I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. (Isaiah 42:8)
There is something in the sunrise or the sunset that speaks to the heart of every single person and stirs an instinctive response – to pause and be still, and to appreciate the moment. The beauty captured in this daily ‘work of art’ speaks to the spirit deep inside us and I personally believe that this is because it reflects the pure glory of God. It is a twice-daily reminder that of the sovereign creator God, and of His infinite glory and majesty, and whether we believe in Him or not the phenomenon will continue to strike a chord within us.
God’s glory is a particularly significant subject – one which ultimately initiated the fall of Satan, of the mankind and of the world. It is also one that will determine the course of the future for Satan, mankind and the world. Yet, sadly, it’s becoming something of a ‘marketing term’ or a popular phrase in our churches. It seems that we so often seek His glory – or at least what we perceive to be a manifestation of it – for our own purposes. The awe and reverence that is in fact virtually synonymous with His glory has been lost in the tide of self-gratification and presumption that drives our worship and service.
This shouldn’t be at all surprising. It is, after all, the same attitude that prompted Satan to rebellion. We’re taught that pride was responsible for his fall, and while this is correct there is a little more to the story. His pride lay in desiring the glory of God for Himself. Today’s verse makes it very clear that His glory is inseparable from worship – which, essentially, is ‘giving glory’ to God. It also explains beyond any confusion exactly why Satan was cast down. He attempted to take what rightfully belongs to God alone. He attempted to assume His glory for his own purposes.
It is a pattern mimicked by Adam and Eve in the garden. Remember the serpant’s words? You will be like God. Rebellion was the act that brought about the fall, and pride was the motivator, but the actual sin was assuming a desire and a perceived right to share the glory of God. This is very different to the encouraging truth that Christ is our hope of glory. We are glorified in Him. We do not share His glory. Rather, we share in His glory. There is a very great difference in being like God and being transformed into His likeness.
Consider, for a moment, one of the foundational precepts of new age teaching – the god in us. In one form or another, all these philosophies are concerned with developing our potential, our spiritual power, our ability to control and manipulate our destiny and our position in the world. Everything leads down a similar road – we harness the power of creation by becoming one with the creation. It all sounds wonderful on the surface and the difference is often so subtle that it actually may sound biblical. The fundamental difference, however, is that they teach us using the power, rather than us being used by God. The focus is inverted, and we find ourselves in the same place as Satan and Adam and Eve – we usurp the power and authority that resides in the glory of God.
Our God is very clear on this point. He will not share His glory. By grace, He puts us in a place where we may share in it. He puts us into His Son. There is nothing in us, nor will there ever be anything that can justify our worthiness to even come close. It is only in Jesus that we may draw near to the throne of grace and to the glory of our God. There is a very fine line between approaching the glory in Jesus and presumption, and we so often err on the side of assuming when we should be kneeling in awe and reverence.
The real truth is that deception too often manifests as a ‘move of God’ or as a ‘revelation’ of His glory. I have yet to find an example in the Bible where a true revelation of God’s glory is accompanied by feel-good mass gratification that often borders on hysteria. Yes, the manifestation of His glory is the most incredible, wonderful, indescribable thing imaginable, and yes, like Moses we all long to see it. But in every single instance described in the Bible, two things emerge very clearly.
First, the ‘real’ glory will always bring us to a place of unworthiness, repentance and confession. We simply cannot avoid this. The pure glory of God will always act as a mirror in which we see ourselves as we really are. In raising this truth I do not suggest that we assume constant condemnation or have no real spiritual hope. The glory of God simply shows us unequivocally who and what we really are, and the truth that Jesus is alone is the hope. Without Him, we really will never measure up at all. It is only in Christ that we can touch the glory.
Secondly, the ‘real’ glory will move us into a place of total surrender and complete commitment. Having seen our real condition, we cannot help but humble ourselves before a sovereign and glorious God. His glory does not build us up. It creates servant hearts. It creates yielded vessels. It creates humbled and willing disciples. Our response to all of this may joyful praise, it may be rejoicing in the grace and love and faithfulness of God. It may bring a renewed zeal and passion for Christ and His work. It may even transform us, heal us, and set us free.
But these are the outworking of the encounter not the purpose of it. God’s glory has one purpose only, and that is Him. He will not give it to us. He will not allow us to use it for self-gratification or to meet our expectations. He will not permit us to use it as a measuring tool for the success of our services or churches. He will not stand by as we peddle our ministries and personal profit with it. He will not tolerate us making graven images – the marks and signs of our personal endeavours and presumptions – that compromise the pure glory that is His alone.
Throughout the Bible we see examples of when God draws a line. We see over and over that He allows time and space to His people, the opportunity to make the necessary attitude adjustments. But, when they do not, when the continue in their rebellion and self-gratification, He will inevitably step in. He will send prophets and watchmen. He will speak individually and corporately. And He faithfully, every day, twice a day, provides us with a beautifully gentle reminder of the pure glory that is His alone.
As we pause and enjoy the sunrise and the sunset – the visible manifestation of the eternal, almighty creator of the universe, let us listen to the message they contain. That He loves us is beyond doubt. He is faithful, generous, merciful and full of grace. But He will not share His glory. He is the Lord, the I Am.
Exodus 34:14 says this: for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. While we may not be dancing around a golden calf or whittling a wooden totem, our self-gratification and presumption is possible more dangerous because it is less obvious. We fall, in fact, into exactly the same category as Satan himself – taking God’s glory for ourselves.
Anything that we lift up above the truth that He alone owns and deserves the glory is presumption. This includes our expectations of the way He will ‘manifest’ Himself to us. It includes our assuming that following a particular pattern will ensure His presence. It includes our constant need to ‘experience’ His glory, without which our services are declared dull or unsuccessful. It incluces our ‘advertising’ our churches and our services as ‘the place where God manifests His glory.’
Jesus provides us with the perfect example. He set aside His glory. His thought was not for what He could have – and in His case, rightfully – assumed was His. That’s the basis of our faith. We have no glory of our own, and can only share in God’s glory through the glorified Son. It is time to take a step back and see the glory of God in proper perspective – as a grace in which we share rather than a right to share it.
Lord, forgive us for the times we may err in presumption or misplaced expectations. Teach us daily, and help us to see the right attitude and the right heart as we draw near to You. The glory is Yours alone, Lord. Help us to praise You and to Worship You with humble and contrite hearts, rejoicing in Your grace and the wonderful gift of Your Son, without whom we are nothing.