Root: כָּבַד (kaf, bet, dalet). [Sounds like k’vohd]
The root word for glory actually comes out of the word honour (kavad). It also carries with it the idea of weight and heaviness. It means that glory is almost palpable… you feel the heaviness of it. Isaiah’s vision of the Seraphim singing to YHWH gives a sense of the weight of God’s glory:
And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is YHWH of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”
And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.”
Certainly God’s glory is so awe-inspiring that one almost feels crushed by it. God’s glory is so amazing that it is indescribable… or so one might think….
But in reality, the Tanakh does it’s very best to describe God’s glory. Take for example, the following writers attempts to give a depiction of the glory surrounding the Creator:
Describing YHWH’s Glory
Moses: Exodus 24:17
And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of YHWH was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.
David: Psalms 29:3-4
The voice of YHWH is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
YHWH is over many waters.
The voice of YHWH is powerful,
The voice of YHWH is majestic.
Ezekiel: Ezekiel 43:2
…the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.
Ezekiel: Ezekiel 1:26-28
Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 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 YHWH. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
Ezekiel appears to give the most descriptions of YHWH… and usually, after viewing God’s Glory, Ezekiel falls on his face (wa-epol el panai). Examples include, Ezekiel 1:28 (above), 3:23, 9:8, 11:13, 43:3, and:
Then He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the house; and I looked, and behold, the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH, and I fell on my face.
Why does Ezekiel consistently fall on his face? It’s not because he was clumsy. It is because the glory of YHWH is heavy and overwhelming, and at the time no one was worthy enough to see God face to face. Facing God meant instant death. Falling on your face is basically saying, I can’t even look at you, you’re too wonderful. I cannot survive your glory!
Lift Up Your Head!
The Psalmist celebrates a time when we no longer have to hide our faces away, and when we can, instead, lift up our heads. God, our Saviour, will send a blessing and a vindication to those who have “clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4). Yeshua (whose name means salvation) is the greatest blessing and vindication that God can give us!
They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Long before the Psalmist, Moses desired to see YHWH. He could hear God’s voice but he wanted more. He wanted to SEE God’s glory. Moses asks permission:
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He [YHWH] said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of YHWH before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
Then YHWH said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. “Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
In this way Moses is able to view a small glimpse of YHWH, but not face to face. After this, when Moses comes down from the mountain, his own face glows and the people see it and are afraid of him:
Exodus 34:29-30, 32-34a
It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him… When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before YHWH to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out…
There is a veil between humanity and God, but God sends a Messiah to remove the veil. Yeshua and the New Covenant, allows us to come face to face with God… so that we can reflect God’s glory on earth! Read how Paul explains that only through the Messiah can the veil be removed:
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
Now if the ministry of death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at the face of Moses because of its fleeting glory, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?… Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at the end of what was fading away.
But their minds were closed. For to this day the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenant. It has not been lifted, because only in Christ can it be removed. And even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
To drive the point home, it is important to take a look at one snippet, often overlooked, in the telling of Yeshua’s death. The Temple veil, or curtain, was placed in the Temple to separate God from the common people. It was a beautiful, thick, blue, purple and scarlet curtain made of twisted linen (Exodus 26:31). Only the High Priest was able to go behind the curtain. And even then the fear of facing God was so great that, according to Rabbinic literature, they would tie a scarlet rope around the ankle of the High Priest before he went behind the curtain. If he died facing God behind the veil they could pull him out with the rope without putting themselves at risk. It is interesting, then, that the very moment Yeshua dies something profound happens to the Temple curtain:
When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split.
Yeshua is the new High Priest
At the death of Yeshua that very curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. No longer would we need a human intercessor to face God. Yeshua paved the way for us to see God face to face. Yeshua gave us a glimpse of God, walking amongst the people. With His death and resurrection we can now come to God on our own, fully redeemed. We don’t have to live perfect lives, we can live by grace… basking in God’s glory.
The famous Aaronic blessing is a blessing of hope: ‘YHWH bless you, and keep you; YHWH make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; YHWH lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’
In Aaron’s lifetime looking at God’s face was instant death. This blessing is hopeful for a time when looking at the face of God would be available to everyone. Only then can we have full peace. Yeshua is that peace.
Reflecting God’s Glory
Now that Yeshua has paved the way for us to be able to fully face our Creator, it’s up to us to seek Him out.
Yeshua dying for our sins is not a chance for a free-for-all sin splurge, or blatant disinterest. God reads your heart… He sees the sincerity in you… He wants a relationship with you. If you turn your back on God, there is no way for you to see His face. And that’s not His choice… it’s yours.
Seek God out and be an unveiled face that reflects God’s glory. Don’t hold yourself back. The whole earth is full of His glory! Let it shine!
Next week: Scarlet