GOD'S GLORY




A few years ago I watched a program on Day of Discovery. It was about a twenty year old girl named Lygon Stevens who was a mountain climber and had died in an avalanche while climbing with her brother. Lygon did not sound like your typical twenty year old. We get a glimpse into her walk with the Lord through her journal that her brother salvaged during the accident. She seemed to have found all the things that young girls are looking for in her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But after her death, her family was left to deal with their huge heart rending loss. Their suffering was horrific. More of the story can be found on the website http://www.timetoliveisnow.org/.

The takeaway in this story for me is an illustration that came from Lygon's mother. She had been asked to speak somewhere and had gone to a place of solitude to gather her thoughts. It was still very hard to carry this whole thing around with her...the loss of her daughter, but the story of a love affair that Lygon had had with her Savior. She had fallen asleep briefly, and when she woke up, there were five elk with huge racks of antlers. She noticed how cumbersome and weighty the antlers seemed to be. She heard God telling her that this was a picture of us carrying around His glory. It's not always easy. In fact, rarely is. But His glory is what it's all about.

Sometimes in life we must suffer. We don't and can't understand why. Many people think Job is a book about why people suffer. But that question is not answered in Job. We can't always know why. We just know Who. Our sufferings may seem senseless or a waste of time, but there's an element we usually miss – His glory.

The Hebrew word for glory is kabowd, pronounced kä·vōde'.  Blue Letter Bible Outline of Biblical Usage gives this definition:

1) glory, honor, glorious, abundance
   a) abundance, riches
   b) honor, splendor, glory
   c) honor, dignity
   d) honor, reputation
   e) honor, reverence, glory
   f) glory

We don't get to choose if we suffer or not. We do have a choice in how we respond to suffering. We can run from it, rebel against it and refuse to let Him use it, or we can move toward the suffering in surrender to Him in trust that He has a plan, not just for me, but a greater plan to display His glory. Those antlers were like a badge of honor to the elk. And they were very abundant. They gave the elk splendor and dignity, but they were heavy.

God's glory is heavy, weighty.

Kabowd is from the root word kabad, pronounced kä·vad'.  Blue Letter Bible Outline of Biblical Usage gives this definition:

1) to be heavy, be weighty, be grievous, be hard, be rich, be honorable, be glorious, be burdensome, be honored
   a) (Qal)
      1) to be heavy
      2) to be heavy, be insensible, be dull
      3) to be honored
   b) (Niphal)
      1) to be made heavy, be honored, enjoy honor, be made abundant
      2) to get oneself glory or honor, gain glory
   c) (Piel)
      1) to make heavy, make dull, make insensible
      2) to make honorable, honor, glorify
   d) (Pual) to be made honorable, be honored
   e) (Hiphil)
      1) to make heavy
      2) to make heavy, make dull, make unresponsive
      3) to cause to be honored
  f) (Hithpael)
      1) to make oneself heavy, make oneself dense, make oneself numerous
      2) to honour oneself

The word is translated as fierce in NKJV in Judges 20:34: 'And ten thousand select men from all Israel came against Gibeah, and the battle was fierce. But [the Benjamites] did not know that disaster [was] upon them.'
The NIV translates the word as heavy in that same passage: 'Then ten thousand of Israel’s able young men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjamites did not realize how near disaster was.'  (Emphasis mine).

More examples are Job 6: 1-2: 'Then Job answered and said: "Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it on the scales! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea--Therefore my words have been rash."'

Job 14: 21: 'His sons come to honor, and he does not know [it]; They are brought low, and he does not perceive [it].'

We can gain much insight into God's glory by studying these two words kabowd and its root kabad.

We see that kabowd conveys honor, abundance, splendor, riches, dignity, reputation and reverence.

Jesus said that He had come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. We have come to think of that verse as meaning the American dream. But it has nothing to do with materialism. It ties in with God's glory. When our life is Jesus, He displays His glory in us. He does this in a number of ways, one of which He frequently uses is suffering.

When life is good it sometimes causes us to give up some “God is Good”s. And rightly so. But God is just as good in our bad times and sufferings. His goodness isn't and can't be defined by us. His goodness is His essence – His character. He is good always, even when things in our lives aren't. Our circumstances change, but God's goodness never changes. We should praise Him for Who He is when things or good or bad, but never measure His goodness by our definition.

Because He is good, He allows hardships and sufferings to conform us into His image. Suffering is the tool to bring us to the end of ourselves so that His glory can be seen in us. I once heard a woman who owned a vineyard in the Burgundy region of France talk about how the soil of that region was the most inhospitable. This forced the grapevine roots to struggle and to have to grow deep to get the nourishment that they needed. But that struggle and depth were what gave the fruit the sweetness and the depth of flavor that they have.  Likewise, suffering brings the fruit of an abundance of His grace and glory, an honor of His glory, and a weightiness of His glory, like the elk.

One of the most familiar verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for the good to those who love God to those who are called according to (His) purpose. The Greek word for love here is agapaōBlue Letter Bible Outline of Biblical Usage gives this definition:

1) of persons
   a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
2) of things
   a) to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing.

But this verse is followed by the next, verse 29: For whom He foreknew, He also predestined (to be) conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren.  Once again, we here in America tend to have the mindset that when we experience trials and tribulations, that God will turn it into a silver lining and restore everything like He did Job. And He may. But what He is more interested in doing through our trials and sufferings is chip away at all the unnecessary, to shake everything away except that which cannot be shaken. He molds and conforms us into the image of His Son. His purposes and ours are more times than not, not the same. God is most concerned with His glory. When we respond properly to suffering, i.e. surrendering our will to His, He begins to bring forth in us characteristics of His Son, like grace, forgiving attitude, love. They become abundant the more we cooperate. But there's also weightiness. It's not easy to be transformed. It goes against everything in our fleshly makeup. It's a little laboring. Like the elk, it's heavy on us – God's glory. But what a glorious display when we lay down our life and yield it to Him. The Stevens family had to come to terms with the fact that God designed Lygon's life to be His perfect life for her of just twenty years. He used her life for His glory. And though this would result in their tremendous suffering, they would be allowed to display His glory as they participated in His story of Lygon's life. His glory is abundant, honoring and weighty. Oh, what glory! When we can finally change our focus from what we want and how we think things should be to His glory, that's the place where the weightiness is first felt. But load bearing increases strength. Once we get a taste of His glory, He begins to change our desires.

There is another aspect to this word kavod found in the Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon which is to bear up under anything, to endure adversity; the idea of bearing up under battle. As anyone who has experienced a prolonged time of trial or testing knows, it is so hard to endure. The true Christian life is hard to endure. We no sooner get through one battle and another is there at the door. Here again, our perspective – our focus should be God's glory.

More times than not, God will delay His actions in order to teach us and in order to more fully display His glory. One example of this is in the story of Lazarus found in John 11. Lazarus was sick, so his sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. Obviously they knew and believed in Jesus and knew He was their hope for their brother, so they sent word to Him that Lazarus was sick. How interesting the next verse is: So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.

As the story progresses we can hear the frustration in both Martha and Mary that Jesus hadn't shown up soon enough to save Lazarus with, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” In their perspective of how their world should be, Jesus would have shown up when they called, healed their brother, they would have given thanks and praise for the healing and gone on with their lives. But Jesus had a much greater plan. What a much more magnificent display of His glory to raise a man from the grave who had been there four days than to just heal a sick man. But in order to share in that glory, Mary and Martha and all those involved had to endure the delay that Jesus deliberated. It was heart rending. Their brother was dead! But they did endure. The endurance was a very necessary part of the coming display of God's glory.

Psalm 37 is a beautiful exhortation to us to trust in the Lord and wait on Him during the delays. We should never take a delay as the end of the story, but as a time when He is conforming us and using it as an opportunity to display His glory in the utmost way. I should and need to decide to let God decide what's best for me.

We have so many exhortations and promises regarding endurance. The Apostle Paul was constantly exhorting the believers to endure, to persevere. His aim was to finish well. He wasn't concerned about his salvation. He was concerned about enduring to the end and remaining a faithful servant, because he knew it wasn't easy. He knew we would be tempted to give up or give in. Let's keep our eyes on the goal of displaying His glory.

Hebrews 10: 35: 'For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: For yet a little while, [And] He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if [anyone] draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.'


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