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The Real Lord’s Prayer (4)

John 17: The Real Lord’s Prayer (4)

In this post, I had fully intended to take verses 4 and 5 together and so end this first section of this prayer.  But as I got into the text and reflected on it, I felt we needed to continue to go at a slow pace and dwell on all the riches that these verses contain for our spiritual benefit and for our worship.  So, in fact, not only are we not going to look at two verses, or even just one, we are going to look at just one word.

There is a strong link between verses 4 and 5, and that link is, once again, to do with the word glory.  So before we begin to consider exactly what Jesus prays for, let’s make sure we understand this word glory that comes in different forms eight times in the prayer as a whole – you will find glory, glorify or glorified in verses 1(x2), 4, 5(x2), 10, 22 and 24.

To understand what is behind this word and what thoughts it should conjure up for us, let’s go back to the Old Testament

The root Hebrew word is kabod, and the basic meaning is ‘to be heavy’, though it is rarely used in that way – e.g. Eli was “old and heavy” (1 Samuel 4:18); Absalom’s hair – “And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight.” (2 Samuel 14:26)  That, by the way is just under 5 pounds in weight, or nearly 3.5 kilos.

But of 376 occurrences in the Bible it is only used in this literal way twice on the occasions I have mentioned.

The literal word came to have a figurative meaning, and this is the way it is used in more than half of all the instances in the Bible.  From a literal weight, it came to refer to someone or something being weighty in the sense of being noteworthy or impressive. Common translations are – honorable, honored, glorious, glorified.

So a person of high social position and accompanying wealth was automatically an honoured, or weighty, person in the society, as in, “Balak sent princes, more in number and more honourable than these.” (Numbers 22:15).

But also, people, because of their positions of responsibility and authority were deserving of honour – as in “honour your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12), where the word honour is a form of the word kabod.

The term was also applied to objects that were associated or connected with people who were honourable.   So, for example, we read in Exodus 28:2 that Moses was instructed to make “holy garments for Aaron your brother for glory (kabod) and for beauty.”  The High Priest’s garments were designed to be unusually beautiful and glorious in order to convey something of the great dignity and importance of the office of the High Priest.

So, in the same way, God is a God of glory – of weight, of honour, of excellence.   God is not only to be honoured because of his position as the sovereign head and ruler of the universe, but also because of his excellent, glorious character.  God is the “King of glory” (Psalm 24:7–10).

When, as in Psalm 96, we declare his glory among the nations – we simply go out to all the world testifying to how wonderful and great and honourable and of excellent reputation is our God.

Now because God is spirit and therefore cannot be seen, God’s glory is revealed to humans in different ways, and so the word becomes associated with a visible and powerful manifestation of God, often referred to as a bright light that surrounds his presence.  Most of these occurrences are connected with the Tabernacle, e.g. Exodus 16:10; 40:34; and with the temple in Ezekiel’s vision of the exile and restoration, as in Ezekiel 9:3 which is just one of several in that prophetic book.

So, where God is concerned, the revelations of his glory do not just draw attention to his name and his deserved reputation for weightiness and greatness which God alone deserves, because he is who he is and he does and has done what he does and has done.  We mustn’t miss something more than that; it is not merely God’s reputation which fills the earth, but it is the very reality of his presence.

In the New Testament, the word glory is the translation of the Greek word doxa, which is where we get the word doxology from – a doxology being an expression of praise for the glory of God.

At its simplest, it basically means honour or excellent reputation.  So, when we give glory to God, we praise him and worship him.   In fact, there are occasions when we could effectively translate the word glory or glorify as praise – see, for example John 5:41.

So we praise and glorify God in response to the revelation we have received of his glory; the glory of who he is and of what he has done. 

And how is the glory of God revealed to us and manifested to us?  Well, it’s not so much in a bright radiance – I love the old English word effulgence in this regard – but it in the person and work of the Saviour.

Indeed, right at the beginning of his gospel, John tells us that by his incarnation, by his coming into the world in the flesh, Jesus revealed the glory of God (John 1:14).  Christ himself is the visible expression of the glory of God – all the excellencies of God, all that makes him worthy of praise and honour and worship – is personified and displayed in the person of his Son.

This is seen also in Acts 7:55 where Stephen is stoned to death and we read that immediately before he died, he “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  That conjunction ‘and’ would be better translated as “even” – “he saw the glory of God, even Jesus

So the more we consider the weightiness, the excellence, the splendour of God – in his person, in his works, in his presence – the more instinctively we should be moved to give him that “glorious praise that he and only he is worthy of.

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