What Does “Glory” Mean?
Christians often use this biblical word, but we don’t always recognize what it reveals about our Creator—and the beauty of all He’s doing in our lives and the world around us.
by Dan Schaeffer
Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!” (Exodus 33:18)
In this, the earliest historical reference to the glory of God, Moses asks the Lord to reveal it. We wistfully long for the same opportunity, because the glory of God is often a mystery to us.
In the Old Testament, the most common word for glory is the Hebrew kabod, meaning “heavy in weight.” When you glorify someone, you recognize his importance, or the “weight,” of some desirable uniqueness he possesses. Beauty, majesty, and splendor are the main ideas the word seeks to convey.
It might be a person’s wealth (Solomon), or great strength (Samson), or authority and power (Nebuchadnezzar). The glory of someone or something is what sets it apart in a special and inimitable way, in the same way the glory of a Zebra is its stripes; the Cheetah’s, speed; or the peacock’s, plumage.
This insight helps us understand why the Ark of the Covenant falling into enemy hands meant Israel had lost part of her glory (1 Sam. 4:21)—that special possession that made her distinct from, and preeminent among, her neighbors.
“I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another . . . ” (Isa. 42:8)
This glory that the Lord speaks of to the prophet Isaiah refers to the beauty and magnificence of the person and being of God Himself. When the psalmists give glory to the Lord, they’re pointing out those attributes of His that exclusively give Him weight and importance in worship.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for glory is doxazo, and its usage is meant to convey a sense of brilliance, or radiance. We read of “Solomon in all his glory” (Matt. 6:29) and “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Matt. 4:8). But most commonly, the word is used to describe the brilliance of those who share, or participate, in the heavenly glory.
Take the example of Jesus with Moses and Elijah as they appear in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2-3). Or in the nativity—the birth of Christ—when an angel appears before the shepherds and “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9). God is the source of all glory, and no person or thing can receive it apart from Him.
To “give glory to God” means to live and speak sincerely and from the heart about His amazing nature or deeds—in such a way that we seek to do justice to the reality of who He is. It’s what He deserves in all things, at all times.