One of my favorite stories from the Civil War happened in a battle when a New York regiment was coming under heavy fire from the Confederate line. The colonel of an adjoining regiment came over to tell the leader of this New York unit that they were coming under such fire because their American flag, “Old Glory,” was posted in such a prominent way, and it made a great target. He suggested that they lower the flag a bit to avoid such fire. The Union commander – himself the most conspicuous target as he was riding on a horse back & forth across the line while his men hid behind a fence — looked up at the flag waving in the breeze, and then turned back to his companion and said, “Let it wave high; it is our Glory!” The glory of his flag was worth to him any amount of fire, any hazard, and even death.
I know that there are many patriots here in this room, who like me get chillbumps when we hear the “Star Spangled Banner” play. But if you are a Christian, there is an allegiance that is greater than that owed to your nation – the allegiance that is due to God. For the genuine Christian, there is no earthly kingdom which takes precedence over the Kingdom of Heaven. And there is no greater glory for you, than the glory of God.
It is easy to SAY these things – it is another to really live them out. Over the past couple of months, as I have been at home ill, uncertain as to what my future might be, God has brought me to Psalm 3:3, where David says: “Thou, O Lord, art a Shield for me, my Glory, and the lifter of my head.” This verse has sustained me over these days, and has been a reminder to me, of Who God is, and what He wants to be for me.
In this series, “Thou, O Lord”, we are taking a week each to look at these 3 things which David said that God was for him. Last week we saw that God was his “Shield” – a protective shield which totally encompassed him, so that nothing could touch him unless God allowed it through. If you are God’s child, the same thing is true for you. Nothing touched your life this week which was not allowed by God – and trust that if it did, He had a purpose for it. Today we come to the second phrase: that God is to be our GLORY!
I. God is our Glory
The Hebrew word here is “Kabodi”: “my glory”. “Kabod” means “glory”; the “i” ending is the first person possessive ending, “my”. The word kabod may be translated “honor, splendor, glory.” The word literally means: “weighty.” We speak of certain people as having a “gravitas” about them, a “weight” of personality or importance about their being. That is what this word “glory” means.
It is significant that “kabodi” can refer to one’s inner self, the seat of honor in a man’s heart (BDB). It is used in Psalm 7:5, of how David’s “glory” might be laid in the dust by his enemies. It refers to the inner pride and honor of man, the thing he glories in the most. That Civil War officer “gloried” in his flag; he valued it more than his life and health, and was willing to die for it. And so when David says of God here, “YOU are my GLORY”, he was saying that God was his pride; his honor; the One thing he gloried in the most.
The Bible tells us that this is the way it is to be with us and God: He is to be our glory:
— In Genesis 15:1 where we saw last week that God told Abram, “I am a shield to you”, He also said that He was “your exceeding great reward.” Some translations interpret that, “Your reward shall be very great”, but it is literally “I AM your exceeding great reward.” HE HIMSELF is our glory; HE is our reward!
— In Exodus 33:18 Moses cried out to God: “Show me Your glory”. What he wanted more than anything else in life was to see the glory of God.
— Psalm 20:7 “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of YHWH our God”. God is to be our boast, our Glory!
— Psalm 149:2 “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King”
— Isaiah 60:19 “you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory.”
— In John 14, Jesus told His disciples: “I will take you to MYSELF … where I am there you may be also.” What is glorious about heaven is the presence of the Lord in His glory, which outshines the sun!
— Rev. 21:23 says in the New Jerusalem “the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and it lamp is the Lamb.” Forever and ever in heaven, God will be the glory, the light, the pride, the joy, of His people!
Over and over the Bible tells us that GOD is to be the glory of His people. This is what we were created for, to experience the glory of God. It is what we LOST when we sinned: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We turned away from God, and looked for glory in other things, but Jesus came to die on the cross and pay for our sins, so that if we would turn away from finding glory in the wrong things, and turn back to God, that we could be forgiven, and know again that glory of God which we were MADE to experience. So when we are saved, the most important thing we gain is NOT “mansions” or “streets of gold” or “pearly gates”, but the glory of God forever in His presence – what we lost when we sinned. The glory of God will be our eternal joy, and it is to be our pursuit while we live on earth. God is to be our glory.
In Psalm 3:3 David says to God, You are “my glory.” He prized HIM, and found glory and honor and pride in him when everything else failed. We saw last week that the introduction to this Psalm tells us that this is “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” II Samuel 15 tells us the story. Absalom had beguiled the people of Israel and turned them all against David, and he had to flee for his life. He had lost his kingdom, his riches, his army, his family, his own son! — his own personal glory was now trampled in the dust and in dishonor – he had lost everything in the world! But David could still say to God: “YOU are my glory!” God was more important to him than anything else – than everything else together!
As we saw, that word “glory” means “weighty”. When David said that God was his “glory”, he was saying that God is the “Weightiest” thing in his life. He was saying that you could put everything else one side of the scale, and God on the other, and He outweighs it all. He is the glory. There is nothing more important.
That was true of Joseph too. In Genesis 39:9, when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, he responded to her: “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” In other words, Joseph was saying, I can put pleasure on one side of the “scale”, and God on the other side, and God is the most “weighty” to me – the Glory of God was more important to Joseph than pleasure or his own personal desires.
This is what God is to be for each of His followers: HE is to carry the most “weight” of consideration in all of our decisions:
— the most important factor for a Christian in not being immoral is NOT that they might get pregnant or might get a disease, but that it might tarnish the glory of God.
— the most important factor for a Christian not cheating or stealing is not that they might get caught and go to prison, but that it might harm the glory of God.
— the most important decision for a Christian in any decision is NOT how it might make THEM look or what it will do for them, but how it will make GOD look, and how it will advance His kingdom. HE is to be the most “weighty” consideration in every decision we make! He is our Glory!
Matthew 4:8-9 says that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their GLORY” if He would only fall down and worship Him. But Jesus saw all the kingdoms of the world and their glory on one side of the scale, and the Glory of God on the other side, and He said “Begone, Satan, for it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” The Glory of God was more “weighty” to Jesus than all the kingdoms of the earth together! As in everything else, Jesus gives us the perfect example of what it means that God is to be our Glory. It means that He is more “weighty”, more important than anything else, and everything else put together! He is our Glory!
II. Substitutes for God’s Glory
We all probably “know” that God is to be our glory. But in reality, we choose to glory in other things. We make other things in our lives “weightier” than God, which is basically idolatry. As we saw last week, one of the purposes God has for letting trials through His “shield” of protection is to purify us from sin. The greatest sin is breaking the Great Commandment: to love God with all our heart. So undoubtedly one of God’s greatest purposes in allowing trials to touch our lives is to purify us from making other things our “glory” instead of Him.
I have definitely seen that in may life that past couple of months. One of the areas in which I have been tested has been in whether God is really my glory. Stripped of my health, I was able to see afresh and anew that only He COULD be my glory, because anything else I could glory in could be taken away:
— I saw I could not glory in my preaching, which is easy for a preacher to do, just like it is for any man to glory in what he does. As men we take pride in our work, so it is easy to let that go too far, and to make an “idol” out of your job. That is a temptation for a preacher, too. But this illness (POTS/dysautonomia) reminded me that my preaching could be taken away from me in an instant. Had God not seen fit to bring me back, I would never have preached another message! I could still lose that privilege; I know my glory cannot be in my preaching.
— I saw that my glory could not be in my home and my possessions. It did not take me long to reason from “Point A” to “Point B”: if I could not preach, I would not be able to keep my job; I would lose my income. You start figuring real quick, and see that if you take some kind of medical retirement, you may not be able to live in your current home; you may have to downsize. If we did we might have sell or give away all kinds of things we own. As a result, during the past couple of months, I have envisioned the possibility of losing virtually everything I have. And I don’t think that is a “bad” thing. This illness caused me to “give up” all of those things in my heart. I don’t think I was overly materialistic anyway, but this episode helped me to forsake whatever “glory” I might have had in my “stuff”. I cannot glory in my possessions, because they could be stripped away from me at any moment!
This whole episode helped remind me that my glory is ONLY to be in God. He is the only thing that cannot be taken away from me. If I am sick, if I lose my job; if I lose my income, my house, my car, my possessions, my “pride” in my career – I could see if God was my glory, then my Glory was in Something I could never lose! It was good to be reminded that NOTHING else can take the place of the glory of God in my life. He alone is my glory.
And it’s not just me – every one of us needs to come face to face with this. I read an article a few weeks ago which said that there is a 100% chance of a global recession. Now I am not an economist, and I am not saying that is going to happen, but what if it does? Would you be devastated if you lost your retirement, or your savings, or your house, or car, or your current lifestyle? If you glory in those things, you are in a sad position, because they can all be so easily lost. God must be your glory.
As I mentioned, the glory of many men is in their work – that’s why so many guys get depressed when they lose their job. It is not just their income they’ve lost; it is their “status”; their “glory”! But what if you lose your job? What if you can’t work any more? I had to face that; what about you –what if you lost that job you are so proud of? What if all those years of sacrifices for the sake of “climbing the corporate ladder” turn out to be in vain? Don’t glory in your job; you can lose it in a moment! Glory in God!
Many people glory in their sports team. But think about it: is that really where your glory should rest — in the athletic accomplishments of other people whom you just watch, who can lose, or go into a slump? It is a poor place for your glory to rest; let’s be fans of GOD! Let’s glory in GOD!
We are not to glory in fame, or popularity. Paulin Blaise, the pastor and church planter where Clarity Thoreson from our church is serving this summer, posted Galatians 1:10 as his status on Facebook last week. That verse reads: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? … If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Since they are working in Dieppe, Canada, Paulin wrote that verse in French:
“Si je plaisais encore aux hommes, je ne serais pas serviteur de Christ.”
It is interesting that the French word for “please” men is “encore”, so that we might put it: “Am I seeking the ‘encore’ of men, or of God?” That’s a good question: whose “encore” are you seeking – the “encore” of men, or the “encore” of God?! There is nothing more fleeting than the cheers of men; anyone in public work will tell you: one moment you may be cheered, and the next you may be boo-ed. Any “glory” you may receive from people is fickle and fleeting. I am always amused at how eager some people are to get on television, or to have a standing ovation, or get millions of blog hits, or win “American Idol.” The glory of men is fleeting, and will not last. Find your glory in God alone – and not in any substitutes for Him.
Your glory cannot even be in your family; in your spouse or your children. Like Job, your children may be taken from you in a moment’s time. Or they may turn their back on you, or on God. Your spouse may die, or leave you, and become physically or mentally or emotionally impaired, and not be the same person that you so gloried in. I was dismayed a few years ago when some Christian teaching material asserted that the top need of a man was for his spouse to be a “trophy wife”. To me it is a poor reflection on a man who needs to use his wife as a “prop” for his ego! The Bible says man should care for his wife like his own body; he should love her and serve her — but his glory should be in GOD!
Your glory should not be in anyone or anything which can change, or be taken away. Is your glory in your beauty, or your physical appearance? That can change in a moment, can’t it? One medication they tried on me had the stated side-effect of adding body fat around your belly! It turned out, that medicine didn’t help my condition any, but the side-effects worked to perfection: I gained 10 pounds in a week! I’ve always prided myself on being in good physical condition – but now that was being lost too. Sometimes I thought: is God just taking everything away? But I think that was part of the lesson; that’s part of why He let this through His “shield” – to remind me that only HE was to be my glory. That is one of the most important lessons we can learn: that only God is to be our glory, no one and nothing else.
III. Trials and God’s Glory
God and God ALONE must be your “glory;” the single greatest reality of your life. If you will find your glory in God, then you have something which can sustain you even in your most difficult trials. It sustained David here in Psalm 3:3. Absalom had rebelled against him, and he had lost everything else in his life: his kingdom, his palace, his popularity, his possessions – even his family. But in the midst of that, he could say “YOU, O YHWH are my … glory.” He had lost everything else, but NO ONE could take his Glory away from him!
We see that same thing from David in Psalm 27. Again David was facing enemies; he wrote that there was a host encamping against him. But in the midst of his trouble, he could say that there was ONE THING he really wanted more than anything else: He said in :4, “ONE THING I have asked from YHWH, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.” The word “beauty” there is literally the Hebrew word “delightfulness”. Nothing else was more important than that: not his health, not his security, not his possessions, not his popularity – but beholding the delightfulness of God!
And when “the delightfulness” or the glory of God is the most important thing to you, you can have a feast in the midst of famine. You can have joy in the midst of deprivation and trials. Because everything else can be taken away from you, but nothing can take your Glory from you! That is why David could say in :6 “And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes I will sing praises to the Lord.” David said, I can SING with my very enemies around me – because God is my glory, and no one can take my Glory away from me. Paul & Silas could do that same thing, and sing in prison, because although they had lost everything else, they still had their Glorious God, and no prison bars could keep them from that!
We can rejoice in our trials too, if we will really make God our Glory. In Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on Psalm 90:1, entitled “The Glorious Habitation”, He said:
“The Christian knows no change with regard to God. He may be rich today and poor tomorrow; he may be sickly today and well tomorrow; he may be in happiness today, tomorrow he may be distressed; but there is no change with regard to his relationship to God. If He loved me yesterday He loves me today. I am neither better nor worse in God than I ever was. Let prospects be blighted, let hopes be blasted, let joy be withered, let mildews destroy everything, I have lost nothing of what I have in God. He is my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort. The Christian never becomes poorer, and never grows richer with regard to God. ‘Here’, he can say, ‘is a thing that can never pass away or change.’”
Those words of Spurgeon’s have been comforting to me in my time of trial. I could say on my darkest day: “I am neither better nor worse in God than I ever was!” No matter if I lost my job, my home, my cars, my health, even my life; NOTHING of what I had in God would ever change, if He is my glory.
I believe that one of the reasons that God put me on my back these months was to remind me that HE is to be my glory, and to test me about how much I really believe that. I do believe it – but sometimes it is our privilege, like it was Job’s, to be tested as to how much we really believe it, if it looks like we may lose everything else. And I can tell you with a clear conscience; these are not mere “words” to me: through these days I have found that He is indeed my glory.
Elizabeth Payson Prentiss was a pastor’s daughter, who became a pastor’s wife, but she endured great suffering. She struggled her entire life with insomnia and severe headaches that left her exhausted. (Sounds similar to dysautonomia, or POTS, the syndrome I have been wrestling with!) She also lost two of her children. With her health nearly destroyed, one day she wrote: “Our home is broken up, our lives wrecked, our hopes shattered, our dreams dissolved. I don’t think I can stand living for another moment.”
But in the depths of those dark days, she never lost her hope in God. In fact, it was in those very days that she began to write her prayer which took the form of a hymn, “More Love To Thee.” In it she wrote how her sorrows could be used to increase her love for the Lord:
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now thee alone I seek; give what is best:
This all my prayer shall be, more love, O Christ to thee,
More love to thee, more love to thee!
Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain;
Sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me, more love O Christ to thee,
More love to thee, more love to thee!
God may have some of you in a place like He had Elizabeth Prentiss; a place like He has had me in. He may have allowed the trial that you are enduring right now through His “shield” in order to draw you closer to Himself; perhaps revealing other things which have become more important to you than Him. If so, one of the best prayers you can pray is that of William Cowper from his hymn: “Walking With God”:
The dearest idol I have known
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from its throne
And worship only Thee
“Only Thee”; only God is to be our glory. Is that really true for you? Or as Avery Willis wrote in Masterlife, has some other Person, some other Purpose, or some other Possession, become your glory instead? May God give us grace to see how glorious He is; and in the face of the loss all else in our lives, to say to Him, “You alone are my GLORY!”