Natural glory is an ephemeral thing. Hollywood stars wax and wane. Coaches are praised when they produce winning teams but are often excoriated after only one loss. The inventor of a new product or service is feted, only to be overshadowed by the inventor of a newer one. Even those who once seemed sacrosanct may fall into disrepute. Our founding fathers, for example, once revered, have come under criticism in many circles. But such is the nature of God’s glory that it is eternal and unchanging. And it beggars description. Even David, who was called “the sweet psalmist of Israel,” seems at a loss for words when he addresses this theme. He resorts to piling up synonymous terms in an attempt to express the glory that is God.
“I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty,” writes David (Psa. 145:5). Clearly, David did not find it sufficient to speak of just God’s glory, or just His honor, or just His majesty. And so he compounds similar ideas. Glorious here means “weight,” “splendor,” or “copiousness.” Honor may be defined as “magnificence.” And majesty refers to “grandeur.” In speaking thus, David tacitly acknowledges the need to extol the glory of God and the futility of human language to adequately paint a picture of that glory. To paint the image of the sun on canvas may in some way show us what the sun looks like, but the image sheds no light on the surrounding objects. The room in which hangs the painting of the sun is just as dark as the room without the painting. It is equally futile to attempt to portray the glory of the Lord through language—though it may rightly be said that the inspired Word of God, illuminated by the Spirit, conveys an impression of that glory to the hearts and minds (if not the eyes) of believers.
Many saints have found themselves overwhelmed by just a glimpse of the glorious majesty of God. (1) And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram . . . . And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him” (Gen. 17:1, 3). (2) For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord [the pre-incarnate Christ] ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife [Samson’s parents] looked on it, and fell on their face to the ground” (Jud. 13:20). (3) “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims . . . . And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I [Isaiah], Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 1, 3-5a). (4) “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I [Ezekiel] saw it, I fell upon my face. Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there . . . and I fell on my face” (Ezek. 1:28; 3:23; see also 43:3; 44:4). (5) “And I Daniel alone saw the vision [of the Lord]: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them , so that they fled to hide themselves. . . . and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Dan. 10:7, 8). (6) “When Simon Peter saw it [the miraculous draught of fish], he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8). (7) “And when I [John] saw him [Christ], I fell at his feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Moreover, such is the glory of the Lord that it impresses the ears as well as the eyes. When the disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration, God spoke. “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid” (Matt. 17:6). Paul expressed a similar truth, I suspect, when he wrote that when he “was caught up into paradise,” he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful to utter” (II Cor. 12:4).
In short, whether we use the terms glory, or honor, or majesty, or all three together, and more, we still “come short of the glory of God,” both in perceiving it and in expressing it. Paul writes: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (I Cor. 2:9, 10a). If the heart of man cannot perceive the things God has prepared for believers apart from the illuminating work of the Spirit, how much less may we perceive the glory of God in the perfections of His Person, even with the aid of His Spirit? What glories await the believer! Even more, what a glorious Lord and Savior awaits him! Nor should we doubt that time will exhaust our appreciation of God’s glory. For we discover that even in our glorified eternal state, all will bow before the “glorious honour of . . . [His] majesty.” John’s vision of heaven’s future discloses this scene. “And when those beasts [angelic creatures] give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 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” (Rev. 4:9-11). Amen.
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