We talk quite often about how we ought to live our lives as Christians — the things we should and should not do, which laws we must keep, the characteristics of Jesus Christ that should show up in our lives. We also talk about what motivates this way of living. If our hearts aren’t right, the outward stuff doesn’t matter. God cares about why we do what we do as much (or more) as He cares about our actions.
The “why” is connected with how we view God. Are we obeying His rules because we see Him as an intimidating authority figure, or because we respect Him as Creator? Do we follow Jesus because of what we hope to get out of being Christian, or because we love Him and trust that He wants what’s best for us?
Those questions are concerned with how God relates to us. Beyond that is the question of how we view God as Himself. God is the self-existent One who inhabits eternity. We often think of Him in terms of how He relates to humanity, but there’s far more to Him than that. How should we view God simply because He is God?
In Hebrew, the word translated glory and honor in the verses we’ll cover literally means “to be heavy.” It’s not an abstract or subjective concept. There’s substance behind the honor and glory discussed in the Bible. Kabod (H3519) and the related word kabad (H3513) are used figuratively of an honorable social position backed-up with a “weightiness of character.” This makes the recipient of glory worthy of that honor (TWOT entry 943).
Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! (1 Chr. 16:28-29)
God deserves glory simply by virtue of Who and What He is. The idea of giving the Lord glory that’s due unto His names also appears in Psalms 29:2 and 96:8. The wonderful things He has done for human kind is part of the reason we honor Him, but not necessarily the main point. We owe Him respect and honor simply because He is glorious.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. … I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. (Ps. 145:3, 5)
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that the force of kabod when used in reference to “the unchanging beauty of the manifest God” is so strong it changed the meaning of a Greek word. The way glory is used in the New Testament “remolds the meaning of doxa from an opinion of men in the Greek classics to something absolutely objective in the” Septuagint and New Testament (entry 943). God’s glory has nothing to do with our opinions. It’s a fact of His existence.
An Honored Name
In English, we have a phrase that someone is “making a name for themselves” when they increase their reputation. The Hebrew concept takes this farther. Even personal names “often included existence, character, and reputation.” When used of the Lord, the word shem “signifies the whole self-disclosure of God in his holiness and truth” (TWOT entry 2405).
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. (Ps. 72:18-19)
The Lord’s name is glorious. That fact should have an effect on the people who say they’re follow Him. If not, we’re in the same sort of trouble Israel so often was.
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. (Mal. 1:6)
“If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.” (Mal. 2:2)
How do we dishonor God? In Malachi, the priests did so by offering less than their best and acting like service to God was a bother. Jesus told the Jews “I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me” when they accused Him of having a devil and doubted Him as Messiah (John 8:48-49). It dishonors God when we don’t worship Him as He commands and disagree with what He says.
I would also propose that we dishonor God when we drag His reputation through the mud. The world looks to the churches to learn about God. When people see us and think “they don’t live good lives, why would I want anything to do with their God?” we’re failing to honor our Lord. Divisions, fighting, church splits — those make people who look us up on the internet and see both sides cursing each other avoid church. Failing to teach the entire Bible and compromising on moral issues tells people we’re hypocrites who don’t take our faith seriously. That all reflects badly on the God we worship.
One of our goals as Christians should be to “sing out the honor of His name” and “make His praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2). Our lives must reflect the incredible the God we worship. If the churches are hurting people it doesn’t make God any less glorious, but our actions can cloud how people see Him. On the flip side, one Christian striving to truly live out God’s love with humility can change how people see God even though we’re imperfect. The better our perception of God and the more we strive to honor Him, the more we inspire others to give Him the glory that is His due.