In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians: 10:31, he advised: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” My submission this evening is derived in part from an article titled ‘Give God the Glory’ by Andrew Bernhardt and also from his book Seeing Jesus.
There are 128 references in the Bible to glory in its various forms - as a noun, a verb and an adjective. Everything in creation exists for the glory of God. As stewards of God’s creation, it is our obligation to give God glory for what he has bestowed on us. So how should we do that?
By being pleasing to God, honouring him, acknowledging him, respecting him and appreciating him in everything we do or contemplate. Giving glory to God is the key to a sanctified life. As Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” [Rom: 3:23].
Since we live in a fallen world, God has made it very clear as to what he expects of us and why that is so. In giving Moses the Ten Commandments, God said: “You shall have no other god before me…..for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…. But show love to those who love me and keep my commandments,” [Exodus: 20: 3-6]. In one of eight references the prophet Ezekiel makes to God as a jealous God, he forecast God’s wrath against Israel when he would allow the Babylonians to attack as a result of Israel having forsaken God: “I will direct my jealous anger against you and they will deal with you in fury” [Eze: 23:25]. The prophet Zephaniah also spoke of God’s “jealous anger” [3:8] Paul warned the early Christians about leading a double life and how that would earn the jealousy of God: “You cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?” [1 Cor: 10: 21-22].
Manifestations of God’s glory
1] Light and radiance:
They characterise encounters with God and, as such, exemplify his glorious state. After spending 40 days on Mount Sinai in the presence of God, Moses’ face was so radiant that the Israelites were afraid to come near him [Ex: 34: 29-30]. God’s presence in the Tabernacle, which he had instructed Moses to build, was indicated by a cloud in the daytime which became bright and fiery by night. As the scripture tells us, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” [Ex: 40: 34-38].
Ezekiel gives us an image of God’s glory when he was called by God to prophesy: “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell face-down….” [1: 28].
Jesus’ “face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light” at his transfiguration. God’s voice came from within a “bright cloud” [Mt: 17: 2-5]. A blinding light toppled Paul to the ground when Jesus intervened in Paul’s life while he was on his way to Damascus [Acts: 9: 3-6]
The New Jerusalem, Revelations tells us, would not be illuminated by the sun or the moon. “The glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp” [21: 23].
2] Beauty and majesty
Isaiah depicted God’s triumph with the words “glorious crown, a beautiful wreath” [28:5]. Psalm 93, declares that the Lord is “robed in majesty” and that “holiness adorns your house” [verses 1 and 5]. David’s psalm of thanks refers to God’s glory, splendour and majesty and exhorts all to “worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness” [1Chr: 16: 10-29].
Psalm 104, like many of the psalms, exults in praise of God: “Praise the Lord, O my soul….you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment” [1-2]. Elsewhere David was even more emphatic in the need to give glory to God. In Psalm 145 he says: “I will exalt you, my God…I will praise your name for ever and ever….I will meditate on your wonderful works… I will proclaim your great deeds….[1; 5-6].
The lesson from the psalms is clear: honour, praise and submission to God is proclaimed over and over. No matter the circumstances, God is given glory.
Reciprocating God’s favour
In the first book of Samuel: 2: 30, God declared: “Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained.” The example of Naaman in the second book of Kings is relevant here. Although the commander of an army and a valiant soldier to whom God had granted a great victory, Naaman suffered from leprosy. When he heard of the prophet Elisha in Samaria who could cure him, he set off to find him. After initially doubting Elisha, he did as instructed and washed himself seven times in the Jordan River and was cured. Ecstatic at his recovery, Naaman declared: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” [5: 1-15].
The healing miracles Jesus performed were greeted with amazement - a perfectly normal human reaction. But their response was not limited merely to the wow! factor. In several instances we are told the crowds praised God. They acknowledged God and gave him glory. That was pleasing to Jesus. But it was not always the case. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one returned to thank him, praising God in a loud voice. Jesus was not impressed at the failure of the other nine to reciprocate God’s mercy [Lk: 17: 12-19].
Dishonouring God – a routine of the fallen world
Our God is a jealous God, as we read earlier. He does not tolerate his glory being diverted, neglected or dishonoured. Revelations, chapter 12, verses 7 to 10 reveal how Satan attempted to seize control of heaven but was repulsed by the angel Michael and hurled to the earth. As Proverbs relates, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” [16: 18].
Pride detracts from giving God glory. No matter what we achieve, the reality is that we owe it to God because he is the arbiter of every breath we draw. Here I am reminded of how some soccer players make the sign of the cross after they have scored a goal. Dealing with punishment and disobedience, God states in Leviticus 26: 19 that he will inflict terrible punishment on those who persist in “stubborn pride.”
Psalm 10, verse 4 notes that “In his pride the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” For proudly claiming that his achievements were the result of his power and majesty, Nebuchadnezzar was punished by God. He was driven from his kingdom to live with wild animals and to eat grass like cattle. Only when he acknowledged the splendour and majesty of God, did God end his punishment and restore his kingdom. As Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged, “those who walk in pride, he is able to humble” [Dan: 4: 29-37].
King Herod is another case in point. Like Saul, he delighted in persecuting Christians. He had James, the brother of John, killed and had arrested Peter intending to have him put to death as well. But, as Acts chapter 12 tells us, the angel of the Lord liberated Peter from prison. Subsequently, Herod went to Caesarea where his haughty, proud manner cost him his life. For failing to give praise to God when delivering an address from his throne, he was struck down by an angel of the Lord and eaten by worms until he died [20-23]. As Peter said in loosely quoting a Proverb, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” [1: Pet:5:5].
Peter also supplies the antidote to the sin of self-pride: “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time” [1:5: 6].
2] worship of idols
The practice of idolatry and the worship of idols was the greatest abomination in the eyes of God. When, in Moses’ absence, a golden calf was fashioned and God’s people began to worship it, God denounced them as “stiff-necked” whom his rage sought to destroy [Ex: 32: 1-9].
In renewing the covenant with God, Moses was blisteringly precise about idol worship. In Deuteronomy, chapter 29, verse 18, he stated: “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such poison.”
God’s disgust at his glory not being acknowledged because of idolatry is a frequent occurrence in the Old Testament. Yet despite his favour towards his chosen people, they were prone to lapse into idolatry. The prophet Ezekiel refers to idols 39 times in his book. One such passage illustrative of God’s abhorrence of idolatry reads as follows: “I am about to bring a sword against you…your incense altars will be smashed and I will slay your people in front of your idols; your idols will be smashed and ruined and what you have made, wiped out. Your people will be slain in front of you and you will know that I am the Lord” [6: 3-8].
In chapter 23 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is scathing in his condemnation of hypocrisy, delivering a withering broadside against the Pharisees. The fact that he exposes their hypocrisy over a range of issues shows the extent to which hypocrisy is regarded as a cardinal sin by God.
Before examining what aggrieved Jesus, what needs to be appreciated is that the Pharisees represented the pinnacle of Jewish religious learning and practice. As Jesus noted at the beginning of his address, obedience to everything the Pharisees said and did was unquestioned at the time.
But in his thorough unpacking of Pharisaic hypocrisy, Jesus starts with warning people not to do what Pharisees do because “they do not practice what they preach.” He rebukes them for showing off their righteousness, seeking public exultation, their utter lack of humility, their greed and self-indulgence.
“You hypocrites! You are like white-washed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness,” Jesus declared [23: 27-28].
He reminded them that they were the ones responsible for the murder of prophets. Jesus even hinted at his own death by saying “some of them you will kill and crucify.” What is also noteworthy of this chapter in Matthew’s gospel is the torrent of reproach Jesus pours out on the Pharisees. He calls them “snakes,” “a brood of vipers,” “whitened tombs,” “blind hypocrites,” “unclean.” But Jesus was not merely exposing the Pharisees for what they were. He was also expressing his outrage at how they failed to give glory to God; at how they consciously deflected glory from God to themselves; at how they had perverted religious fervour into a process which served them and not God.
Jesus was also echoing what God said through the prophet Ezekiel. God had poured out his wrath by exiling his people to Babylon because they had defiled themselves through the worship of idols. In justifying his actions God said: “I had concern for my holy name which the house of Israel had profaned” [36: 21]. And so Jesus’ reproach of the Pharisees includes their violation of God’s holy name.
From all this we can appreciate why in the English language, the word ‘Pharasaic’ means hypocritical.
Proverbs 12:22 says: “The Lord detests lying lips but he delights in men who are truthful.” Lies and falsehood were the cause of the enslavement of God’s people, their repeated downfalls, their exile to Babylon and, of course, the reason Jesus came to save us from sin. The prophet Hosea posted God’s charge sheet against Israel in the fourth chapter of his book. An excerpt reads as follows: “There is only cursing, lying, murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds…” [4: 2].
Many of the statements Jesus made, commenced with the words “I tell you the truth.” Of course, we expect Jesus to tell the truth, so why did he always place such emphasis on truth? From what we have seen in terms of hypocrisy, pride and false worship, truth was frequently dishonoured; lies were substituted for truth.
There are 235 references to truth in the Bible. Truth features prominently in Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah and particularly in the writings of John and Paul. From that, one appreciates that not only is truth under siege in the fallen world but of course it is fundamental to the whole purpose of the Bible. Truth is synonymous with God.
Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 25 reflect the appeal frequently made in the various books of the Bible: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth.” The most powerful exhortation to truth in the Bible is to be found in John’s gospel, chapter 14, verse 6: Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
These are such profound words. In two brief sentences Jesus declares the terms and conditions of salvation and eternal life with him. And the key to fulfilling those terms and conditions is to give glory to God.
As noted earlier, there are a number of ways to give God glory. The book of Hebrews, chapter 13, verses 15 and 16 provides good guidance: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Colossians 3: 17 extends that advice: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Ephesians 5: 20 echoes that: “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is a perspective on giving glory which is probably not one we would readily entertain, namely, suffering. Job, upon hearing that he had lost his entire estate to raiding parties and that all his children had been killed in a freak disaster, declared: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” [1:21]. And following the infection of his entire body with sores, Job said: “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” [2: 10].
The first letter of Peter provides further perspectives on suffering as a means of giving glory to God. “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” [2: 20]. “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you” [4: 14].
As the worship song states: “Give God the glory – and he will give you the victory.”
--------------------------- Duncan Du Bois © July 2018