What is the Glory of God?

We talk a lot about the glory of God, but what does that phrase mean? It's possible that our frequent use of the phrase outpaces our understanding of it. It's possible for the meaning of this vital concept to be reduced to some religious jargon that we simply take for granted.

One of the most clarifying passages about God's glory is Exodus 33:18, where Moses made this incredible request of God:

Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’
— Exodus 33:18

Based on Moses' request, it's clear that glory is displayed or radiated by a person or thing that possesses glory, and glory is seen and enjoyed by an audience. "Show me your glory!" Glory is related to words like honor, fame, renown, excellence, and splendor. And all of those involve both manifestation and recognition, publication and comprehension. Glory is shown and glory is seen. 

Listen to God's response to Moses:

And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name “The LORD.” And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.’
— Exodus 33:19

Glory Means Goodness

Moses asked to see God's glory and God responded by saying that he would make all of his goodness pass before Moses. God's glory is synonymous with God's goodness.

The word translated goodness is the word that Pharaoh used when he said to Joseph's brothers, I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land" (Genesis 45:18). In Jeremiah 2:7, God says to his people, "And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things."

Throughout the Old Testament, the word goodness frequently appears next to words like fruit, fat, and abundance. And wherever there are good things, those good things are being enjoyed.

Listen to how God promises soul-satisfying joy to his people as they behold his goodness:

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
        and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
    over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
        and over the young of the flock and the herd;
    their life shall be like a watered garden,
        and they shall languish no more ...

    I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
        and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
                    declares the LORD.
— Jeremiah 31:12, 14

We see the same connection between goodness and delight in God's promise in Isaiah 55:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
— Isaiah 55:1–2

God's Satisfying Name

God's glory is God's goodness. And goodness is delightful and satisfying. So God's glory is his rich, abundant, satisfying goodness that he reveals for our delight. But how does God satisfy the human heart? When Moses asked to see God's glory, God responded by declaring his name, by revealing his character and nature.

The LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
— Exodus 34:6–7

So what is God's glory? It is the rich and satisfying abundance of all that he is--merciful, gracious, patient, loving, faithful. There is nothing in all the universe that can delight and satisfy and thrill the human soul like God. To say that he is supremely glorious is to say that he is the best thing.

What Are You Trusting?

This is why we talk about the glory of God so much. We were created with the ability to see and taste and savor goodness. We are glory-seekers, constantly looking for something to satisfy and thrill us.

You have made us for yourself, O Lord. And our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
— Augustine

The good news is that God himself--the best, most satisfying thing--has made himself available to us. He has made his goodness known. His work of creation declares his excellence. He revealed his name to Moses. His word unveils his character and nature and ways. And his Son, the one who is "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Heb. 1:3), came into our darkness to make God's glory known.

So whom or what are you trusting to fulfill you today? What good things have you set your hope on for security and satisfaction? Turn your hope away from created things and set your hope on the glory of God. He is the best thing.

Ryan Chaseglory