Have you ever been waiting at a stoplight, and started to get frustrated at how long it takes? I have. We fidget and maybe start to complain to others in the car (even if there’s no one there!). Maybe we inch forward1 in our cars, hoping we can goad the light into turning green.
Ironically, by the time the signal changes, I have occasionally drifted off into a thought or gotten distracted by other activities near the intersection (store signs, other vehicles, etc.), and I don’t notice that I can now proceed. (When there are other occupants in the vehicle, they will sometimes point this out to me!)
After the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, they started to complain. Hearing this, Moses and Aaron have news from God (free bread and meat!) to share with the community. In our eagerness to learn about manna, though, there’s a little verse in the 16th chapter of Exodus that we might miss:
It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
Exodus 16:10 NASB
My understanding of God’s glory is that it is more than just a bright light. Artists have used that image to illustrate God’s glory, and that may be all that we can capture in a painting, but God’s glory is far more than that (see Exodus 40:34-35 and 2 Corinthians 3:7). It seems that there is something of God’s holiness, His nature, and His majesty2 in His glory that cause human beings to remember our place. It reminds us to appreciate that we are mere mortals, and to acknowledge that God is intrinsically and fundamentally greater than we are.
Those who wanted to see God’s glory in the Bible (including perhaps the example above) generally seem to have been given only glimpses of it, or were overwhelmed by experiencing it. His glory transcends our simple and sinful existence (although we still have value, because of how He created us and gave us a purpose). In fact, when we give glory to God, we don’t actually create His glory (in this sense), we just acknowledge it.
In addition to God’s glory and holiness being intimidating (not as an antagonistic behavior by God, but rather in us understanding our contrasted imperfection), it gives us hope. When our world is limited by what we can see, we are tempted to worry about not having enough, or not getting by. The Israelites were in this situation, where – despite having literally been given a path through the sea to escape those who had enslaved them – they still seem to have forgotten God’s power, instead fearing that they didn’t have any source of food.
In this case, I think it is good that God gave the Israelites a peek at His glory. Not only did they need a reminder that He was still God, but I suspect that they also needed confirmation that He could take care of them when all hope seemed lost.
If you are in this situation, where it seems that you are in the wilderness, and are running out of what you need, I hope that you will look out and see the glory of God. We may not be able to gaze upon His glory in its full intensity, but we can see the evidence of His nature throughout history and throughout creation. We can remember that God is holy and glorious, and that He has everything taken care of.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- This expression, “inch forward” means to creep forward a little bit at a time. While proofreading this article, I wondered what readers outside of the United States call this phenomenon. “Centimeter forward” just doesn’t sound right! ↩
- See https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/glory/ for more discussion on this topic. ↩