Beholding Him in His Glory

One of the best ways to write for a public audience is to take what’s written in other mediums and adapt it for a new venue. This post will be the first of several that will be experimental in that regard. Lord willing on Fridays I’ll look back over the week and simply post anything that was particularly thrilling in my personal devotions.

After Theology of Worship last week with Church Steddom, I was processing the revelation of God to the elders on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24), and lo and behold, Exodus 24 was part of the yearly reading program that Nat and me are going through. This started a whole line of thinking regarding what it means to behold the glory of the Lord. What did it look like? Who encountered the glory of God?

Exodus 33:9-10Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

When the 70+ are there on the mountain, they can’t really seem to describe God himself. Peripherally they see God, but they can’t actually describe Him. The actual manifestation of His glory is apparently too much to actually look upon. The ground beneath Him is described, and the manifestation of His glory turns it into “as it were a pavement of sapphire store.”

Isaiah 6:1 – In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Isaiah only describes the Lord of Glory briefly; it’s obvious that he cannot describe him particularly. Instead, all he can say is that “the train of his robe filled the temple.” Again, something peripheral to God Himself is described. Then, Isaiah goes on to describe the seraphim that surround His throne.

Ezekiel 1:26-28 – And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel describes one with the “likeness” of a man sitting on the throne, but Ezekiel is not really able to discern his face. The preceding context is all descriptions of the cherubs around God, but there’s a little more detail. The “likeness” of man is “as it were gleaming metal” above the waist, and below the waist is “the appearance of fire.” All similes, not concrete language. Ezekiel is grasping for words to describe what he’s seen.

And then we come to Revelation 1, where John describes one who could only be Christ, but very similar language to the descriptions of Yahweh.

Revelation 1:12-17a – Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands 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.

Is this is part of progressive revelation, that in the OT they cannot see the face of God, but in the NT, there’s a progression to actually describing Christ’s glorified features? With the assumption that Christ is Yahweh, there is a connection between this passage and the previous OT passages.

Exodus 24, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, Revelation 1… certainly there were other times that God was seen.  Genesis 32, Exodus 33, Matthew 17, 1 John 1 all describe instances of God either in or apart from His shekhinah glory (the visible manifestation of His glory). Some might debate Genesis 32, but the text implies Jacob wrestled with God, who is described as “the angel of the Lord.”

It appears worth noting that as God’s revelation progressed, each divine vision of God in His shekhinah grows more detailed. I wonder: a beautiful picture of the nature of the revelation we’ve been given in the face of Christ? To ponder Him in His shekhinah, or in the Word, and to be changed into the same image of glory (2 Corinthians 3)… not physically, but spiritually as we take on His character… wow. What a God that He would do this for His own renown, but for our absolute delight.

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