What is the Glory of God?

Both of the following stories illustrate the glory of God. A trucker was driving his commercial rig en route to Louisville, Kentucky in 1961. In the middle of the day, the clouds became dark, the rain heavy, the roads slick, and the wind blew hard, almost parallel to the ground. Truckers were turning on their headlights, and the apprehensive driver rolled down his window a little because his windshield was fogging up. Suddenly, a small sparrow flew through his open window! It landed on the steering wheel between his hands.

While squarely facing him, it chirped loudly, then flew away. The uneasy trucker became impressed that God had sent the bird to warn him to stop his truck. Waiting about 15 minutes, the storm passed, and he proceeded down the road to find a Ford Falcon vehicle spun out to the side of the road. How could such a little bird fly into his cab and out the same way against such a strong wind, unless Someone Else was in control? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29, 31 NIV). Glory to God! And, Thank you, Bill Hughes, for sharing that memory! Another story closer to home, my daughter recalled to me, when she was a little girl, but evidently big enough to climb onto a countertop, she stood up, and lost her balance. The way she tells it, she felt a hand push her back to safety. But, neither her mother nor I were present to give the necessary push. You can argue with her, but she knew it was God. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven” (18:10 NIV). We are in better hands than we deserve, even before we have the language of Scripture to illustrate our stories to give God the glory. And further, if we are told that in our most basic pursuits of eating and drinking or “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1Corinthians 10:31 NIV), then what exactly is the glory of God? 

A subject as lofty as the glory of God is worthy of the writing of theologians, and that’s what they’ve done. Consider the intense thought of the following three writers on the glory of God. Charles G. Finney’s “Systematic Theology” (1878) accurately reflected on the necessity of seeking the glory of God. “’Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ Aim to spread abroad the renown or glory of God, as the means of securing the highest well-being of the universe.” Henry C. Thiessen’s “Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology” (1949) was crystal about the importance of the glory of God. “The highest aim of the decrees is the glory of God. Creation glorifies Him. We repeat what David says: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork’ (Ps. 19:1).” “‘Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created’ (Rev. 4:11). We say, then that the end of all things is the glory of God; and only as we adopt this as our real goal in life are we living on the highest plane and in full harmony with the purposes of God.” Jack Cottrell’s “The Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today” (2002) succinctly informed us about the glory of God. “The word that best sums up the collective greatness of God is glory.” “He is the ‘King of glory,’ the ‘God of glory, and the ‘Lord of glory’ (Ps 24:7-10; Acts 7:2; 1 Cor 2:8). ‘Great is the glory of the LORD,’ says Ps 138:5. ‘His name is above earth and heaven’ (Ps 148:13).” “The glory of God thus is his infinite significance, the totality of his perfections, the fullness of his deity compressed into a single concept.” In summary of these theologians, the glory of God is the means of obtaining the highest wellbeing of the universe, the end or purpose of all things, and the fullness of His deity compressed into a single concept.

My reaction to these highly worthy, well thought through analyses of the glory of God is pleasure, for God’s pleasure best describes how God feels about His glory. We are pleased, when He is pleased. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11 KJV). While man’s pleasure may descend to illicit sensuality, God’s pleasure elevates to the highest wellbeing of the universe. Religion at its worst is an abomination of man seeking his own pleasure without regard to the glory of God. “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2Thessalonians 2:4 NIV). At its finest, the glory of God manifests itself in the pleasurable seeking of the highest good of God and His universe. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27 NIV). My uncle attended seminary and entered the ministry because the church looked out for his “orphaned” brothers and sisters.

Still, what exactly is the glory of God? Anytime we understand, see, feel, and act consistent with who God is, that is the glory of God. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring” (Acts 17:28 KJV). Such a broad definition of the glory of God is necessary to account for the unlimited nature of our God, the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” (Isaiah 57:15 KJV). In the two previously cited stories, both the trucker and my daughter glorified God by acknowledging His watchcare, which would be the legitimate response of anyone with understanding. And even more specifically, Jesus Christ is the face of the glory of God. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV). “For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2Corinthians 4:6 NIV). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV).

So much more can be said about the nature of the glory of God, let us not lose our focus on Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). A profitable, biblical study on the glory of God can be found in R. A. Torrey’s “The New Topical Textbook” under “Glory of God, The.”

May the glory of God elevate our thoughts, embolden our heart, and plant our feet in the Kingdom of God. Amen and amen.