(Note: The following video and article is presented within The Biblical Story Course under ERA 5: Israel, lesson 18, “Solomon’s Reign and Its Aftermath”.
The glory of God is His majesty and the honor due to His name. Israel of old and the Church today are called by God to bring glory to His name.
Statement of Doctrine
There are no rivals to God’s magnificence and righteousness. All should acknowledge His power and splendor – His glory – even as His creation proclaims it.
Having been overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord at the moment of his calling as a prophet (Isaiah 6:1-7), Isaiah had much to say about it throughout his ministry (for instance, Isaiah 40:12-31). He declared that Yahweh was so great that He could hold all the waters of the earth in the palm of His hand and weigh the mountains on a scale. He alone created, without the help of anyone else. Moreover, God alone had all knowledge, needing no one to instruct Him in anything. Therefore, the Lord declared that He would not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).1
The Hebrew word for glory (kabod) connotes grandeur, substance, and might. It manifests itself in many ways. For instance, the glory of the Lord appeared like a consuming fire at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:17) and as a cloud filling Solomon’s newly built Temple. So overwhelming was the cloud that the priests could not even enter the building (2nd Chronicles 7:1-2).2 Then, in Ezekiel 10, the sad spectacle of God’s glory departing the Temple involves not only a bright cloud, but also the image of jewel-encrusted wheels.
There is also a strong moral component to God’s grandeur. When, on Sinai, Moses asked to see God’s glory, the Lord said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you . . .” (Deuteronomy 33:19).
Frequently in Scripture, the glory of God is presented as the aim of His action in the world. For instance, it says He created people for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7), and He restrained His anger and redeemed His people so that His name would be magnified (Isaiah 48:9-11; cf. Isaiah 43:25; Ezekiel 20:9). Accordingly, a central part of Israel’s worship was to give God the glory that was due to His name.3
The Westminster Shorter Catechism of the seventeenth century begins with the question “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”4 In the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards developed this theme, saying, “God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”5 Today, another pastor-theologian, John Piper, has drawn on Edwards to suggest a new answer to the Westminster question: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”6
The Old Testament prophets spoke of a day when acknowledgement of God’s glory would extend beyond the nation of Israel. Then “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14; cf. Isaiah 11:9). The fulfillment of this prophecy began when Jesus Christ, who was the “radiance of the glory of God,” came to earth (Hebrews 1:3).
One day, this radiance will be so great that there will no longer be need for a sun or a moon, for God Himself will provide all the light needed (Revelation 22:5). The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb will join the heavenly multitude in crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory . . .” (Revelation 19:6).
For Further Study
John Piper, “What Is God’s Glory?” Desiring God Website, http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-gods-glory (accessed August 12, 2014); John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998); C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001); Jonathan Edwards, The Glory and Honor of God (Nashville: B&H, 2004).
1Though God’s glory is utterly unique, He does confer significant dignity and splendor upon humanity, which is made in His image. As it says in Psalms 8:5 regarding “the son of man,” “you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
2 This was a wonderful moment of recovery, for the Ark of the Covenant was once again in the Most Holy Place. When the ark, with its attendant glory, was captured by the Philistines (1st Samuel 4:1-22), Israel was stung by a sense of disgrace and weakness. Upon hearing the terrible news of this loss, the daughter-in-law of the priest Eli gave birth suddenly and named the child “Ichabod,” meaning “the glory has departed.”
3 See Psalms 29:1-2; Psalms 96:3, Psalms 96:7-8; Psalms 108:5; Psalms 115:1.
4 See “Westminster Shorter Catechism (1674),” Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website, http://www.ccel.org/creeds/westminster-shorter-cat.html (accessed September 9, 2009).
5 Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies,“ vol. 13 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Thomas Schafer (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 495, Miscellany #448; see also #87, p. 251-252 and #332, p. 410. For an online discussion of the significance of this passage, see John Piper, “A God-Entranced Vision of All Things,” Desiring God Website, http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/200…(accessed September 9, 2009).
6 John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 18.