When you were in school (if that’s something you went through), did you want to be called upon by the teacher? The classic image of a student is one that doesn’t want to be singled out and embarrassed for not knowing the answer (or being too cool to admit that he or she does know the answer). On the other hand, we have images of certain students eagerly raising their hand every time, because they know it all.
I think that this persists in adulthood, when we would like to get credit for knowing the right answer from time to time, so that a manager, a date, a friend, or a spouse will think well of us. There’s a good feeling when a family member asks Google (or Alexa or Siri) the answer to a question, and finds out that our answer (given previously) was correct.
This isn’t the main point of today’s lesson, but I’d like you to keep it in mind.
In chapter 40 of Ezekiel, the namesake priest and prophet meets a man in a vision, and this man (indicated as “the ‘angel of the Lord’ “ in the Lookout, cited below) gives Ezekiel a sort of tour – with lots of measurements – of a temple.
This continues for several chapters, but let’s pick up in chapter 43.
Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory.
Ezekiel 43:1-2 NIV
When I taught this material to a Sunday School class recently (although you readers often get a different version of the content that I teach from), I asked a question at this point: How would you define God’s glory? The class came up with the idea of a bright light (which is good) and a couple of others. I had jotted down ideas like “God’s presence”, “God’s awesomeness”, and “God’s nature spilling out into what we can observe” in my notes, just in case I was met with blank stares (which I wasn’t).
In fact, asking the class this question was almost cheating on my part as a teacher, because God’s glory isn’t necessarily something that we can easily describe, so it would have been easier if I just let them try and do so.
And, this difficulty in explaining God’s glory probably makes sense: After all, God’s glory is unique, so while we can define it and we can say what it is like, we may not be able to fully appreciate what it is until we actually experience it. And, even if we get a taste of God’s glory (just a peek) here on earth, we might not be able to describe it completely to those who haven’t observed it for themselves. As the hymn says, “Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!” (Blessed Assurance | Hymnary.org)
A search of the word “glory” in the Bible returns more than 275 references (in the NIV translation), including:
- A cloud in the desert
- A fire on the mountain
- Something that filled the tabernacle (and the temple)
- Something that fills the earth
- What the angels at Jesus’ birth and the crowd at the Triumphal Entry proclaimed
- What three of Jesus’ disciples saw at the Transfiguration
- Something that Jesus brought to God the Father (and we should, too: see 1 Corinthians 10:31)
- How Jesus will return (Matthew 16:27, 24:30, 25:31, etc.)
- What Stephen saw as he was being martyred
- What we fall short of (Romans 3:21-26)
- Something better than “our present sufferings” (from Romans 8:18)
- Something that isn’t limited to God; other things can have their own kind of glory (but probably not the same kind of glory that God has)
There are lots of references to “glory” in the book of Psalms (44), and another 21 instances in Ezekiel (which comes in third to Isaiah at 31). In Ezekiel, most of the references to glory appear to be citing God’s glory, specifically.
Secular dictionaries define glory in different ways (although you can follow the links if you’d like to read them, rather than me copying them here): Glory Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com, Glory Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster. I also liked the definitions from this Bible study website: Glory Definition and Meaning – Bible Dictionary (biblestudytools.com).
The Lookout (cited below) says:
“Linguistically glory means the shining brilliance and weighty presence of God. Theologically glory can refer to the return of the exiles from captivity (this passage) to Jesus’ incarnation (John 1:14), to the church (Colossians 1:27), and to the return of Christ to earth (Revelation 21:23).”
So, while these definitions might help, I’m not sure if we can fully grasp all that is God’s glory. Still, it is little wonder, that ”…the land was radiant with his glory.” (from v2). As another hymn says, “Glory to His Name” (Down at the Cross | Hymnary.org)
As a result, if you are asked to explain the glory of God, there’s no need to worry that you’ll end up with an incomplete answer. Hopefully, this article helped you understand it a little bit more (and provided you some links if you’d like to study this further), and also helped you appreciate that we may not be able to fully describe God’s glory here on this earth.
In the meantime, though, I hope that you will keep the glory of God in mind as you spend time with Him, with His Word, and with His creation. There is much to be amazed by His glory in all of these things.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 25, 2022
- The Lookout, September 25, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.