Dear brothers and sisters
It is a very good practice for Christians to read old books. We live in a hyper present-tense moment, largely disengaged from the past and consuming a constant stream of (mis)information that allows for little or no reflection. Old writers allow us to step out of the stream and remember truths too important or weighty to be carried by the news feed.
I’ve recently been reading Jonathan Edwards’ Dissertation on God’s Chief End in Creation, where he considers the topic of the glory of God, an important subject for the Christian that hasn’t – as far as I’m aware – received a lot of media attention recently.
What do we mean when we talk about the glory of God? I’m sure it’s something all believers wish for, but what is it and how is it described in scripture? In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for glory has its root in the word signifying heavy. God’s glory is therefore something substantial and real, an expression of the One who gives meaning to all existence, in whom we live, move and have our being. His glory is of course intrinsic to Him and is sometimes expressed visibly when men encounter Him directly; Moses in the cleft rock, Isaiah in the temple and the disciples at the transfiguration all had experiences of the physical manifestation of God’s glory. But God’s glory can also be received and transmitted to others by those that have encountered Him: Moses wore a veil over his face after speaking with God so as not to frighten the people with its reflected glory.
But God does not appear in the same way today, so how do we experience and transmit His glory? Edwards directs us to John 12:23-32 where Jesus – in the week of His crucifixion – tells his disciples that it is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified (v.23) and also calls on his Father to glorify His name (v.28). This will be achieved, paradoxically, through Jesus dying, the grain falling to the ground that will produce much fruit: Jesus suffering accomplishing the redemption of his followers.
This act of redemption glorifies Jesus: the light of the world being most luminous at its darkest moment, when the Son of God is executed on the cross. And his glory is transmitted to our dark world today through the life of believers who radiate Christ as they follow him in this principle of death, hating their lives in this world (v.25), seeking to become more like their Lord. Paul contrasts Jesus’ followers with the Hebrews terrified at Moses’ radiance : “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The Psalmist looks forward to a time when the whole earth will be filled with God’s glory (Psalm 72:19) and this will be most unmistakeable when Jesus returns. Until then, let’s take seriously the weighty reality that we are here to reflect His glory in renewed lives: You are the light of the world.
Mark McCormick (for the elders)