10.12.2010

10/3 Sermon Notes

The Glory of God

Objective Reality: His Nature

Notes available as a pdf.

Introduction

Please turn to the first page of the Christian Bible, to the first chapter of the first book, a book entitled Genesis. For those of you unfamiliar with the Christian Bible, you might expect that the first book/segment of the Scriptures would be all about beginnings. And you would be right; thus the name Genesis. I’d like to begin this morning’s talk with the first four words of the Bible: In the beginning God. Now the rest of the sentence tells us what this God did in the beginning, but I stop our reading here to offer a simple observation: the author does not begin by explaining who this God is or even by defending that he exists. He merely asserts, In the beginning God.

For us who are Christians, this is no surprise. But for those of you who question the existence of God or who have come this morning seeking answers about the God of the Bible, this may seem unscientific or arrogant or obscurantist. “Don’t simply tell me that he did this, that, or the other without some proof or reasoning or empirical data to support your claim.” But if you keep reading the Scriptures beyond the first four words, you’ll find that the book—not just Genesis, but the entire Bible—is the progressive unfolding of this God. You may be familiar with stories here and there: Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, Daniel and the lion’s den. But in reality the Bible is one story with one plotline and one main Character. The other stories point to the great Story, and the other characters direct our attention to the real Actor. The Bible is all about God.

In fact, not only is the Bible all about God, but everything that exists is all about God. Turn please to the second half of the Christian Scriptures, to the New Testament letter to the Romans, chapter 11 (pg. 764). At the end of a long, complex argument, the apostle Paul breaks forth in doxology: 33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Everything is from him, everything exists through him, and ultimately everything will go back to him—thus the glory is his forever. Everything exists for the glory of God. It is the supreme reality of life. And if you regard the glory of God to be practically irrelevant to your life, you will never understand your life at all.

So then what must we do? We need to go back and study the glory of God. We could spend the rest of our lives seeking to understand his glory. In fact we should! What I’d like to do over the next four Sundays, however, is devote our attention as a congregation to the subject The Glory of God.

So let’s start right here with that word glory. Glory is not something that starts with us and goes to him; it is first and foremost something that is inherent in God himself. The meaning of dbk = heavy (as in fat [Eli in 1 Sa 4.18], riches [Abram in Ge 13.2], or the liver [Ex 29.13]). Thus we could say for starters that the glory of God refers to his weightiness, his massiveness, his heaviness.

Transition: What makes God weighty? What is it about his nature that makes him massive? This morning I’d like to explore three qualities of God that make him heavy.

Body

1. Oneness. His uniqueness.

1.1 Proven through creation.

1.1.1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1.1).

1.1.2 The God of the Bible is not a local deity; he asserts his authority over the entire universe. He created, and there is no one like him.

1.2 Proven through the exodus (p. 41).

1.2.1 [The Lord said to Moses,] “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians’” (Exo 6.6-7)

1.2.2 [The Lord said to Moses,] “Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them” (Exo 7.4-5).

1.2.3 The first plague: water to blood (Exo 7.17).

1.2.4 The second plague: frogs (Exo 8.10).

1.2.5 The third plague: gnats (Exo 8.18-19).

1.2.6 The fourth plague: flies (Exo 8.21b-22).

1.2.7 The seventh plague: hail (Exo 9.14-16, 29).

1.2.8 The eighth plague: locusts (Exo 10.1-2).

1.2.9 The tenth plague: death of the firstborn (Exo 12.12).

1.2.10 The exodus itself. [The Lord said to Moses,] I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord (Exo 14.4). Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exo 14.30-31). And so they sang, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exo 15.11).

1.3 Proven through the prophet Isaiah (p. 485).

1.3.1 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust (Isa 40.12-15).

1.3.2 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? . . . Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness (Isa 40.18, 21-23).

1.3.3 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing (Isa 40.25-26).

1.3.4 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols (Isa 42.8).

1.4 The fundamental meaning of God’s glory = his uniqueness.

Transition: At this point the God of which I am speaking sounds little different from the God of the Jew or the Muslim. This is precisely where the Scriptures inform us more about the One True God—and where the distinctions begin to emerge.

2. Threeness. His Triunity.

2.1 The Son.

2.1.1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1.1-3, p. 804).

o radiance = lit. brightness, either active (inherent) or passive (reflected).

o Because of the phrase in v. 3b, it’s best to take it as passive: Christ perfectly reflects the glory of God the Father.

2.1.2 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed (Jn 17.5).

2.2 The Spirit.

2.2.1 And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen 1.2).

2.2.2 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? (Isa 40.13).

2.2.3 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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3.18).

o Edwards, Unpublished Essay on the Trinity.

3. Character. His perfections.

3.1 Expressed in his name.

3.1.1 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Ex 3.14, p. 39).

3.1.2 Yahweh, the covenant name of God: he is independent and immutable.

3.2 Expressed in his attributes.

3.2.1 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exo 33.18-19, p. 62).

3.2.2 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped (Exo 33.5-8).

Conclusion/Preparation for Communion

How then may we come to this table? How may we commune with the Unique, Triune, Impeccable God? We who have sinned! We who continue to fall short of his glory! Where does our confidence come from, that we might approach God at this table and not be among those guilty whom the Lord will by no means clear? Our confidence comes in Christ alone. He has lived the life we could not live, he has died the death we deserve, he lives again to intercede for us, so that we may enjoy fellowship with the One True God.

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