Is your life full of glory? Probably not, if you’re thinking of the normal sense of the word glory. In English, this word normally refers to praise and acclaim; attention. When we think of a word like glory, we imagine someone receiving the praise of a crowd.
In Scripture, the word can mean much, much more than that. If you look up the word that is typically translated glory in a Hebrew dictionary you’ll find that kavod in its original meaning relates to the idea of heaviness, and in its biblical associations, is often used to refer to light. In some passages, it seems to imply a kind of “weighty light.”
Glory in the Tabernacle
When Moses finished directing the work of building the tabernacle in the wilderness, we are told that “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34) Notice the use of the word glory. In this context, the word refers to much more than simply light–God’s own presence, physically manifested as a bright light, filled that tabernacle.
In the biblical tradition, it is clear that no one has seen God. You and I cannot see the Lord, but we can see the signs of His Presence. The supreme sign of His Presence is His shining radiance, His glory. They people of Israel in the wilderness did not properly see the Lord, but they did see the glory of the Lord:
Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:35)
Glory in the Temple
1 Kings 8 records a similar story. Solomon’s temple, that majestic first temple in Jewish history had been completed in all of its grandeur and splendor and the Ark of the Covenant put in its proper place:
It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10-11)
The Lord’s presence–His glory–overwhelmed them.
We see this again in the vision of the wheel recorded in Ezekiel 1. Ezekiel was shown a wheel in the sky, surrounded by angelic creatures, lightning, and a magnificent rainbow. Ezekiel sums everything up for us in the last verse of chapter 1:
As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord… (Ezekiel 1:28)
We learn, a few chapters later, that the glory of the Lord later left the Temple. What is tragic is not that a source of light has gone, but that the Lord Himself has departed. The nation is doomed. It is a vision of horror, despair, and loss.
The story doesn’t end there. The presence of the Lord did return to the Temple though not in the way anyone expected. I’ll explain more in my next post.
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Tallowood Baptist Church on March 25, 1990.