Gloriously vague

"Glory". The chances are that you've read this word before. I have too, but last week I realised that I didn't understand it as well as I thought.

Despite how frequently the word occurs in the Bible it's easy for it to remain a somewhat fuzzy and ethereal concept. For me it conjures up visions of a king enthroned with magnificent treasures and luxurious clothing, perhaps an army on parade, or a very bright light (usually including lens flares). Are any of these even remotely Scriptural?

Indirectly, yes.

The particular idea I was interested in turns out to be one of a number of words translated as "glory" in the Bible:

H3519 - kabowd- glory, honour, glorious, abundance

This is the word used when Moses asks to see God's Glory (Exodus 33v18), of the heavens (Psalm 19v1) and of Israel's duty to God (Malachi 2v2). That's quite a range of contexts for the same word.

Other related words cover concepts of reverence, deference, and splendour. These words are also occasionally translated as "glory", but kabowd seems to occur in the majority of passages that you would naturally associate with "glory".

The key to unlocking these disparate ideas became clear to me once I understood the meaning of the word from which "glory" was derived. Here's the Strong's reference for it:

H3513 - kabad- to be heavy, be weighty, be grievous, be hard, be rich, be honourable, be glorious, be burdensome, be honoured

In English we have idioms based on the same mental construct relating to heaviness. If someone is "throwing their weight around" we understand that they are exherting their influence. A poster might be made of paper but it can still be "high impact", and we can "understand the gravity of a situation" without being in orbit.

When we consider a king on his throne, his influence is implied. A room of golden treasures suggests the influence that could be wielded by the owner. A military parade is a show of potential force, we recognise the great power that an army can have to change, shape and influence the world.

Glory is implied power of influence.

God's Glory is shown in His Handiwork, creation. The beauty and order of heaven and earth are His visible influence over them. And we show His Glory when His Influence is shown in our lives and behaviour.

Moses once asked to see God's Glory. The request might seem a little redundant at first: God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend, He'd been seen in the "flaming" mountain, and had even shared a meal with the elders of the people. So what was Moses asking for?!

I believe he wanted a vision of God's intent: the outworking of His influence. Moses had interceded for the people of Israel, and he had a long, difficult journey before him. A vision showing the extent of God's influence would surely be a great encouragement to him.

And that's what he was given. We're not told that Moses saw fire, or wind or earthquake (c.f. Elijah). God's Glory would be shown in the people whose lives responded to His influence:

"And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." - Exodus 34v5-6

God chose to frame His Glory in terms of His impact on others. Moses understood, and implored God to take Israel for His People, despite their obstinacy. That, after all, is how His Glory would be shown.

For comparison the equivalent Greek (i.e. New Testament) words, primarily G1391 and G1392, relate to a concept of opinion or judgement -- particularly holding the influence of another in high regard. It's a slightly different idea, but perhaps something I'll have to investigate in more detail another time.

Drop onto Facebook or Twitter to comment!

Photo credits:

Nathan

Bible enthusiast, husband, Dad, and tech-head with too many projects and not enough time.