The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1)
When I started working on this post, I had no idea how broad the subject truly is. Too broad for one blog post, that’s for sure. So, we’re going to stretch it out over a few posts. Even then, I doubt we’ll cover it all. The Bible is just kind of like that isn’t it? There is always more to learn.
In addition to the New International Version (NIV) that I normally use, I will also pull some quotes from the Amplified Version (AMP), to give us a broader picture.
According to Bible Gateway, “The AMP was the first Bible project of The Lockman Foundation. Its goal was to take both word meaning and context into account to accurately translate the original text from one language into another. The AMP does this through the use of explanatory alternate readings and amplifications to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says. Multiple English word equivalents to each key Hebrew and Greek word clarify and amplify meanings that may otherwise have been concealed by the traditional translation method. The first edition was published in 1965.”
It’s a great study tool.
I don’t know about you, but every time I hear the phrase “The glory of the Lord”, I think of the Christmas story as it is told in the second chapter of Luke.
Caesar Augustus decrees that a census be taken and in order to comply, Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem. While they are there, she goes into labor, and Jesus is born. Some shepherds nearby get a special birth announcement from heaven and as Luke 2:9 records,
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Let’s look at that in the AMP.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.
See what I mean?
Many times we are told someone saw “the glory of the Lord”, without being told exactly what was seen. In Exodus 16, we are told that
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. (Ex 16:10)
And again, the AMP.
So it happened that as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared in the cloud!
Notice the words shone, flashed, and brilliance? Those words usually describe some kind of light.
Three months after the children of Israel left Egypt, they arrived at the foot of Mt Sinai. God told Moses to instruct the people to prepare themselves for a meeting. These verses don’t specifically say the glory of the Lord, but I don’t know what else you would call it.
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. (Exodus 19:16-20)
Can you imagine what it would have been like to stand at the foot of Mt Sinai and watch the Lord descend in what almost sounds like the precursor to a volcanic eruption? I can’t blame them for being scared. Moses went up the mountain and the God spoke to him. When he came back, the people had something to say to Moses.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:18-21)
God allowed the people to see His glory in order to keep them from sinning. Sadly, the fear didn’t last long, but that is for another post. The next time God descends on the mountain, the scripture says,
and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (Ex 24:16-17)
This is the second time fire is mentioned. Let’s look at the AMP.
The glory and brilliance of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day God called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. In the sight of the Israelites the appearance of the glory and brilliance of the Lord was like consuming fire on the top of the mountain.
There is that word “brilliance” again. Both versions compare what the Israelites saw to a “consuming fire”.
The next few references to the glory of the Lord are kind of interesting because they say that the glory prevents people from entering the place where the glory of the Lord was. With both references, the NIV is first and the AMP follows
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40:34-35 NIV)
Then the cloud [the Shekinah, God’s visible, dwelling presence] covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud remained on it, and the glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40:34-35 AMP)
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. (2 Chron 7:1-2).
When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the [Shekinah] glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter the house of the Lord because the glory and brilliance of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. (2 Chron 7:1-2 AMP).
Notice that word “Shekinah”? As such, it is never used in scripture, but is a Hebrew word that refers to a physical presence of God on earth as he might appear in an object like fire or cloud. The Amplified Bible includes it thirteen times as an additional explanation. You can find an expanded explanation here
What it boils down to is this: God’s actual physical presence is too much for us, so when He finds it necessary to pay someone a physical visit, I guess you could say He cloaks Himself. In the preceding two cases, however, His presence still kept the priests out.
Wow! We still have a lot to discuss, but I think that’s enough for one day. I hope and pray you learned something you didn’t already know, and that you are encouraged to study on your own.
I’ll leave you with what was my grandfather’s favorite benediction. He often closed his services with it.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 1:24-25)