We’ve thought a little bit about how glory language is introduced in Exodus. Of course John’s Gospel makes for a fascinating study in ‘glory’. But it would be too easy to camp out in John and refuse to engage the other ‘glory’ Scriptures. So let’s think about three other key texts in the glory debates: Isaiah 42; Ezekiel 36 and (in the next post) Ephesians 1. If you’ve got others on your mind, raise them in comments:
“Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; 4 He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His law the islands will put their hope.” 5 This is what God the LORD says–He who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, Who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness; I will take hold of Your hand. I will keep You and will make You to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.
Usually it’s only verse 8 that’s quoted in the glory discussions. But the context is crucial. Here is the Beloved, Spirit-filled Servant of the LORD. And He Himself is a covenant for the people. The love of Father for Son spills over to the whole world and this is all a part of the integrity of the Creator. The Maker of the ends of the earth will bring reconciliation through His Servant. Therefore – verse 8 – He will not accomplish His creation-reconciliation project through anyone other than His Beloved, Anointed Son. And this very commitment is the commitment to be the over-flowing, self-giving God of redemption.
So, no self-centred glory here.
What about, Ezekiel 36:16-32
16 The word of the LORD came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. 22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God…. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
You will notice here that the issue is the ‘name of the LORD’s holiness’ which is not exactly the same as ‘glory’ – but they’re pretty connected I think everyone will agree.
The “name” of the LORD has always been the gracious, saving character of the Gospel God (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Num 6:23-27). It’s the name that is in His Divine Angel and, again, is expressed through His deliverance of the people (Exodus 23:20-23). This name dwells in the temple (Ex 20:24; Deut 12:5) and just as the priests are to put the name on the people (Num 6:23-27), the people are meant to reflect the name out to the nations.
In Ezekiel, the LORD’s Glory (Christ) has departed from the physical temple (ch8-10) because the Israelites have profaned it (5:11). Yet He Himself has been a sanctuary for the people (11:16) – in exile with His people! And He promises that He will return as the LORD’s Servant – the True King David – to make His sanctuary with His people forever (Ezek 37:21-28).
But here in chapter 36, the Israelites have not ‘sanctified’ but rather ‘profaned’ the name of the LORD’s holiness. God’s people – as the priests He has made them to be – ought to be reflecting out to the world that same out-going goodness of God which they themselves have received. Instead they do the very opposite. And the thing that really profanes the name is that the saved people of God have become the wicked and exiled people of God (v20). The LORD has tied His name so closely to His people that when they are profaned – He is profaned. He has chosen to be so at one with His people that His destiny and reputation is bound up in their destiny and reputation.
And so He makes them know that this salvation He is about to work is His gracious initiative and not something they’ve provoked either by their goodness or their badness. It’s certainly not that the Israelites have cleaned up their act enough for God to save. And it’s not even that they are now so pitiable that God goes soft on them. What moves Him to act is His fierce determination to be this kind of saving and forgiving God. His gospel name will be vindicated because that is simply who He is.
And in fact verse 23 says the LORD will vindicate His holiness by saving a wretched people! What kind of holiness is this that is expressed when renowned offenders are treated with extravagant grace? This holiness is not the holiness of ‘splendid isolation’ but of gospel grace.
So again, these verses are not proof that God is, after all, self-centered. The very opposite. All that He does is motivated by a gospel character that will not be thwarted even by the worst opposition of His own people. His name, His glory and His holiness are not considerations that would keep Him from engaging His wrath-deserving people. They move Him out into costly, shame-bearing, sacrificial redemption. Because His grace is His glory.
Next post: Part 5