Thanks for your question.
The Hebrew word for glory is “kabod” and it literally means “weight.” For example, when we give somebody’s argument “weight” it means we are taking it seriously. To glorify God means, literally, to take Him seriously and to acknowledge His rightful place as the Creator of the universe and the loving eternal Father of all mankind. In the New Testament, the word for glory is “doxa” and it carries a similar meaning as the Hebrew but also has a larger connotation of brightness and light. This is our usual idea of glory – a brilliant light. However, we need to see beyond that.
Open your Bible to Exodus 33:18-23 and 34:5-7 and you will get a wonderful insight into the meaning of the glory of God. Note that Moses asks of God [really the angel of God – see Exodus 23:20,21] to reveal his glory to him. Note that when the angel did this for Moses the mountain where Moses was, Sinai, was filled with brilliant light and thundering noise – that was an outward manifestation of God’s glory not the reality of it. The people were terrified and they were at a good distance. Moses was right in the middle of it.
It reminds me of Elijah’s experience while he was hiding in a cave and God [again through His angel] revealed Himself to Elijah [see 1 Kings 19:11-13] All around Elijah there was a fantastic hurricane which “rent the mountains”, rocks exploding, a terrifying sight – but, we are told, God was not in this mighty wind; this was followed by an equally powerful earthquake but, we are told, God was not in the earthquake; this was followed by a huge conflagration – but, again, God was not to be found in the glorious all-consuming fire. These manifestations of “glory” left Elijah shaken and terrified. Then came the final and real manifestation of God’s glory – “a still, small, voice.” That’s where God was to be found then and now – in His word.
All outward show is useless if it is not based on God’s word. Ok.... back to Moses. Look what happens – all the people could see was light and smoke and noise. Moses, right in the middle of this display was promised that God would reveal His Glory [through the angel – this is important and we will come back to it]. Reading the record in Exodus 34:19 closely we understand that to reveal God’s glory is to proclaim His name. That’s the real meaning of God’s glory and it is expanded in Exodus 34:5-7. This revelation to Moses is the equivalent of Elijah’s “still small voice.”
In the Exodus account, the angel says to Moses that, as God’s glory passed by, Moses would be hidden in a cleft of a rock and shielded from the physical manifestations of the Glory to be revealed to him. He would be shown God’s “back” because no mortal is able to see God face to face and live. What constitutes God’s back? All of the qualities declared in Exodus 34:5-7 which can be summed up in two words – Grace and Truth. [note that the idea of judgement is the flip side of the coin of grace – grace rejected leads to judgement].
All of these wonderful qualities are necessary because of sin. In a world where there is no falsehood, Truth need not be emphasized; in a world where there is no sin, forgiveness and mercy and judgement [i.e. grace] are not required. One day the world will be like that. There will come a time, when God will be all in all [see 1 Corinthians 15:28] and then we shall see His face! [see the Hebrew blessing in Numbers 4:24-26; “make His face shine upon thee” is asking that the one receiving the blessing be granted immortality in God’s kingdom – only then will a person be able to see God’s face!].
Note that the summary of the revelation of God’s glory is “grace and truth.”
Now turn up the gospel of John 1:14 – “We beheld his GLORY as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” If we want to understand the glory of God, we need to understand the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the expression of God’s glory in action. See 2 Corinthians 4:6. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Remember how the angel was given God’s name to act on behalf of God? Who is the name bearer now? It is Jesus! [see Philippians 2:9]. He represents God to us [see 1 Timothy 2:5]. He is not literally God, as the doctrine of the Trinity states, no more than the angel who bore God’s name in the Old Testament was literally God. He spoke for God and acted on God’s behalf. Jesus does that now. He is THE name-bearer. He has fulfilled the promise of being made in the image of God which Adam marred. Indeed, in the New Testament, Jesus is called the “last Adam.” He is the firstborn of a new creation.
To participate in “spirit and in truth” in that new creation is to enter into the Glory of God. It is more than just belief – it is heartfelt, deep-down conviction demonstrated by a determined obedience to God’s word and humble, thankful heart which accepts His grace when we fail to live up to our high calling.
What is the glory of God? Is it unbearable light? Awesome majesty? Phenomenal power? Yes it all of these things but more importantly it is to be found in the “still small voice” of His word. It is to be found in the character of His son.
Our heavenly Father wants more than simple belief from us. That’s not enough. He wants obedience [see 1 Samuel 15:23; James 2:20]. He wants us to be filled with His glory – the way the earth will be filled one day soon; He wants us, in short, to be like His son who is called “The word made flesh.” That is our hope, to be like Jesus, true sons and daughters of God – understanding His truth and accepting His grace and gradually being conformed into Jesus’ image.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2. That is when the promise of
the angels’ expression of
God’s word in Genesis “let us make man in our image after our likeness” will find its glorious fulfillment. May God
grant that we will be there to share in the glory of
that consummation of
our Father’s purpose for the earth and for us. “As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of
the LORD!” [Numbers 14:21]
If you want to come to grips with what the Bible really teaches, why not take the free online Bible study course available on our website, http://www.thisisyourbible.com? This course will give you a background in the major themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. As with everything we offer, there is no cost to you other than your time and effort. You will also have a personal tutor to whom you may pose questions either from the course itself or those questions which come to you as you read the Bible.
I hope you have found this helpful.