As Christians, we talk fairly regularly about the glory of God. We praise it, and we pray for it. We honor it, and we seek it. We say it, but what does it even mean? What is glory? And what is the glory of God?
We think that glory maybe means something kind of like pure goodness or worthiness of honor. Something that indicates that God is eternally "better" than us, that indicates that His ways are higher than ours. We think that glory means something maybe like God's victory. Maybe something like His good and perfect love. Maybe all of these things wrapped into one thing that we don't have more words for, other than "glory" itself. It's just...glory.
You know...glory. God's glory.
But we're not on our own here. Ezekiel gives us one of the most beautiful images of God's glory in all of Scripture, and he does it near the very beginning of his prophecy. Ezekiel 1:28 says this:
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
In other words, when Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord in the best physical representation of it that God had to show him, what he saw was a vague form of something holy surrounded by a rainbow that was its glory. A rainbow.
To understand the rainbow, we have to turn back to Genesis and the story of Noah. Here is where the rainbow makes its first appearance, when God spreads it across the sky as His promise to Noah and to all of His people that He will never again flood the earth.
Now, draw all this together, and what we have is something truly incredible...
The glory of God is His promise.
It's His promise. It's the fullness of who He is from the depth of His heart and His character and the fullness of the covenant that He made with His people and the pure goodness that is His love for us. That's His glory. That's what we're praising. That's what we're praying for. That's what we honor. It's what we seek.
And if you continue to read through the Old Testament, you'll see it come as a recurring theme. Over and over and over again, God says - and His people pray - that He will deal with them on account of His own name and not on account of their sin. He will do for them and to them and through them what honors His nature, His character, His heart, and His love and not what they deserve by their foolishness and sin. He will work in His people for the sake of His glory - His promise.
His promise takes the best of who He is and takes it out of the context of what we could ever fathom about Him. We can't understand why He would make such a promise to us or how He could keep it in the face of our unfaithfulness. It's something entirely other than we are familiar with and yet, it is intimately known to us. Glory is the same way - it's so much "other" but somehow near, and that's precisely why we have such a difficult time describing exactly what it is.
Thankfully, Ezekiel has given us the language for it. Not just words, but beautiful words wrapped in breathtaking revelation. God's glory? It's His promise. In full, living color.
Every color of the rainbow.