Around Easter, the music of Handel’s Messiah keeps getting stuck in my brain:
“And the Glory, the Glory of the Lord shall be reeeeeee-vee-led.”
And my wife commented that if you are going to have an earworm, thank God it’s a melody worth listening to over and over and over.
Every wondered what “glory” means? Where would you go to find out? Put down that English dictionary! It will only lead you back into the Latin derivation (gloria) of our English word. The Bible is not written in Latin. No, when I study the meaning of a word in the Bible, I go back to its Greek and Hebrew meanings. Thankfully, this is now quite easy for anyone even if you don’t have a bunch of letters after your name. Just look up the verse using the Blue Letter Bible word-search tool and then dig into the links to Strong’s Concordance.
As a young choir boy, I had a very minuscule understanding of what “glory” meant when I sang these words. I thought maybe it meant “praise” or something. And, actually, I was right. The English word “glory” is what often is translated from the Greek word “doxa” in the New Testament. And “doxa” is the root word from which we get the “Doxology” -- a song about praise, praise, and more praise.
But what is Handel’s librettist referring to? This “Glory of the Lord” is from Isaiah 40. It is translated from the Hebrew word “kabowd” meaning glory, riches, abundance, splendor, and honor. And as we look at this word in its various contexts, a much richer, fuller meaning unfolds before us.
Exodus (16, 24, and 33) we get the impression that the Glory of the
Lord is something extremely bright or like a devouring fire shrouded
in smoke. In fact, in Exodus 33 when Moses pleads with God to show
him His Glory ("Show me the proof, God!"), God obliges but has to first
protect Moses in the cleft of a rock (and His loving hand) to avoid
having him be consumed by it.
In Exodus 29 it is something which is promised to sanctify the tabernacle. And in Exodus 40 when the Glory of the Lord did, indeed, fill the tabernacle, it became the living presence -- the proof -- that God was in their midst. It’s the Holy Smoke!
We see this glory again after the dedication of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 7). Here, as happened in the desert, the proof of God’s presence filled the Temple. God dwelt among his people. Interestingly, in the second temple period after the return of the exiles from Babylon, the Glory of the Lord promised by the Lord in Isaiah 40 was NOT revealed (that one is in Ezra in case you wondered).
So where do we go from here? Extra-Biblical sources called this smoke the “shekinah” of the Lord. This word is the feminine participle of “shakan” which means to dwell or reside in. In fact, the Hebrew word for tabernacle, “mishkan,” also shares the common “shkn” root with the other two words. And at one point in Isaiah, God refers to himself as “the One who dwells in eternity.” Ah, yes. The One who dwells. There’s that “shkn” word again. Oh, and read deeper dear friends. There’s more. For not only is He the one who dwells in eternity, he dwells in us as well. If you are not hearing the Holy Spirit within you jumping for joy that you have made that connection, keep studying.
Oh! And did you catch that the Shekinah (shknh) is feminine! Read into that as the Spirit guides you.
So far, we have connected “glory” all the way from praise back to the smoke which proves that God is dwelling among us. Now let’s weave this golden thread back through the New Testament.
In the prologue to John’s gospel, I can just see John struggling with his scribe. He has just dictated a thought which starts “and the Word became flesh and …” And what? John is thinking “shakan” with all its connections to the Glory of the Lord and wanting that richness to carry through to Greek. His scribe says, “How about ‘tented’. That’s about the best I can do for you.” So John settles for “skeno-oo” which is the verb form of “skenos” which means tent or tabernacle. But by the time we get to English, it gets translated as “dwelled” and totally loses all its connections with the tabernacle and the glory, the proof of the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t just dwell among us. He “tabernacled” with us. He was the smoke. He was the Glory of the Lord incarnate.
He was the proof of God with skin on.
And the Glory, the Glory of the Lord was revealed and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. The Lord hath spoken the Word -- which became flesh and tabernacled among us.
Now let’s jump to Paul. In various places he refers to our bodies as the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Hmmm. More connections. Where does the Holy Spirit tabernacle itself? Where is the Glory of the Lord?
Do we get this? I mean, do we really get this? The Glory, the Shekinah of the Lord dwells – tabernacles -- within us! The proof of God, the Holy Smoke, is the Spirit within the temple of our bodies! The more we start to “get” this, the more it makes all the difference in this world!
Don’t just raise your hand in the air to give Him praise! Give yourself a Holy Hug! Thank Him for dwelling within you. And pray that He be revealed through you as you love Him and follow his lead.
For as we begin to allow the Glory of the Lord to be revealed though us and allow “all people to see it together,” we become the pillars of smoke and fire proving the presence of God dwelling among us -- and comforting the ones around us with His loving, guiding presence.
Our neighbors will know we are Christians by our Glory.
They will know who the Glory is by our love.