ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
- True Glory
Some years ago Bridget and I joined a long queue of tourists eager to look round Buckingham Palace. Once inside, we were impressed by the grandeur of the Palace, which is, of course, appropriate to the formal business of majesty, for example, the receiving and perhaps the overawing of foreign dignitaries.
One day it will not be the palace of a human monarch that we shall enter but the throne room of the King of Kings, of Almighty God Himself and the splendour, the majesty, the greatness and the grandeur (i.e. the glory) will certainly be truly overawing. It is this glory that I want to dwell on in this paper by looking at the glimpses of that glory that have already been revealed to humankind.
- The Glory Revealed in Creation
Many a holiday brochure has wonderful pictures of landscapes or seascapes, usually untouched by human hand, to entice us to go and see for ourselves, There is indeed a glorious world out there.
In the opening chapter of Genesis we read time and time again that when God had created, “God saw that it was good” (verses 10,12,18 etc.) and, when all was completed, in the last verse of that first chapter we read “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” So we live in a glorious world, which, sadly, has been marred by the sin of humankind (Romans 8:21,22), yet we still do get glimpses of that glory.
Remember, too, what Jesus said as He compared the beauty of a lily to that of King Solomon arrayed in all his splendour (Matthew 6:28,29). There was no contest in Jesus’ mind, the lily – at least at that time, undeveloped by human botanists, etc. – was far more glorious than the king.
- The Glory Revealed in the Law
ot;text-align: justify;”> In Exodus 19:16,17 we have a wonderful account of the Glory of God descending on Mount Sinai, “there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God…” Then there was fire and smoke and “the whole mountain trembled violently” (verse 18).
So why was there this terrifying display of the Glory of God? In the next chapter, when Moses has gone up the mountain to meet with God, he is given the Ten Commandments, both orally and “inscribed by the finger of God” on two tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18; 32:15,16).
We would probably all agree that these Ten Commandments – which are occasionally recalled at the start of a Holy Communion service – are fundamental (at least from number six onwards!) to most systems of world law and not just for the original people of Israel. So it should not be surprising that such a vital code was introduced with a glimpse of the very glory of God.
- The Glory Revealed in the Wheels
The prophets of both Old and New Testament times (i.e. those who passed on message from God to the people – not necessarily looking to the future) did not always have an easy time. However they were sometimes rewarded with a vision of God’s glory. Take Ezekiel for example. The book he wrote starts with a view of God’s glorious majesty even if it is almost impossible to fully understand what he writes! Ezekiel sees “four living creatures” and he does his best to describe them to us (1:5-14). Then he goes on to try and explain how they moved and he tells us of “a wheel intersecting a wheel” (1:16). No one can be quite sure what he means by this. He then goes on to reveal what he saw of God Almighty (1:26-28).
His reaction to all this glory? “I fell face down” (1:28), in other words he was totally overwhelmed by what he saw of God’s glory even as he struggled to describe it.
Now there is a message for us here. We must remember that it is God revealing something of His glory to us, it is not us telling God what glory is. If we think of it like that it should not be surprising that the glory is overwhelming and goes beyond our powers of description, because we are being given a glimpse of the heavenly glory which goes beyond earthly words.
- The Glory Revealed to Shepherds
How many times have you sung the seventeenth century carol “While shepherds watched their flocks by night”? The carol is based on the account of the appearance of angels to a group of shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) and was written by Nahum Tate (1652-1715).
The first verse of this carol finishes, “And glory shone around.” So here we have one of the first revelations of God’s glory in the life of Jesus Christ.
The first reaction of the shepherds to this vision of God’s glory was one of fear (verse 2 of the carol; Luke 2:9,10) but they were quickly comforted by the angel of the Lord.
So, too, for us, the thoughts of God’s glory may be terrifying, but in the same way we too can expect to be comforted (both put at ease and strengthened) as we approach the very majesty of God Almighty. For those who have put their trust in Jesus there is nothing to fear in coming near to a loving Father however awesome and glorious He may be.
- The Glory Revealed in Transfiguration
This must be one of the strangest events in the life of Jesus (Mark 9:2-8). He had climbed up into a high mountain, accompanied only by Peter, James and John. There He was transfigured – changed to something nearer to His original heavenly glory. In particular His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone on earth could achieve. The three disciples saw Him talking with Elijah and Moses and heard a voice from an overshadowing cloud, “This is my Son whom I love, listen to Him”. Then it was all over and they went down the mountain, back to the cut and thrust of everyday life.
So once again the glory breaks through. Peter wrote of Jesus receiving “honour and glory from God the Father” and of hearing the voice of the Majestic Glory (2 Peter 1:17). The display of glory had faded but the memories had not – nor had the glory in heaven, because that goes on for ever.
- The Glory Revealed in the Cross
“What,” you may say, “Glory in that terrible unjust execution on Calvary? Surely this was something gruesome not glorious!”
Seen with human eyes this may well be true, for the glory was not visible this time, but what was going on, what was being achieved, was the most glorious thing that has ever happened on this earth. Apparently sinful men, both Jew and Roman, had worked together to get this itinerant teacher, who claimed to be the very Son of God, put to death and His following snuffed out. But, what was really going on was that Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ, was willingly laying down His perfect, sinless life for people just like those who were hounding Him to death. He was taking onto His own shoulders the sins of all who would believe in Him, starting with the thief on the cross next to His own (Luke 23:42) and on through the years to us today.
This amazing, awesome act of salvation is truly glorious, even if there were no choirs of angels or majestic visions.
- The Glory Revealed Three Days Later
Jesus was dead and buried. Did that signal the end of it all, that the glory was “snuffed out” as the authorities wanted? A great stone had been rolled to cover and seal the entrance to the cave-like grave.
But on the third day everything changed. When Mary Magdalene and others (Mark 16:1) went to the tomb, wondering how to move the stone so that they could anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:3), they saw a mighty angel move the stone (Matthew 28:2). The glorious appearance of this angel was enough to make the guards who had been posted to watch over the tomb become “like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). So it was to Mary and her friends that the message first came: “He is not here; He has risen” (Matthew 28:6)
Over the next forty days Jesus appeared again and again to His disciples to make them understand that He had redeemed them (and us) by His death and the triumphed over death itself by His glorious resurrection. At the end of this period He ascended back to His rightful place in heaven alongside His Father in all glory and from where He will one day return (Acts 1:9-11).
It is this resurrection that proves to us that Jesus has indeed won a glorious victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:20) and returned to His original glory (John 17:5).
- The Glory yet to be Revealed
Can this earth, this planet orbiting a star we call the sun, this spaceship on which we live go on for ever? Certainly not in scientific terms. There is a finite amount of material available, the only significant extra we receive is sunlight!
Obviously the Bible writers think in other terms. Those who wrote the New Testament were convinced that Jesus’ relationship with this planet and those who live on it, was not finished. For example, Matthew tells us that “all the nations of the earth…..will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (24:30). Each New Testament writer contributes to this belief and it is certainly one that every Christian should share. Jesus is coming back to this earth in glory to receive His own people and to lead them to a new existence in the very home of God (John 14:2,3), where they will be transformed so that they can share in God’s glory.
- Adding to the Glory
It would seem from what we have already considered that God’s glory is infinite and therefore cannot be increased, but Jesus said an amazing thing during His prayers. He said, referring to His disciples, “glory has come to Me through them” (John 17:10).
Then remember what He said during His parables (Luke 15:10), “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” So it seems, amazingly, that when we turn to God through Jesus and serve Him, we add to His glory.
May we all do our bit to enhance the wonderful, the amazing, the awesome glory of God Almighty.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.