The God of Glory

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”   Isaiah 43:6-7

For centuries man has scoured the earth and beyond in search of elusive answers to these haunting questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose?

Scripture settles the matter in one succinct sentence. God created you for His glory.

I’ll let the thought settle on you for a moment.  Your existence—your entire reason for being—centers on one, eternal purpose: the glory of God. No wonder man finds himself driven to relentlessly pursue glory. He was made for it.  Yet man’s quest for glory never truly satisfies the soul.  The glory he chases can’t quiet the longing; the deceiver has convinced man to abandon God’s glory for his own.

Your heart cries out for the glory of God, dear one. It longs to encounter it, to be filled by it. You see, that’s exactly what God’s glory does. It fills.

. . . the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14

Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Psalm 72:19

God’s glory fills wherever He dwells. He sits enthroned above the earth (Isaiah 40:22), and the heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). Yet amazingly, in His great love for humanity, God desires to dwell among men.

He spoke these incredible words to Moses after delivering Israel out of Egypt,

“ . . . have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”  Exodus 25:8

God gave detailed instructions to Moses for the building of His tabernacle, and Moses did as God commanded Him.

. . . And so Moses finished the work. 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 upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:33-35

I wonder how the people felt as they witnessed the sight. What comfort it must have given to observe God’s nearness with their eyes! Yet the gift of God’s glory was not given for nearness alone. He meant to lead them into His extraordinary purpose for them.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.  Exodus 40:36-38

God’s glory consumed the place where He dwelled and led His people into their Promised Land. Later King Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem to house the LORD’s glory. When he had finished its construction, he offered up a prayer of dedication before all of Israel. In the midst of his praise, these words erupted from his lips.

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”  1 Kings 8:27

Indeed, how can a structure built by human hands truly contain the glory of God?

2 Chronicles 7 describes what happened at the conclusion of Solomon’s prayer.

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.  When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,

“He is good; his love endures forever.” 

(verses 1-3)

Imagine the sight! Fire descended from heaven to consume their sacrifices as God’s glory filled the temple. And as the watching people beheld God’s glory engulfing His new dwelling, their knees hit the pavement and their faces hit the ground.

The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience when God gave him a vision,

I looked and saw the glory of the Lord filling the temple of the Lord, and I fell facedown. Ezekiel 44:4

The sight of God’s glory filling His dwelling place brings people to their knees. Dear one, if you belong to Jesus, you have become the temple of the LORD.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?   1 Corinthians 3:16

Consider what that truth means for you, beloved. Jesus—the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3)— has given His glory to all who believe in Him (John 17:22). His glory no longer inhabits walls of gold, marble or stone. God’s glory now dwells within the hearts of His children. God inhabits the vessels He Himself  “created for [His] glory, whom [He] formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).

You were created to house the glory of God, and now His glory dwells within you. Based on the precedent set in Scripture, God intends to fill you with that glory.

 “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty.  Haggai 2:7

What if you and I committed to seek the LORD for the revelation of His glory? What if we began to fervently pray for God to fill His house? What if we truly surrendered our hearts to God, presenting ourselves as living sacrifices, and invited the fire of God to consume all that inhibits the unveiling of His glory within us?

As the glory of the LORD fills His dwelling place, all who see it will fall to their knees.

 

 

The God of Redemption

And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  Revelation 5:9

Last week we explored God’s power over creation. Whatever God desires, He simply speaks, and it becomes so.

Jesus—the Word made flesh—carries all of God’s authority and power.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:3

When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee, creation knew its Master. Water became wine at His word (John 2:9). Empty nets filled with fish at His command (Luke 5:5-6). Bread multiplied as He blessed and broke it (Matthew 14:19-20). And when a boat carrying Jesus and His Disciples tossed about on a stormy sea, Jesus revealed His authority over the wind and the waves.

Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”         Matthew 8:26-27

He wasn’t just man. He was God.

Jesus reigns as Lord over all creation, and creation bows. I wonder if when Jesus walked on water He simply told the waters not to let Him sink. I imagine creation’s symphony of praise lifting to His throne delights His heart. And I suspect the contrast of man’s rejection and rebellion wounds Him with a piercing ache.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  John 1:10-11

How thankful I am that above all else, forgiveness and love flow from God’s heart toward humanity. Anger could have been justifiably hurled from the mouth of Christ in response to man’s hatred. He who formed them from the dust could have called upon fire to consume them then and there. He could’ve commanded their hearts to stop beating and their bodies would have simply collapsed to the earth.

But Jesus didn’t speak death over His accusers; He offered life. Though they rejected Him, He refused to reject them. Consider Jesus’ words as His body hung broken and bleeding, nailed to a cross by the very people He came to save.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23:34

That’s a curious thought. Mankind rejected the lordship of Jesus Christ, preferring to beat and execute Him rather than exalt Him within their hearts. Yet Jesus offered forgiveness claiming, “they don’t know . . . they don’t understand.”

Jesus understood what humanity could not yet see. Mankind wasn’t His enemy, but rather the object of His devotion. His foe was the one who had enslaved their hearts with sin and blinded them to the truth.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

At the dawn of creation, man was one with his Maker. The Spirit of God dwelled within Him and man lived free from the burden of sin and its trappings amid the safety of perfect love.

Then Adam and Eve opened their minds to consider the whispers of the deceiver instead of remaining on the sure foundation of God’s truth. Their Maker had told them “. . . you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

Satan offered them an alternative in direct opposition to God’s truth. “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman (Genesis 3:4).

Sadly, they chose to trust the voice of the serpent over the voice of the One who had given them life. Desires aroused by possibility took root and overshadowed truth. They had not known evil. They didn’t understand how desperately they should fear it. They simply liked the idea of being like God. So they ate . . . and in that moment, they rejected the Lordship of their Creator and unwittingly submitted themselves to a new lord. God’s Spirit departed from man and evil took its place. They discovered the terrifying reality of Romans 6:16,

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

If only the enemy had given full disclosure. But that’s not his way. His realm is darkness. And his hatred of God set his primary objective squarely on that which God loves most: humanity. He stole the object of God’s affection as his own, enslaving our hearts with sin. He’s been manipulating and destroying us ever since, his deceitful lies convincing us we want him to.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:24-25

Jesus loves you enough to die so you can live free.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  Colossians 2:15

Our penalty has been paid and man’s bondage to sin is broken. Jesus has come, “to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’” (Isaiah 49:9). He has released His Spirit to once again enter the heart of man and restore our fellowship with God.

Jesus has reclaimed your right to choose who will reign within your heart.

Who will you choose, beloved? Who will you trust with your tomorrows? Will you continue to walk the path of darkness, blindly following the destructive desires of your enslaved heart (Jeremiah 17:9)? Or will you join creation’s song and allow The LORD Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6) to ascend His throne within you?

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. Romans 8:19

Beloved of God, will you be counted among them?

The God of Creation

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  Colossians 1:16

God’s voice cut through the darkness, “Let there be . . .” and there was.

Consider the implications of that truth. God calls His will into existence by merely speaking it.  Whatever He desires, He simply says, and it becomes so.

And so the world we live in came to be, an expression of God’s desires voiced into existence. Our opening Scripture reveals that all things not only came from God, but came into being for God. Unfortunately, human beings remain the only element of God’s creation that refuses to recognize that.

Scripture repeatedly affirms that creation recognizes and submits to the voice of its Maker. One of my favorite stories of God’s might revealed in creation comes from Joshua 10. Joshua had been called to lead the Israelites into battle with the Amorites, and God had promised them victory. After marching all night into unfamiliar territory, the Israelites took their enemy by surprise, and God Himself entered the battle.

. . .the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.  Joshua 10:11

I hope you catch the image that verse suggests. The Israelites were in hand-to-hand combat with their enemy, yet as they fought, giant hailstones fell from the sky, striking their opponents and missing them. The hailstones obediently fell only upon the enemies of God.

That’s not the only miracle the Israelites witnessed that day. With God’s help they were winning the battle, but another problem loomed before them as their enemies fled. The sun would soon set and Israel would have no way to pursue the Amorite soldiers over unfamiliar ground. So Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still and put off setting for a bit, and the God of Creation granted his request.

So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.  Joshua 10:13

As students of science, you and I know that the rising and setting of the sun has nothing to do with the sun’s movement at all. We experience the phenomenon as the earth rotates on its axis, bringing the stationary sun in and out of view. For the sun to delay its setting, the earth would have to stop spinning.

Dear one, the God who created the earth has the power to stop its rotation if He chooses—even while simultaneously keeping its tides and tectonic plates from rebelling over the disruption. God made the sun stand still for His people, and yet no devastation occurred as a result. The whole earth submitted in humble obedience to its Maker.

Imagine that. All of creation worships its Master with humble obedience to His every whim. All, of course, except for man, the crowning jewel of all He made.

The story of Jonah proves that conclusion as well. Priscilla Shirer pointed out that truth in her Bible study on the short book.  Consider this thought: In all four chapters of the book of Jonah, every earthly element in the story bowed to the will of God at the moment He desired it to—all, that is, except the main character. Jonah alone refused to obey God.

Think about it. A storm stirred up on the sea and then quieted at God’s command. A giant fish swallowed a man without harming him and then spit him out at the word of the Lord. God commanded a vine to grow and provide shade for Jonah; then He commanded a worm to destroy the vine, and it did. Even a scorching east wind whipped against Jonah’s head while the sun blazed down on him in obedience to God’s desires.

Creation knows its Maker, and it responds to Him with obedience to His will. Man alone rebels. At times the rocks cry out in worship because the sons of men do not (Luke 19:40).

Perhaps a question rises to your lips in response to these truths. Why? If God need only speak His desires into existence and they become so, why would He not simply create man to obey Him like the rest of creation?

Beloved, God had something special planned for the delight of His heart. He didn’t make a mistake when He made man. He looked at Adam —made in His image—the pinnacle of His creation, “and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

But God’s purpose for man differed from all else He made. He created man in His own image; God created man to give and receive love. And for love to truly exist, it must be offered freely.

God didn’t want human beings to love Him because we had to. He wanted us to choose to. So He gave us a gift He withheld from the rest of creation. To man He imparted free will.

Understand, beloved, Adam’s choice to step out of His will didn’t surprise God. He knew in advance the pain He would feel as He watched the enemy shackle man’s heart with sin’s chains. He knew the rejection He would suffer as over and over He watched His people make destructive choices and turn their backs on His way. He knew that most would not care to open their hearts to His love.

But He also knew that some would choose to know and love their Maker. And He knew that pure love flowing from the redeemed heart of man was worth whatever cost, even the life of His Son.

Jesus,was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20).

One day every knee will finally bow in worship of the One True God. Creation will rejoice as mankind finally bends its stubborn knee to acknowledge its Creator. For many, that day will carry with it unspeakable dread. The hearts of others will flood with joy as their eyes finally rest upon their beloved King.

Dear one, what will that day hold for you?

 

The God of Miracles

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.  Habakkuk 3:2

Do you ever think it would be easier to trust God if you lived in the days of parting seas and pillars of cloud and fire? You may rationalize that if you saw walls of water piling up and witnessed God destroying your enemies before your eyes you would never struggle with trusting Him.

That’s what the Israelites thought too. After experiencing His miraculous deliverance from Egypt and witnessing His awesome deeds on their behalf, they stood before Him at Mt. Sinai and proclaimed,

“Everything the LORD has said we will do.”  Exodus 24:3

Well, I believe they at least had good intentions, but intentions aren’t what God was looking for. Let’s join them for a moment on their journey to their Promised Land.

Imagine what it would be like to watch your daily bread fall from the sky and pile up on the surface of the ground. Each day God proved His faithfulness by providing His people with food while they lived in the desert. The Israelites would awaken to a blanket of white glistening beneath the morning dew. God instructed them through Moses to gather just enough to provide for their families for the day.

 “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” Exodus 16:19

You might suppose that seeing God’s power displayed for them again as He fed them with manna from heaven led to their wholehearted obedience, right? One would think so, but . . .

. . .  some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.  Exodus 16:20

So much for the idea of witnessing God’s great deeds helping us trust Him more. No matter what they saw with their eyes, their hearts still rebelled.

God gave another opportunity to trust Him when the Sabbath came. He instructed the people to gather twice what they needed on the sixth day so they would have enough for the Sabbath because no manna would fall that day.

I bet that instruction raised some eyebrows. They had already discovered firsthand that the manna wouldn’t keep overnight, and I imagine they didn’t have much interest in eating stinking maggots. But for those who trusted, God showed His might once again.

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.  Exodus 16:24

Imagine that.  Even food will spoil or keep from spoiling in obedience to the Word of the Lord. If only man—the crowning glory of God’s creation—would be that cooperative. He told them,

“Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”  Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.” Exodus 16:26-27

And I’ll bet they were surprised.

No wonder anger kindled within God’s heart toward His covenant people. He chose them to be His own and bear His Name. He selected them out of all the nations of the earth to walk with Him and follow Him to a place of blessing He had prepared just for them.  He performed miracles in their midst. Yet over and over, even when they saw His mighty power poured out on their behalf, they refused to trust. They didn’t obey, and no matter what God did, it was never enough.

“But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”   Numbers 11:6

You see, God’s people had a heart condition. No matter how many times they saw His arm of power move, they still grumbled. They still disobeyed, refusing to trust Him, and insisted on their own way. Dear one, even with all that they saw Him do, they continued to lose the battle against the pull of sin within their hearts.

But God knew they would struggle. So He had a plan in place before Creation itself sprang forth from His mouth. He would perform the miracle of miracles. He would offer His Son on a cross and provide a way for mankind to exchange his wayward nature for that of God’s.

We will spend the next few weeks exploring the miraculous together through Scripture. Psalm 77:14 rings as true today as it did when the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground,

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.

My heart echoes Habakkuk’s cry in our opening Scripture. God stands ready to reveal His mighty deeds in our days. But we just might miss the miracles if we keep our gaze fixed on our outward circumstances. You see, the cross shifted the focus of God’s wonders from the external to the internal. Now, He works the greatest wonder of all; He’s changing the human heart.

You are the miracle He seeks to reveal now, dear one.  Will you allow Him to display His power in you? 

Happy New Year!

2013. I can hardly believe another year has found its place in history. Do you ever notice how differently those 365 days can pass? At times, they seem to fly by, like when you blink and suddenly realize summer’s over. Other days—harder days—just drag on.  

Perhaps you’re in the midst of some difficult days. Maybe you can find no reason to celebrate the coming of another year; you expect it will look much like the last one. After all, resolutions don’t really have the power to change anything. They just offer another opportunity to fail.

Take heart, dear one. When we have Jesus, we always have hope. Consider these words of the Lord, and open your heart to receive them as your own.

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,  . . . “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” 

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

Christ desires to do a fresh work in your life, and He specializes in making a way when there seems to be no way. He never wastes our pain, but unfortunately, we often do. We get so lost in the misery of our circumstances that we neglect to follow Him through to the victory.

Jesus wants to lead you to resurrection life. Will you believe His promise that He works all things together for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28)? Would you trust that whatever He’s allowed in your life was designed to work glory in you?

Let’s join Jesus in laying down our own goals for this New Year and picking up His. Let’s commit to trust Him through our difficulties, drawing near to Him in surrender so that we can exchange our ashes for beauty, darkness for light, and our mourning for praise (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17

May 2013 truly become your year of transformation. Blessings in the mighty Name of Jesus!