The Glory of God

By Paul Koch

“It is the glory of the Lord to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” – Proverbs 25:2

About 8 years ago I first tried my hand at gardening. In the sandy soil of our home in southeast Georgia I built a small bed and planted a few seeds. That first year’s harvest was by all accounts a failure. I learned a lot about soil nutrients and proper water. But the second year was a little better, and the year after that, a little better. Each year I expanded my garden beds as well as my knowledge and understanding and I envisioned a backyard that would be more garden beds than lawn. I truly learned to love all that was involved in a garden, maybe not the weeding, but certainly the cultivating of the soil, the design and implementation of a watering system, the planting, maintaining and harvesting of the vegetables. But one of the things that still fills me with a sense of awe, from my first garden to the one I have at home right now, is how one little seed can produce such an incredible harvest.

Let’s take a tomato seed as an example. In Georgia, tomatoes took a fair amount of work to grow. Here in Ventura they take a lot of work to keep them from taking over your whole garden. They are prolific and grow into these large bushes that keep producing fruit all season long. But the seed, the seed is this tiny little thing. And hidden in that little unassuming and insignificant thing is great abundance. In fact, seeds in general are amazing. I think it is incredible that weeds will grow in a little crack in my driveway. I mean, this little seed finds the smallest amount of dirt hiding in a break in concrete, grabs hold, and won’t let go. Or have you ever been in the mountains and saw where a tree was growing up in a small crevice in a rock and has grown to such a size that it actually splits the rock in two?

It is easy to take note of an abundant harvest, to marvel at the amount of produce one can receive from even a casual gardener. It is easy to gaze in wide eyed wonder at towering trees that manage to even split granite rocks with their undeterred expansion. We can even shake our heads in frustration and appreciation at the careless weed that takes hold in the midst of a concrete slab and continues to thrive. But we rarely think about the seed, the lowly little seed that began it all, that made it all possible. We are used to looking to the grand and the powerful and the resilient as the greatest and most glorious objects worthy of our praise. But the true glory is concealed in the small and unimpressive seed.

“It is the glory of the Lord to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

I have been inside some historic churches. Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and these places were crafted to try and capture the glory of the God they were inspired by. Whether it was incredibly beautiful mosaics or towering domes suspended high overhead or the intricate statues that lined the walls, these churches were more than feats of architecture. They were designed to be worthy of the glory and majesty of God. In fact, it is said that when Emperor Justinian dedicated the Hagia Sophia in 537 A.D. he said, “Solomon, I have surpassed you.” That is, he surpassed the building of the great temple itself. It was a place truly worthy of the glory of God, a place of unmatched magnitude and beauty.

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Today such building projects are far beyond the reach of any churches attempt to capture the glory of God. But just because we no longer have the financial means to demonstrate his glory in brick and mortar, don’t think the churches have given up. If we can’t capture his glory in awe inspiring architecture, we can certainly do so with music and lights and powerful rhetoric. Instead of focusing on the structure we can focus on the experience of church. The emotions that flow through a service can be as awe inspiring as stained glass windows and statues. After all, if you are going to have a genuine experience with the Almighty it ought to be something truly special. And so everything from choirs to praise bands to movie presentation and heartfelt testimonials are marshaled to make sure the glory of God is experienced when we gather in his house of worship. We don’t want to just read about the glory of God; if we can’t see it physically in the space we worship, we better at least experience it in a powerful life changing way.

Now I’m not saying all this because I don’t think we should have beautiful buildings to worship in or uplifting and passionate music that moves us. Instead I want to highlight how these things, these external attempts to make visible the glory of God, become so easily what we truly love about church. It is because by nature we gravitate to the external signs of glory. Like marveling at the towing trees or the abundant harvest, we clamor for the big and impressive. By nature, when entering a feast, we are those who want to take the best seats for ourselves. Who doesn’t want to be near the place of glory and honor? Who doesn’t long for some recognition some appreciation for sacrifices made and effort given? Each of you in your own way has some longing for glory. The quest of Adam and Eve to reach up and become like God has not been completely obliterated from your sinful hearts.

“It is the glory of the Lord to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

When you attempt to search out the glory that God has concealed, what is it that you find? When you seek out the glory of the Almighty do you end up high and lifted up? Do you end up in the big church with the emotional service? Do you go to the cathedral that is worthy of the God’s glory? Not if you are finding him where he has promised to be. Just think where he was found when he came into our history. The Magi thought they would find him in the palace in Jerusalem but instead were directed to Bethlehem. He came in all his glory as a baby laying in a manger and crying out into the night. He came weak and small, in need of protection and care. He came as one who would grow to be man who would be beaten and bruised, who would bleed and die on a tree outside the walls of that city. His glory was when he was lifted up on the cross crowned as the king he truly is, and died for sins he never committed.

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The glory of the Lord is to turn everything over on its head. As Mary sang in her great song, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” And so God’s glory in our midst doesn’t dwell in beautiful buildings or emotional performances but in the Word which he speaks to you and the sacraments by which you are washed and fed as his children. Though these simple and lowly things, through the mouths of another, through water and bread and wine, God does his great work of saving each and every one of you. Here he has concealed his glory. Here he has declared to you, “I am not far from you, I have found you and I forgive you. You, this day, are my own dear children ready for the blessings of eternal paradise.”

The glory of the Lord conceals his gift of salvation in the body and blood of his only begotten. He conceals your eternal life in the gifts of the church which deliver the blessings of Christ to you. And such a glory then lives in our life together.

Have you ever had to ask one of your own children for forgiveness? I have. I jumped to conclusions and accused the wrong party. I said things for which I asked forgiveness. That’s a humbling thing, to ask a child to forgive you. And it is an amazing thing when they do. When they look at you with those loving and trusting eyes and they say “I forgive you.” It’s so small, so unassuming, so insignificant compared to this world’s quest for glory. For there in that small voice is all the power of the almighty, a release from a trespass, a word of forgiveness that lives within each of you as you continue to deliver that which you’ve received from God. And like a small seed you will find that such a Word has all the power, all the glory, to break the hardest of rocks in pieces.

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