The Former Glory
‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Haggai 2:9a)
Let’s look briefly at God’s glory revealed in the Old Testament, specifically, at the former glory of God revealed through His Temple.
There are six Hebrew words for glory.
Hader could be translated, "beauty" or "excellence."
Tohar means "purity" and "brightness."
Sebhi has to do with respect for a prominent person.
Adderith means "broad, big, unbounded."
Hodh has to do with the grandeur of God. And finally,
Kabod, which is used most often in the Old Testament, means "heavy, weighty, authoritative, rich, courageous, taking charge."
This is what Haggai is referring to – God coming and taking charge. When kabod comes, God is present with us. God is taking charge. When kabod is absent, God is absent. You are probably familiar with the term ichabod, which means, "the glory has departed." When the glory has departed, God has departed. But when the glory descends, God takes charge. So, the glory of God is simply the presence of God in our midst.
In the Old Testament, when the Tabernacle was built, the glory of the Lord God descended upon it and He communed there with His people. When Solomon built his great Temple, God’s glory descended upon it. In the Bible we read,
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).
God had been meeting with Israel through the Tabernacle from Moses’ day until Solomon’s, and continued to do so in the Temple Solomon built.
But Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and the people of Israel were carried into captivity. Now Zerubbabel had come back to Jerusalem and was endeavouring to rebuild the former house. Thus we have the prophecy in Haggai. God promises, in verse 7, to
…fill this house with glory…
But He also promises, in verse 9, that
…the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former…
Again the people were desiring to come into relationship with God, and He would reward them with His presence by manifesting His glory in their midst.
Following the Lord is relational in nature. God is a Person, and as such He desires to commune with His people. He always has. In the Garden of Eden He walked in the cool of the day with Adam as they enjoyed fellowship with one another. When He called Israel, He set up the Tabernacle to commune with them. Now, Solomon had built his Temple. When that Temple was dedicated, God’s glory came, kabod came. God’s glory was manifested to serve as an encouragement to the people, as a reminder of His strength and provision for them and as a motivation for their worship of Him as the Lord God.
The ultimate fulfilment of Haggai’s prophecy would not come in the rebuilding of the Temple, however. Although there was great glory which God manifested in the Temple, the ultimate fulfilment would not come under the Old Covenant, but in the New. The ultimate fulfilment of Haggai’s prophecy would come in the person of Jesus Christ and through His work of grace in our lives. It is the glory of the New Covenant of grace.
The Present Glory
Let’s turn now to see God’s glory revealed in the New Testament. Let’s look at the latter glory.
The Greek word, doksan, carries the same idea as kabod. We find this word used in John 1:14, where it says,
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
In Christ we see the glory and authority of God. The glory of God is revealed and manifested in Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament, we saw God revealed in a place. In the New Testament, we see God revealed in a person. God is revealed in Jesus Christ.
This is a glorious and precious truth indeed. Through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we can behold God. Do you want to know what God is like? Simply look at Jesus. Do you want to see the Father? Behold the Son. God, as a great cosmic spirit, is difficult to comprehend. So God sent us Jesus Christ. In Christ, God was made a man so that we could see how God lives as a man. In this man, Jesus, we see the glory of God manifested in human flesh.
Here’s the incredible thing: God not only manifested His glory in Jesus, He also desires to manifest His glory in us. In John 17:10, Jesus says that
…glory has come to me through them… (John 17:10).
Christ desires to be glorified in us. What an amazing thought! But it’s true.
In 1 Corinthians 3:16, it says,
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 3:16)?
In other words, we are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. Just as God dwelt with His people, Israel, in the Old Testament Temple, so He dwells with His people in a New Temple. The Spirit of God dwells in each of us. We are a temple of God. We are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are a place where God manifests His glory. We are people through whom God manifests His glory.
The Bible teaches that we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That is God’s purpose for us. God is changing us daily into the image of His Son. Now, this image is an inward image, not an outward one. So God gives us His moral attributes: love, peace, purity, justice, fairness, and the like. They are imparted to us as we allow the Holy Spirit to live in and through our lives. This is God’s plan for us. It is His plan for the Church.
At Pentecost, the glory of God fell, even as it fell on the Temple that Solomon built. The Holy Spirit descended into the midst of those early Christians and filled them to overflowing with His power. That power is still present for us today. As we allow God to fill us with His Holy Spirit and to control us by His sovereign power, then we become vessels, filled with His glory. We have no higher calling as believers in Jesus Christ than to be filled with the glory of God and to manifest that glory to this watching world. Just as the heavens above declare the glory of God, so should we declare the glory of God. Just as Jesus Christ manifested the glory of God, so should we manifest the glory of God. But how does it occur?
Let me point you to an important Scripture. It is 2 Corinthians 3:18.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We are invited here to behold Jesus in order to be changed into His image. This is the key to practically manifesting the glory of God in our lives. We must behold Jesus. He must be the centre of our lives. He must be the driving force behind all we do. He must be the passion of our heart. If we would be those who manifest His glory, we must behold Him. We must keep Him ever before our eyes. We must look to Him, surrender to Him, spend time with Him, allow His glory to fill us and His power to possess us.
In Jesus we see the reflected glory of God. It is as if we are beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord. We could not stand in the presence of His full glory. Jesus allows us to see the glory of God only in such a degree as we can stand. But even beholding the reflected glory of God, the Scripture teaches that we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory." It is like sitting before a tanning lamp, receiving its rays. As we do, our bodies begin to change. They become tan and brown as we bask in its warmth. So, we all need to bask in the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We need to sit in His presence and behold Him. We need to cry to Him, "Lord Jesus, change me. Lord Jesus, transform my life. Lord Jesus, make me like you. Lord Jesus, fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me to live daily for You." And then we need to worship Him, who is our life, with all our hearts. As we do so, we will be changed, from glory to glory, by beholding Him. Have you ever thought of yourself as being the depository of the glory of God? Have you ever considered that God can use you to reveal His glory? That is His desire, and it should be our delight. God has called each of us to be a vessel in whom He can dwell.