Have you seen God's glory?
Maybe you’ve seen some amazing sights this summer, from the peaks of Mt. Rainier to the beaches of Tierra del Fuego to the tide at St. Tropez to granite rocks raised rugged across the Texas hill country. Or maybe the best thing you’ve beheld was a flaming cardinal perched in your own backyard or a baby walking barefoot for the first time in dew-covered grass.
But where ever you have ventured, I hope you’ve seen the glory of God. Not just seen the gifts - this is key - but seen the Giver of these gifts, the glory that comes only from God. I hope you’ve been enraptured by His beauty and presence. I hope you’ve witnessed a living Hope in the bloom of a bud or the engagement of lovers or the birth of a new believer.
I hope your day has been joyfully interrupted by the glory of God all around us.
“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” (Isaiah 60:1-2).
Imagine for a moment the sun rising from behind a mountain, rays of light piercing the night sky and peeling back the darkness from the valley. As the sun skims the horizon and pushes away the shadows, all of creation beams that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Day after day this fiery star shines bright, like a God-sent resurrection to remind us of His incomparable splendor. This steady pulse of the solar system retells that Jesus, the Son of God, is alive and active and glorious yesterday, today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).
Original garden glory
Even more than in His birth, when a multitude of angels proclaimed glory to God in the highest, the resurrection of Jesus illuminated God’s glory no like other moment in time.
Man’s fall in the original Garden was redeemed through the promise of the gospel.
The better Adam revealed Himself to the better Eve, marking a new age and a new Way, like an eternal sun rise casting away a cold and temporary night. With the empty tomb, the stone rolled away – a mountain moved so that all mankind could stand in the presence of God – like Mary Magdalene, we who have Christ in us become the hope of the glory of God here on earth (Colossians 1:27).
Martin Luther, the German priest who spearheaded the Protestant Reformation, echoed Scripture when he said: “God writes the Gospel, not in the Bible alone. But also on trees and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”
“For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made” (Romans 1:20).
The Gospel is also written on the apex of God’s creation, the faces of His beloved who are abiding in Him.
“Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5).
We see this in a mom who can still smile after the loss of a child or a community who gathers after the murder of loved ones. They trade in the shame of this sin-ridden world for the glory of God by keeping their eyes on Him.
Our hearts hunger to taste and see and know this God glory. We yearn for a tangible expression of His beauty and perfection. We long to know that God is in control amidst the chaos, the mass shootings, the cancer, the broken homes and broken people. We ache to experience victory in the midst of our own losing battles.
We are often glory starved.
Even more, we are not called to just be bystanders of this glory. We are called to be glory gatherers and glory givers. We are called to lock hands with Glory Himself and blaze the trails of darkness.
“I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7).
Like Mary Magdalene in the second garden, we cry out looking for our Savior, the Gardener, the Living Water and Son, the Light of the World, who grows us into oaks of righteousness knowing the genesis of all glory comes from Him and Him alone:
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:3).
God Himself is the glory and becomes our glory, our honor and significance, our sole purpose in life when we abide in Him.
What is God’s glory?
But how can we see God’s glory? Perhaps more importantly, how do we know it when we see it? What is it, exactly?
John Piper defines the glory of God as the “manifest beauty of His holiness.” In other words, it’s the perfection of God making itself known on earth. It’s His will and His way breaking through our darkness.
We can watch a sunset and say, “glory,” as colors paint the sky. We can birth a child and say, “glory,” as life comes right through us. We can witness a new believer come to the faith and say, “glory,” as she is transformed before our very eyes. We can steep ourselves in Scripture and say, “glory,” as we realize redemption was planned from the very beginning. We can watch for the helpers amidst horrors and say, “glory,” as heroes bear God’s image.
Show me Your glory
Moses was atop a mountain when he boldly asked God, “show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18).
There are more than 300 references to the mountains in Scripture and nearly 40 to God’s “holy mountain” or the “mountain of God,” symbolizing His abundant and glory-filled presence on earth. The earth that Moses lived on was as broken as ours is today.
Yet even more so by the blood of Jesus can we ask God to show us His glory. We can still see it even when the world would beg to dim it.
God can speak and reveal His glory to us anywhere.
In a prison cell, a neonatal intensive care unit, a hospice center. Praise Him that we don’t have to climb a mountain or go to a temple or sanctuary to see it! God cannot be contained in anything made or created. It is us, limited and over-leveraged, who need a space to contain our thoughts and hear from and see the Lord.
God and, therefore, His glory, can be seen anywhere.
God’s glory amidst garbage
And what barriers block the Lord’s glory? What habits blind us from seeing it? Busyness, pride, fear, and our own worry are just a few of the things that choke out the glory of God set right before us and all around us.
We must pause and go up the proverbial mountain of God to see the glory of God.
Mountains were often used as a refuge in Scripture, a place to flee from distractions, danger and oncoming battles. Today, our place of connection with Christ is as close as a prayer, an open Bible, a worship song written and sung rightly, or the fellowship of other abiding believers.
We can seek His face, and thereby His glory, in our closet or local coffee shop just as readily as in a church or at the Grand Canyon. But seek it and listen for it we must as we abide in Jesus.
We can gain glimpses of His glory even in bitter and broken places, amidst the garbage of the world, because of His pledge to be near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18) and His promise to redeem all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
His provision crowns the brokenhearted with beauty instead of ashes, transforms a sickening situation into something miraculous, brings life from the spiritually dead, and empathy and compassion from the hardened heart.
Why? So that we can be called oaks of righteousness, planted by the Lord – the great Gardener – to glorify Him (Isaiah 61:3).
Glory in the ordinary
God first spoke to Moses on the mountain of Horeb, also called the mountain of God, through a burning bush (Exodus 3:3). There was nothing extraordinary about this particular bush. It was not an anomaly of vegetation but simply a vessel - a plain old shrub the sovereign God and Gardener used to show off His Shekinah glory.
How many bushes do you suppose Moses had seen through the years while shepherding his flock? Thousands? Tens of thousands? God used a commodity of creation to grab Moses’ attention: a bush that didn’t burn up in a parched and desolate land.
What ordinary object or circumstance is God using to try to capture your thoughts and reveal Himself to you? Scripture says the heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Look around you and behold God’s glory. It is everywhere!
Will you become the glory through the power of Christ? Will you become the bush that doesn’t burn up in the fire, the righteous tree planted by streams of Living Water to display the glory of God?
Once Moses realized it was the God speaking to him, he took off his sandals and hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Does God’s magnificence stir you to awe and reverence, holy fear for the holiness of God? Or are you so distracted, so despondent, so defeated by the circumstances in your own life or the world around us that you are missing His glory?
Lift your eyes toward the mountains – look up - to gaze at the glory of God!
Glory of the law
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments the first time, the Israeli leader “went up the mountain … and the glory of the Lord settled on Mt. Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days … the appearance of the Lord’s glory was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop” (Exodus 24:15-17).
Just as God created the heavens and the earth in six days, in those six days with Moses He created a covenant through the Law as He inscribed the commandments on the stone tablets with His fingertip. This represented a personal and everlasting promise.
But the Israelite people were faithless, just as we are faithless. They built and worshipped an idol, a golden calf, exchanging the glory of God for the shame of the secular.
Moses threw the stone tablets of the Law, breaking them in two just as our sin broke our relationship with God. But when the compassionate and slow-to-anger Lord called Moses up the mountain again to renew the Law, the Israelite leader stayed and fasted for 40 days and nights – just as Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.
The glory of God sustained them both, just as it can sustain us in times of repentance, grief, weariness and the hard work of restoration.
When Moses came down from the mountain, his face shone as a result of speaking with God. He wore a veil when speaking to the Israelites, to prevent them from gazing at the fading glory of his face.
But we are not like Moses.
“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18).
Glory of the prophecy
When Elijah, the prophet of Israel, was in a depressed and discouraged state, God told him to go to Horeb, the mountain of God, the same mountain on which He first spoke to Moses. God told him to come away and cast his cares away, exchanging His sorrow for God’s glory.
“Go out and stand on the mountain in [My] presence” (I Kings 19:11).
At the moment Elijah came out of his cave, the Lord passed by.
Draw near to me and I will draw near to you, promises the Lord (James 4:8).
A mighty wind tore at the mountain and shattered cliffs, an earthquake shook the ground and a fire blazed, but God’s glory was not in any of those fear-inspiring incidents. Then, as the dust was not even yet settled, Elijah heard a voice – but not the thunderous, booming bass you might expect - a soft, quiet whisper.
In that moment, God contrasted the wrath of His power with the grace of His Person. It is God’s kindness that leads us to greater faith, not His fury (Romans 2:4). We see God’s glory not in massacres but in the meek and gentle spirt of the Messiah.
The Almighty tenderly speaks to His children in a breath so faint we must lean in and listen to hear this intimate, personal whisper that is meant just for one. This closeness brings us cheek-to-cheek with God, in deeper relationship with Him and with His glory.
Scripture shows that was true for Moses and Elijah is true for us today: Getting alone with God is crucial to hearing from God.
Will you exchange your sorrows for the glory of God?
We can walk hand-in-hand with His glory, if only we will be still in our spirits. God meetings don’t have to be picturesque or pious; often they cannot be. Most of our days look more like the whipping wind of the quaking mountains with our hair caught on fire. But still we can open our ears to hear His voice and our eyes to see His face, because Jesus’ death ripped open the veil that once blacked out God’s glory.
We can abide in Jesus anywhere because God’s glory is everywhere.
Glory in Jesus: the law and prophecy fulfilled
In the New Testament, Jesus often taught on the mountainside. This was not just a functional setting but an intentional one. Jesus was drawing a parallel between Moses receiving the law on Mt. Sinai and the Messiah coming to fulfill it.
Where the Israelites could not even touch the mountain base where Moses met with God lest they die, Jews and Gentiles alike, men, women and children, were all invited to sit at the Savior’s feet on the rolling hills of Galilee to learn from the heart of God (Exodus 19:12).
Later in His ministry, Jesus took the disciples Peter, James and John up another mountain and showed them the glory of God through His transfigured body. His “face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light.” Scripture is specific that Jesus led these apostles up on this mountain six days after He promised that they would “not taste death until they [saw] the Son of Man coming into His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28 – 17:1-2).
As the glory of God rested on Mt. Sinai for six days, Jesus ushered the disciples into the promise of eternal glory six days after He promised His kingdom and will would be done through the work of the cross. As Moses face shone with the glory of God, Jesus is the glory of God.
“The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).
Can you think of anything more magnificent than the radiant face and glorified body of Jesus on that mountainside?
A better glory promised
As if the transfiguration wasn’t enough to put a holy terror in Peter, James and John, then Moses and Elijah also appeared and began talking with Jesus (Matthew 17:3). Understand, these men had been dead for nearly a millennium. The apostles were well versed in who they were and the significance they held in Jewish history.
Moses represented the law and Elijah the prophecies that Jesus came to fulfill.
Jesus was clearly saying that His kingdom wasn’t just coming, it had arrived and with it was a new covenant and new commandments, ones that don’t fade or lose their glory.
Jesus was asking His disciples, and now us, to show the world like a rising son that we are Christ’s letter, “not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God – not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (II Corinthians 3:3).
We are no longer called to cower at God’s glory but to magnify it with our lives.
As the better Moses and Elijah, Jesus came to not only keep the laws and promises we could not keep but to expose the thoughts and intentions of the heart, so that we will one day attain the full measure and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Glory!
More than the law, Jesus is concerned with the condition of our hearts, the why behind what we do. “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (II Corinthians 3:6).
He knows that our outward actions are a product of our inward motives. He wants us to chase after His heart and become like Him.
God knows the mountain of life. He designed it, breathed life into it, and planned a unique and right path just for you to climb, to bring you home to the summit of His glory. He is leading us up and down and through our own mountains right now. And they are purposeful and filled with beauty, with God glory, even in the brokenness.
God is a shield around us, protecting us from every side, and He becomes our glory, our honor and significance, when we abide in Him. While we may slip and fall and complain and doubt along the way, God is faithful.
“I will bring them to my holy mountain and let them rejoice in my house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7).
Where are you on your mountain right now? Are you rejoicing? Complaining? Worried, bitter or fearful? Have you even left the base to meet with God?
The mountains – these ancient, majestic formations that bow in reverence to their Creator – are powerful reminders of Who God is and who we should be in relation to Him. We should be followers, worshippers, image bearers, glory gatherers and glory givers. We should know that whenever we meet with the Lord, like Moses, we are standing on holy ground. But like Peter, James and John, we can see God’s glory with unveiled eyes.
Go to the mountain of God daily, no matter how grueling or uncomfortable or awkward it may seem at first. It will be worth it. It will be glory filled and glory giving.
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize,” an imperishable crown of glory (I Corinthians 9:25).