The Glory of the Lord
Isaiah 40:1-8; Ezekiel 1; Hebrews 1:1-3
2 Corinthians 3:10,18
 
Last week we began a brand new series of messages focusing our attention on the King Who Would be a Man. And we looked at the danger of missing the King. Many will miss Christmas, just as many missed the first Christmas. It might be because of pre-occupation or fear. It might be because of pride or familiarity or even religion.
 
But we want to make sure that we don’t miss it. So to help us with that, I want to focus our attention on this King named Jesus Who came to earth to live as a man.
 
Today, I want us to focus on the King; His deity. He really was a King. Next week, we’ll consider His humanity. He really was a man. 
 
I want you to take your Bible with me and turn to Isaiah chapter 40. To help us focus on the Deity, the Kingliness of Christ, I want to zero in on a phrase found in verse 5. 
 
I would submit to you that in that one phrase we find the whole of the Christmas story. It is the Christmas message. The birth of Christ was the revelation of the glory of the Lord.
 
The whole concept of the glory of the Lord surrounds the Christmas scene. At the birth of Christ, the Bible says that angels shouted, "Glory to God in the highest."
 
And in Luke 2:9, it says, "The shepherds in meeting the angel were instantly aware that the glory of the Lord shown round about them and they were very much afraid."
 
So the glory of the Lord was the angelic focus at the birth of Christ. The glory of the Lord was the aura that invaded the scene. It is the very essence and nature of the Christmas story.
 
So let’s consider for a moment this phrase in Isaiah 40.
 
A little background will help us understand the import of these words. The book of Isaiah falls into three parts. The first 35 chapters are chapters of dark doom and judgment, chapters where God speaks words of wrath, vengeance, condemnation and judgment, not only upon His people Israel but upon the other nations as well.
 
Every so often the gloom and the darkness is pierced with a light of mercy and a gleam of grace as God's judgment is always tempered with His love. But by and large, there are 35 chapters of unmitigated judgment.
 
The second section is in chapters 36 through 39. That small section in the middle is really the heart of the prophecy. It is the historic setting in Israel that brought about the message of the book.
 
In these chapters, the prophet describes the situation, the affairs in his own time and why God must bring judgment.
 
So really, even though they are distinct in a way because they are historical, they provide a setting for the first 35 chapters. So in a very real sense, the first 39 chapters are about judgment in Isaiah.
 
But it didn't end there. For God's people there was coming another day and chapters 40 through 66 introduce that. This is the section on salvation and deliverance. And in this section, we are introduced to the Messiah. In chapter 53, for instance, we find the suffering servant. 
 
So chapter 40 is the turning point in the prophecy from judgment to salvation. Look how the section begins. After 39 chapters of judgment, you read this:
 
40:1-2
 
Suddenly there comes this message of comfort, saying salvation is coming, iniquity is pardoned, chastening is over. This is the message of hope. This is the message of glory. This is the dawning of a new day. This is the light at the end of the tunnel, the morning star that signals the end of the blackness of night. Salvation is coming.
 
With that theme, we proceed to verse 3. And the prophet takes us further into the arrival of this dawning of a new day.
 
It begins with
 
Verses 3-4
 
 
And when you come to the New Testament and you read the third chapter of Matthew and the third verse, you find that that is a prophecy fulfilled by John the Baptist.
 
The comfort, the pardoning, the salvation, the dawning of a new day would be introduced by this man crying in the wilderness, John the Baptist. He was preparing not a physical road, but a highway into men's hearts, an entrance into men's hearts.
 
Every valley exalted, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked made straight and the rough places plain, he was making things right in the lives and the hearts of men for the arrival of their Savior. That was his ministry. And he did those things by preaching repentance and the confession of sin and the baptism that spoke of a heart that was washed. And so came John the Baptist proclaiming the arrival of salvation.
 
Then verse 5, following John the Baptist, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. And then verse 5 takes us all the way to the end of the ages where all flesh will recognize Him and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
 
And how would they know that was going to happen? 
 
verse 8
 
If God says it, that settles it. There is a day of salvation. John the Baptist will introduce it. He will prepare the hearts of men, smoothing out the rough places, and then the glory of the Lord will be revealed.
And then the prophet without seeing the age of the church skips all the way to the fullness of blazing Kingdom glory, when all flesh sees together.
 
So for the sake of our Christmas celebration, let's focus just on that first part of verse 5, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed." What does that mean? What is the truth bound up in the message of the Spirit of God here?
 
Think about it this way: The glory of the Lord is the expression of God's person. It is any manifestation of God's character, any manifestation of His attributes in the world, in the universe is His glory.
 
In other words, the glory is to God what the brightness is to the sun. The glory is to God what wet is to water. The glory is what heat is to fire. It is the product of His presence, it is the revelation of Himself. Anytime God discloses Himself, it is the manifestation of His glory. That really refers to His presence.
 
Now we know that everything that exists in the universe is a manifestation of God's glory because all things were made by Him. And everything that is in existence then is a result of His nature. The heavens declare the glory of God. Everything He ever made speaks of His nature. Everything He ever did speaks of His essence so that the whole of all created things and all things in existence are revelations of God's glory. They are disclosures of His person.
 
You see His glory in the smallest flower. You see His glory in the butterfly. You see His glory in a tree. You see His glory in the sky. You see His glory in everything. All are reference points to His nature.
Now along the way, from time to time, God has gone beyond these creative declarations of His glory to give a more full disclosure of Himself.
 
In the Garden of Eden, for example, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the cool of the day, His presence was there in an emanating ineffable cloud of light. And they saw His glory.
 
In Leviticus chapter 9 and verse 6, Moses told the people that the glory of the Lord was going to appear to them and it did.
 
When they were in the wilderness, in Exodus chapter 16, God was feeding them with manna and as the manna came and was provided for them, the Bible says the glory of the Lord was seen.
 
At Mount Sinai when Moses went up to commune with God, the glory of the Lord covered the mountain and covered Moses so that the people could not see either, Exodus 24:15.
 
Iin Exodus 33, Moses said to God, "Show me Your glory." And God said to him, "No man shall see Me and live. I cannot display to you the fullness of My glory or you would be consumed, but I'll allow you to see My afterglow." God tucked him in a rock and revealed some of His glory. When Moses returned from that experience, the people saw that he had the glory of God shining from his face
 
We find that in Exodus chapter 40 at the completion of the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord filled the tent of the congregation.
 
And in Leviticus chapter 9 when the priesthood was initiated and the priestly ministry defined, and at first was set apart unto God, at that very initiation of the priesthood, the glory of the Lord was seen.
 
In Numbers 14 and verse 10, when the people had reached Kadesh- Barnea and instead of entering into the promised land by faith, they began to murmur and complain and rebel. The Bible says the glory of the Lord appeared.
 
Later on, after God had established the priesthood, there were three men, Korah, Dathan and Abiram who decided that they would take upon themselves the priestly function and they defiled that holy office and the ground opened up and swallowed them, according to Numbers 16. And it says in verse 19 that the glory of the Lord appeared.
 
In the same chapter later on when the people rebelled against Moses and Aaron, the glory of the Lord was manifest and it says it threatened to consume them in a moment.
 
In their wanderings in the wilderness, according to the twentieth chapter of Numbers, they became thirsty at Meribah. And in the midst of their thirst, Moses and Aaron fell prostrate before the Lord to pray on their behalf and the glory of the Lord was there.
 
In 1 Kings 8:11, it says when they completed the temple, the glory of the Lord came and filled it.
 
When they offered the first offering, 2 Chronicles chapter 7 verse 1, the glory of the Lord was seen and the people fell down and worshiped.
So you see, God not only revealed His glory in creation, but God revealed His glory in very special ways. The Old Testament reference to that presence of the glory of God is the Shekinah.
 
Now, I must tell you that as I read and study these things, there is a certain amount of mystery. No matter how many times you go over it and how many times you think it through, there is connected with the glory of God a certain amount of marvelous mystery. And to put it in more manageable terms, God chooses to describe it in various ways such as a cloud, or a pillar of fire, blazing light.
 
And it is very difficult for us to understand what this must have been like. There's only one place we can go in the Old Testament to get a description of it and it's in the first chapter of Ezekiel. Ezekiel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us the only description of what it was to see the Shekinah. And just to give you an idea of what he says, let me run down through this text, just listen.
 
Ezekiel 1
 
Well that really clears things up doesn’t it? What does all that mean?  I can give it to you very simply:
 
I don’t have any idea!
 
And I think that's the point. Ezekiel really did the best he could do, but he was trying to describe the indescribable. He was trying to unscrew the unscrewable. He was trying to tell us something that was impossible to communicate. He saw the glory of the Lord.
 
I mean, I gave you the best shot, but I just can't give you any more, it's too mysterious, it's too much. At best, he gave it a good effort. He saw the glory of the Lord later in chapter 3. He saw the glory of the Lord later in chapter 8, chapter 9, chapter 10. He saw it and saw it and saw it and still it had this incredible mystery.
 
"Now there's coming a day," says the prophet Habakkuk, "when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
 
But until that day of full knowledge, we are dealing with limited perception. We just really don't understand. And Ezekiel couldn’t describe it. And the more he goes on, the more tangled up we get.
 
So where are we at? 
 
Creation revealed the glory of God. And beyond that, the Shekinah, those very special glory appearances revealed His glory. But even with those, there is mystery.
 
And if all we had was that, our understanding of God's glory would be shrouded in confusion. And yet God wants us to know Him and He wants us to perceive Him and He wants us to understand His self-revelation. How can we ever know if that's all we have?
 
Well, fortunately Isaiah comes along and Isaiah says this: "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed." There's coming a greater disclosure, a fuller revelation.
So for the remainder of our time, let's see how the New Testament speaks of its fulfillment.
 
Hebrews 1:1 (prophets)
 
Stop there.
 
God spoke. He did it at different times and in different ways. That's what those two terms mean. At different times and in different ways, God revealed Himself. And primarily, he spoke by the prophets.
 
Now think with me. Let's pull together what we've learned up to now. God did not remain silent. God did not remain invisible. God did not leave Himself shrouded in the clouds of darkness. But He shone the light of glory.
 
First of all, He shone the light of glory in creation. And then He shone the light of glory in the Shekinah, those very special ways in which He invaded the life of the people of the Old Testament.
 
But most marvelously, and most conclusively, and most helpfully, He disclosed Himself beyond His creation and beyond His Shekinah in the Word of God revealed to the prophets so that the greatest revelation in time past is not the vision of the Shekinah, it is not the comprehension of the creation, it is the understanding of the Old Testament--for that is the word spoken by the prophets.
 
Now listen, creation and the Shekinah is limited. It is the written word of God that gives content to the creation and to the Shekinah.
You see, God only whispers in His creation. God only whispers in His Shekinah. But He speaks in His Word. And in the Old Testament, according to verse 1, He spoke. Not a whisper but in full voice.
 
But you know something? Even that was full of mystery. Study the prophets and you will have to come to the admission that most of the time, they didn’t have the foggiest idea what they were talking about, even though they were speaking the very words of God. 
 
One of the most incredible men of the Old Testament was Daniel, and God used him to share amazing truth with us. He had a wonderful personal relationship with God. But at the very end of the book of Daniel, in chapter 12 verse 8 he says this: "I heard but I did not understand."
 
That's how it is. If all you had was creation, you'd have a whisper. If all you had was Shekinah, you'd still have a whisper. If you had the Old Testament, you'd have God speaking in a full voice, but even then there would be mystery.
 
The fullness was still missing. They didn't get the fullest truest complete picture of what God was really like. Creation helped. Shekinah helped. The Word helped. But there was incompleteness in it all until
 
Hebrews 1:2
 
Now that is God shouting. If He whispers in His Shekinah and He speaks in the Old Testament, He shouts in His Son. You can't mistake it.
 
 
He is God and you see all of God manifest in Him: His judgment, His justice, His love, His wisdom, His power, His omniscience. It's all out of Him as we watch Him walk through the world, working His work, living His life.
 
The fullness of God is seen as it was never ever seen in Jesus Christ. He becomes that full revelation of the glory of the Lord.
 
Notice verse 3. "Who being the brightness of glory." Who is Jesus Christ? He is the glory of the Lord. That is what he's saying here. He is the brightness of God.
 
The phrase "being the brightness of His glory" is very simple. It means "to send forth light," or "to send forth brightness." It's simply saying He is the shining forth of God. Just as the radiance of the Sun reaches the earth to light us, to warm us, to give us life and growth, so in Christ do we sense the warmth and radiance of the glorious light of God touching the hearts of men. The brightness of the sun is of the same nature as the Sun. It is as old as the Sun. And never was the sun without its brightness. The brightness of the sun cannot be separated from the sun and yet it is distinct.
 
And so, Christ is God and yet distinct. He is God and yet He is the manifestation of God. He is the glory of the Lord who shouts the reality of God which is only whispered and spoken in time past. He is the Son of righteousness risen with healing in His wings. He is the King of Glory!
 
You look at the cradle and you don't see just a baby. You look at the cradle and you don't see just a child.
But you see the glory of God, the glory of the Lord in human flesh. Every time Jesus performed a miracle, every time He healed a lame man or gave sight to the blind, or hearing to the deaf, or a voice to the dumb, every time He forgave sin, God was revealing His glory.
 
Notice it says also in verse 3 that He was the express image of His person. The word is where we get our word for character.  It carries the idea of an engraving tool, a die or a stamp or a mold or a mark that is made by a seal.
 
 It has the idea of a copy or image or reproduction. And he is saying, "Christ is the image of God. He is the express image of God. He is the character of God revealed. He is the mark of God on human society. He is the stamp of God on human flesh.
 
This is Who He is! God in the flesh expressing the very presence and radiance and glory of Himself.
 
And then in order to support that, the writer gives us the excellencies of Christ. Let me list them for you very quickly:
 
First of all, think about
 
1. His inheritance
 
How has God in these last days spoken? Through His Son. Now sonship demands inheritance. Psalm 2, "I will make His enemies His footstool," "I will set My King on the holy hill of Zion." Psalm 2 is where the Father affirms the right of the Son to rule.
 
 
In Revelation 5, you remember the scene, John looks at the throne of God and it's time to take back possession of the earth. And they cry, "Who is worthy to take the scroll, the title deed to the earth and open it?"
 
And they look all over heaven and everywhere and no one is found. And finally comes forth the Lamb...the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ and He can take the scroll.
 
Why? Because He is the rightful heir to the earth. And He unrolls the scroll and beginning in chapter 6, the seals are broken as He repossesses the earth to establish His Kingdom. He is the one who has the right to rule. He is the one who is given the inheritance by God. And a marvelous thing to realize, that this One who came in humiliation and condescension will inherit all things.
 
So, we see--first of all--His inheritance.
 
2. His Initiation
 
Verse 2b
 "By whom also He made the worlds."
 
Christ not only will receive it in the end but He is the source of its origination in the beginning. He initiated it all through...the word "by" means "through," All things were made by Him. "And without Him was not anything made that was made," John 1:3 says. He can create. He did create. And only God can do that.
 
And by the way, the word for "world" there is not talking about the physical worlds alone. It goes way beyond that.
The word refers to the "ages." It means ages. Listen, it is not that He just created the physical worlds and the physical things that exist in the universe. It is that He created the concepts in which physical things can exist. It takes you one step beyond the physical. He created time and space and force and energy and matter. He created the stuff of which the physical creation is made. He made it all.
 
So, we see His inheritance, His initiation.
 
3. His influence
 
verse 3
 
That's His influence. He holds the whole thing together. It is His influence. It is Him that makes the atom move in its proper orbit, the building block of all things. It is His power that continually holds all things together. This universe would disintegrate and fly to pieces if it weren't for His upholding power.
 
Do you know that if the earth's rotation should slow down just a little bit, we would alternately freeze and burn? Or did you know that the sun has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit and if it were any closer or further away, we would freeze or burn?
 
Do you know that our globe is tilted at exactly 23 degrees and if it wasn't at that exact angle, vapors from the ocean would move north and south and pile up massive continents of ice?
 
Did you know that if the moon did not remain at its exact distance from the earth, the ocean tides would inundate the land twice every day?
Do you know that if the ocean slipped to just a couple of feet depth further than it is carbon dioxide and oxygen in the earth's atmosphere would be completely absorbed and no vegetation could exist?
 
Did you know that if the atmosphere didn't remain constant in the earth but it thinned out, millions of meteors which are harmlessly burned up in space would pummel the earth in a barrage of bombardment that would devastate us all?
 
Who holds the delicate balance? Keeps it all working? The Son does, the glory of the Lord. I often think about that. When He was walking through the world in His human body, and was going through all of the things that a man goes through, at the same time He was upholding the whole universe.
 
So, we see His inheritance, His initiation, His influence.
 
4. His Intervention
 
verse 3b
 
I love this. "When He had by Himself...I'll say that again...When He had by Himself purged our sin." Did you know He did it by Himself? You must know that. Even God the Father turned His back on Him. "My God, My God, why hast Thou...what?...forsaken Me?" Did it by Himself. By Himself He purged our sins.
 
Now, beloved, that's power. By Himself. He didn't need the assistance of anybody or anything. By Himself He did it. A greater work than creation, a greater work than providence, upholding, was the work of purging.
He cleansed our sins. That was His intervention into the human disaster. And for a brief moment, the glory departed. For a brief moment, the Shekinah went black. For a brief moment, the brightness became darkness. And the very darkness Jesus had resisted, engulfed Him. But He did it for us and He did it by Himself. And it didn't end there.
 
We see His inheritance, His initiation, His influence, His intervention. Finally,
 
5. His Installation.
 
And this is really where I’ve been trying to get to!
 
When He was done, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High. The "Majesty on High" is simply a name for God. He is the Majesty on High.
He is the King!
 
Now the right hand is the place of honor, the place of blessing, the place of power. He sat down. Why did He sit down? He was done.
 
You want to know something interesting? In the temple and in the tabernacle, there were no seats. You read the description of the tabernacle, you read the description of the temple, there were no seats nowhere. Why? Because a priest never finished and so he never sat down.
 
Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice by the millions and they never sat down because it never ever was a finished work. Jesus made one sacrifice and when it was finished He sat down. He sat down. It was over. There was nothing more to do. He finished and sat down.
Hebrews 10:12, what a great verse, "But this man...that is Christ...after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God."
 
Beloved, this is the message of Christmas. God has come into the world. And it is right to focus on His deity. But remember, The King Would be a Man. Next week, we'll turn the table and focus on His humanity. This is God.
 
Now what am I saying? This: The prophet said the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. The writer of Hebrews says the Son is the brightness of His glory. The message of Christmas is that God came into the world in all of His glory and what was only a whisper or in the Word an audible voice becomes a shout.
 
And someday in the future as you read the book of Revelation, when He comes back in His blazing glory which...I love it...Jesus calls "great glory"... when He comes back in Second Coming glory, the Bible says the shout will be even louder so that every voice in the universe will cry and shout and sing His praises.
 
Let me have you look at 2 Corinthians 3 and we'll close.
 
Now catch what that verse is saying: The Old Testament Shekinah appearances of the glory of God  were in fact glorious. That's true. That’s what is being referenced there. But there is a glory that excels, and it is so more excellent that the first appears to have no glory at all. 
 
 
 
In other words, the new disclosure of glory in the incarnate Christ and the new covenant about Him is so far more glorious that the old seems not glorious at all. It has no glory when compared with the glory that excels.
 
And what does it say to us?
 
Look down to Verse 18
 
Hey listen: the things that were mysterious, troublesome, confusing aren’t anymore. We're not like Ezekiel and Daniel anymore. That's gone. The veil is off.  We have the privilege of seeing the glory of the Lord. 
 
And as we behold Him and look at Him and gaze on Him, "We are changed into the same image from one level of glory to the next by the Spirit of the Lord." In other words, we literally become like Him as we gaze on Him.
 
Now every believer is somewhere in that process. We're gazing at His glory and being transformed into His image in the process.
 
You remember the story of the "Ugly Duckling?" I'm sure you probably do. Let me refresh your memory. He was more awkward and less attractive than the ducks he grew up beside. And so they ridiculed his differences. Fleeing their abuse, he took shelter in a home whose pets were a chicken and a cat. He was rejected there, too, because he couldn't lay eggs like a hen and he couldn't purr like a kitten.
 
"You just don't understand me," he told them. But he was treated only with scorn.
Then one day he beheld the graceful and elegant swans, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. And a strange feeling came over him. He turned somersaults in the water. He stretched his neck trying to follow their flight. And he uttered a cry so loud that it frightened him.
 
When he finally lost sight of them, he dived right down to the very bottom of the water. And when he came up, he was quite beside himself, he had no idea what the birds were called or where they were going. He only knew that he loved them as he had never loved anything before.
 
Another winter came with all its struggles. And at last spring melted the ice of the ponds. And as the ugly duckling was swimming, he saw again two of those beautiful birds. They swam straight toward him. And the closer they came, the more frightened
he became. And then when such beauty was right in front of him, he bowed his head in humility and covered his face with his wings.
 
However, when he bowed his head he saw his own reflection in the water for the very first time. And in speechless amazement, he saw that he, too, was a swan. Slowly uncovering his wings from his face, he lifted his head from the pond. He didn't raise it proudly and high as an ostrich would, but humbly as a swan, slightly bent over in an expression of gratitude. Then he swam off with his fellow swans.
 
Maybe we can see in that an analogy. Perhaps your experience is similar to that. Think with me. Your first look at Christ in faith may be like the ugly duckling who first saw the swans.
You have an overwhelming sense of your own ugliness and yet there is such a beauty and attractiveness in Christ that it turns your heart inside out.
 
And then one day as we face humility in our ugliness, as we gaze in the mirror, we see we are becoming that very beautiful thing we long to be. And with humility in our walk and gratitude in our hearts, we live our lives before God.
 
Listen, God wants to transform you into His own image from one level of glory to the next. It is staggering for me to perceive that the Lord Jesus Christ is the glory of the Lord revealed TO us. It is more staggering to reveal that He is the glory of the Lord revealed FOR us. It is most staggering of all to re...to understand that He is the glory of God revealed IN us. "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Oh my!
 
Most people will miss Christmas because they'll miss Jesus Christ. They'll miss the glory of the Lord. But I’m telling you today, there is a King Who would be a man, and you don’t have to miss Him because the Glory of the Lord has been revealed to us and it is my prayer that you focus on Him so that you can become what you were created to be.
 
Would you bow with me in prayer?
 
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