The attributes of God
- Psalm 24
A.W. Tozer wrote in The knowledge of the Holy:
The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.
With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century.
The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God and Saviour.
J.I Packer, in his book Knowing God writes:
“Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives.
The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were , with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”
We need to once again know who God is. Last week we heard the Word of God on God’s sovereignty. Once humbled before the God of heaven and earth Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, with other writers of Bible books:
He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to Him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35, NIV)
Isaiah sings about the Lord:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge, or showed Him the path of understanding? (Isaiah 40:12–14, NIV)
My brother and sister, this is God, the One we have come to worship. Now, all man-made ideas about worship fall away; we stand in the presence of the awesome, holy, glorious, loving and gracious God. Listen to what those who gone ahead of us in Christ say about Him:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:10,12, NIV)
When we today then hear the Word about his glory, let us pray that this awesome God will help us to know Him better, and knowing Him better, may He help us to worship Him appropriately, with honour due his Name.
The King of glory who is worthy of worship
When the Bible refers to the glory of God, it does so in at least two major meanings. The first is to refer to the majesty, magnificence, splendour and greatness.
The word used for glory in the Old Testament (in its literal sense) describes something heavy; figuratively it describes something meaningful, something worthy. In this sense the word is also used in the commandment, “Honour your father and your mother.” One’s parents are given by God, and as such they demand respect and honour. Honour for one’s parents comes from honouring God. Leviticus 19:3 connects it together:
Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:3, ESV)
To display something of Him God ordained that the garments of the High Priest should be made very specially:
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. (Exodus 28:2, ESV)
The priests, of course, were a shadow of the Christ who was to come. Of Him we read in Revelation:
… and in the midst of the lampstands [I saw] one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, (Revelation 1:13–17, ESV)
Moses wanted to know for sure that God is with them on their journey to the Promised Land. God’s presence with them would distinguish them from all other nations. He prayed that Gods would show him his glory. God answered:
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Exodus 33:20–22, ESV)
God’s glory cannot be described without reference to his holiness. Thinking of God, remembering his deeds, and worshipping Him always leads to praise and exaltation. The Psalmist writes:
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! (Psalm 72:19, ESV)
David in Psalm 63 prays to God:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalm 63:1–4, ESV)
When David finds himself in a narrow place which he describes as “in the midst of lions” and ravenous beasts” he prays to God:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:5, ESV)
Once again David prayed to see the glory of God:
All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. (Psalm 138:4–5, ESV)
As if he could not say it enough, he once again sings in Psalm 108:3-5:
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 108:3–5, ESV)
David prayed to the Lord after the people had brought gifts for the building of the temple.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11–13, ESV)
When the Temple was completed and the priests had to fulfil their duties, even before they could commence, we read about God’s glory:
The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:14, ESV)
Habakkuk sees into the future and prays:
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV)
Of Himself God declares:
“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. (Isaiah 42:8, NIV)
When God speaks of the salvation of his people He does it in terms of his glory. He sent his people to Babylon in captivity to test them and purify them for his glory. So He says:
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another. (Isaiah 48:11, NIV)
This is a lesson for us to learn today: Sure, God is loving and kind, gracious to forgive sins, but his glory demands total commitment. If He is the only God, then He is sovereign; if He is sovereign, there is no One like Him; if there is no One like Him, then surely his splendour, majesty, power, dominion and magnificence demands the He would received glory. He is glorious above all, but He does not share his glory with another. He is a jealous God. He gave us his commandments:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (Exodus 20:4–5, NIV)
What if God was not jealous? What He would indeed share his glory with another? He would not be loving, not gracious, not trustworthy, not sovereign – not GOD! Before this jealous God Oprah stood, and walked away – such a God she would not worship. So she now spends her time and energy to tell others about all manner go of others gods would could not care less – such gods have no splendour and glory, because they are products of man’s imaginations, worthless to help and surely not worthy of worship.
But our God is the God of Glory. Worship Him!
The God of glory who is present
Providing for his people
Soon after Israel departed from Egypt and arrived in the desert they started grumbling about bread and meat. To assure them that God indeed are with them Moses and Aaron said:
“In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” (Exodus 16:6–7, NIV)
While they were still talking to the people the glory of the Lord appeared to them and the Lord said:
“I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” (Exodus 16:12, NIV)
God is with his people in grace and mercy to provide for them.
Living in their midst
After Moses and the people completed the tabernacle according to the plan God had given Moses, it stood in perfection, but it was still just a tent. Something happened that would change everything:
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34–35, NIV)
God is now with his people to protect them, to be with them, be in their midst and to distinguish them from all the other peoples on earth. The same happened when Solomon dedicated the temple.
Forgiving their sins
Leviticus 9 tells the story of the priests who commenced their ministry. They had to bring the sacrifices on behalf of the people before God in the prescribed manner. Why? “So that the glory of the Lord my appear to you.”
They did as God commanded and through the sacrifices and their ministry the sons of the people were forgiven. How would they know? What a wonderful verse:
Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. (Leviticus 9:23–24, NIV)
God has forgiven us: His glory is as sign that He is with us, on our side, our Father who forgives!
Contending for his glory
When the enemy of the people, who rose from within and caused some to rebel against God who rescued them from sin and slavery, once again God prevented them from being destroyed. In his mercy He appeared to them. How?
Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. (Numbers 14:10, NIV)
What was the result? God stood with those of his people who served Him, He forgave their sin, but He also said:
The Lord replied,
“I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— no one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:20–22, NIV)
God’s glory was his saving presence in the midst of his people. His Name was their shelter against the attacks from within and from the armies of the enemy.
But Israel became stubborn and something terrible happened. Jeremiah records a conversation between God and his people:
Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,’ ” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 2:3, NIV)
Then God brings in a charge against them:
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. (Jeremiah 2:11, ESV)
For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. (Isaiah 3:8, ESV)
In a vision to Ezekiel God showed him the idolatry which happened even in the temple. What was the result?
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. (Ezekiel 9:3, ESV)
The glory of the Lord was on its way out, departing as their presence. Chapter 9:9 records, “The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding lie great … They say ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see’.
We know the story: God gets the blame when we sin and He then punishes us. What happened then?
And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord. (Ezekiel 10:4, ESV) And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. (Ezekiel 11:23, ESV)
We have seen the Glory of the Lord
Shepherd were minding their sheep one night on Bethlehem’s fields. Then something totally unexpected happened:
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. (Luke 2:9, ESV)
God remembered his people, the same people who traded his glory for another. Jesus, his Son was sent to rescue them from sin. That was the message of the angels. About Him John writes:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, ESV)
He is once again for us Immanuel, God with us. He is the presence, but also the spendour and majesty of the Father.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15, 19–20, ESV)
This Jesus promised:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV)
He also promised:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:3, ESV)
When He takes us to his Father’s home, what wonder awaits us! Just one last verse:
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:10–11, ESV)
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23, ESV)
Sermon Preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 17 February 2013