …” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV) P. T. O’Brien unpacks what this
description means, “Accordingly, as ‘the radiance of God’s glory’, the Son is
the manifestation of God’s glorious presence. Since he is the radiance of God’s glory, rather than
simply the reflection, there is some
sense in which the Son is the twin source of the light of God’s glory. For the
author of Hebrews the one who lived and died in Palestine some years previously
is ‘the eternal Son and supreme revelation of God.… In Christ the glorious light
of God shines into hearts of men and women’.”
He continues, “The Son is the exact representation, the embodiment of God, as
he really is. His being is made manifest in Christ, so that to see the Son is
to see what the Father is like.”
The glory of God, manifested covertly in raising people
from the dead, disclosed His power over death with the goal that people might
believe in Jesus and realize the magnitude of God’s power available to live a
Another example of a manifestation of the glory of God
revealing His power in a covert fashion may be seen in the record of the
raising of Lazarus. When Jesus arrived at the cave where Lazarus’ body had been
laid, He gave instructions to remove the stone that covered the entrance to the
cave tomb. When Martha objected saying that there would be an odor since it had
been four days since Lazarus had died, “Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell
you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”” (John
11:40, ESV) There is no record of an appearance of brilliance or light, but
there is a miraculous demonstration of power over death. Jesus simply commanded
Lazarus to come forth and he rose from the dead. The same spoken word that
created the material universe here brought the dead to life. A result was that
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he
did, believed in him”. (John 11:45, ESV) I believe there was also an added
benefit in this case. A short while earlier Jesus had told Martha that Lazarus
would rise again. “Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in
the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection
and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and
everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
who is coming into the world.”” (John 11:24–27, ESV) When Jesus manifested
His glory by raising Lazarus from the dead, He provided evidence for Martha
(and others) that He was the resurrection and the life. The purpose was
to show that the power to raise the dead (glory) was not to be tied to a
chronological event, the last day, but to a person, Jesus.
Another manifestation of God’s glory shown in His power over
death was the Resurrection of Jesus. When Paul talks about the importance of a
transformed life being part of regeneration, he wrote, “We were buried
therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in
newness of life.” (Romans 6:4, ESV) Leon Morris comments: “Christ was raised,
Paul says, through the glory of the
Father, which is a very unusual expression (cf. Eph. 1:17). [I]t points to
the wonder and the greatness of God. We might have expected a reference to
“power” or the like, and indeed some take glory
here to mean “power”; Harrison, for example, says, “‘glory’ here has the
meaning of power”. But Paul says glory
(NEB, “the splendour of the Father”); perhaps we could say that the meaning is
power manifested and not simply power.”
God’s purpose in this revelation of His glory is clearly stated. It is so that
“we too might walk in newness of life.” He wanted us to grasp the truth that
the same glory of God in the form of mighty power that raised Jesus from the
dead is available to us to enable us to live godly lives.
The glory of God, manifested covertly, reveals His mercy
in the hearts of people.
Another of God’s attributes designated by the word “glory” is
His mercy. “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his
power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for
destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of
mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” (Romans 9:22–23, ESV) I
take these verses to teach that, although God does not cause men to sin, He
will use His righteous judgment upon their sin as a contrasting background
against which to demonstrate more clearly the magnitude of His great mercy on
those whom He saves. Morris comments: “Riches is a somewhat unusual word
applied to glory (though cf. Eph. 3:16), but it brings out the point that there
is no lack in God’s glory. God is an exceedingly glorious God, and we see this
especially in the way he shows mercy. The “objects of his mercy” is more
exactly “vessels of mercy”, and these vessels, Paul says, he prepared in
advance for glory.”
The glory of God denotes, in a general way, His
faithfulness to equip His people spiritually so they will grow in godliness.
In a prayer for his readers in Ephesians, Paul draws attention
to another of God’s attributes that are referred to as part of His glory. “Glory”
here does not refer to visible splendor. In this case it is God’s ability to
grant inner spiritual strength to His people. He uses the phrase “riches of
his glory”: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,”
(Ephesians 3:16, ESV) P. T. O’Brien says regarding the expression “the riches
of his glory”: “Now he asks for divine power more directly—that God may strengthen them inwardly through his
Spirit. The resources available to fulfil this confident request are limitless:
they are (lit.) ‘according to the riches of his glory’…. Here this preposition,
which Paul often uses in petitions and thanksgivings (Eph. 1:19; Phil. 4:19),
draws attention not simply to the idea of source, thereby signifying ‘out of
the wealth of his glory’, but also indicates that his giving corresponds to
the inexhaustible riches of that glory. It is on a scale commensurate with
his glory: he gives as lavishly as only
he can. It is not surprising, therefore, that the apostle frequently speaks
of ‘fulness’, ‘riches’, and ‘abundance’ in his prayers (Rom. 15:13; 1 Cor.
1:4–5; 2 Thess. 1:11; note also Jas. 1:5). The one to whom he directed his
requests gives richly and generously: ‘And my God will fully meet every need of
yours in accordance with his riches in
glory in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19). By formulating his prayer along these
lines, the apostle assured his readers that the Father was wholly able to meet
Peter expresses a similar sentiment in his second epistle: “May
grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our
Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and
godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and
excellence.” (2 Peter 1:2–3, ESV) Visible splendor is not what glory refers
to here either. “The terms “glory” and “goodness” together point to the same
reality. Those whom God saves are called by Christ, and this calling is
accomplished through the knowledge of Christ’s glory and goodness. In other
words, when Christ calls people to himself, they perceive the beauty and
loveliness of his moral character. His character becomes exceedingly attractive
to them, and they trust God for their salvation.”
After expressing the desire that grace and peace would be multiplied to his
readers in the knowledge of God and Jesus, he observes that God has granted
them all they need for life and godliness. This provision comes through the
knowledge of Jesus who had called them to (some translations read “by” but for
our purposes the difference does not matter) his own glory and excellence. No
specific attributes are named so I believe all of His wonderful attributes are
in view. I take it that the purposes for mentioning the glory of God and/or
Jesus in this text would include at least two goals. One would be to support
the reasonableness of this wish being granted. Another would be to remind his
readers of the greatness of the character of Christ.
The glory of God, manifested covertly in the natural
universe, bears testimony to His existence, power and deity for the purpose of
prompting people everywhere and at all times to see and acknowledge that He
exists and has those attributes which should then motivate them to seek to know
more about Him.
A few passages speak of the glory of the Lord as it is revealed
in nature. David wrote “The heavens
declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
(Psalm 19:1, ESV) From the next verses, James Boice observes that although
words are not literally spoken, the testimony of the heavens to the existence
and power of their creator is continuous, abundant, and universal.
Verses 2-6 use the movement of the sun as an example of the way the heavens
manifest His glory. David did not know what we do about the sun but what he did
know convinced him that someone very powerful and wise created it and governed
its movements. By its existence and actions, the sun (not to mention the
multitudes of other heavenly bodies) bears eloquent testimony to the creative
power and control of God. In this way the heavens declare His glory.
It is not enough to say that the heavens declare His glory,
wonderful as that is, for another Psalm tells us that His glory is even above
them! It extolls the greatness of God by saying: “The Lord is high above all
nations, and his glory above the heavens!” (Psalm 113:4, ESV) To
characterize His glory as being “above the heavens” seems to be a favorite way
the Psalms have of stating that there is nothing and no one whose glory is
greater (see Ps. 8:1; 57:5, 11; 148:13).
When read in the context of verses 5-9, verse 4 takes on even more
significance, for verses 5-9 spell out an amazing truth about the character of
God. Verses 4-6 describe His transcendence (high above the heavens)
while verses 7-9 describe His immanence by how He reaches down to exalt
the poor and needy. “What is most praiseworthy about God, according to the
psalmist, is that although he is infinitely exalted above everything, even the
heavens, he nevertheless stoops to raise the poor from the dust, the needy from
the ash heap, and even the barren woman from the disgrace her barrenness
brought her in those days.” How
indescribably great is the grace of God to be concerned about the lowest of the
low from His position of being the highest of the high! Thus this manifestation
of His glory has a twofold purpose. First, it shows His position of absolute
superiority over all, and second, it serves as a background against which He
shows His truly amazing grace. The manifestation of these attributes does
indeed show His glory.
One does not have to raise one’s eyes to the sky to see
manifestations of God’s glory in creation, however. It is visible everywhere on
the earth if people are willing to see it. His fingerprints are everywhere on
His creation. As a part of his call to be a prophet of the Lord, Isaiah
received a vision of the LORD sitting upon His throne. In that vision Isaiah
saw seraphim above Him calling out: “Holy,
holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the
whole earth is full of his glory!”” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV) The earth does
not merely have a demonstration of His glory here and there. The earth is full
of His glory. The seraphim were aware of what mere humans did not see.
Manifestations of His power are everywhere if people only have eyes to see
them. His glory was (and is) everywhere but people did (and do) not recognize
The Apostle Paul expands on the manifestation of God’s glory in
creation even further. “In Romans he
says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his
eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from
what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (v. 20). This is the
meaning of glory in Psalm 19—a
revelation of God’s existence and power so great that it should lead every
human being on the face of the earth to seek God out, to thank him for bringing
him or her into existence, and to worship him.” The
very existence of the heavens and the earth and the way they operate reveal
God’s power, wisdom, and creativity. Paul makes it very clear in Romans 1 that
God designed nature to bear testimony to God’s existence and power. He did so
for mankind’s benefit.
Magnificent though it is, this covert manifestation of God’s
glory may still be ignored or missed by many people. Just a few verses after the
one noted above, Paul describes why God’s wrath comes against people without
the Bible. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the
glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and
animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:22–23, ESV) His purpose in this
revelation was to provide evidence of His existence and pointers to reveal
aspects of His divine character. Even though people were presented with the
facts that God existed and possessed those attributes (some of which will be
detailed below) they turned away from Him to serve lifeless idols. The same
kind of response can be seen in response to the ministry of Jesus in the New
Testament. As we will see in due time, a day will come when His glory will be manifested
overtly so that it is recognized universally.
In chapter 3 of Romans, as Paul summarizes what he has been
saying about mankind with or without the Bible, he wrote, ““for all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:23, ESV) What
“the glory of God” refers to in this verse is a matter of considerable debate.
Leon Morris writes, “The linking of God’s glory with man’s sin is intriguing. Of the
various options of the meaning of the glory of God that he presents, I believe
the most probable interpretation in light of the context is “the divine
standard for human life,” “conformity to (God’s) image” or “the divine
likeness”. I see very little difference between these options. I believe that
“the glory of God” here refers primarily to His attribute of holiness which He
has revealed so that we would understand how opposed He is to sin of any kind
and quantity. Because we have sinned, we fall short of that standard and are
separated from Him and under His wrath and condemnation.
The Glory of Jesus
The glory of Jesus manifested overtly reveals His deity.
It should be observed at this point that there are passages in
the New Testament that speak specifically of the glory of Jesus. The first mention
was in John’s prologue. Decades after Jesus finished His earthly ministry, as
John looked back upon those earlier years, he included a statement in the
introduction to his Gospel in which he gave a record of that fact. It tells us
that His glory is unique, unlike that of any other person or thing. “And the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory
as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, ESV)
“The glory displayed in the incarnate Word is the kind of glory a father grants
to his one and only, best-loved
Son—and this ‘father’ is God himself. Thus it is nothing less than God’s glory
that John and his friends witnessed in the Word-made-flesh.”
Before examining various examples in which we read in the New
Testament that Jesus’s glory was manifested during His ministry we should note
an unexpected instance in which His glory was revealed in connection with
Isaiah’s call which I discussed previously for another purpose in this paper. I
mention it again here because of a significant added insight found in John’s
citation of the passage. After quoting Isaiah 6:10, John wrote, “Isaiah said
these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” (John
12:41, ESV) In the context of his Gospel, John has been speaking specifically
about Jesus. I can find no reference to God the Father in the context. It seems
that John is saying that what Isaiah saw was Jesus’ glory in that vision. If
that interpretation is true, it is a powerful evidence of the deity of Christ
as well as a description of the form in which that glory appeared. That is
because “the Lord” whom Isaiah “saw” in verse 1 is further identified in verse
5 as “the King, the LORD of hosts,” and His appearance was in the form of
splendor. Although I believe the primary purpose for this manifestation to
Isaiah was to prepare him for the work God had for him to do, I believe that
the purpose the Holy Spirit had for directing John to quote this passage and
apply it to the reception Jesus received from His contemporaries was to give us
a glimpse of His preincarnate glory and to provide evidence for the deity of
Luke also mentions the glory of Jesus in the overt form of
splendor in the account of the His Transfiguration. He wrote, “Now Peter and
those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake
they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” (Luke 9:32, ESV)
We know that what they saw was splendor because of the way Luke, Matthew and
Mark described His appearance: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his
face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:29,
ESV) “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the
sun, and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:2, ESV) “And
his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could
bleach them.” (Mark 9:3, ESV) None of the synoptic Gospels gives us a
stated purpose for this manifestation of Jesus’ glory, but three statements in
the text may help us to see the purpose for this manifestation. First, all
three accounts mention that a cloud surrounded them. That is reminiscent of
what happened to Moses on top of Mount Sinai when he met there with God to
receive the Law and the instructions for the Tabernacle. Second, Luke tells us
that Moses and Elijah talked to Jesus about His coming death (“exodus” in
Greek). Third, they heard a voice identifying Jesus as God’s Son and
instructing them to listen to Him. The three disciples did not seem to know
what to make of what they saw and heard until after the coming of the Spirit at
Pentecost. Then as they looked back upon this event they must have realized
that for a brief time they were privileged to get a glimpse of the splendor and
majesty that radiated from Jesus and they were reminded again that His death
was according to God’s plan. “For when he received honor and glory from God the
Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is
my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”” (2 Peter 1:17, ESV)
Jesus possessed glory before His incarnation, during His
incarnation and after His incarnation.
Jesus talks about His own glory
several times in His High Priestly prayer in John 17. He referred to the glory
He had before His incarnation. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own
presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
(John 17:5, ESV)
In verse 22, He refers to glory that He possessed during His
incarnation. “The glory that you
have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are
one,” (John 17:22, ESV) What was the glory that Jesus received from the
Father and gave to His disciples? Leon Morris wrote, “That is to say, just as
His true glory was to follow the path of lowly service culminating in the
cross, so for them the true glory lay in the path of lowly service wherever it
might lead them.”
William Barclay elaborates on this as follows: “The Cross was his glory. Jesus
did not speak of being crucified; he spoke of being glorified. Therefore, first
and foremost, a Christian’s glory is the cross that he must bear. It is an
honour to suffer for Jesus Christ. We must never think of our cross as our
penalty; we must think of it as our glory. The harder the task a knight was
given, the greater he considered its glory. The harder the task we give a
student, or a craftsman, or a surgeon, the more we honour him. In effect, we
say that we believe that nobody but he could attempt that task at all. So when
it is hard to be a Christian, we must regard it as our glory given to us by
In verse 24, He alluded to glory that He possessed before,
during and after his incarnation. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you
have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have
given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24,
ESV) D. A. Carson comments on the
meaning of this verse as follows:
“The ‘glory’ Jesus wants his disciples to see is (he tells his
Father) the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the creation of the world (lit. ‘before the
foundation of the world’: cf. Mt.
13:35; 25:34; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 4:3; 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8; 17:8)—an
unambiguous reference to v. 5, where Jesus prays to be restored to the glory
that he had with the Father before the world began. The first witnesses could
testify that they had seen Jesus’ glory (1:14), as indeed they had, not only in
selected ‘signs’ (e.g. 2:11) but
supremely in the cross and resurrection. Even so, they had not witnessed Jesus’
glory in its unveiled splendour. Christians from every generation glimpse
something of Jesus’ glory even now (cf.
2 Cor. 3:18), but one day, when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall
see him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2). The glory of Christ that his followers will see
is his glory as God, the glory he enjoyed before his mission because of the
Father’s love for him.” 
The glory Jesus experienced after His incarnation began when He
ascended into heaven. Jesus, Himself, taught this truth to the disciples on the
road to Emmaus when He said, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should
suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” (Luke 24:26, ESV) Paul
also alluded to it. “Great indeed, we
confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16, ESV)
Eschatological references to God’s glory
The glory of God will return to the Temple
We will now look at prophecies regarding the glory of the LORD
that will be fulfilled in the future. The most dramatic prophecy dealing with
the glory of God is that recorded by Ezekiel about a vision the Lord gave him
describing the return of the glory of God to the Temple a manner resembling the
way in which it left. “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming
from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many
waters, and the earth shone with his glory.” (Ezekiel 43:2, ESV) “As the
glory of the Lord entered the
temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into
the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:4–5, ESV) “Like
several other visions in Ezekiel, this vision (43:1–5) is followed by an
interpretation (43:6–12). As the glory of God filled the tabernacle after its
construction at the beginning of Israel’s history (Exod 40:34–38), and as it
filled the temple following its construction by Solomon (1 Kgs 8:10–11), so
Ezekiel was assured in a vision that once again God’s glory will reside with
Israel. As the exiles despaired at the departure of God’s glory in Ezekiel’s
vision, a departure confirmed by the destruction of the temple, so Israel had
once before despaired when the Philistines took the ark and Eli and his sons
all died. Eli’s daughter-in-law named her son Ichabod, which meant “no glory”
(1 Sam 4:19–22). But as the ark and the glory were restored when the Davidic
covenant was revealed to David (2 Sam 6–7) and confirmed in the building of the
temple (2 Sam 7:12–13; 1 Kgs 8:10–11), so will the glory of the Lord be
restored to the new temple in the messianic age when the Davidic covenant is
completely fulfilled.” “Then
he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I
looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord
filled the temple of the Lord.
And I fell on my face.” (Ezekiel 44:4, ESV)
The glory of God will be universally
In the eschaton both senses of God’s glory will be seen universally.
The earliest prophecy of this was voiced early in Israel’s history after the
twelve spies returned from exploring the Promised Land when the nation refused to enter the land
because of unbelief. It is a brief prophetic statement about the glory of God
in Numbers 14:21. It is translated a bit differently in various translations.
The ESV and the NIV84 translate verses 21-23 similarly to each other. ESV
reads: “But truly, as I live, and
as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my
signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the
test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I
swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.”
(Numbers 14:21–23, ESV) The ESV and NIV84 see the prophecy of the future
revelation of the glory of the LORD as a correlative parallel with “as I live”
providing two guarantees for the certainty that those who did not trust the
LORD would die in the wilderness. NASB, NET and AV translate the verses
similarly to each other. The NET Bible reads: “But truly, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of
the Lord. For all the people
have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and
yet have tempted me now these ten times, and have not obeyed me, they will by
no means see the land that I swore to their fathers, nor will any of them who
despised me see it.” (Numbers 14:21–23, NET) This translation sees only
one guarantee (the life of God) for the future fulfillment of the prophecy and
the prophecy is that the earth will be filled with God’s glory. The statement
that those who did not trust the LORD would die in the wilderness stands by
itself. In either case, whether the earth being filled with the glory of the
LORD is part of the guarantee or the thing being guaranteed, the certainty
of the fact that all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD is
being clearly asserted. God is determined that this will occur.
God seems to have granted David a vision of a day when God’s
glory would be recognized. Of that day he wrote: “All the kings of the earth… shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for
great is the glory of the Lord.” (Psalm 138:4-5, ESV) This is consistent with what Isaiah heard of
God’s majesty in his encounter with the Lord when he was called (noted earlier
in this paper).
Perhaps with that prediction in mind, in Psalm 72 Solomon mixes
prayers for God to bless the (Messianic?) king with descriptions of what his
reign will be like. He ends the Psalm with these words. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does
wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be
filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” (Psalm 72:18–19, ESV)
In several passages
Isaiah prophesies that various people will see the manifestation of God’s
glory. “Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of
hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before
his elders.” (Isaiah 24:23, ESV) In a passage apparently addressed to
Israel of the future, we read, “Arise,
shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1, ESV) “When the glory of God appears (60:1), the
light from the sun and moon will be irrelevant because it will pale in
comparison to the glorious everlasting light from God. Thus the physical powers
that God ordained to rule over the day and night will lose their role. The
white light of the moon will be so weak that the moon will be put to shame.
Even the bright burning hot sun’s light will be an embarrassment when compared
to the God’s glory.”
In another passage where Isaiah alludes to the enemies of the
LORD, he writes regarding them: “So
they will fear the name of the Lord from the west And His glory from the rising of the sun,
For He will come like a rushing stream Which the wind of the Lord drives.”
(Isaiah 59:19, NASB95) “This divine judgment will cause people all over the
world (from the setting of the sun to the rising of the sun) to fear the
name and glory of God (59:19). At that time when the Lord brings forth his
judgment on the wicked, he will also cause his glory to fill the earth … and
bring his salvation to all people. The wicked will fear God’s name because of
his wrath, but the righteous will revere God’s name because they will see the
glory of the Holy One (6:3; 57:15).”
In Isaiah’s day God’s
glory filled the earth (and has done so ever since the creation of the
universe), but it is veiled so only a few can see it. One day the veil will be
lifted, and all will see His glory. For example, two passages from the
Psalms describe a day very different from anything that has ever occurred in
human history up to the present time. The author of Psalm 97 saw a day when
God’s glory will be seen by all as His power is overtly manifested
by clouds and thick darkness (vs. 2), fire and lightning (vss. 3-4), and
mountains melting (vs. 5). The results of those manifestations will be: “The
heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.”
(Psalm 97:6, ESV) When that day comes, all the peoples, not just one
nation, will see God’s glory. The
writer of Psalm 102 described a similar time: “Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. For the Lord builds up Zion; he appears in
his glory.” (Psalm 102:15–16, ESV) In that day the glory of
God will be so overwhelming in its majesty that even the kings (those highest
on the social scale), all of them, will fear His glory. That has not yet
In the opening verses of the second major section of Isaiah’s
prophecy, as he describes a time when the LORD will come to His people, he
prophesied a day when His glory will be visible to all. He wrote: “And the
glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”” (Isaiah 40:5, ESV) “The announcement
that people will see the glory of God does not seem to refer to people seeing
the glory of God in some general way; for example, by observing his glorious
deeds in history (24:15; 25:3; 41:16; 42:12) or by seeing his glory in nature
(Ps 19:1–2). Instead, the good news is that all flesh will actually view with
their physical eyes the majestic glory of God himself (40:5; 60:1–3). This
announcement seems to require a great theophany appearance that will be
universally visible, if all flesh will see it.”
A description of the universal manifestation of the glory of
God is also found in Habakkuk. In the middle of a series of five woes
pronounced against the Chaldeans for their treatment of Israel, Habakkuk
inserts this brief refrain: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge
of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV)
The knowledge of His glory will not only be present but it will be unignorable.
It will be as overwhelming as the waters cover the sea.
The effects of the universal manifestation
of God’s glory
What effects will occur when the glory of God is manifested in
this way? In several places Isaiah gives us part of the answer to that
question. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall
rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice
with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of
Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our
God.” (Isaiah 35:1–2, ESV) In verses 3-4 Isaiah exhorts his people to take
courage because God is going to come bringing justice. Then, in the remainder
of the chapter he describes blessings that will accompany this revelation of
God’s glory. They will include the blind being given sight, the deaf being
able to hear, the lame being able to leap, the mute being able to sing, and the
desert having abundant water.
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall
spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the
Lord shall be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 58:8, ESV) “The second half of
58:8 appears to allude to what the prophet has already said in 52:12b, where it
promises that God will go before and after his people, gathering them up in one
place so that he can deliver the children of Israel from Pharaoh’s great army
at the Red Sea (Exod 14:19–20). This is a metaphor of his guidance before them
and safety, protection, and security behind them…. It appears that both 52:12
and 58:8 refer to God’s eschatological protection of his people. God’s
“righteous presence” (ṣedeq) and glory will surround these people.” In
other words, when the day comes when God’s people turn to Him in repentance,
His glory will protect them from their enemies.
“Arise, shine, for
your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold,
darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord
will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah
60:1–2, ESV) “The bright light that is connected to the appearance of God’s
glory (58:8; 59:19–20; 60:1) is also a symbol of God’s salvation (9:1–2; 58:8;
59:9; Ps 27:1). The light of the glory of God is called “your (second feminine
singular) light” (also in 58:8, 10) because this divine appearance of God is
for the benefit of the righteous people of Zion. Isaiah 40:3–5, 10–11 also
predicted the coming of the glory of God with power, ruling the earth, and
tenderly caring for his sheep. This will be the time when God reigns and
restores Jerusalem (cf. 52:7–9).”
Ezekiel adds more information about the effects that will occur
in the future. In the midst of an oracle against Gog (Ezekiel 39:1) describing
God’s actions in judgment, the Lord says that after Gog’s army is slain, and “For seven months the house of Israel will be
burying them, in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will
bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory,
declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 39:12–13, ESV) “And I will set my glory among the nations,
and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand
that I have laid on them.” (Ezekiel 39:21, ESV) The timing of the fulfillment
of this prophecy is not clearly spelled out, but the certainty of its
fulfillment is not in doubt.
How is the glory of God relevant to us?
In the introduction to this paper I wrote: The purpose of this
paper is to restudy the topic of “the glory of God,” focusing attention on what
this concept means, what form or appearance it took, why it was so important,
what God’s purpose for it was and is, and how knowing about it is relevant to
us as believers. I then said that two
other questions had to be addressed in order to understand the importance of
the glory of God. We saw that the essence of eternal life is knowing, having a
relationship with, God. I then said that the “glory of God” refers to His
attributes, telling us what He is like. We saw that His glory has been
manifested in both overt and covert forms. Beholding, really seeing, God’s
attributes, what He is like, enables us to enter a relationship and then have
that relationship grow. That is why manifesting His glory is so important to
Him. It is important to us because we need to know it. It is God’s desire that
people have a saving relationship with Him. ““For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but
have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the
world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17,
ESV) Because of His great love, God has manifested His glory so that we would
see His holiness, His love, His grace manifested in giving His Son to be our Savior
and believe in Him, giving us a relationship with Him.
In light of what the “glory of God” means and its importance,
what are we to do between now and the day when His glory will be universally
manifested for all to see? The Bible tells us that we have at least two
We need to behold His glory constantly
Until that time we need to do what Moses needed to do. We need to
behold His glory. We need to be continually transformed as we behold His glory
and then reflect that glory in our lives for others to see. Earlier in this
paper we looked at 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. “In their case the god of this world
has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from the light of the
gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is
not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for
Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in
our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face
of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4–6, ESV) At that point we were looking
at what the glory of God meant. I would like to examine the text again to look
at what it says about what we should do in response to the manifestation of
God’s glory in Christ. In the immediately preceding context we see what happens
as we behold that glory. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the
glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of
glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians
3:18, ESV) As we behold that glory, as we see the attributes of God displayed
in the person of Jesus Christ, we are gradually transformed so that we
increasingly display the character of the Father in our lives. Surely that is
one of the purposes for the display of God’s glory in Jesus. The writer of
Hebrews expresses a similar thought after he has recounted the faith of heroes
that have gone before. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a
cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so
closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking
to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set
before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right
hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, ESV) NASB updated, NIV 84, and
NET Bible translate “looking to” with words such as “fixing our eyes.” A
crucial element of victorious living is keeping our eyes focused on Jesus. He
needs to be the focus of our minds and hearts.
We who know the Lord are exhorted to declare His glory
We need to do what Israel of old
was to do. God manifested (and still manifests) His glory so that people can
see what He is like, so that they will come to know Him, to have a relationship
with Him. We need to declare His glory to those who do not know Him. When David
successfully reinstalled the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle in Jerusalem
after having been in Philistine hands and then in Kiriath-jearim for many
years, a great song of praise was sung about the LORD. After reviewing demonstrations
of God’s faithfulness and love to His people, this admonition is written
apparently to Israel: “Declare his
glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”
(1 Chronicles 16:24, ESV) The stated reasons are: “For great is the Lord, and
greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods
of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord
made the heavens.” (1 Chronicles 16:25–27, ESV) Psalm 96 repeats the
very same sentiments for the same reasons. “Declare his glory among
the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is
to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless
idols, but the Lord made the
heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his
sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O
families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord
glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord
the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!”
(Psalm 96:3–8, ESV)
God’s glory ought to be declared “among
all nations” for three reasons. First, He deserves it. He alone is God. He
is the one who made the heavens! Because the LORD is who He is, the next two
verses say that everyone should acknowledge that fact. “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe
to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory
due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” (1 Chronicles
16:28–29, ESV) The second reason why His glory should be declared among the
nations is that the gods which the nations worship are worthless. That fact was
powerfully demonstrated by what God did to the Philistines when they captured
the Ark (1 Samuel 5). Worship or loyalty or obedience to any other god is a
total waste of time and effort, not to mention the fact that it dishonors God.
If the nations are to come to know the true God, those who know Him must tell
them what He is like. His glory must be declared to them. They must ascribe to
Him the glory that is due to His great name. The third reason is that the LORD
is coming to judge the earth (1 Chronicles 16:33b; Psalm 96:13). Those who have
served false gods will be judged. Thus, in this case we can see that the
exhortations to declare God’s glory and to ascribe glory to Him (both being
other terms for glorifying Him) are for the benefit of people. They need to
know Him and be right with Him since judgment is coming. Although the first of
these three reasons is tied to God alone, two of these three reasons are
directly related to benefitting people.
Truly, God’s glory, the manifestation of His attributes, exists
so that people will know what He is like and respond accordingly. We who know
Him have the glorious privilege of beholding Him as He has revealed Himself in
the material universe, in Scripture and especially in the life and ministry of
Jesus. WE need to make use of that privilege and then declare, share what we
see, with others.
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IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US
Robert M. Spicer
We really need to have a relationship with God.
As human beings, we need relationships with other people. Children and teens attempt to satisfy this need as they seek approval and acceptance from others in their peer groups. Adults look for satisfaction in their peers at work or in organizations or clubs or churches. We even look for some level of friendship with those we only have causal contact with, such as the mechanic who works on our vehicles, the dentist who cares for our teeth or the person who cuts our hair. We crave deeper relationships so we look for them from our family members or a few close friends. People who do not find those kinds of relationships suffer serious problems such as depression, introversion, loneliness and isolation.
Our need for relationships with other people was vividly brought to my attention by an experience I had while I was in high school. I sat in silence in my aunt’s living room as I listened to an elderly retired Methodist pastor tell me about the places he had been in recent weeks. He had been my aunt’s pastor years before, and had spent the past weeks traveling around the country visiting people he had pastored who lived across the nation. Now he was passing through the town in West Virginia where my mother and I lived with my aunt, and he was to have dinner with us. He told me of place after place in the western part of our country. They were places I had not seen and thought I would never see. As he neared the end of his travelogue I was in awe and said to him, “It must have been wonderful to see all those places!” “Yes,” he paused and then replied, “but it isn’t much fun to see things all alone.” You see, his wife had died a few years before our talk. I have come to appreciate the truth of that statement. God has made us to be social creatures.
As much as we need relationships with other people, we need a relationship with God even more, for He is our creator, and He has created us with that need with the intention to satisfy it. The advantages of a relationship with Him are many. He is available 24/7. There will never come a time when He is not available. Our relationship with Him is internal so that it is not affected by space. He is never far from us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows us extensively and intensively. “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:1–5, NASB95)  His commitment to His people can never waver. He is all powerful, all wise, and GOOD. Furthermore, He actually desires to have a relationship with us, to dwell with us. Of course God is omnipresent, so throughout this paper when I refer to God’s “desire to dwell with His people,” I mean that He wishes to have a permanent covenantal intimate relationship with them.
The purpose of this paper is to examine how the theme of God’s dwelling with His people is developed throughout the Bible, ending with the successful culmination of God’s plan as He dwells with His people in the New Heavens and Earth. As we trace the development of that theme throughout Scripture it should help us to see how perseveringly God pursues His people to draw them into a relationship with Himself. He really does love us!
The need for people to have an intimate relationship with God has been recognized by people throughout the ages. The author of Psalm 42 expresses it eloquently in the first two verses of that Psalm: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? ” (Psalm 42:1–2) David’s longing in Psalm 63:1 is similar. “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised By Joy, C. S. Lewis called this need “Sehnsucht,” a longing for what he later called “Joy.” In Mere Christianity, he described the satisfaction of this longing by saying, “The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.” The Westminster divines acknowledged the primary importance of this need in the famous answer to the first question in the Shorter Catechism stating: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
We were created for fellowship, fellowship with Him. God has created us with that need and He has done so to show that only He can fill it. In his Confessions (p. 3), Augustine wrote, “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Blaise Pascal spelled out in more detail what we can learn from this longing. In Pensees #425, he wrote:
What is it, then, that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself. He only is our true good, and since we have forsaken him, it is a strange thing that there is nothing in nature which has not been serviceable in taking His place; the stars, the heavens, earth, the elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, pestilence, war, famine, vices, adultery, incest. And since man has lost the true good, everything can appear equally good to him, even his own destruction, though so opposed to God, to reason, and to the whole course of nature.
Because A. W. Tozer recognized this need and saw the only way it could be met, he penned, in The Pursuit of God , “God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.”
God’s original design for his creation was to have a relationship with the people He had created, to dwell in their midst, manifesting His glory in an ever widening area until all of creation would be filled with the knowledge of His glory. As such, people were designed to praise (Eph. 1:6) and glorify (Rev. 4:11) Him. If it was God’s original design to dwell with His people, what happened that severed this relationship? In the Garden of Eden the process of enjoying God was begun but then it was interrupted by the intrusion of sin into the picture. Beginning with Adam’s disobedience, sin separated mankind from God because He is absolutely holy (Isa. 59:2). Things continued to deteriorate through the days of Noah at which time “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). The only noted exceptions to this sad trend are found in Gen. 4:26: “To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord” and 5:24:“Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Still, God would not allow His plan to be frustrated so He took the initiative to begin corrective action. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8) Noah and his family were saved through the judgment of the Flood.
Even after the judgment of the Flood, the deterioration continued in Noah’s descendants, for people remained together instead of disbursing throughout the earth as God had instructed them to do. As a result, God confused their language at Babel, forcing them to disburse. Throughout the lives of Abram/Abraham (Gen. 12:1 ff.), Isaac (Gen. 17:18-21), and Jacob (Gen. 25:23; 28:13-15), God took the initiative to have a covenantal relationship with each of these men. Then, He would occasionally communicate with them, and in the case of Jacob’s son, Joseph, it was said that God or the Lord “was with” him (Gen. 39:2, 3, 21, 23). Noted instances of people who had that relationship are rare, and it is never said that He made “His dwelling” with any of these men or anyone else. Still, all of these examples are of God’s dealing briefly with individuals (and through them with their families), not with a large body of people. Valuable as it is for an individual to have a relationship with the Lord, that cannot be a substitute for having a relationship with other people who also have a relationship with God. It is not until the events following the Exodus that we see God beginning to work at providing a remedy for this situation by making provisions necessary for Him to dwell with His people as a body.
Chapter 1: God Made Clear His Intention to Dwell with His People.
When important changes are planned in a relationship, it is expected that one will state his intentions for those changes. If a lease is to be terminated, we give notice ahead of time. If a man wants to marry a woman, he will declare his love and his intentions and ask her to marry him. The more important the change, the greater is the need to announce the intentions before they are carried out. When God initiated His plan to dwell with Israel, He made His intentions clear. He did so: 1.) by explicitly stating His intention, 2.) by taking steps to initiate the covenant by which He would dwell with His people, 3.) by dramatically portraying the nation’s need for Him to dwell with them, 4.) by picturing His dwelling with them through the location of the Tabernacle in relation to the whole nation, and 5.) by His response to the completed Tabernacle. Every step in this process is a demonstration of God’s desire to dwell with His people because of His great love for them.
God declared His intention to have a close relationship with, or dwell with, His people.
In each one of the last four books of the Pentateuch God repeated His intention to dwell with His people in a way that would manifest His presence in a unique fashion. At the conclusion of the instructions about consecrating the priests, the Lord said in Exodus 29:45–46 “I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God.” The Tabernacle was to be the place where God would “dwell.” Exodus 25:8 “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.”
The same is true of Leviticus. After giving many detailed directions about the sacrificial system, in Lev. 26, in order to encourage the people to obey them, the Lord promises a number of blessings that will flow from obedience (vss. 3-4), including the following in 26:11-12: ‘Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. ‘I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.
This is also the case in the book of Numbers. After instructing the nation that lepers, people with discharges and all who were unclean because of contact with a dead person must be sent outside the camp, the reason He gives is (Num. 5:3b): “so that they will not defile their camp where I dwell in their midst.” At the conclusion of the section dealing with the function of cities of refuge for the protection of people who had accidentally killed someone, the Lord reminds the nation that in cases of premeditated murder, the offender is to be executed. The reason given is (Numbers 35:34): “‘You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.’ ”
Deuteronomy follows the same pattern. In the middle of a paragraph dealing with instructions regarding altars, the Lord says (Deuteronomy 12:5):“But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.
The theme of God dwelling with His people in the Tabernacle/Temple which was begun in the Pentateuch, is continued in various places later in Scripture. Years after the conquest, when Solomon dedicated the Temple, God made a promise similar to the one He had made regarding the Tabernacle. 1 Kings 6:13 reads: “I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” Note that here the Lord calls Israel “My” people. Then, years after that, Ezekiel sees the glory of God leaving the Temple. As the nation goes into exile in Babylon, he utters an amazing prophecy. Ezekiel 37:26 reads: “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.” From the formation of Israel as a nation at the Exodus through the time of the Exile, God revealed His desire and intention to dwell in the midst of His people.
God prepared to initiate the covenant by which He would dwell with His people.
Having declared His intention to dwell with His people, what steps did the Lord take to implement that intention? He took the initiative by revealing the system of worship of the Tabernacle/Temple. The initiation of this system in which God would dwell with His people in the Tabernacle/Temple is recorded in Exodus 19-24. It began with the establishment of a covenant between the Lord and Israel. In 19:4-6, we read God’s offer to the nation: “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”” In that statement, although the words “dwell with” are not used, God was offering essentially to dwell with Israel, to live in fellowship with her.
In 20:1-17, God gave the Ten Commandments, and in 20:22-23:33, He gave what has been called “the Book of the Covenant” specifying what obedience to the Decalogue would look like in life. He did so by giving a series of cases, followed by the consequences that were to be carried out in each of those situations. In 24:3, when Moses verbally recounted the terms of the covenant, the people responded that they would obey them. Next, after putting those conditions in writing and offering sacrifices and sprinkling the “blood of the covenant” on the altar, Moses read the stipulations of the covenant to them, and the people agreed to obey them. Then, in verses 8-11, Moses sprinkled the people with the blood and he, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up onto the mountain and saw the Lord and ate and drank as a symbol of the confirmation of the covenant. The covenant was thereby initiated. In chapters 25-31, Exodus records instructions for the Tabernacle culminating in God giving Moses the two tablets of the testimony written by God Himself.
God taught the crucial importance of His intention to dwell with His people by teaching them their desperate need for that relationship through the experience of their sin with the golden calf.
Although God had inaugurated the covenant by which He would dwell with His people, they did not see the importance of these new arrangements, so He provided them with a lesson about the crucial importance of His dwelling with them. At the point when the Lord finished His instructions to Moses about the Tabernacle construction we read, in chapter 32, of the sin of the nation with the golden calf and God’s determination to destroy them. The interchange between Moses and the Lord in the wake of that sad event, recorded in Exodus 32:1-34:17, provides us with fascinating insight into the theology both of our need for God to dwell with us and of what is necessary for that to occur. In 32:7-10, the stage is set as we see how the holiness of God responds to sin in His people: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”” Notice that, in verse 7, God refers to Israel as Moses’ people whom Moses brought up from Egypt. Furthermore, in verse 10, God threatens to destroy the whole nation and then make a new one from Moses. Because of their sin, God appeared to be in the process of disowning them in preparation for destroying them. He simply could not live in the presence of, or fellowship with, people who sinned.
Moses knew how important it was for God to dwell with His people, so he “entreated” the Lord in a way that sounds very much like he is trying to persuade God to change His mind. He is intensely aware of their need for God to be with them. He begins in 32:11, by reversing the pronouns God had used in verse 7: “Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” Then, in verse 12 he urges the Lord to change His mind by arguing that if God were to destroy the nation, the Egyptians would accuse Him of being vicious. In verse 13, Moses continues his plea by reminding the Lord of His covenants with the Patriarchs. I believe that Moses’ motivation in changing the pronouns, in arguing with God and in reminding the Lord of the covenants was his overwhelming conviction that Israel needed God’s abiding presence in order to survive and reach the Promised Land. The result, in verse 14, was that God did “change His mind.”
In verses 15-29, after Moses saw what the people had done and then used the Levites to execute about 3,000 people, he called the people to consecrate themselves.” Then, in verse 30, Moses told the people that he would try to make atonement for their sin. He knew what was necessary for God to dwell with His people who had sinned. Moses clearly recognized the fact that God, being holy, could not dwell with sinful people, so something had to be done to atone for the sin of the nation if God were to dwell with them. Verse 32 tells us what that “making of atonement” involved in this case. Moses told the Lord: ““But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”” The Lord’s response to Moses is recorded in verses 33-34: “The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.””
Notice that, as in 23:20-23, the Lord says His messenger will go before them rather than the Lord going Himself. That contrast between the Lord’s presence and the presence of His “messenger” is made explicit in 33:2-5: ““I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.’ ”” This comes immediately after 33:1 where the Lord seems again to assert that Israel belongs to Moses rather than to the Lord: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’”
Still, Moses knows it is essential for God’s own presence to be with the nation. For that reason, Exodus goes on describing the interchange between Moses and the Lord in 33:12-14: “Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Moses responded, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” (33:15) At the conclusion of the interchange between the LORD and Moses, Moses yet again asks God to go in the midst of His people. Exodus 34:9 He said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.”
Finally, Moses says to the Lord, in verse 16: “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”” Moses was intensely aware of the fact that the Lord’s abiding presence was absolutely necessary for the success of the nation. After the Lord appears to Moses, allowing him to see the “back” of the Lord while proclaiming His character to Moses, the covenant is renewed with a warning not to be involved in idolatry. From that point (34:18), running through most of Leviticus, the Lord resumes His instructions about the construction of the Tabernacle and the execution of the sacrificial system as a part of which He would manifest His presence in a special way, where He would “dwell” with them.
God taught the truth that He wished to dwell in the midst of His people through the location which He designated for the placement of the Tabernacle in relation to the location of the people.
When the Lord gave instructions about the placement of the Tabernacle in relation to the camp, He located it literally in the middle of the people, both when the nation was camped and when it was on the move. Numbers 2 spells this out. On the east side of the tent of meeting, the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulon were to camp (Numbers 2:1-9). When on the move, those tribes were to go first (2:9). Then, on the south side of the tent, Reuben, Simeon and Gad were to camp (2:10-16). When on the move, those tribes were to go second (2:16). Between the camps of the twelve tribes and the Tabernacle itself, the Levites were to camp immediately around the tent of meeting and when on the move, they were to go with it (2:17) with two sets of three tribes ahead and two groups of three behind. Then, on the west side of the tent, the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin were to camp (2:18-24). When on the move, those tribes were to go third (2:24). Finally, on the north side of the tent, the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali were to camp (2:25-31). When on the move, they were to go fourth (2:31). So, whether camped or on the move, the Tabernacle, where God manifested His presence in a special way, was placed right in the middle of the people. What clearer way could there be to illustrate the truth that He was dwelling in their midst?
Still, even though God manifested His presence in the midst of his people, restrictions were placed upon His approachability. These restrictions were in place to protect the people with whom God dwelt from being destroyed. If they were to come too close to the place where God manifested His presence in an unworthy state, they would be killed.
There are circles of holiness surrounding the tabernacle. Outside the camp was the realm of the Gentiles and the unclean. There were no special qualifications required for those in this space. However, only those who were in covenant with God and were ritually clean were permitted to move into the camp. Only Levites, who were specially consecrated to the service of the Lord, were permitted to set up their tents in the vicinity of the tabernacle, and they surrounded the site. The Levites, in other words, served to buffer the tabernacle from the rest of the camp. Even most Levites were not permitted to minister close to the tabernacle, however. This service was restricted to one family of Levites, the descendants of Aaron. Furthermore, the most holy place of all, the inner sanctum of the tabernacle where the ark was kept, was the most restricted space of all. Only the current high priest could enter, and he only once a year—on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).
It is an interesting and related sidelight to observe that before the Tabernacle was built and used, there appears to have been a small tent in which God would meet with Moses. Ex. 33:7-11 gives us some background information about that tent and the way God met with Moses there. I find it especially interesting that the text (vs. 7) says that this tent was pitched “outside the camp, a good distance from the camp.” Could this have been because God could not “dwell” inside the camp because of the nation’s sin since the method for dealing with Israel’s sin (the Tabernacle and sacrificial system) had not yet been implemented?
God concluded His demonstration of His desire to dwell with the nation by His response to the completed Tabernacle and Temple.
When the Tabernacle was completed, the glory of God filled it, apparently showing His approval of the structure and His willingness to make the manifestation of his abode there. Ex. 40:33-38 reads as follows: “He erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.” (Exodus 40:33–38) It is as though God “moved into” His house to dwell with the nation.
The same thing happened when Solomon’s Temple was completed. After the priests installed the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, 1 Kings 8:10-11 tells us: “It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10–11) Again, the purpose seems to have been to manifest God’s approval of the building and His willingness to manifest His abode as being there. From declaring His intention to dwell with them, then through initiating the covenant, teaching the importance of His dwelling with them, placing His physical residence in their midst, and then visibly manifesting His presence in the Tabernacle and Temple, God made it abundantly clear that He wished to dwell with His people. Now God had begun to dwell with His people. How would they respond to the awesome privilege and responsibility?
Chapter 2: God Made the Necessary Arrangements for Him to Dwell with the Nation.
When human beings live together, it is important that they are compatible or at least that there is an agreement about how they will deal with any incompatibilities. Imagine what it would be like if one of them loved pets and the other was allergic to them. Suppose one of them habitually went to bed and awoke early while the other was a “night owl.” What if one of them enjoyed loud music and parties but the other needed a quiet life? Imagine a situation where one person was not bothered by clutter while the other was a “neat freak.” The more important the issue is, the greater is the need for agreement. This is especially evident in matters of morality, for then it is not merely a matter of taste or preference or even physical health but of right and wrong. What is the case on the human level is far more so if God is to dwell with human beings, which is precisely what God proposed to do with the nation of Israel. When God offered Israel the opportunity and privilege of His dwelling in their midst, He made very clear what how they would have to live if He were to do that. The problem of course was that God is holy and Israel sinned.
God had clearly declared His intention to dwell with Israel. He made clear the desperate need the nation had for Him to do so. He taught the truth of His willingness to dwell in their midst by the location of the Tabernacle’s placement within the camp. When the Tabernacle and the Temple were completed, He showed in a very powerful way His willingness to dwell there.
The next step was for the Lord to reveal the requirements that would be necessary for Him to continue to dwell with them. That was begun in Exodus chapters 25-31, which contain a detailed description of the furniture to be built for use in the Tabernacle and of the clothing, food, and implements to be used by the priests. The whole ceremonial system, including the design and furnishings of the Tabernacle, and the sacrifices, was given so that God, who is absolutely holy, might dwell with His people who were sinful.
The design and furnishings of the Tabernacle/Temple indicated the general requirements that would be necessary in order for people to approach the God dwelling in their midst.
When an Israelite entered the Tabernacle courtyard, the first item to be encountered was the bronze altar (Ex. 27:1-8). Surely that fact conveyed the message that without a sacrifice, there would be no access to God’s presence even if He dwelt in the midst of the nation. To emphasize the truth that access to God was always to be available, the fire on that altar was never to be allowed to go out.
The second item to be encountered was the large laver (Ex. 30:17-21). It reminded people that in order to approach God, one needed to be clean. Undoubtedly physical cleanliness was intended to picture spiritual cleanliness.
The next item in a direct line from the great altar and the laver toward the Ark of the Covenant was the altar of incense (Ex. 30:1-10). (The lamp and bread table were on the sides.) This altar, portraying the offering of prayer to God (one aspect of communion with Him), would be approached only after the matters of sacrifice and cleansing were cared for.
Beyond the inner veil stood the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:10-22). No likeness of God should or could be made, but the ark was His footstool, indicating that He sat on His invisible throne above it. Among other passages, 1 Chron. 28:2 and 1 Sam. 4:4 make this especially clear. “Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Listen to me, my brethren and my people; I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God. So I had made preparations to build it.” (1 Chronicles 28:2) “So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.” (1 Samuel 4:4) (Emphasis mine.)
The laws concerning sacrifices implicitly taught that God wished to dwell in the midst of His people and fellowship with them. They also explicitly taught what would be necessary for God who is holy to dwell in the midst of sinful people.
As noted before, it is important to observe that in all of the instructions about the sacrifices God Himself took the initiative to tell Israel how He could be approached. He wanted His people to have fellowship with Him. In order for that to occur, however, certain requirements had to be met. Any time sinful people approached the Lord, who is holy, atonement had to be made for sin. The very fact that God provided a way for people to approach Him indicated that He wished for them to commune with Him.
The Burnt offering. Lev. 1 & 6:8-13. It has been observed in a number of studies that the burnt offering symbolized complete consecration to God since the whole animal (except for the skin) was burned on the altar. I do not doubt that this truth was implicitly taught, but the text explicitly says (Lev. 1:4) that the purpose was atonement.
Allen Ross suggests how these two purposes (consecration and atonement) fit together. Speaking of the burnt offering he says,
It signified that the worshipper had surrendered his or her life to God and that God had completely accepted the worshipper. In other words, any barrier that had existed was removed—there was full atonement. The sweet aroma of this offering would ascend to the heavens, signifying that God was accepting it and the worshipper with pleasure.… In the Old Testament, the word “atone” (kipper) was used primarily for the maintenance of a right relationship between the worshipper and God. It referred to the ritual by which all the barriers to access to God were removed and devout worshippers were free to commune with the holy LORD God.
[It should be noted that the atonement provided by this sacrifice is of a more general nature than atonement provided in the purification or reparation offerings to be discussed below.]
In this offering the worshipper acknowledged both his consecration to God and his desire to make atonement for his sin. Both of these goals existed because the worshipper wanted fellowship with God. How did God respond to the expression of this desire? The Lord took pleasure in the fellowship He would have with the one who had approached Him. God’s pleasure is expressed two ways in the text. The offering is called “a sweet aroma,” and it is said that the offering would “be accepted.” Regarding the former, Ross says,
The smell of the animal burning on the open flame in the courtyard must have given off a pleasing aroma. As the smoke ascended to heaven, the idea of the pleasing smell was transferred to God to express the effect of the offering. God did not simply accept the worshiper and the offering—it gave him pleasure.
The latter phrase makes it clear that God is not reticent to receive the offering as a basis for atonement. Rather, He is pleased to do so. [“The term rason [“accepted”] conveys the idea of divine pleasure and willing acceptance.”]
God’s desire to have fellowship with His people continued to be indicated by two other elements in the directions for this sacrifice. First, provision was made for even the poorest people to offer a burnt offering. Lev. 1:14 states that one might bring a turtledove or a young pigeon. Second, God wanted to make sure that the opportunity was always open for people to come to enjoy His fellowship, so a fire was to be always burning on the altar to indicate that one could come to offer this sacrifice at any time. [See Lev. 6:8 & 12-13.]
The Meal offering. Lev. 2 & 6:14-23. In order for people to fellowship with God in a way of which He would approve, it was necessary for them to understand the kind of relationship that existed between them and God. We see the same sort of thing today in fellowship between people. The nature of fellowship between two coworkers would not be the same as fellowship between one of those workers and the President of the United States. An Israelite in ancient days would not fellowship with a fellow Israelite the same way he would with God. In order for people to enjoy fellowship with God in a way that would acknowledge their respective positions, God gave His people the meal or grain offering.
“The grain offering was a gift to the Lord that honored him as the source of life and of the fertility of the land. It represented the dedication to God of the fruit of one’s labor. In the grain offering the worshiper offered the best of the kernels of wheat to indicate that he was offering the best to God, which signified the dedication of one’s life and work to God.”
In order to make clear the fellowship element of this offering, the priest would take a small portion (which was God’s portion) and offer it on the altar, and the rest would be consumed by the priest who was God’s representative. As the priest ate the main portion as God’s representative, he was portraying the fact that God accepted and was pleased with the offering.
The Peace offering. Lev. 3 & 7:11-21. This offering reenacts the experience and blessing of fellowship with God. “The main emphasis of the peace offering must be on celebrating all the benefits of being at peace with God; it indicates that all is well between the worshiper and God.” It may be that the burning of the viscera was intended to symbolize sharing of the most intimate aspects of the human soul with the Lord. It pictured the willingness of the worshipper to be totally open and vulnerable to the God with whom he was at peace.
Whereas in the burning of part of the sacrifice, the worshipper experienced a symbol of his willingness to be open in fellowship with God, as the worshipper ate part of the sacrifice, he was experiencing a symbol of God’s willingness to be open in fellowship with him. “All of this ritual was one of the greatest expressions of communion with God. That the communal meal was received from the sacrifice is striking. In almost all other sacrifices it was the offerer giving to God; but here it is as if God was returning a portion of the sacrifice for the faithful to eat in his presence. This indicates the LORD’s gracious bounty to his people and the peaceful relationship that existed within the covenant.”
This offering represents the goal of the entire sacrificial system. All of it was designed with the final purpose being to enable God’s people to have fellowship with Him.
“Because the peace offering is the culmination of sacrificial worship for Israel, because all the laws of atonement and purification in the Book of Leviticus lead to this point, one is not wrong in saying that the goal of the ritual (and the underlying theme of the teachings of Leviticus) is joy and gratitude in the presence of God…. Believers gather in his presence to celebrate with one another that this and all gifts are from him; and they do this by eating the communal meal together, a holy communion and not a common meal, and by sharing their faith and their bounty with one another in joy and generosity.
In light of this fact, it is interesting that in the order in which Leviticus 1-5 presents instructions for the five offerings, directions for this one are in the middle of the five. Could its central position in the text be symbolic of its central position theologically? In any case, it was certainly an occasion for great joy.
The Purification (Sin) offering. Lev. 4:1-5:13 & 6:24-30. The name “purification offering” is more accurate than “sin offering” because it was to be offered after things like childbirth or the healing of a skin disease, which did not involve sin. Sin was moral impurity. Certain physical conditions seem to have involved physical impurity in a way that is not entirely clear.
If God was going to dwell with His people, both they and the place around the Tabernacle had to be cleansed. The idea in the offering seems to be that if one who is impure (in either a physical or moral way) were to enter the sanctuary, he would be instantly killed because he was approaching God who is absolutely holy and who is “a consuming fire.” If God’s dwelling place were allowed to become unclean, either He would leave (which He ultimately did) or the people would die. Since God wished to dwell with His people, he made provision for people and things to be purified so that he could continue to dwell with them without destroying them. When the cleansing was accomplished, access to God was restored. The fact that the priest ate some of the offering indicated that God (represented by the priest) accepted the offering so that the offerer was purified/forgiven.
It is important to recognize that God forgave sins when His people confessed them. The sacrifices were symbols they were instructed to offer in order to finish the process. Because the Lord wanted to fellowship with His people, He made it possible for all kinds of people to bring this kind of offering, whether they were rich or poor, leaders, clergy or regular citizens.
The Reparation (trespass/guilt) offering. Lev. 5:14-6:7 & 7:1-10. Another requirement for God’s people to live in fellowship with Him was that they must maintain a right relationship with one another. When one had done another wrong, the matter needed to be rectified and an appropriate sacrifice had to be offered. Toward that end, Allen Ross says, “The main point is that reparation is evidence of true repentance.” With that in mind, Ross further says that the name of the offering ought to be “reparation” rather than “guilt” or “trespass” offering. I am strongly inclined to believe that his understanding of the point of the offering is right. The interchange between Jesus and Zaccheus in the New Testament would seem to argue in favor of this understanding. After Jesus invited Himself to Zaccheus’ house, we read (Luke 19:8-10): “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”” I take that to mean that Zaccheus was voluntarily going far beyond the Law’s requirement to repay what was taken wrongfully and to add 20% to it (Lev. 6:5). In response to Zaccheus’ statement, Jesus declared that salvation had come to his house that day. Apparently, Jesus had seen evidence of true repentance. Jesus made this same point clear in Matt.5:23-24. ““Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” As in the case of the purification offering, the priest ate part of the sacrifice as a symbol of the fact that God had accepted the sacrifice and granted forgiveness.
These offerings made it possible for a holy God to dwell in the midst of a people who had sinned. Wenham has provided a helpful summary of the functions of the three sin-related offerings.
“The sacrificial system therefore presents different models or analogies to describe the effects of sin and the way of remedying them. The burnt offering uses a personal picture: of man the guilty sinner who deserves to die for his sin and of the animal dying in his place. God accepts the animal as a ransom for man. The sin offering uses a medical model: sin makes the world so dirty that God can no longer dwell there. The blood of the animal disinfects the sanctuary in order that God may continue to be present with his people. The reparation offering presents a commercial picture of sin. Sin is a debt which man incurs against God. The debt is paid through the offered animal.
Chapter 3: Israel Ignored or Despised the Fact of God’s Dwelling Among Them
When people live/dwell together, how would we expect that they will relate to one another? To some degree, of course, that will depend upon the nature of the relationship. The minimum we would expect is that they would communicate with one another frequently and graciously. Normally, after people are married, they talk to each other. They may share hopes and dreams and also hurts and frustrations. As children grow up in a family the various members of that family normally talk to each other. The nature of the communication will of course depend upon things like the age of those communicating and the nature of their relationship to others, but there will be communication. Not only would we expect that the people involved would communicate with one another but it would certainly be best if they would also show profound love and respect for one another in their speech and behavior. The parents would care for the needs of their children. The children would show love and respect by being obedient to their parents. How did Israel respond when God began to live with them?
When God expressed His intention to dwell in the midst of the nation of Israel, He was offering to be their God and to take them as His people. As such, they were to have a unique relationship with Him that other nations did not have. With the completion of the Tabernacle and then the Temple, arrangements were in place for God to dwell with His people. How did they respond to this arrangement/position of privilege and responsibility? Did they express love and communicate with Him constantly? The answer is that some individuals enjoyed God’s presence but there is almost no connection mentioned between those individual experiences and the fact that God was dwelling with His people in a sanctuary. Almost nothing is said in terms of a positive description of a general response of the nation to God’s dwelling with them. What little is said does not reflect well. At its best, it must be said that the nation as a whole seems to have simply ignored the fact that God had made His dwelling with them. At its worst, the nation treated the LORD with contempt and worshipped idols rather than the LORD.
Some individuals did enjoy God’s presence and blessing.
As was the case before the Mosaic code was given, so also during the years when God manifested His presence in the Tabernacle/Temple, God was said to “be with” certain individuals or groups, enabling them to perform special feats:
Ex. 3:12 The LORD was with Moses enabling him to lead Israel out of Egypt.
Judges 1:19 The LORD was with Judah so he took possession of the hill country.
Judges 1:22 The LORD was with the house of Joseph so they were victorious over Bethel.
Judges 2:18; 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6 Over and over again through the book of Judges, when the people cried out to the LORD for deliverance when they were being oppressed by an enemy because of their sin, the LORD was with a judge when he was raised up, enabling the people to be delivered from that enemy.
1 Samuel 3:19 The LORD was with Samuel so He let none of his words fall to the ground.
1 Samuel 18:12, 14, 28 Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him. David had success in all his undertakings because the LORD was with him. When Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David he was even more afraid.
2 Kings 18:7 The LORD was with Hezekiah so he prospered.
2 Chronicles 17:3-5 (c. 860 BC) The LORD was with Jehoshaphat so the LORD established the kingdom in his hand.
In addition to these passages which speak of God “being with” individuals enabling them to perform unusual feats, in a few instances, we read of godly kings of Judah who sought the LORD at least for a time. When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he offered a beautiful prayer of dedication (1 Kings 8:22-53). Other kings (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah) also either instituted various reforms or demonstrated piety in some form. Still it does not appear that there was a general revival among the people or one in which they responded appropriately to God’s dwelling with them.
For those who responded to God’s love positively, fellowship with Him was indescribably precious. We see evidence of this especially in various Psalms. Psalm 23, which is ascribed to David, expresses the writer’s confidence in the Lord even in the face of death because of His presence. Ps. 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Even though death was so close to David that he was walking in its very “shadow,” he had peace because the Lord was with him. Fellowship with God was that real and precious to him although no mention is made of the Tabernacle. The mode of communion between David and God appears to have been like that enjoyed by individuals before the Tabernacle system was inaugurated, before God began to dwell with His people as a group.
An expression of deep longing for fellowship with God coming from one who was, at the time of writing, unable to worship in the central sanctuary may be seen in Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1–2) The writer thirsts for fellowship with God at the sanctuary with a desire like the ravenous thirst that would be felt by a deer that had been running in the heat of the wilderness. He utters his cry of desperate longing in the form of a question.
An instance of one who had previously experienced fellowship with the LORD in the central sanctuary but who was, at the time of writing unable to do so, may be seen in Psalm 63:1-8: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:1–8) This Psalm, attributed to David “when he was in the wilderness of Judah,” begins with a passionate expression of loyalty to God combined with a desire to enjoy fellowship with Him again as he had experienced it in days gone by. This is followed by a promise to praise the Lord because of His character. This section is closed with an expression of praise for loving fellowship that he has enjoyed even though it was not experienced in the sanctuary.
A similar sentiment is expressed by the writer of Psalm 84. “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.” Regarding verses 1-4, Knight comments:
We have a picture in this psalm, then, of the families of Israel, father, mother and children, leaving their scattered villages, all wending their way up the hill to reach Jerusalem at the top. Their hearts are overflowing with joy. They are longing to reach the Temple precincts, the courts of the Lord. For there they will meet, not just with God, but with the living God. (1) It is only the living God who can create the cycle of nature out of the “deadness” of the great heat of summer. (2) It is only the living God who can create new life in the “deadness” of human hearts that have rebelled against his Covenant love.
In verses 5-7, the writer is so taken up with praise to the LORD that even the memory of the road that had to be travelled in order to reach Jerusalem and the Temple where God dwelt, difficult though the travel was, brought joy to the heart. How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, Every one of them appears before God in Zion.
Then, after a brief request that his prayer be heard, the Psalmist exults in the sheer joy he has in being in the Temple where he can experience the LORD’s presence. He exhausts words to describe the goodness of the LORD!
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah. Behold our shield, O God, And look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (Psalm 84:8-12)
Still another expression of love and worship may be found in Ps. 122:1-5, also ascribed to David. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our feet are standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built As a city that is compact together; To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord— An ordinance for Israel— To give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there thrones were set for judgment, The thrones of the house of David.” (Psalm 122:1–5) Knight helps us get the “feel” of this text:
“I was glad among those who said”, runs the Hebrew. …They had come to a common decision to make the aliyah. They had said to each other, Let us go to the house of the Lord. Now they have arrived. They look round them in excited astonishment: Our feet, they say, have actually been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! What a memory they will have to take back home with them! What a privilege is theirs to carry all their sins and griefs to the place of sacrifice, the footstool of the Living God, Maker of heaven and earth. Their whole lives have now found meaning and purpose as they join in the festal processions that precede the sacrifice, and follow behind the priests and Levites as they shout and dance “before the Lord” on the way up to the altar of sacrifice.
In these Psalms and many others the writers make it clear that they have had precious and intimate fellowship with the Lord, both at the sanctuary and away from it. These instances provide us with examples of the truth expressed in Isa. 57:15: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15) God delights to dwell with those whose hearts are right with Him. When we examine the history of the nation as a whole, the situation is quite different from that expressed by and about individuals.
The nation’s response in the wilderness wandering years through the days of the Judges shows that the people as a whole turned to idols in spite of God’s presence being with them.
Idolatry was a problem from the very beginning. We saw, in the previous chapter, the account of the golden calf. Little else is said one way or the other, during the wilderness years, about the effect which God’s dwelling in the midst of the nation had on the people. After the conquest, when Joshua was about to die he admonished the nation, “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14) When they asserted that they would serve the LORD, he basically repeated the same injunction. “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23) So, even during the wilderness years and during the conquest, the nation held on to gods which were kept “in their midst.” We should not miss the position of these idols! They were treating the idols with the same kind of intimacy they were supposed to have with the LORD. Still, of the period of the conquest it was written, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel.” (Joshua 24:31) I take that to be a comparison between what then was and what would be during the days to follow.
Things changed radically during the period of the Judges, for then segments of Israel lapsed into blatant idolatry. This is evident from passages like Judges 2:13-14, 20-22. A bit later Samuel had to admonish the people, “If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” So the sons of Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtaroth and served the Lord alone.” (1 Samuel 7:3–4) Near the end of Samuel’s life the nation demanded a king. The LORD’s response to Samuel is insightful. “The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also.” (1 Samuel 8:7–8)
The nation’s response during the monarchy showed a continuing deterioration of her relationship with the Lord.
Little can be gleaned, except by way of implication, from the historical accounts in Samuel through Chronicles about the matter of God’s dwelling with His people during the days of the united and divided monarchy. The idolatry is clearly presented, but there is little explicitly stated about God’s dwelling with them. However, the writings of the prophets do reveal the quality of the spiritual condition of the nation during this time. As he introduces a message of coming judgment on the nation, Isaiah (late 8th century) states the reason for it in 29:13, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,” (Isaiah 29:13) Their religious activity was an empty form. In Isaiah chapter 1 there is a more thorough description of the attitude of the nation toward the worship of the LORD who was dwelling among them. Addressing them as Sodom and Gomorrah, he says:
“Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Isaiah 1:10–15, emphasis mine)
Clearly the message of this paragraph is that although the nation went through the ceremonies required by the Mosaic Law, their hearts were not in what they were doing. Their outward behavior acknowledged God’s presence, but their heart attitudes did not reflect an appreciation of the wonder of that privilege. It should not be glossed over that God refers to the nation as “Sodom” and “Gomorrah,” two cities that were proverbial for the depth of their sin. The people apparently did not skimp on the number of sacrifices (“multiplied”) that they brought. However, since God did not depend upon the sacrifices for His “food,” if those sacrifices did not come from hearts that had a right attitude toward Him, He had no interest in them at all. He took “no pleasure” in them. Even the manner in which the people came to the Temple showed their disrespect. In God’s mind there was a big difference between appearing before him at the temple and destructive “trampling” of his courts (1:12). “Trampling” does not simply refer to many people walking around in the temple; it describes an act of disrespect and the destruction of something (see 5:5).  “Iniquity and the solemn assembly” refers to the fact that God could not endure religious rituals that accompanied sinful lifestyles. Sacrifices do not make up for disobedience. In fact, when the sacrifices are offered by those who are living in disobedience, they are an offense, a mockery.
Various passages (2 Chron. 19:3; 20:33; 33:15; 34:33) record the presence of idolatry throughout the period of the monarchy. As if that were not bad enough, a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel (chapter 8), describes four scenes in the Temple complex, God’s “residence”, where blatant idolatry was being committed. First, there was an “image of jealousy” by the northern gate by the altar (vss. 5-6). Second, at some place within the Temple itself, there were engraved the representations of various animals before which 70 of the elders of the nation were worshipping (vss. 10-12). Third, by the north gate of the Temple complex there were women weeping as part of a pagan cult worship practice (vs. 14). Finally, in the Temple court there were “about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun” (vs. 16). It is especially significant for our purposes to observe two phrases in this whole description. First, in verse 4, we read that “the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley” (cf. chapter 1 and 3:22). Second, as the LORD described these idolatrous acts, He said that their purpose was “to drive me far from my sanctuary” (vs. 6b). The whole purpose of the Tabernacle/Temple existing was so that God might dwell with the nation. Here, the LORD says that the nation was trying to drive him out of His own dwelling. They did not want Him to dwell among them.
Finally, for a time, God accepted the nation’s desire that He not dwell with them.
As the Lord beheld the attitude of the nation over a period of approximately nine centuries and when He saw the gross idolatry described in this passage in Ezekiel, his conclusion was that the nation wanted “to drive me far from my sanctuary” (Ezek. 8:6 English Standard Version). How God responded would come as no surprise to those who recalled His warning in Exodus 33:2-5, quoted above: ““I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.’ ”” (Exodus 33:2–5, emphasis mine) Either God would have to leave or He would destroy the entire nation. As it was, during the Exodus period, many people were killed.
The Lord decided to leave, and yet the way in which He left still showed His love, for He was reticent to stop dwelling in the midst of His people. His leaving takes place in stages. First, “Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4) Was this a last look of longing? Next we read, “Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. … and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.” (Ezekiel 10:18–19) The Lord had mounted His chariot in preparation for leaving. Next, the Lord’s chariot left the city and then hovered above the mountain to the east. “Then the cherubim lifted up their wings with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them. The glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.” (Ezekiel 11:22–23) But that would not be the end of the story as well will see below.
The Nation’s Response after the Return from Exile
Even after the exile and return, the attitude of the nation does not appear to have improved. Speaking in reference to the altar of the Lord, Malachi writes, ““But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts, “and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?” says the Lord.” (Malachi 1:12–13) The disrespect that had been demonstrated during the days of the monarchy continued after the exile.
Chapter 4: In spite of her attitude and behavior, God persevered in His desire to dwell with His people
Evidences of God’s love for Israel and His continuing desire to dwell with them during this time may be seen through the prophets in various places. One instance is in Ezek. 11:16 “Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.” ’ (emphasis mine) Even in their captivity He was there with them. A powerful example of God’s continuing desire to dwell with His people in spite of their rejection of Him is that of Hosea, whose own behavior pictured God’s love for Israel. Hosea was told to marry an unfaithful woman like God had taken unfaithful Israel as His “wife.” In time Hosea’s wife, Gomer’s behavior drove her into slavery from which she was purchased by Hosea so that he might remarry her and that she might live with him in faithfulness. Eventually God will do a similar work for the nation of Israel. The LORD’s command to Hosea to love Gomer is insightful for our purposes. It reads, “Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”” (Hosea 3:1, emphasis mine) Hosea would again live with Gomer even as the LORD would again dwell with His people. That hope is further spelled out in prophecies of the Messianic Age.
His desire to dwell with His people was further demonstrated in the prophecies of a Messianic Age to come.
In chapter 43, we read the conclusion to the account we read earlier of the glory of the Lord leaving the Temple. “Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.” (Ezekiel 43:1–5, emphasis mine) This is a prophecy of the Lord returning to His dwelling place with His people and remaining there forever. His purpose would ultimately be fulfilled. The eternal character of God’s dwelling with them is reemphasized in 43:6-9: “Then I heard one speaking to me from the house, while a man was standing beside me. He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever.” (Ezekiel 43:6–7a, emphasis mine) Near the end of a beautiful section prophesying the coming of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (beginning at 11:1), Isaiah exhorts, “Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 12:6)
About 100 years later, Zephaniah looked forward to the same time and wrote, ““The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; Do not let your hands fall limp. “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” (Zephaniah 3:15–17)
About 50 years after that, Ezekiel looks forward to a day of restoration and blessing. ““Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.” ’ “Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.” ’ “When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:16–20, emphasis mine) The day will yet come, Ezekiel said, when the nation will turn to God with a whole heart, and they will live in fellowship with Him. In another passage, Ezekiel looks forward to a day when “My servant David will be king over them,” (37:24), and he says, ““My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. “They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. “My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. “And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” ’ ”” (Ezekiel 37:24–28)
Then, in the passage we saw earlier, where Ezekiel sees the Glory of God returning to the Temple, He says, referring to a message from the Lord, ““He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever. And the house of Israel will not again defile My holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their harlotry and by the corpses of their kings when they die, by setting their threshold by My threshold and their door post beside My door post, with only the wall between Me and them. And they have defiled My holy name by their abominations which they have committed. So I have consumed them in My anger. “Now let them put away their harlotry and the corpses of their kings far from Me; and I will dwell among them forever.” (Ezekiel 43:7–9)
After the return from exile, Zechariah looks forward to the Messianic age and says, ““‘For I,’ declares the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ”” (Zechariah 2:5) He continues in the same vein a few verses later with, “““Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.” (Zechariah 2:10–11) Once more in his vision of the future he writes, “““Thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.’” (Zechariah 8:3)
At some point in the days of the prophets, Joel (whose date is uncertain) added these words, “““Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the Lord your God, And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame.” (Joel 2:27) “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, And strangers will pass through it no more.” (Joel 3:17) “And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, For the Lord dwells in Zion.” (Joel 3:21)
In the meantime, until the fulfillment of these Messianic prophecies, since the nation as a whole had not responded well to God’s dwelling in their midst, what did God do? We will look at the answer to that question in the next chapter.
Chapter 5: God Began to Dwell Among His People in a different way
Although the LORD accepted, for a time, Israel’s desire that He no longer dwell with the nation, His purpose to have a people in the midst of whom He would dwell was still in force. So, what did He do next? Both the life and ministry of Jesus and the present ministry of the Holy Spirit help to answer that question. To understand the life and ministry of Jesus accurately, however, we need to read not only the Gospel records but also how the Apostles interpreted Jesus’ life and ministry in the Epistles as they looked back upon it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus began to dwell with the Disciples
As with Israel of old, God again began to be with His people, but this time it was in the person of Jesus Christ. Near the beginning of His ministry the Lord asserts His desire to be with His disciples. In Mark 3:14 we read, “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach.” In the Gospels, many times Jesus is portrayed as being with His disciples. In several passages in Luke it is noted, sometimes in passing, that the disciples were with Jesus. “Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd.” (Luke 7:11) “Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him,” (Luke 8:1) “When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.” (Luke 9:10) “And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”” (Luke 9:18) “When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.” (Luke 22:14, emphasis mine)
Several times in the Gospel of John, Jesus alludes to the fact that He was, or had been, with the disciples. “Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me.” (John 7:33) ““Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” (John 13:33) “Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) ““These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.” (John 14:25) ““But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:4)
Jesus’ presence with His people may also be seen in the Epistles of John. In his first Epistle, as John looks back at the time he spent with Jesus, the words he uses give eloquent expression to the value he placed on being with Jesus: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1–3)
Another method for teaching the presence of Jesus with His people may be seen in the connection between the New Testament people of God and the Old Testament Tabernacle/Temple. In the years following the ascension, as the Holy Spirit taught the disciples more and more about what they had experienced during the life of Jesus, they reflected upon their experiences in the light of Scripture and saw connections between the Tabernacle/Temple and what they had experienced during the time they were with Jesus which apparently they had not seen before. Decades after the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, John looked back upon the days when God became man in the person of Christ, and he wrote, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [or tabernacled] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) It could not have been missed by any original readers of this text who knew the book of Exodus that there was an obviously intended connection between Jesus’ dwelling [or tabernacling] among His people and their beholding His glory with corresponding statements about the LORD dwelling with ancient Israel and their beholding His glory in Exodus 40:33-38 and 1 Kings 8:10-11. That connection between the work of Christ and the Tabernacle/Temple worship was also seen by the writer of Hebrews. He notes that the flesh of Christ was the corresponding reality of the temple curtain (Heb. 10:20), which when torn apart represented Christ’s body being broken to provide access to God (9:8). Furthermore, when Paul says that God sent his Son to be a “propitiation” through his blood (Rom. 3:25); he was referring to the “place of propitiation” (usually translated “mercy seat”) in the Holy of Holies.
But, again the spokesmen for the nation as a whole rejected Him as they had in Ezekiel’s day. How would God respond to this?
““Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. “When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. “The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. “Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ “They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” (Matthew 21:33–43) What Jesus here predicted was fulfilled in the New Testament church in which He would dwell.
Jesus still dwells with His people
In the upper room discourse, the evening He would be betrayed, Jesus alluded to the facts that the Holy Spirit would abide with his followers and that He, Himself, would dwell with His people. In Jn. 14:17-18 He said, speaking of the Holy Spirit, “that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:17–18) A few verses later in the same passage we read, “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23, emphasis mine) A bit later He continues in the same vein:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:4–10 Emphasis mine)
The “abiding” terminology which John used in his Gospel carries over into his First Epistle. He tells his readers that just as they have the anointing from God, they abide in Him (2:27). Whether this is a command or a statement of fact is debated since the form for both is the same. However, there is little doubt that the next verse has a command to abide in Him. “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (1 John 2:28)
There are qualifications one must fulfill for this abiding to be. In His “Bread of Life” discourse, Jesus stated what is necessary for one to abide in Him and have Him abide in that person: ““He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) I take this to refer symbolically to partaking by faith in Christ. In his First Epistle, John further elaborates on the qualifications required if one is to abide in Him who is the Light. The first is to love the brothers: “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (1 John 2:10) Another qualification is confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15) Still another is abiding in love. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) John also highlights the responsibilities of one who abides in Him. He is to walk as Jesus walked. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6)
The Holy Spirit dwells with His people
John further provides evidences for his readers by which they can tell if they are abiding in Him. The first two are that the one who abides in Him will keep His commandments and he will possess the Spirit who indwells him. “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:24) The latter is confirmed in the next chapter of the epistle. “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) A final piece of evidence is that the one in whom God abides loves other believers. “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)
The Apostle Paul spells out in more detail the doctrine of God abiding with His people. In the present age, Paul calls believers a temple. In 1 Cor. 3:16, he writes, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Then, again in 6:19, he uses the same metaphor, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” When he exhorts the Corinthians to have nothing to do with idolatry, he uses language reminiscent of the Tabernacle/Temple period. In 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read: “Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” The latter quotation is a conflation of Ex. 29:45 and Lev. 26:12. In Romans 8, in a small section in which Paul contrasts those who are “in the flesh” with those who are “in the Spirit,” he refers twice to the Spirit of God dwelling in believers (8:9 & 11).
In Ephesians, Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” 13 times, “in Him” 8 times, and “in whom” (referring to Christ) 3 times. The whole epistle is saturated with truth related to the believer’s union with Christ. Furthermore, ties to Old Testament passages relating to God’s dwelling with His people become explicit in this letter. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19–22)
Throughout this entire age God has dwelt with His people. We can see in this the beginning of the fulfillment of His plan to dwell with His people. He resides within each one of us. The words of many of the Psalms convey so beautifully the joys not only of the Psalmist but our response as well when we consider our individual relationships with the Lord. He abides with us. He dwells with us. He has never left or forsaken us.
The knowledge that He is with us has brought untold blessing and comfort and conviction and encouragement to the people of God down through the centuries. Even at that, there are times when, because of our sin, we are out of fellowship with this One who dwells within us. Furthermore, two aspects are missing from God’s original plan to dwell with His people as a group that would fill the earth. First, the people with whom He dwells are individuals. It is certainly true that the individuals make up a group, the Church, God’s New Covenant people. It is also true that groups of these individuals make up local churches. Still, they are not geographically united as Adam’s progeny could have been or as Israel of old was. Second, we make up a very small percentage of the population of the world. How will God’s original purpose that His people, with whom He dwells, make up the entire population of the world, be accomplished? The last chapter addresses that question.
Chapter 6: God Will Dwell Among His People Forever
When will God finally and eternally dwell with His people in uninterrupted fellowship? In His great High Priestly prayer Jesus expresses His desire for this very condition. ““Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) Paul tells us, in 2 Cor. 5:8, that this desire will be satisfied as he reveals his own attitude toward living or dying: “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, as Paul describes the return of the Lord he says, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” That will be the final and eternal experience of all of God’s people in the New Heavens and Earth.
The picture of God dwelling with His people, which is drawn in Revelation 21-22, presents the culmination of the plan God began to develop back in the Garden of Eden and continued to develop throughout the rest of Biblical history. “God dwelt with human beings in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:7, 16; 3:8), in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:8; 40:34), in the temple (1 Kings 8), and above all in Christ (John 1:14; 2:19-21). Christ sends forth the Spirit in order that the church (1 Cor. 3:16) and its members (1 Cor. 6:19) may be dwellings of God. The New Jerusalem is the consummation of all these.” In order to more fully appreciate how it is true that the picture in Revelation 21-22 is the culmination of God’s plan to dwell with his people, it might be helpful to trace some threads that run through biblical history beginning in the Garden of Eden and ending in Revelation.
One thread has to do with the fact that God cannot bear to dwell in the presence of sin for He is holy. The holiness of God was violated and began to be protected in Eden. It was more clearly protected in the Tabernacle/Temple and secured eternally in the New Heavens and earth. Gen. 2:8 tells us: “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” (Genesis 2:8) It was in that garden that God manifested His presence, walking and talking with Adam and Eve (3:8). Then, after the Fall, speaking of Adam (and Eve), Gen. 3:23 tells us: “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.” (Genesis 3:23) That which was sinful could not dwell in God’s presence. Because they had sinned, Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden and prohibited from reentering it. As we saw in chapter two, the design for the Tabernacle/Temple and the sacrificial system gave a pictorial representation of the necessity to protect sinful people against the holiness of God and vice-versa. “In this respect, it is significant to remember that in the Old Testament any uncleanness was to be kept out of the temple precincts. (e.g., 2 Chr. 23:19; 29:16; 30:1-20).” That same truth was further supported by NT passages, such as those in Corinthians, noted above, that teach the importance of Christians living holy lives in light of the fact that they are the Temple/dwelling of God. In the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:27 and 22:15 we see the culmination of this thread. It reads: “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Revelation 22:15)
More threads can be seen woven through some of the fabric of those two chapters of Revelation. For example, one thread is that we can see a correspondence between the design of the end time Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple. In the description of the dimensions of the holy city Jerusalem we read: ““The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.” (Revelation 21:16) In other words, it is a cube. Someone familiar with the description of Solomon’s temple would remember that the Holy of Holies in that building was also a cube. “The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and twenty cubits in height, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar.” (1 Kings 6:20)
This similarity in design should come as no surprise when we recall that on several occasions Moses was told to construct the Tabernacle according to the pattern he was shown by the Lord on Mt. Sinai. I would expect that such a plan would be like Eden and the final eschatological Temple because all three were intended to portray God’s dwelling with His people. Consider the following references cited by Beale. ““According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.” (Exodus 25:9) ““See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:40) ““Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” (Exodus 26:30) ““You shall make it hollow with planks; as it was shown to you in the mountain, so they shall make it.” (Exodus 27:8) “Now this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold; from its base to its flowers it was hammered work; according to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.” (Numbers 8:4) Still other references include the following: ““Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.” (Acts 7:44) “…who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”” (Hebrews 8:5) The Tabernacle Moses was to build is called a “copy” as opposed to the one that is called the “true” one. “Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;” (Hebrews 9:23–24) Apparently the author of Hebrews sees the “true holy place” as the New Jerusalem that came down out of heaven from God.
Another thread is composed of an interesting connection made by both a similarity and a contrast between the Tabernacle/Temple and the end time Jerusalem. Regarding the latter John says, “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22–23) Throughout most of the Old Testament period and into the Gospels God manifested his presence as residing in a temple. Here there is no temple as such (for, as will be discussed below, all evil will be expelled from the city) but the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. Furthermore, there will be no need of a candlestick in this temple as there had been in the Tabernacle and Temple because the Lamb will be the lamp. The only source of light in the Holy Place was the candlestick lamp. The only source of light in the New Jerusalem will be the glory of God.
The final thread that we will observe has to do with the theme of this paper, the presence of God with his people. Apparently, in the Garden of Eden God appeared and walked with Adam and Eve. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8) In the next verses God talks with them about their behavior and pronounces judgment upon them. In the years following the expulsion from the Garden, as we saw in previous chapters, God was with his people. He spoke to them either directly or through prophets. In the New Testament Jesus spent time with his disciples. Currently the Holy Spirit resides in his people. Regarding the New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:3 we read “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,” (Revelation 21:3) No one familiar with the Pentateuch could miss the allusion to the Tabernacle. Furthermore, the lemma form of the verb translated “dwell” is the same as that of the noun “tabernacle,” further strengthening the connection. Furthermore, we read: “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:3–5) For our purposes, three things stand out in this text. First, since God’s throne is there, he must be there dwelling with his people too. Second, they see his face. That is especially significant in light of what God told Moses when he asked God to show him his glory. God said he would put Moses in a cleft of the rock and pass by him. Moses could then see God’s back but not his face. “But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”” (Exodus 33:20) ““Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”” (Exodus 33:23) In the New Jerusalem, God’s people will be able to see his face. Third, this situation is eternal; it will be “forever and ever.” God’s plan to dwell with his people in uninterrupted fellowship eternally will be realized.
We began this paper by observing the great importance it is for God to dwell among his people. It is important to God because of his great love for his human creatures. It is important for us because he has created us for communion with Himself so that our most profound needs can be satisfied only in him. So often even we as Christians fail to grasp the truthfulness of this in our souls. Even we who are believers look here and there to find that which will bring us satisfaction, peace, joy or fulfillment when only our God can provide these things. One day we will know that truth experientially as well as theoretically. What a great day that will be! Until that day we would do well to offer a prayer of commitment like that of Alexander McClaren, quoted by Ruth Myers in The Satisfied Heart:
O God my strength, if I fix my happiness on anything less stable than the heavens, less sufficient than You, sooner or later I will lose it. If my life entwines around any earthly prop, some time or other my prop will be plucked up, my poor vine will be torn, and its sap will bleed out of it. Therefore I choose to entwine the tendrils of my life around You.
Augustine, Saint. Confessions. Tr. Henry Chadwick. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Beale, G. K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2004.
Dillard, Raymond B. and Longman III, Tremper. An Introduction to the Old Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.
Grogan, Geoffrey W. “Isaiah” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 6. Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1986.
Knight, G. A. F. (2001). Psalms, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Konkel, August H. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1952.
Lewis, C. S. Surprised By Joy. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1984.
Myers, Ruth. The Satisfied Heart. Colorado Springs: The Waterbrook Press.1999.
Pascal, Blaise. The Pensees. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Poythress, Vern S. The Returning King, Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2000.
Rooker, M. F. (2000). Vol. 3A: Leviticus. The New American Commentary (99). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Ross, Allen P. Holiness to the LORD, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.
Ross, Allen P. Recalling the Hope of Glory, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006.
Schnittjer, Gary Edward. The Torah Story, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Smith, G. V. (2007). Isaiah 1–39 (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.).The New American Commentary. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group.
The Shorter Catechism With Scripture Proofs. Carlisle:The Banner of Truth Trust.
Tozer, A. W. The Pursuit of God, Harrisburg: Christian Publications, Inc., ND.
Wenham, G. J. The Book of Leviticus, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah, Vol.1, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965.
 All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 Edition unless otherwise noted.
 Lewis, C. S. Surprised By Joy. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1984, p. 7.
 Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1952, pp. 37-38, emphasis mine.
 The Shorter Catechism With Scripture Proofs. Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 1.
 Augustine, Saint. Confessions. Tr. Henry Chadwick. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 3.
 Pascal, Blaise. The Pensees. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, emphasis mine.
 Tozer, A. W. The Pursuit of God, Harrisburg: Christian Publications, Inc., ND, p. 42.
 Beale, G. K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2004 develops this theme exhaustively.
 Dillard, Raymond B. and Longman III, Tremper. An Introduction to the Old Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994, p. 70.
 Ross, Allen P. Recalling the Hope of Glory, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006, p. 193-4.
 Ibid. pp. 195-6.
 Ross, Allen P. Holiness to the LORD, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002, p. 86.
 Ibid., p. 94.
 Ibid., p.86.
 Ross, Recalling, pp. 201-2.
 Wenham, G. J. The Book of Leviticus, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, pp. 57-8.
 Ross, Holiness, pp. 94-5 & 89.
 Ibid., p. 89.
 Ibid., p. 158.
 Rooker, M. F. (2000). Vol. 3A: Leviticus. The New American Commentary (99). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, p. 99.
 Ross, Holiness, p. 164.
 Ibid. p. 111.
 Ibid., pp. 118-9.
 Ibid., pp. 120-1.
 Ibid., p. 124.
 Wenham, op.cit., pp. 94-6.
 Ross, Holiness, pp. 133-4.
 Ibid., pp. 169 & 171.
 Ross, Recalling, p. 199.
 Ross, Holiness, p. 140.
 Ibid., p. 147.
 Ibid., p. 149.
 See further Wenham p. 111.
 Ross, Holiness, 175-6.
 Wenham, op.cit., p. 111.
 Knight, G. A. F. (2001). Psalms, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, Vol 2, p. 62.
 Ibid., p. 267.
 Smith, G. V. (2007). Isaiah 1–39 (E. R. Clendenen, Ed.). The New American Commentary (107). Nashville: B & H Publishing Group. In a footnote: “רָמַס, “to trample,” is almost always (the exception is Nah 3:14) used in a negative sense of destroying (Isa 16:4; 26:6; 28:3; 63:3). Other roots meaning “tread” also refer to destruction (5:5; 28:18; 51:23).”
 Grogan, Geoffrey W. “Isaiah” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 6. Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1986, p.30 and Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah, Vol.1, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965, p.66.
 Ross, Recalling, p. 190.
 The NET Bible has the following translator’s note: The verb may be read as either (1) indicative or (2) imperative mood. The same verb is found in the following verse, 2:28, but the address to the readers there seems clearly to indicate an imperative. On analogy some have called for an imperative here, but others have seen this as suggesting an indicative here, so that the author is not repeating himself. An indicative is slightly more likely here. Up to this point the thrust of the author has been reassurance rather than exhortation, and an indicative here (“… you reside in him”) balances the indicative in the first part of 2:27 (“the anointing which you received from him resides in you …”). With the following verse the author switches from reassurance (the readers at the time he is writing still ‘remain’; they have not yet adopted the teaching of the opponents) to exhortation (he is writing so that they will ‘remain’ and not succumb to the deception of the opponents).
 Poythress, Vern S. The Returning King, Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2000, p. 186.
 Beale, G. K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2004, p. 24.
 Ibid., p. 66.
 Ibid., p. 32.
 Myers, Ruth. The Satisfied Heart. Colorado Springs: The Waterbrook Press.1999, p. 180.