The Four Canons: “For the Glory of God (Part 3)”


Jack Ketchum’s short story, “The Box,” is a haunting little story (the story is better than the movie). The premise is pretty straight-forward though the story is quite enigmatic. A man, his son, and his twin daughters are on a train. There is a man sitting near them who has a box on his lap. It is wrapped like a present. The son asks to see what is inside. The man agrees and cracks open the box just enough for only the boy to see inside. The boy’s grin fades to a look of quiet puzzlement. After that, the boy will not eat. For days he refuses to eat though his parents try desperately to get him to eat. He will not eat and he will not tell anybody what he saw in the box.

A doctor looks the boy over and can find nothing wrong. A psychoanalyst can find nothing wrong either. Some days later, the father catches the boy whispering to his twin sisters. They refuse to say what they are talking about. Now, they will not eat either. Next, they tell the mother. She will not eat. So the boy, the sisters, and their mother begin slowly to waste away. None of them will eat. Soon the man has to take his entire family to the hospital. They are all dying because they will not eat.

The man presses his son: “What did you see in the box that day? What did you see?” The boy says, “Nothing.” Shortly thereafter, the son, the daughters, and the mother all die. The story ends with the father spending his days on the trains trying desperately to find the man with the box.

The story has become something of a modern conversation piece. It is taught in many high schools and colleges. The great question, of course, is, “What was in the box?” Theories are rampant concerning what the boy saw. A popular one is that the boy saw quite literally nothing and that the story is a story about nihilism, the idea that the world has no meaning inside of it and, at its base, the world offers no compelling reason to go on. Others believe the boy did in fact see something and what he saw was so horrible that it made him utterly indifferent about survival. Who knows?

It is an effective little story. It makes one think. The idea that you could see something that would lead to the gradual and then ultimate loss of life itself is terrifying. As I watched and then read this story, it occurred to me that that story is the exact opposite of the Christian story.

Two thousand years ago a group of people claimed to have seen something. They caught a glimpse of something that suddenly gave them a reason to live, and only to live but to live in a way that nobody had ever lived before! They saw something that nourished them, that gave them a sense of vitality and growth and joy!

In Luke 5:26, after Jesus healed the paralytic man, the people, Luke tells us, “glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’” In Acts 4:20, Peter and John say to the astonished onlookers, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” John, in particular, kept talking about having seen something.

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 John 1:1

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life

1 John 1:2

the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:14

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

In the story, “The Box,” the boy will not talk about what he has seen and it leads him to death. In the New Testament those who saw it would not stop talking about it and it led them to eternal life!

What did they see? What they saw was the glory of God! They saw God as He is, particularly God as came to them and presented Himself to them in Jesus. They beheld the glory and were forever changed! They saw the glory, and the glory transformed their lives! As a result, they began to worship. They worshiped God because of what they had seen.

If the glory of God is the beauty of God emanating from the totality of God’s attributes, then worship is the joyous celebration of that beauty emanating from the awestruck gratitude of God’s people.

We worship because we have seen the glory of God.

Why are we here? Why are we gathered here in this place we call church? And what is this thing we are doing? If you are here and if you are worshiping, then you are doing so because you have seen something. And what have you seen? If you are truly worshipping you have seen the glory of God!

If the glory of God is the beauty of God emanating from the totality of God’s attributes, then worship is the joyous celebration of that beauty emanating from the awestruck gratitude of God’s people.

We worship because we have seen something so beautiful that it spills the banks of mere words.

This is how it has ever been for the people of God. Glory reveals itself because God is a glory-revealing God. And those who see the glory of God celebrate it joyfully and with gratitude! In 2 Chronicles 7, we read:

3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

They saw the fire and the glory.

They bowed with their faces to the ground.

They worshiped and gave thanks.

Listen: if you have seen it, you will celebrate it. This principle applies to the earth itself! The very earth sees the glory of God and gives God glory! The earth itself yearns to praise His name! Do you remember what Jesus said in Luke 19 when the Pharisees told Him that He should rebuke His disciples?

37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

In the 19th psalm, David wrote:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Isaiah depicted the earth celebrating the glory and mercy of God in Isaiah 55.

12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

The earth itself is waiting to burst into song! When the sun came up this morning it was saying, “Yeah God! How beautiful you are!” The trees you drove past this morning were clapping their hands as you drove to church! They were cheering on the glory of God! In the distance Mt. Pinnacle stretched itself heavenward and said, “What a beautiful, glorious God!” And we passed all of this glory just coming to church!

Then we come into church casually, flippantly. “Wonder how long this will take?” we seem to be saying. We are bored and distracted and tired. We are consuming. We are judging. We are critiquing. The whole earth is shouting “Glory! Glory! Glory!” and we are bored!

If you have seen the glory of God in Christ and you have embraced Christ then you will want to celebrate the glory through worship! But if this is true, then this means that those who cannot worship are those who either (a) have never seen the glory or (b) have allowed other things to eclipse the glory of God.

Is that you? When you come to worship do you find yourself cold? Do you find your mind easily distracted? Do you find that you can think of anything else but the glory of the God who saved you?

Why? What is it that has crowded out the glory in your life? Concerns? Fears? Hurts? Regrets? Joys? Ego? Ambition?

When was the last time you were so elated by the beauty of the revealed glory of God that you could not help but worship?

If your worship is tepid and if you have lost a sense of awe before the glory of God, what do you do? Simply put, you beg God to reveal His glory to you again! Can we do that? Can we pray that? This is precisely what Moses did in Exodus 33.

18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

“I cannot you show you all of my glory,” God said, “or it would kill you.” That is how powerful the glory of God is.

“Show me what you can!” cried Moses. “Show me what you can! Show me your glory!”

I ask you: when is the last time you pleaded with God to reveal to you His glory? Ask! Ask God to let you see it! When you see it, it will change you and drive you to worship!

I know we think of it as a patriotic song, but there are few expressions of the glory of God and its transformative power as beautiful and powerful as Julia Ward Howe’s 1861 song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Mine eyes have seen the glory

of the coming of the Lord;

he is trampling out the vintage

where the grapes of wrath are stored;

he hath loosed the fateful lightning

of his terrible swift sword;

his truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watchfires

of a hundred circling camps,

they have builded him an altar

in the evening dews and damps;

I can read his righteous sentence

by the dim and flaring lamps;

his day is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet

that shall never call retreat;

he is sifting out the hearts of men

before his judgment seat;

O be swift, my soul, to answer him;

be jubilant, my feet!

Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies

Christ was born across the sea,

with a glory in his bosom

that transfigures you and me;

as he died to make men holy,

let us die to make men free,

while God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory

of the morning on the wave,

he is wisdom to the mighty,

he is honor to the brave;

so the world shall be his footstool,

and the soul of wrong his slave.

Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

“With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me…” Yes it does! It transfigures an transforms us! It compels us to worship!

We worship to give glory to God.

We worship because we have seen the glory of God and we also worship in order to give glory to God. In 1 Chronicles 16, we find the command to give glory to God.

23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. 28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness

“Ascribe to the Lord glory.” The King James Version says, “Give unto the Lord glory.” “Bring ye to the Lord glory,” the Douay-Rheims translation says. Give the Lord glory!

And again, Revelation 14.

7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Notice that “give him glory” and “worship him” go hand-in-hand.

By “give him glory” we should perhaps think of proclaiming back to God what He in His person has already proclaimed to us. “You are glorious God! You are beautiful God! You are majestic God!” This is what it means to give God glory. In Philippians 3, the words “glory” and “worship” seem to be synonyms.

3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

This is important. We worship “by the Spirit of God” and we “glory in Christ Jesus.” We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to worship God by glorying in Jesus Christ! And that last phrase is also important: we “put no confidence in the flesh.”

It is not about you! It is not about me! It is about the glory of God in Christ!

When you come to worship, come and allow yourself to see the glory of God that has been revealed in the person of Jesus Christ! He is beautiful! He is glorious!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!



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