We invite you to return every day during Advent for this devotional series
Listen to today’s accompanying audio track:
And The Glory Of The Lord
“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”
Last night I tarried awestruck on the shore of Lake Bemidji in remote northern Minnesota. Unable to speak for the grandeur, I considered the Milky Way arching from one end of the sky to the other. I pondered earth’s own little back neighborhood galaxy and the “10,000 billion billion” more stars besides. I thought of the psalmist’s praise for how “the heavens declare the glory of God”.
Yet, the Scriptures regard the infinite heavens as merely God’s “finger-play” (Psalm 19:1). But to accomplish our salvation God had to roll up His sleeves, “to make bare His saving arm” (Isaiah 52:10). Remarkably, God’s glory is most revealed in His saving work of making us His own beloved children.
The glory of God is one of the great themes of the Bible, and a theme that the oratorio Messiah will return to again and again. Glory is a translation of the Hebrew kavod, which comes from a word meaning “heavy”. Kavod was used first to describe things that were “heavy” in a physical, literal sense. Then kavod was used figuratively to describe anything that was substantive, important, or significant. I remember walking out of a college lecture and exclaiming, “That was heavy!” I meant that it was laden with significance and importance. Conversely, when something is insignificant or frothy, we say that it is “light”. Or, when we feel we have been treated as insignificant, we say that we were treated “lightly”.
The Hebrews then came to use kavod, “heavy”, for a person deserving of recognition and praise. Such a person was regarded as a real “heavyweight”. God is the essence of heaviness, significance, and gravitas. God is glorious in all His ways, in the heavens and in accomplishing our salvation!
Today’s Biblical text and music exult in the glory of God redeeming Israel from the bondage of Babylon, and redeeming us from the bondage of sin and death. So it is that at Messiah’s birth, heaven’s angels ascribe the highest glory to God: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). It was on that greatest of all nights God was working to redeem His people.
Scripture declares the greatest revelation of God’s glory is not to be seen in the stars, but in Messiah’s cross. It was as Messiah faced His cross He declared: “The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified” (John 12:23). While the world thinks of glory as ticker tape parades and acclaim, the King of Kings thinks of glory as giving Himself for others.
Messiah giving Himself is seen even in His wanting to share His glory with us. The Apostle Paul writes how, in beholding Messiah’s glory, we are transformed into that same glory: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). “Behold your God!”
The music moves from the lone solo voice in the wilderness to a chorus of many rejoicing in the glory of God revealed. The combined voices represent many people, the “all flesh” who will experience the glory of God in their redemption. As they joyfully sing we can imagine an enthusiastic dance. Calvin Stapert adds this note: “The phrase, ‘And the glory of the Lord’ is always sung to a rising line that reaches its peak on ‘Lord.’ ‘Shall be revealed’ always descends, suggesting the incarnation’”. The glory of God is most revealed, not in the Milky Way or other celestial astonishments, but in Messiah coming down to be with us, and for us.
But how can we know that all this will happen? How can we know that Messiah will surely come? The chorus answers with the final and authoritative word: “For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it”. That settles it! The Lord has spoken! So Handel sets these words apart from the rest of the phrase, to emphasize the certainty.
- What do you sense that God might be saying to you in today’s Scripture text and music from Messiah?
- What do you want to say to God?
- Now take a few moments to be still in God’s presence.