A different kind of glory – 1

The word glory conjures up pictures of magnificence, pomp and acclaim. The Hebrew word chabed which is used to refer to the glory of God, has different and deeper connotations.

Its root meaning is ‘heaviness’. This can be applied in a bad sense to indicate a burden, infirmity, or a severe event. Or it can be applied in a good sense to indicate wealth or splendour, and thus high honour. The two applications combine together: those in high positions or of great wealth also have responsibilities – burdens. The priests and the wealthy are often rebuked in the Tanach for their failures in this respect. Each of us are to honour – chabed – our father and our mother (Exodus 20:12). We are to give them weight, suggesting both esteem and a burden.

So what of the glory – chabed – of the Lord? His glory fills the tabernacle and the temple and eventually the “earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). His glory can be so heavy that the priests or prophets cannot stand (as in 1 Kings 8:11). His glory can fill a place, even the whole earth, and it is heavy. But there is something more.

In the Torah, when the people rebel or murmer, that is when His glory shows up (Exodus 16:7, Numbers 14:10, 16:19, 16:42, 20:6). In Isaiah, it is after darkness covers the earth, after the nations are destroyed, after the warfare ceases, after the judgement of Judah and Jerusalem, then the glory of the Lord is revealed (Isaiah 60:5, 35:2, 40:5, 4:2).

Such glory is indeed a heavy weight. We would do well to fear it (Deuteronomy 28:58) if our rebellion may trigger it. But there is still something more. When there is darkness, then the light comes: “Arise, shine for your light has come … darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples … but His glory will appear upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2). His glory is a response to the darkness – acting to reveal His power, but also to banish the darkness.

Chabed takes us a long way from the idea of glory as pomp and plaudits. But there is yet something more….

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