As we enter into a brand new year, we are going to be focusing on the question, what does it mean to be human? This is a profound question and one that will take the whole of 2018 to even begin to address. It’s also a question that will help us to explore what the Bible says about the essential elements that make up our humanity.
The word ‘glory’ is notoriously difficult to define. For example, think of Usain Bolt’s staggering speed and the hair-raising notes of Handel’s Messiah; or the roaring of an Asiatic lion and the breach of a great white shark. Witnessing such realities, we instinctively sense glory without fully knowing what we mean.
Glory is part of life as we know it and also part of a future life we barely know at all.
To help explain, in his essay The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis puts it like this:
We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
Like a thousand roaring lions or a million breaching sharks, Isaiah is a book of glory. For example, we read of the prophesied birth of Jesus in chapter 9 and His unimaginable suffering towards the end in chapter 53.
In studying Isaiah, we come to witness the glory of the living God that we see in lesser ways in our ‘here and now’. We desire and, somehow, want to become part of something that often feels just out of reach.
We Exist For His Name’s Sake
Digging deeper, there are specific passages in the book of Isaiah that make it abundantly clear that the God of glory has made and saved us not primarily for ourselves but for the sake of His name.
Isaiah 43:6-7 (NIV)…the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise (glory)…
Isaiah 43:21 (NIV)
It shouldn’t surprise us that at the climax of our humanity is not our loveliness to God, but rather His own glory to which our humanity has always been intended to point.
In other words, you and I are made for the glory of God.
Making A Name for Ourselves
Since the primeval account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and the astounding pride of humanity, we have seen that our preoccupation throughout history has been in wanting to ‘make a name for ourselves’ (Genesis 11:4, NIV).
Conversely, when we behold and worship God from the heart and come to know Him as Friend – just as Abraham does in the next chapter – we see that it is God who makes a name for us (Genesis 12:2).
Culture’s Glory Today
Surveying our society and culture today, it’s awful to think how far we’ve fallen from the glory presented in Isaiah chapter 43. Just like at Babel when humanity strayed, miserable and pitiful substitutes have arisen that dishonour God and abjectly fail to deliver any glory at all.
Understanding this glorious capstone of our humanity means that we needn’t strive or plot or scheme. Instead, at the seat and source of all of our motivations, Jesus of Nazareth means to sit enthroned as King. This is not for the fancies and comforts of our tiny little postcodes, but for the fame of His great name in every nation of the world.
What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 10?
…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God…”
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
And in Galatians?
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
This is ultimately what it means to be human: living and dying for the glory of God and becoming one with the Son of glory himself.
Through the good news of the Bible, C. S. Lewis was right – we do get to become part of it.