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Friday, January 8, 2010

Beauty and Glory

The most common Hebrew word for glory is Kavōd. Kavōd is related to an adjective (kavēd­ = heavy) and to a verb (kavēd = to be heavy). Eli is an old man and heavy—kavēd (1 Samuel 4:18). Abraham is also kavēd, not because he is fat, but because he is rich (Genesis 13:2). He is heavy (or we would say loaded) with possessions. In general, the Hebrew language can use kavēd for anything that is heavy or impressive, in a literal or in a figurative sense. Children are commanded to honor (kavēd) their parents (Exodus 20:12). That is, they are to treat them as weighty or impressive people. When we glorify the Lord, the word is again kavēd. Unlike the varied senses of the verb, the noun kavōd always means glory or honor, but the underlying thought is that God is weighty or impressive. In Hebrew, glory is a heavy word. Even though the apostle Paul wrote in Greek, the heaviness of glory in Hebrew was no doubt on his mind when he wrote,

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

All of God’s attributes are glorious, but when His actions are considered individually, they are not all beautiful. Ezekiel 39 speaks of a great battle in which God destroys the rebellious armies of the earth. At the end of the battle, the Lord invites the birds of the air to come and “eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth. . . . So you will be glutted at My table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all the men of war” (Ezekiel 39:18–20). That is not a pretty picture, but in the next verse the Lord declares, “And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them.” God’s just judgment is impressive; it is an expression of His glorious holiness and wrath, but considered by itself, it is not attractive. God’s judgment is only attractive when we view it in the context of all His perfections.

This, then, is the distinction I wish to point out: God’s glory is what makes Him impressive. His beauty is what makes Him attractive. The sum of all God’s attributes is both glorious and beautiful.

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