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God's Presence as His Glory

If the Bible provided a "Noah Webster" definition of "glory", there would be two entries. One would cite the Isaiah texts (and others) as "praise and credit given for a beneficial action".  Another meaning is defined by its usage as signifying the presence of a "field effect" unique to God's presence.  Just as an electric field is evidence that charged particles are present, and a magnetic field is evidence of a moving electric field, so the "glory of God" is evidence of God's presence.  This seems to be what Jesus is talking about, since in John 17:5, he speaks of having this glory "which I had with thee (God the Father) before the world was."  That is, long before the existence of foolish people who would credit blocks of stone and wood for the workings of the Ever Existing and Living God.  Passages that use this word to signify the presence of God are Exodus 16:6-12, Exodus 29:43, Exodus 33:18-23, Exodus 40:34-35, 1 Kings 8:10-11, and Chronicles 7:1-3.  The physics of God's Glory are hazy due to the non-existence of words that would convey the details with more precision.  The few details we have are that the human sensory system perceives it as light, and there are adverse physiological side-effects when the field strength is especially high.  In the Exodus 33:18-23 passage, when Moses asks to behold God's glory, God notes a few difficulties that He, God, has to work around:

18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. 19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. 20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. 21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: 22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: 23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

There are some things that God physically cannot do, of which one is directly sustaining a person while that person is viewing His face.  However, God makes use of a certain aspect of the nature of His glory to enable Moses to view it, which is that it is not evenly distributed throughout what passes for God's "body".  God has a face, a back, and at least one hand.  The glory "streams" from His face the most, and the physics of it and the structure of human beings does not allow God to spare or sustain the life of anyone who sees his face.  However, it "attenuates" or becomes less intense based on how far away the body part of God is from the head.  Thus, the hand is far enough away that it does not have a perceptible glory coming from it, so it can be used to shield Moses while God gets into position.  God's back parts are intermediate in distance, so there is enough glory streaming from them for Moses to appreciate, yet not so much as to be totally overwhelming.  Even then, God mandates that a certain amount of shielding is required between Himself and Moses, specifying that the view be constricted by Moses putting himself into a cleft of the rocks.  This is similar to taking advantage of pre-existing structures in a radiological work environment to cut down on the amount of radiation picked up from nearby radioactive structures.

Follow the Glory

In Exodus 34:5-9, God makes good on his promise to show his back to Moses.  What is significant is that it is the first thing God does when Moses returns to Sinai with two new tablets of stone for God to write the 10 commandments on.  Exodus 34:28-35 reports the following:

28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.  29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. 31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. 33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

I think it is obvious that Paul could not have helped but notice the significance of what Jesus said in John 17:22, and decided that the "glory" Jesus was referring to was this field effect that indicates the presence of God.  It is the above passage that Paul expounds on in 2 Corinthians 3, the entire chapter of which is so significant that I will quote it here in full:

1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; 6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.   7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13 And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 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.

 The dark blue mark-up is to be read as counterpoint text to the green mark-up.  The oppositions are designed to explore the differences in the "glory" as experienced by Moses and the Israelites, and the "glory" promised by Jesus Christ in John 17:22.  Paul here is, to adapt a modern phrase, "following the glory".  The first opposition is in verse 3, contrasting the hearts of the Christians against the tablets upon which the 10 commandments were written.  The stone is hard and dead, while the hearts are fleshy and alive.  The writing on the stones is done by chisel, while the writing on the hearts is the Holy Spirit (not by the Holy Spirit).  The second opposition is in verse 6, where Paul contrasts the letter (of the law, the Torah) against the Spirit, stating that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.  To ensure that the "letter" he speaks of is understood as the Torah, he states that this killing letter is "the ministration of death written in stone".  He admits that, based on Exodus 34, that ministration of death was with such glory that it made making Moses' face shine with acquired glory, terrifying the people.  Yet, he insists that the glory that accompanied the ministration of condemnation is matched by the glory accompanying the ministration of the Spirit (Verses 7-8).  For starters, the glory of the ministration of the Spirit exceeds the glory of the ministration of death (Verse 9).  The contrast is so great, he claims, that the former glory cannot be counted as anything in contrast to the Latter glory (Verse 10).  Why is this?  Eventually, the glory in Moses' face died away.  It was temporary.  That glory passed away, to yield to the Glory that "remaineth" (Verse 11).  Those who preach the ministration of the Spirit can speak plainly (verse 12), while those preaching the ministration of death have to hide the glory because it terrified the hearers (verse 13).  What is tragic is that "the glory has departed", but the veil remains, clouding the vision of those reading the texts of the ministration of death, while those looking to Christ have the veil removed (verse 14).  The veil was worn by Moses when he talked to the people, but he removed it when in the presence of the Lord, so Paul argues that the Christ takes the place of God, and the believers Moses.  The veil is not a physical one, of course, but it shrouds the heart (verse 15), preventing an understanding of the Scriptures as well as keeping the Spirit from coming to write Himself upon it.  This shrouding of the heart is taken away when one turns to the Lord (Verse 16).  Not coincidentally, this same Lord is also the Spirit, and that Spirit is a liberating one (verse 17).  Paul then transitions to the image of the believers beholding "as if in a glass" the glory of the Lord (verse 18).  This beholding causes a transformation of the beholders into the same image from glory (like Moses' glory) to glory (the present one).  And how is this effected?  "Even as by the Spirit of the Lord." This last opposition is implied, and takes off on the origin of the glory.  The glory that attached itself to Moses was attained by him beholding God's Back, while we move from glory to glory by beholding the face of Jesus Christ "as in a glass".  The glory of Moses was attained by being in God's presence and may have received booster shots when Moses took the veil off, but it eventually died away.  In contrast, the believer who beholds the glory of the Lord "as in a glass", moves from one level of glory to a higher one "even as by the Holy Spirit."

(An aside: this passage is so full of significant information pertinent to the activity of the Holy Spirit that it would take an entire essay to do it justice.  However, I will point out one aspect for my readers to meditate upon.  This is the phrasology of verse 3, where it is said that the Epistle of Christ is written on the human heart (the page) with the Holy Spirit as the ink.  It is not that the Holy Spirit writes on the heart, as if He was a scribe impressing the thoughts of Jesus upon the paper, in the same way that the words of the ministration of death were forcibly chiseled into a stone by the process of gouging from it pieces of the stone itself.  The violence of the chisling process is greatly moderated when the technology shifts from chisel and stone to pen, ink, and paper, but there is an image of separate-ness involved and being conveyed.  This is not so with the Holy Spirit, who does not take on the role of the scribe, but of the ink.  One of the major problems that had to be solved when modern laser printer technology was being developed was the problem of getting ink to be bonded to the paper quickly enough so that it does not smear while the printed page goes through the last few rollers and wheels.  The letter being written would get smeared and become less legible if the ink does not become part of the paper itself.  The ink must merge itself with the paper so it is "one" with it, so that the message cannot be smeared and rendered illegible, but remain plain and readable.)

The phrasology of 2 Corinthians 3:18 is of interest to us, for it talks of the Spirit changing us..  This is done as we "with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord".  This is interesting terminology, for the word used for "glass" is actually better translated as "mirror".  It is not the same glass that is darkly looked through in 1 Corinthians 13, but reflects the face of the beholder by design.  We are not seeing Jesus through a mirror, but we are looking in the mirror and behold, reflected in that mirror, "the glory of the Lord" that is emanating from us.  As we behold this glory, "we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Holy Spirit."  What we see in this mental mirror is not Jesus Christ.  Rather, it is His glory, which he said, in John 17:22, that he got from the Father and would give to us.  This glory can be likened to radiation, which allows us to see and will transform us as we expose ourselves to it.  As I have noted before, this glory is not God, but is an emission of sorts from God that is an infallible indicator of His presence.  Those objecting to people sharing in the glory of God per the statement of Jesus ignore the evidence out of a mistaken reverence while implying that Jesus is a liar.  Moses is an example of a human being sharing in God's glory.  So what member of the Godhead, therefore, is present within the believer, who is the source of the glory that is the unmistakeable evidence of their presence?

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