by Rob Tims
The word “glory” gets used an awful lot in conversations about God, and rightfully so. Often, we use the term is a more abstract way. Passages like “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) refer to the clear but intangible idea that God should receive credit or fame. You can’t actually see “glory” in this sense.
But there is another use of the word “glory” in Bible that refers to the majestic, physical manifestation of God’s holiness that human beings can see with their own eyes.
- The glory of God appeared to Moses in the fire within a bush (Exodus 3:2–6).
- The glory of God at Mount Sinai was connected to a great cloud and fire (Exodus 24:15–17).
- The awesome appearance of God’s glory in the call of Ezekiel involved “an immense cloud with flashing lightning surrounded by brilliant light” and “the center of the fire looked like glowing metal” (Ezekiel 1:4, 27)
See the difference? The former in 1 Corinthians 10 is an intangible, invisible noun that we give to God, while the latter is a physical manifestation of God that we actually see.
It was a physical glory of God that was promised to us in many places throughout Scripture, but consider Isaiah 60:1-3.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you. For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lord will shine over you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness.
The Lord was telling His people through Isaiah that something would occur that would make it possible for the glory of the Lord to be seen in his people. The important thing for us to understand, especially during the Christmas season, is that God’s glory refers here to His ultimate conquest of sin through the gift of His Son, Jesus.
The other crucial thing we must understand about this is that the purpose of God’s sharing his glory with his people is to put us on mission: The nations are in darkness because they do not know the Creator who is also their Savior. When the light of God (Jesus) dawns in Israel, the nations will recognize it for what it is and come rushing. God’s glory to us isn’t just for us, but for the world.
It’s fitting, then, that during this season, we focus on giving to needy friends, neighbors and enemies.
It’s fitting, then, that we illuminate our homes with lights to shine in the night.
It’s fitting, then, that we become even more sensitive the lost sitting in our Christmas church services.
It’s fitting, then, that we invite our neighbors into our homes and lives to talk about the Light.
This missional mindset with regard to the glory of God is clear at the very beginning of this passage. Verse 1 begins with a call to action: “Arise!” God’s glory is physically manifest—Arise! None say it better than Charles Spurgeon, so I close with his words.
There is much need, dear friends, that we should be, sometimes at least, aroused. Here are persons in the light; the day has dawned upon them, but they are fast asleep; so the trumpet is sounded in their ear, and the watchman shouts aloud, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come.” I believe that there are some Christian men who have wasted a large part of their lives for want of somebody or something to wake them up. There is more evil wrought in the world by want of thought than by downright malice, and there is more good left undone through want of thought than through any aversion to the doing of good. Some Christians appear to have been born in the land of slumber, and they continually live in their native country of dreams. They rub their eyes occasionally, and suppose themselves to be wide awake; but they are in the Enchanted Ground, and though they know it not, they are little better than sleepwalkers the most of their days.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.