GLORY - Sounds awesome, but what is it?
When applied to people from history, the Bible describes glory as accumulating possessions and wealth, like Jacob who had saved for years working for his relative, Laban (Genesis 31:1).
Glory is the word used for Joseph who earned status and authority over the country of Egypt (Genesis 45:13).
It means looking good: "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” (Exo 28:2 NAS) Think also of Jesus’ words: "Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.” (Luke 12:27 NAS).
Glory gets translated from Hebrew as ‘honor,’ to be noble and to sit amongst those who are esteemed and in charge (e.g. 1Samuel 2:6-8), and to be so recognized in death (2Chronicles 32:33).
Glory is apparent and made manifest as people practice real virtue: “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, That glory may dwell in our land. Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth; And righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the LORD will give what is good; And our land will yield its produce. (Psalms 85:9-12 NAS) Glory and goodness are intertwined, both as cause and result.
Glory is to be blessed by a gracious God with these as gifts, and to be allowed in the presence of God, who is Himself all good and the source of glory (e.g. Leviticus 9:6, 1Ch 29: 11-12).
We see that human glory is only temporary, and given by God’s grace: “Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, When the glory of his house is increased; For when he dies he will carry nothing away; His glory will not descend after him.” (Psalms 49:16-17 NAS) Also, “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor [same word translated ‘glory’] and life.” (Proverbs 22:4 NAS)
We can try to sum these things. Human glory is wealth and power to make things happen, being honored by others when we are prized or promoted, to have wisdom and to speak and act well, saying and doing what is right. Glory means beauty, freedom from oppression; it means life for ourselves and having children with whom to enjoy these things and pass them on.
The opposite of glory, then, is to be a slave, to be disgraced in front of others, to be ugly or to act in a way that degrades ourselves or others, to be unproductive. Think of Habakkuk’s words: “Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, Who mix in your venom even to make them drunk so as to look on their nakedness! You will be filled with disgrace rather than honor. Now you yourself drink and expose your own nakedness. The cup in the LORD's right hand will come around to you, And utter disgrace will come upon your glory. “ (Hab 2:15-16 NAS). The opposite of glory is dishonor and death, that whatever you gain in this world disappears or dies with you.
When glory is taken for granted, whenever we try to get human glory as an end in itself, when we sacrifice for, or envy or become jealous of others, or desire what others have – whether looks, or money, or their position, health or wealth – which is called coveting - then they are idols. We are worshiping the gifts instead of the Giver.
Jesus said: "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? (John 5:43-44 NAS, emphasis mine)
What can we do?
Identify what it is we worship; call it what it is. Sometimes we are just trying to get glory for ourselves, to get others to worship us. Sometimes I want what I admire in someone else, which may be fine, unless the thought is to take it from them. These have consequences and can ruin whatever you end up getting.
Sometimes it is just a matter of enjoying the glory gifted to us. The caveat is still the temptation to worship the gift instead of the Giver, what is bestowed instead of the Benefactor.
Pray for eyes to see everything a gracious God is and does. Inject praise and thankfulness into your celebration: "praise God, from Whom all blessings flow…"
Later, we will talk some more about the glory of God.