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Acts

The Glory of God

Acts  12:19-25

By all accounts the Herod in this passage - Herod Agrippa, the son of the Herod who had Christ crucified - was a good man. He had encountered much trouble in his early life, but it had not left him a bitter man. He was not a warrior ruler, but rather a man who built public works. He was known to one and all as a generous man. Not perfect by any means, he was what to us would be a worthy man. Consider, then, his strange end:

(Acts 12:19-25 NIV) After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. {20} He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply. {21} On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. {22} They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." {23} Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. {24} But the word of God continued to increase and spread. {25} When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

Josephus adds to the tale. He tells us that Herod arranged this appearance upon his arrival at Caesarea. The dispute was a trade dispute; Herod evidently had the ability to divert trade away from these ports of Tyre and Sidon to other, more southerly ports. It may also be that this was the time of famine prophesied and these ports were dependent upon the farmlands of Judea for food. To secure his ascendancy above them, Herod finished his negotiation trip by appearing to the crowd in a robe of pure silver, highly polished. He did so at the end of the day, when the setting sun would reflect off this robe. The cry from the crowd was no accident; Herod had hired paid flatterers to start the cry from various points in the crowd. Josephus also tells us that the pain began immediately, but lasted about five days before death. Herod knew he was to die, for he saw an omen (an owl sitting on a rope above his head, which somehow was connected in his mind with death).

It seems a small sin, to us: a politician strutting before the crowd, trying to take advantage of their superstitions. Yet history and the Bible both assure us that he died for this act. If we are to understand why, we must understand the glory of God - and how stealing it is not a good idea.

Manifestations of the Glory of God

Early in the history of the nation of Israel God began to impress upon the Jews the "glory of God." In the beginning this was a physical manifestation; later, it became more subtle:

·         Moses, for example, was introduced to it at Sinai. God specifically told him that His glory would pass by - but that Moses would be hidden by God's hand, for no one could see God and live.

·         At the dedication of Solomon's Temple, the priests were unable to entire while the glory filled the Temple.

·         At the Annunciation[1] the glory of the Lord appeared - and the shepherds were afraid.

There is a lesson in each of these: the glory of the Lord, whatever else it might be, is holy, awesome and to be greatly feared.

Manifestation in Nature

The Psalmists tell us[2] that the glory of God is revealed in his creation. We can grasp a faint sensation of the glory of God on a starry night, deep in the desert, where the lights of man do not drown out the lights that God has created. Indeed, we are told that it is God's glory to conceal the mysteries of nature - and man's glory to seek them out.[3]

Have you ever entered a grove of redwoods just as night was falling? Did you feel the mystic sense of communion with the great "I AM?" Then you have had a touch, a small trace, of the glory of God. If this is the slight trace - imagine what the very essence of it must be.

Revealed in the work of Jesus

Jesus seems quite casually acquainted with the glory of God. On at least two occasions He specifically tells us that something has happened - something we would consider evil - for the glory of God.

·         The death of Lazarus (recall that Jesus waited and did not go to him until he was dead) was for the glory of God.[4]

·         The man born blind - his blindness was so that we might see the work of God displayed.[5]

Symbolism

In both Old Testament and New Testament[6] we see the glory of God portrayed symbolically in two forms:

·         Light. James tells us that God is the "father of light" and the symbolism is apt. We still say "He's seen the light."

·         Smoke. Often used to represent things spiritual, it reflects the nature of God - that he is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Glory of God - a classification

All this is well and good - but not much help for our daily living. It may clear things up if we use a common scheme of classification for the glory of God.

·         Personal - those attributes which belong to God alone, never to be shared with anyone.[7] In this aspect, there is something about God which we must worship, for it is found in no one else.

·         Positional - this is easier to understand. This is the glory of Christ which he obtained by his Incarnation and sacrifice upon the Cross.[8] This is the glory that the Suffering Servant earned; in it He glorified God, and God glorified him.[9]

·         The amazing thing here is not the Crucifixion or Resurrection; it is the Incarnation. Only when we understand the glory of God, so far beyond mortal man, can we understand what a sacrifice it was for the Christ to come. As C. S. Lewis once put it, the supreme miracle is the Incarnation. All else flows from that.

·         Such glory is delegated to the church - the body of Christ on earth. If you want a parallel, consider this: suppose someone murders your child. You seek justice. The offender is caught, brought to trial and convicted and sentenced. Don't you feel grateful to the judge, jury, police, prosecutor? Of course. But they are human beings like you; indeed, they've only "done their job." What you are honoring (glorifying, if you will) is justice. You're just honoring it in the persons who delivered it. So it is with the church; the glory is Christ's - but we honor it in those who serve.

·         But it will not always be so - for if we live for Him, we shall reign with him, and thus share this aspect of glory.

·         Moral - there are those aspect of God which we can imitate; those attributes of God which have a parallel in human conduct. This is well known to us; the imitation of Christ is our first duty. As such, we need to place the first emphasis upon humility, for Christ humbled himself for us. Ultimately this conduct will be rewarded. As Augustine said, "Humility is the earning of glory; glory the reward of humility." As it was for Him, so it shall be for those who follow Him.

 

Do's and Don'ts

God is a jealous God. He does not tolerate man taking His glory, for this is the sin which caused the fall of Satan.[10] It is the sin of pride, of saying, "I will be like God." It may seem that we could not be capable of such a thing, but this is not necessarily the case. The Pharisee is ever with us. Do we ever try to steal the glory of God? Consider:

Ó United Features Syndicate, 1968

Peanuts Cartoon
Have you ever met a doctor like that? Perhaps it's clearest in this attitude, but the ordinary Christian is not exempt from the problem.

·         Have you ever given someone "good advice" on matters spiritual (and the really important matters of life are all spiritual) without thinking of God, let alone consulting him on the subject? Sometimes we undertake to solve problems which should drive us to our knees in prayer.

·         Worse, we sometimes use God's name in our human advice. Without a glance at the Scripture or any time in prayer, we say, "I'm sure God wants you to…" (which is yet another reason to study the Scripture - so you'll know what he really wants.)

·         There is also the silent condemnation; the refusal to forgive. Forgiving others brings glory to God.[11] When we refuse to forgive, we deny him the glory which is his due.

Giving glory to God

We sometimes think that this must be very difficult. But consider the opening words of the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name." It is something which should be at the first of our thoughts: how can I bring glory to God this day?

Paul gives us a very swift answer:

(Rom 12:1 NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

It is in our daily living that we are to bring glory to God. How can this be done?

·         First, by our good works.[12] Particularly in those works which help the poor and unfortunate - those who cannot repay us - we bring glory to God. It is in imitation of the One who causes rain on the just and the unjust - a moral quality - that we bring Him glory.

·         Indeed, "all things" in our lives may be used to bring him glory.[13] Even the most physical of things can be used this way, for physical reality is His creation.

·         By the purity of our lives we bring him glory. Do you recall when Christ said, "Now is the Son of man glorified?" It was after Judas left the scene of the Last Supper. Not until the evil one was cast out could the glorification of Christ begin.

Seeing the true vision of glory

We cannot see his glory as it is - now. It is yet to be revealed to us after the judgment.

·         But it is a part of our hope.[14] We should look forward to it.

·         It will be revealed, physically, when Jesus returns.[15]

·         Indeed, the New Jerusalem will be filled with the glory of the Lord.[16]

Is it not curious? The very thing which we in our pride are so anxious to usurp - the glory of God - will be shared with us at his return. But this will be true only if we keep to His ways. "Humility is the earning of glory; glory the reward of humility."


[1] Luke 2:9

[2] See, for example, Psalm 19

[3] Proverbs 24:2

[4] John 11:1-4

[5] John 9:2-3

[6] Revelation 15:8 and others

[7] Isaiah 42:8

[8] Philippians 2:5-11

[9] See John 17

[10] Isaiah 14:12-15

[11] Romans 15:7

[12] Isaiah 58:3-11

[13] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[14] Romans 5:1-2

[15] Isaiah 40:1-11

[16] Revelation 21:10-11

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