~ Glory Be ~
"Glory" is another word ruined by abuse and overuse. We now speak of the glory of a sports victory, of national flags, of cities and even wars. So we need a qualifying word, like "shekinah," to differentiate the glory used in Scripture from how we have come to perceive it.
Shekinah glory is soul-consuming, a thunderous, fiery presence. It creates and destroys and loves with such volcanic, explosive power, melting and transforming all it touches that the lovers of this glory cannot enter it without a willingness to die.
This glory radiates like a million suns from the wounds of Christ's body and infuses the cup of His blood. It is the Big Bang of creation, the first, primal thing Ruach, the hovering Spirit of God, called forth when He said, "Let there be light!" It is not the light of the sun, moon and stars created on the fourth day, for "God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth" (Genesis 1:17, NIV). It is the same light of the heavenly New Jerusalem. "The city does not need the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb [Christ] is its lamp" (Revelation 21:23, NIV).
This light is the "'Owr" of the Hebrew language. 'Owr is always separated from Choseh, darkness. Not the darkness of a moonless night or the depths of a cave, but that which Christ spoke about when He said, "If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23b, NIV). In the end, "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 22:5, NIV).
"Then Moses said [to God], 'Now show me your glory'" (Exodus 33:18, NIV). But God could only show Moses His "back," His glory trail, or else Moses would die (v.20). Glimpses and trails of God's shekinah glory appeared on earth, however it was not able to be gazed at like a silent, "glorious" sunset. "Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (v.35).
Knowing the meaning of glory and having reverential fear, the Israelites had told Moses, "The Lord our God has shown us his majesty and glory, and we heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of our Lord any longer" (Deuteronomy 5:24-25, NIV).
When King Solomon finished
building the temple, "The priests could not perform their service because
of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple" (1 Kings 8:11,
NIV). The prophet Ezekiel described how he, in a vision, "saw the glory
of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar
of rushing waters,
and the land was radiant with his glory" (Ezekiel 43:2, NIV). Now God speaks: "'Is not my word like fire, 'declares the Lord,' and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'" (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV).
This shekinah, this 'Owr, this holy fire of Ruach, this Light from Light, whose lamp is the Lamb revealed in the glory of Jesus, Son of man, transfigured into Christ, Son of God, on that mountain made glorious, is what exploded out into our world when the heavy curtain door to the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom at the final breath of Jesus on the Cross. No darkness is in this passionate Love, consuming Fire, infinite Wind, eternal Light.
John the prophet announced that Jesus the Christ would baptize us with the Ruach, the Breath and Wind of God, and with holy, glorious fire (Matthew 3:11). Indeed God is a consuming, destructive fire (Hebrews 12:29). The Hebrew word for this fire is "Bo'erah," the glory that so frightened the Israelites, knowing they would die in its presence. But that's the point.
We are taught by St. Paul to be living sacrifices. Bo'erah is the Fire of the Holy Spirit on the sacrificial altar, that cross Christ said we must carry. A campfire on a chilly evening beckons us to sit close and cozily in its warm glow and enticing dance. However, there is a point of being safe from which we cannot approach any closer. We still keep a distance from the friendly, life-sustaining fire. But Bo'erah calls us into its heart.
Baptism means immersion. We enter the kingdom through the gaping wounds of Christ's body: "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him" (Philippians 1:29, NIV). Indeed, unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we will die. Unless we consume our Christ, we cannot be His body. Unless we are baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit, and the consuming Fire of God, we cannot live.
So Bo'erah calls us in… to be refined, purified… to have all that is not of God in us, all that cannot survive the intensity of His shekinah glory, burned away. Jesus said unless we carry our altar-crosses, unless we lose our lives, we cannot be His. Bo'erah is deadly to our mortality and merciful to our spirits.
There are many essential things that cannot be known by words. They can be known only through carrying our crosses, by being living sacrifices by the hands of others or through our own offering, by suffering with and for Christ. If your spiritual leader has not suffered, has never entered the heart of God's consuming Fire, it's best to find one who has. And you can tell just by listening to them for a while.
God does call us to come. If you read and hear the words of Jesus carefully and courageously (from cour-agere, meaning acting from the heart), you will hear Him telling you to come and die. That's the narrow gate to being born again that He said few enter.
Only then can we stand in His fiery, consuming, light filled shekinah glory and live…forever. Christ's love for us consumed Him. And our love for Him consumes us.
Only then can we truly pray, "Glory be!" Only then will we really know what we are saying, and living, when we join the angels in singing, "Glory to God in the highest!"
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © March 2, 2002
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