Scripture: Hebrews 1 : 1 – 3
Theme: The Radiance of God’s Glory
The Holy Spirit said through the prophet Isaiah: “Bring the good news. A voice of one calling in the desert: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” After the arrival of this man, said Isaiah, “the glory of the Lord will be revealed” (Is 40:3-5).
800 years later, a man by the name of John the Baptist was this “voice calling in the desert” (Matt 3:1) which means that Jesus’s birth/incarnation was the revelation of the glory of God (of which Is 40:5 had spoken). Indeed, the entire concept of the “glory of God” surrounds the account of the birth of Christ. Scripture says that the angels said: ”Glory to God in the highest”. And according to Luke 2:9 the shepherds became terrified when the glory of the Lord shone around them.
But what exactly is this “glory of God”?
It is the way in which the person/character/attributes of God manifest toward man. The glory of God is with reference to God as brightness is to the sun and wet to water and heat to fire. In other words, any place where God reveals Himself, His glory shall be visible, as in the creation for example. Everything that exists is a result of His Person/nature. The tiniest flower and butterfly. A tree. The starry heavens. Creation reveals something of God’s glory.
And yet throughout the OT, the Lord from time to time – in His interaction with His people – revealed something more of His glory. It is the so-called Shekinah. A visible manifestation of His glory. Adam experienced something of this before the Fall in the garden when God walked with him. Years later Moses wanted to see more of the glory of God than is visible in creation. “Lord, show me your glory” (Ex 33:18). “No one may see Me and live” said the Lord. “But I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand so that you can see my glory in passing only”.
In Exodus 16 we read that, when the Lord initially fed the nation with manna, they saw something of His Shekinah radiance. At Mount Sinai the glory of God filled the entire mountain in the form of a consuming fire (Ex 24:17). And in Ex 40 it says that the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Indeed, always afterward His glory was physically visible above the tabernacle in the form of a cloud which hung above it.
According to Lev 9, the glory of the Lord also manifested when the Levitical priests made atonement for the nation Israel the first time. The glory of the Lord also appeared when the ground split apart and the earth swallowed the rebellious Korah, Dathan and Abiram and all their households, and they went alive into the grave (Num 16). When king Solomon dedicated the completed temple, the priests could not enter it because the glory of heaven filled it, so that the Israelites fell down in worship with their faces to the ground (2 Cron 7).
You see, the only true living God does not only reveal His glory in creation, but also in special ways in the indescribable Shekinah-appearances.
And yet every time it was still an incomprehensible/ inexplicable/ unfathomable/ inscrutable mystery. On the one hand the Shekinah was a true revelation of the glory of God, but on the other hand the glory of the Lord was still a closed book to His ancient people.
You will not find a direct description of the Shekinah anywhere. There is only ONE place in the OT where you do find a description and it is in Ezekiel 1 where Ezekiel stammered trying to describe the vision that he saw of the glory of God when the heavens opened. You can read all of it in Ezek 1.
He saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was like that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings.
Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on each side, and two wings covering its body. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.
As I looked, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels. They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. As they moved, they would go in any of the four directions the creatures faced. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all round. When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.
Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire; and from there down he looked like fire, and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.
This is the only direct description of the Shekinah appearance of God’s glory in the entire Bible. And what does it all mean?
No one, but no one on planet earth knows. No exegete knows. Indeed, Ezekiel himself did not know. He tries to find words. He describes in symbolic language that which cannot be described. He tries to communicate what cannot be communicated. The Shekinah is a sealed book. Yes, a direct description, but still a sealed book!
And yet, says Habakkuk, there shall come a day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Then there shall no longer be such a restriction on people’s knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
That is what Isaiah 40:5 also promises: ”And the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” A great unlocking will take place. A fuller revelation. Even the very Words of God to His OT prophets were not yet this complete unlocking of the glory of the Lord. The creation was not. The Shekinah was not. The words of the prophets were not. Daniel had to hear from the Lord that he would never understand the exact content of his own prophecies. It would remain hidden from him (Dan 12:9). Exactly as Peter would say centuries later in 1 Pet 1:10-12 namely that the OT prophets tried to fathom what their words meant, but that it was not revealed to them.
One could say that creation was merely a whisper of God’s glory. It was limited. The Shekinah was also only a whisper. The prophetic words were already an audible voice. God whispers through His creation. He whispers through the Shekinah. He speaks through the prophets. But the restriction is still in place. The fullness is still lacking.
WHEN then will the Lord call out loud and not merely whisper or speak?
And then it happened. Hebrews 1:1: “ In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in many ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being. So He became as much superior to the angels as the Name He has inherited is superior to theirs”.
In the coming of Jesus, God does not whisper/speak any longer. He CALLS. And His call is final. He does not keep quiet any longer. He is not invisible any longer. He no longer reveals Himself only in part. He does not conceal Himself behind His creation/Shekinah/symbolic prophetic words any longer. He reveals Himself in full in/by His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him you see/know everything about the living God.
So much so that Paul says in 2 Cor 1:20 that all God’s promises in Jesus is yes and amen… to the glory of God. All of God’s glory is yes and amen in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is above everything and everyone. He is THE SON. Better than a prophet. Greater that the prophets. Greater than the angels. Greater than the priests. Greater than Moses. Greater than Aaron. He is the Son. From Him radiates the glory of God (v3). He is the inexpressible reflection of God – his light and radiance.
Therefore John says in John 1:14: ”The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory…”
The word “radiance” in Heb 1:3 means light/heat that is emitted. God himself radiates from Jesus of Nazareth. He is the exact image of God.
See 2 Cor 4:4, Col 1:15. Also Col 2:9.
You do not see only a baby in the manger at Bethlehem. You see the living God of heaven and earth in real flesh. Every time when our Lord Jesus acquitted someone from sin or healed a blind/deaf/mute person or took command over a demon or dried someone’s tears, God’s glory was revealed. His glory is revealed in how He single-handedly (without any assistance) effected the purification of all the elect from their sins (v 3). Single-handedly He saved and delivered all His people on the cross for ever. He completed the work. Therefore He SAT down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (v3). The OT priests who brought the sacrifices in the tabernacle/temple had to remain standing all the time. There were no chairs. Because their work was never completed. They were imperfect sacrifices. But, our Lord Jesus went to SIT. Because His work of salvation was perfect and accomplished and completed.
Do you see the message of Christmas?
In closing I wish to focus your attention on 2 Corinthians 3:10. “For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory”.
The glory of God during the time before Christ (which was transitory) was indeed wonderful. But it is pale by comparison with the glory of God as revealed in the countenance of our Lord Jesus Christ (which is lasting).
Actually, it can not really be compared. Just think how Ezekiel struggled to describe something of the glory in all kinds of symbolic language. Almost as if he looked at it with a veil covering his face. Veiled eyes. Besides that is the way all the OT believers looked at the glory of God – with a veil covering their faces.
Listen now to the wonderful verse 18: “And WE, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory…”. Is that not wonderful? And further: “are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.
Born-again people are people in a process of transformation. We are no longer veiled when we look at the glory of the Lord, like Ezekiel. The veil is removed. We know Christ. He personally met with us. His Spirit has powerfully worked in us. We look at Him. We live with Him. He lives with us. And as we look at Him and commune with Him, He changes us and we reflect more and more of His glory. We are gradually being transformed into His likeness by the working of the Holy Spirit. We know that we have progressed from where we were last Christmas. We experience the increase, the change within ourselves. And that fills us with an overwhelming assurance and gladness.
Translated by Marthie Wilson