Have you ever seen glory? It’s a bit of an odd question because glory can be hard to define. When you think of glory you may think of paparazzi or screaming fans, you may think of accolades or beauty, or you may just go to traditional images of light and splendor, something so wildly “other” that it escapes the mundane normality of this world. This is, in some ways, what glory does. It produces something that transcends the average, and this transcendence overpowers us. It floods the space it inhabits and flattens that which is common and low. It is a sort of metaphysical weight that isn’t held back by the finite boundaries which contain us. The greater the glory, the greater the weight. Have you ever seen glory?
I’ve been struck by the way Isaiah experienced glory in Isaiah 6 – he doesn’t tell us whether this was a vision or whether he was actually relocated into the throne room of God, but that’s where he stands, and not for long. His eyes behold the full weight of glory when he sees the Lord on his throne, the majesty of his garments overflowing into the room, and the powerful angelic beings offering their praise to him. He immediately recognizes his alien presence and presumably falls on his face. He has been struck by something so beautiful that he responds, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:5). You will know whether you have seen glory because it will leave you totally undone, exposed, flattened. Have you ever seen glory?
Most of us at some point in our life will have the longing to experience glory. We want to experience something that transcends this world even if it means we are undone in the process. So how do we get to the throne room? How do we behold the glory of God? The simple answer is that we don’t. Isaiah didn’t climb a ladder or ascend into the heavenlies, God took him in, and in the strangest most beautiful way, this is what Christians believe God did in the person and work of Jesus. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And verse 14 clarifies, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Yet his glory is seen not because he is seated on a throne, but hung on a cross; it’s not because his garments were overflowing but because he was stripped of them; it’s not because he was surrounded by praise, but by mocking; His glory is seen in that although we were the offenders, the King became a criminal, so that we could become free, and his resurrection and ascension vindicate every part. This is the glory that Christians behold which have left us undone. We are flattened by a God whose love would extend to those of us who are people of unclean lips, and yet, just like Isaiah, are purified by the gracious activity of his hand, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Is. 6:7). It is only by abiding in this glory that we will truly become like Isaiah when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” and Isaiah responds: “Here I am. Send me.” (Is. 6:8). Have you seen his glory?