What does it mean to “Glorify God?”
© 2019 C. O. Bishop
We often read in the scriptures where someone is said to have “glorified God” in response to something they saw, or because of a grace they had received from God. But we are not told specifically what that means. So, let’s take a look and see what we can find out.
To begin with, a dictionary definition might include something like,
- To praise and worship (God). (e.g. “music is used to glorify God”) or,
- To describe or represent as admirable, especially unjustifiably. (e.g. “a sport video glorifying violence”)
So, we can see, perhaps, that the verb, to “glorify” may be related to the verb, to “worship,” when applied to God, and at least to “ascribe value” or to “hold up for praise”, or to “exalt,” when applied to anything at all. And, in that case, it could be done appropriately or inappropriately, and it could be neglected or omitted when it really was appropriate.
With that simple definition as the backdrop, let’s read some scriptures that shed light from God’s point of view:
7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. 8 I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. 9 I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. 11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. 13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? 14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
Obviously, this passage is directed to Israel, before the time of Christ, and refers to their sacrifices. Remember that these particular sacrifices were dictated by God… this is not some home-baked religious ritual that the people of Israel came up with on their own. But God is correcting their thinking regarding why He demanded those sacrifices. God is not “hungry!”
All of the blood sacrifices were dictated as a covering for their sins! Leviticus 17:11 spells out that the blood was given by God “…upon the altar, as an atonement (covering) for your souls.” The Hebrew word translated “atonement,” is “kophar,” meaning “a covering.” So they should have known that the blood was not “feeding” God. They were not satisfying a “need” in His life.
He says, “If I was hungry, I wouldn’t ask you!” He owns the entire universe; He knows every creature on an individual basis. We have a need for forgiveness and deliverance from our guilt and our sins, and He has provided that deliverance through a blood sacrifice, beginning clear back in Genesis 3. And He confirms that concept in Hebrews 9:12, 22, saying that “by his own blood he entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” And “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (speaking of our sins.) And finally, in Hebrews 10:4, he flatly states that “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.”
So, what we have is a deliverance to which believers looked forward from the initial fall of man into sin, up until the Cross, and to which they have looked back, ever since the Cross. And what did God say about that deliverance there, in Psalm 50:15? I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
There it is, then! If God has delivered me from my sins, then it is incumbent upon me to glorify Him with my life! So, we are back to the question in the sermon title: What does it mean to glorify God? How can I best do that?
What does it mean to “Glorify God?”
Matthew 5:14-16 says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” So, in this case, our lifestyle is to honor God, whether we do or say anything specific or not.
Matthew 9:8 says that the crowds, having seen Jesus heal a paralyzed man, glorified God for having giving such power to a human. (They did not yet see Jesus as the incarnate God—God in the flesh—but they did recognize that only God had the power to perform such a healing.) So they praised and worshipped God because of the good thing they had just witnessed. This was a good response, given the limited light they possessed. They did not glorify Jesus, but that was because they did not recognize Him for who He was.
Another passage, in John 9:28-38 is the healing of the man born blind. The Pharisees accused Jesus of being ungodly, and a charlatan. “28 Then they reviled him (the healed man), and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”
So, believing God, as Abraham did, is the beginning of glorifying God. Hebrews 11:4 says that it is impossible to please God without faith. The healed man, who had been born blind, believed in Jesus, and, in response to that faith, and in gratitude for the healing, worshipped Jesus! He had already spoken in defense of Jesus, and had been slandered and ostracized for his words. Now he had the privilege of being led to faith by Jesus in person, and worshipping at His feet…in person! Not everyone has that privilege, but each of us has our own opportunities to either: respond to Jesus in faith, thanksgiving, praise, and worship… or not to do so!
What about Negative examples?
Sometimes it helps to consider the opposite, in order to explain some concept. So, let’s look at Daniel 5:22, 23
Daniel was lecturing Belshazzar, the king, and reminded him of how God had humbled Nebuchadnezzar, and how Nebuchadnezzar had repented under the chastening of God.
“22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:”
He said, “…and you knew all this, but did not humble yourself. Instead, you exalted yourself. You lifted yourself up, instead of lifting God up. And, to compound the error, you defiled the holy vessels of His temple. You deliberately used those holy vessels to offer praise and worship to idols.” If you remember the story, you know that judgment fell that night, and the city was overthrown, and King Belshazzar was killed. So, through that story, we can see that “lifting up one’s self” (instead of exalting God) is the opposite of worship. (Remember, too, that, if you are a believer, God has made you holy!) Using that which God has declared holy, to do unholy things, is the opposite of worship; it does not glorify God. Think about who you are, and to whom you belong. Are you using what God made holy to accomplish wrong things?
What should we do, then?
Notice, back in Psalm 50:14, that the command encapsulated in that passage is “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High.” So, there is a proper response to God’s Grace and His supply: Thanksgiving is one such proper response. Taking Him for granted is not. When we gripe over the supply of God in our lives, we are doing the same thing as the Israelites did in the desert; complaining that they did not like Manna. A sister in the Lord, here, heard me voice my discouragement about life’s trials, and said, “Chet! You are just telling God that you don’t like manna!” She was absolutely right! I confessed that I was sinning, and not giving glory to God for His supply. Since then I have tried to daily recognize His sustenance and blessing, and, to honor Him as the Master. (I’m still working on that, by the way.)
The latter half of that verse is important, too, though: it says “Pay thy vows unto the Most High.” Carry out the responsibilities that God has given you. Keep the promises you have made. Maintain the relationships He has given you to maintain. Remember that the One to whom you are accountable is literally the same God that Moses met in the Tabernacle. This is not some spiritual fairy-godfather or a cosmic vending machine. “Put your prayers into the slot, and pick up your blessings below!” That is a blasphemous idea, isn’t it? And yet we often relegate the Lord to just that position. We do not take time to feed on His Word, nor to fellowship with Him, and give Him the attention He so richly deserves. Even without our position as born-again children of God, doesn’t the creation around you cry out for glory to the Creator?
Think about the experience of Moses, walking into the Tabernacle to commune with God: He could see the Pillar of Cloud hovering over the Tent of Meeting. He had often seen the Pillar of Fire by night. He had met with this specific God on Mount Sinai and had seen His supply throughout their march through the desert. He had eaten the manna, day by day, along with everyone else. But there was never a time when he became “bored” with God. He approached the Tabernacle knowing that, inside that tent, he would meet with the Creator, in person. I do not know what Moses physically saw, but he did not see the LORD face to face. God forbade it.
Abraham, on the other hand, did see Him face to face, but it was only in the person of the pre-incarnate Christ, God the Son, appearing as a man. And he also gave full honor to his Creator, though he pleaded with him for the life of Lot. Abraham never took lightly his relationship with the sovereign God. He gave Him full honor and glorified Him with his life.
But what about the believers who became “casual” about their relationship with God, or who did not take seriously the responsibilities associated with that relationship? Remember Samson? He was far too cavalier in his walk with God, and ended up blinded and working for the enemy. There are other examples, of course, but I especially am grateful for that particular example, because believers today, too, can become blinded to the hand of God in their lives; blinded to the liberating truth of God’s Word, and end up unwittingly working against God, and supporting the cause of their enemy, Satan. That is a sad fact, but it is definitely true.
We can end up so far sidetracked, and caught up in the pursuit of goals that have zero eternal value, that we completely lose sight of the priorities of God, and our commitment to put Him first. We can become critical of those who are at least attempting to follow the Lord, and decide that they are the “bad guys,” even, though, if we are to carefully consider their actual words and deeds, we would be hard-pressed to accuse them before the throne of Grace. And yet, that is what we end up doing. And who do we know, from scripture, to be the “accuser of the brethren?” It is Satan, himself. Revelation 12:9, 10 refers to Satan as the accuser of the brethren, among other things. So, at the point when we begin to accuse other believers, believing them to be somehow the “bad guys,” even if we are accurate in seeing their faults, we are doing Satan’s work for him: We are dishonoring Jesus by accusing His children.
How can the World rightly Judge the Church?
This sounds like a trick question, but it really is not! Jesus actually gives the World three things by which to judge the Church, and they are correct to do so:
- Love: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples…” John 15:34, 35
- Unity: “…that the world may believe that thou hast sent me…” John 17:21
- Good Works: “…that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:15, 16
If it is clear to the unbelieving World that the believers do not love one another, and that the believers are not in unity, then the World is within their rights to doubt the message, even though they condemn themselves in doing so. Further, if they watch the behavior of believers and see that we frequently act more irreverent toward God than do many unbelievers, then they will not glorify the God of the Bible, because they can see that those who claim to be His children do not honor Him either.
In Romans 2:24, the apostle Paul addressed this idea with those who claimed to be faithful Jews, saying that the gentiles blasphemed the name of God because of them. What a sad commentary on their collective testimony! And I have known many unbelievers today, who have become completely disgusted with the overall behavior of those who claim the name of Jesus, and who violently blaspheme God because of it. Does that excuse them for their rebellion against God? No, it does not! But it does implicate those who steered them away from the Savior by their behavior. I desperately desire to never turn an unbeliever away from Jesus by my words or actions (or by my lack of such.)
We need to focus on the Person of the Living Christ, knowing that He is the Creator, the sustainer, the Savior… and the Judge. We need to make His written Word a priority in our lives, not just a “stated preference.” We need to make obedience to His Word, including the prime directive to “Love one another” a matter of conviction in our lives…not just a matter of “convenience.” We need to consider at all times how our behavior will affect the world around us, and ask ourselves “Will this Glorify Jesus?” Because, whether we remember it or not, that is what we are here to do!
Lord Jesus, by your Word, and by your Spirit, please mold us into your likeness, and draw us into such a close Love-relationship with you that we will constantly glorify you with our words and behavior and Love one another so that our testimony will shine in this dark world. Teach us to walk with you daily, and honor you in all things.