Holy Smoke! Also fire, brightness, weightiness, splendor, and honor.

The Character of God:  Glory

Old Testament, Hebrew cabod

Exodus 24:15-18, Exodus 40:30-38, 2 Chronicles 6:38–7:4, Introduction
Psalm 29:1-11
Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 10:16-18
Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 60:1-3
Ezekiel 10:1-22

Other Aspects of God's Character

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Exodus 24:15-18, Exodus 40:30-38, 2 Chronicles 6:38–7:4, Introduction to “The Character of God.” (1/31/2011)

I was playing Legos with my 4-year-old grandson after Christmas.  He was putting the people together, and he said he needed a peig.  I said, “A pig?”  “No.  A peig.”  I said, “What?  Is it in the picture?”  He pointed to a cylindrical object in the old man’s hand.  Actually, it was a long cylindrical object, so I would have called it a “rod,” or even a “walking stick,” but I just said, “Oh, a peg,” and handed it to him.  Some time back, my granddaughter, also about 4 or 5 at the time, said she was going to put together the “assessories” for the castle.

Now, I’m not telling you this just because my grandkids are adorable and brilliant.  The important point is that nobody sits down with 4-year-olds and a dictionary to teach them words like “peg” and “accessory.”  They had learned these words from context.  Then they used them, as naturally as breathing and for the most part accurately, but the way they used them needed a little refinement. 

Strangely enough, the Bible doesn’t even come with a dictionary.  We – all of us, children, readers, and scholars alike – have to learn the meaning of words from context, and sometimes our understanding needs a little refinement.  So we in this study are going to spend some time looking at the basic words that we take for granted – in context.  I will always give you the Hebrew or Greek word in bold italics, because sometimes the same word gets translated differently.  Furthermore, I will try to give you bold italics for the other words (in English) that we’ll be looking at during the next three months.   Of course we aren't going to read about all of God's characteristic, because as a human being I don't even know all of God's characteristics. But we will read about some of the ones that we hear about all the time.

Putting first things first, we’re starting with the character of God, and we begin with “glory,” as in “the glory of the LORD.” Notice that the glory of the LORD is like a devouring fire. 
Psalm 29:1-11 (2/1/2011)

Do you have a friend whose opinion carries a lot of weight with you?  Do you honor your friend’s opinion?  The root meaning of our Hebrew word cabod is weight or heaviness, and thus splendor, honor, or glory.  In the King James version, cabod is translated “glory” 155 times, “glorious” 10 times, and “gloriously” once.  “Honor” and “honorable” weigh in for another 30 occurrences.  A few other Hebrew words are translated “glory” a few times.  Mostly glory = cabod.

Even in English, our psalm today makes this connection between weightiness and glory.  The voice of the LORD is an almost physical presence that thunders over the water, shakes the wilderness and the lands of Lebanon and Sirion, breaks trees, and strips the leaves from the forest.  We also see a flash of fire, reminding us that the glory of the LORD is like a devouring fire.  This weightiness, this physical presence, is the glory of the LORD that filled the Tabernacle and the Temple.
Isaiah 6:1-13; 10:16-18 (2/2/2011)

When God called Isaiah, Isaiah had a vision of God sitting on a high throne in the temple.  As we saw earlier this week, God’s glory is manifested in the fire, smoke, and thundering voice that fill the temple. The image of fire is also present in two more ways in this passage.  Seraphim means “burning ones.”  The seraph touches a coal to Isaiah's lips: the fire of God’s glory is not only devouring, it is purifying.

By the way, this is one of the few passages in which an angel appears to a human being without saying “Fear not.”

Note that I’ve bolded “holy,” because holiness is another aspect of God's character.  I think you’ll be interested to see how often the Biblical writers use the same words in pairs and phrases to describe the character of God.
Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 60:1-3 (2/3/2011)

First, full marks to fellow reader Vance B. for catching me in a mistake yesterday (which I have removed).  I keep telling you to read this stuff for yourself.  Unfortunately, you read it for yourself, and then you think, “What?  Can’t Regina read?”  Apparently not.

Anyway, we’ve seen the glory of the LORD associated with fire, smoke, and weight.  Today we see brightness.  Notice that not only is the brightness visible in and of itself, but it illuminates the earth.  
Ezekiel 10:1-22 (2/4/2011)

Ezekiel’s vision is hard to follow, but by now we recognize the images of smoke, fire, and brightness connected with the cabod glory of God.  We’ve seen this week that God’s glory can be scary and dangerous, as well as awe-inspiring.

I should also tell you that human beings can also have cabod, especially kings (e.g., 2 Chronicles 1:2 and 17:5; Esther 1:4 and 5:11; Job 19:9), although sometimes it gets translated “honor.”

Cherubim are another kind of angels (note:  1 cherub, 1 seraph; 2 or more cherubim or seraphim.  You may say cherubs or seraphs, but you may not say “1 cherubim” or “1 seraphim”).  Cherubim are also mentioned in Exodus 25 and 37 and 1 Kings 6 and 2 Chronicles 3 as images in the Tabernacle and Temple.  In 2 Samuel 22, God rides one!  The angel with the flaming sword outside the gate of Eden is a cherub (Genesis 3:24) (or maybe more than 1 cherub—it’s plural).  After reading this passage, you'll know not to say, “Oh, what a little cherub!” the next time you see an adorable baby.


Other Aspects of God's Character
Glory, Old Testament, New Testament
Holiness, Old Testament, New Testament
Longsuffering, Old Testament, New Testament
Steadfast Love, Old Testament, which is Mercy in the New Testament
Graciousness, Old Testament, which is Grace in the New Testament
Jealousy, Old Testament
Intolerance of Sin, Old Testament, New Testament

Copyright 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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