Glory and grace

This guest contribution comes from David Shepherd, who is regular contributor to discussion on this blog. Originally from Trinidad, David is an Architectural IT Manager who ‘discovered a passion for “unschooled” apologetics all too late in life’. He worships in Guildford Diocese where is he a member of the House of Laity on Diocesan Synod.

King-of-Glory1God’s Glory is a weighty matter. Our Creator is honoured when we offer ourselves and his providences of life back to him in recognition of his right to do with his creation as he pleases. It is sin that causes us to persist in refusing to recognize God’s rights over all creation. Instead, the human tendency is for forbidden desires to become a defiant demand for independence from him. How often do we fail to decry the establishment of customs, traditions and laws that contradict his revealed will? This defiance results in angry exchanges with anyone who voices their concerns and demands of their God-given conscience. Yet the antidote for our moral apathy is a fresh revelation of God’s glory.

In the Old and New Testaments, the gracious privilege of direct conversational encounters with God would be accompanied by powerful reminders of his all-surpassing superiority as Creator and Owner of the universe.

The Hebrew people used the word kabod that originally meant, ‘to be heavy, weighty, or burdensome’, to describe the solemnity and awe effected upon those whom God granted audience on earth. In English, the word is translated as ‘glory’. Today, we use similar words that describe the association between authority and its effect on us. Negatively, a person who likes to impose authority is said to be throwing their weight around. Nevertheless, we also use words about weight positively. Gravitas, which originally meant imposing size or weight (think of gravity), came to describe the authority and respect that certain people can command. Preponderance is another such word describing superiority in weight, significance, or numbers.

When we speak of God’s glory, there is a similar sense that, when we humbly call upon him to reveal himself to us, his presence will carry weight, overwhelming us with a sense of his all-encompassing significance to our lives.

Isaiah described God’s unfiltered glory in this way: ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.’ (Is. 6:1) In his vision, heaven opens to reveal God as supreme monarch of the universe, with mighty supernatural beings causing seismic reverberations by proclaiming His transcendence and pervasive power throughout creation:

‘Above him were seraphim, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.’ (Is. 6. 2–5)

Yet, in the final hours of his earthly life, the gospels give us a glimpse into a very different spectacle of God’s glory revealed in Jesus’ perfection of innocent forbearance towards evil. Jesus remained silent in the face of perjury against him. His words about his bodily resurrection, ‘Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days’ were intentionally misinterpreted to mean treasonous terrorism against Jerusalem’s sacred buildings. After testifying that he was the One chosen to be God’s Supreme Authority in human form, he was blindfolded, beaten up and ordered to use supernatural power to name his assailants.

Eventually, every pretence of a courtroom procedure was abandoned. It was replaced by a vile and relentless desire to humiliate and torture the One who came from such humble earthly origins to declare the truth about how devotion to God should be rendered and to expose the rank ugliness of self-serving oppressive religious tradition masquerading as genuine God-given spirituality.

Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday SilhouetteDuring this Holy Week, we reflect on the glory of God revealed in humbly forbearing the evil revenge perpetrated against his Messiah. His gloriously supreme forbearance of contemptuous rejection, humiliation, physical butchery, and mental and emotional torture reveals a less conspicuous, but no less stunning aspect of God’s nature. The cross on which our species impaled its Creator provides an overwhelming insight into how the most hideous human efforts to exterminate good became the unwitting means by which God effected an end to the penalty of sin for those who rely upon his Son.

The cross provides a jaw-dropping glimpse into a moment upon which the universe turned upon its moral axis as Jesus, the righteous, chose to hold back His armies of supernatural protection and die as the unrighteous should: sacrificially absorbing the full-strength horror of that demon-fuelled human hatred of conscience to which we all succumb, if bent on revenge. Our jaws drop further as his almighty restraint is revealed as the only means by which God’s love for us equalled his relentless desire for justice.

It is on this basis that the blessings of heaven continue upon my life which started over thirty years ago in Trinidad. It is on this basis that I am spared the eternal horrors that await those whose actions persist in recklessly rejecting the voice of conscience. It is on this basis that I enjoy the experience of God’s Spirit supernaturally fashioning my character to conform to my adoptive status as a son of God.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song,
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm,
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease,
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe,
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save,
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.

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4 thoughts on “Glory and grace”

  1. Wow this is something profound and beautiful cast in words that paint the truth in vivid detail. Thanks for taking the trouble to share David.

    • Dave,

      Thanks for your kind words and Ian’s generosity in allowing me to share something of the impact of the cross of Christ.

      While insight can open our minds to the vastness of God’s love, my hope is in God’s power to transform me into a reflection of Christ’s own forbearance in the face of cynical unbelief and hardened hostility, not only in word, but also in deed:

      ‘Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ (?Hebrews? ?12?:?3? NIV)


  2. A very beautiful piece. Thank you for taking the time to do it. I take it you were blessed in doing it. I shall read it again and savour it.


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