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
Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 10:16-18
Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 60:1-3
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.”
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.
God gives the Law to Moses:
Psalm 29:1-11 (2/1/2011)
Ex. 24:15-17, Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. And the
chabod glory of the LORD lay upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the
seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the chabod glory of the
LORD looked to the children of Israel like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain.
Moses puts the finishing touches on the Tabernacle:
Ex. 40:34-35, Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the chabod glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud lay upon it, and the chabod glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
King Solomon prays at the dedication of the Temple, which replaced the Tabernacle:
2 Chron. 7:1, Now when Solomon had finished praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the chabod glory of the LORD filled the house.
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.
Psalm 29 A Psalm of David.
Isaiah 6:1-13; 10:16-18 (2/2/2011)
1 Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, give unto the LORD chabod glory and strength.
2 Give unto the LORD the chabod glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of chabod glory thunders: the LORD is upon many waters.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve, and strips the forests bare: and in his temple every one speaks of his chabod glory.
*For the benefit of readers who notice stuff like this: Yes, indeed - every
couplet is parallel except vs. 9. The vowels in the Hebrew word make “deer.” But
remember, originally the Hebrew text had no vowels. If you leave out the vowels, you would
be inclined to read this “makes the oaks shudder,” and in fact a number of newer translations
have something like that. This is based on a brilliant conjecture by a scholar whose name
I can’t find right now. “Conjecture” means, “I know that’s not what it says now,
but I bet that’s what it used to say!” And I bet he’s right!
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.
Isa. 6:2-3 Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and
with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his chabod glory.”
Isaiah 40:1-11; Isaiah 60:1-3 (2/3/2011)
10:16-18a Therefore the Lord, the Lord of hosts, will send leanness among his fat ones; and under his chabod glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. And the light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame: and it will burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; and will consume the chabod glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body.
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?”
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.
Isa. 40:3-5 The voice of him who cries in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the LORD, make
straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and
hill will be made low: and the crooked will be made straight, and the rough places plain: And
the chabod glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for
the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.”
Ezekiel 10:1-22 (2/4/2011)
60:1-3 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the chabod glory of the LORD has risen
upon you. For, look! darkness will cover the earth, and great darkness the people: but the LORD will
arise upon you, and his chabod glory will be seen upon you. And the Gentiles will come to
your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
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.
Ezek. 10:3-4 Now the cherubim stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the chabod glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD's chabod glory.
10:18-19 Then the chabod glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the house and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD's house; and the chabod glory of the God of Israel was over them.
Other Aspects of God's Character
Glory, Old Testament
Holiness, Old Testament
Longsuffering, Old 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
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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are held monthly on the second Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. St. John’s feels especially called to the worship of God and to the service of our neighbors through our music program
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