Deuteronomy 3-4, John 11
Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes. He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. – Deuteronomy 4:33-35 NLT
God had revealed Himself to men. Not only that, He had chosen to make Himself known to a nondescript nation who didn't deserve His grace, mercy, power or the privilege of His presence. Moses explained to the Jews, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV). God chose the Israelites, not because they were a great nation or because they somehow deserved to have a relationship with Him, but because He wanted to reveal His glory to them and through them. They were to be an example to the rest of the world of what it looked like to live in a right relationship with the Creator of the universe. He had given them His law in order to set them apart from the other nations of the earth. They were to live according to a different standard. Moses reminded them, “Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:6-8 NLT). God was wanting to reveal His glory through the people of Israel. He let them hear His voice. He allowed them to enjoy His presence. He graciously and repeatedly provided proof of His power. So that they might know “that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39 ESV). Israel existed as a nation is order to reveal God's glory. But they would constantly confuse the situation, and mistakenly believe that God existed for their glory. They would find themselves believing the lie that there was something special about them. They would convince themselves that God had chosen them because they deserved it; and He was somehow obligated to continue blessing them whether they were obedient to His law or not.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is "a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV). He will not tolerate unfaithfulness. The privilege of being His chosen possession comes with the responsibility to remain faithful. He will not put up with spiritual infidelity among His people. His law was intended to set His people apart. It was to be a practical and visible expression of their uniqueness and glorify Him. When the other nations saw how the Israelites lived, according to a unique set of instructions, unlike anything else they had ever seen, they would recognize the greatness and glory of God. Any time the nation of Israel lived as God had commanded and did as He had instructed, the nations around them were witness to His glory, and it produced a fear of Him. God wanted to reveal His glory through them. He wanted to exhibit His power on behalf of them. They were to be a living, breathing example of what life could be like when it was lived in obedience to Him. For God, the problems and seeming setbacks of this life are of no consequence. There is nothing too great for Him. He is not panicked by our predicaments. He is never up in heaven wringing His hands in worry over the situations and circumstances of our lives. He is never caught off guard by the trials and tribulations that seem to constantly mar our existence on this earth. They are simply opportunities for Him to reveal His glory among men.
When Jesus was given word that His friend, Lazarus, was ill, He delayed two days before He finally made the trip to Bethany to visit him. Upon receiving news of Lazarus' condition, Jesus simply said, “it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 ESV). Jesus knew that His delay would result in Lazarus' death. In fact, he told His disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15 ESV). When He finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. But Jesus was not surprised or shocked. He told Lazarus' sister, Martha, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23 ESV). Jesus knew something that Mary and Martha didn't know. He knew that His Father had power over death and the grave. He also knew that in the days ahead, there was going to be an even greater resurrection from the dead that would radically change the spiritual landscape of the world. Jesus Himself would die, but be raised again three days later, all to the glory of God.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Mankind is in desperate need of God's glory. In spite of the fact that God's glory and greatness has been revealed through His creation, mankind has refused to acknowledge it. Instead of worshiping the Creator, they ended up worshiping the creation itself. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV). Instead of honoring God and giving thanks to Him, mankind “became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-22 ESV). In other words, mankind did exactly what God had warned the people of Israel NOT to do. The Israelites were to set a different standard. They were to worship one God. They were to glorify Him and not one another. They were to worship the Creator and not the creation. Creation was intended to reveal God's glory, not replace it. Men were intended to seek God's glory, not their own.
Mary and Martha were disappointed that Jesus had not come earlier and healed their brother. They were upset that He had not prevented Lazarus' death. But Jesus told them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 ESV). They were focused on Lazarus' death. Jesus was focused on God's glory. Jesus' delay and Lazarus' death were intended to bring glory to God. They would be further evidence of Jesus' claim to be the Son of God. Everything Jesus did during His time on this earth was done so that He might bring glory to God the Father. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus said, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4-5 ESV). As a man, Jesus spent His life bringing glory to God. The glory of God was His obsession. Jesus showed us how to live as children of God. Our lives are to be lived out for the glory of God. We are to be ordinary vessels through which God's glory is revealed to men. On this earth, we exist for His glory. But there is a day coming when we will be glorified by God.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The temptation on this earth is to make much of me. It is so easy to mistake this earthly existence as the focal point. I want to be glorified and made much of. But my life is to be lived out for God's glory, not my own. I am to be an instrument in His hands, not the other way around. My life is to point to Him and provide opportunities for Him to exhibit His power and presence among the lost of this world. Paul reminds me, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV). Jesus lived in obedience to God, even to the point of willingly giving His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He glorified God in life and in death. And as a result, God glorified Him by raising Him from the dead and restoring Him to His side in heaven. And it is the reality of Jesus' glorification that is at the heart of the message of salvation. It is because He has been glorified that we know can have assurance that our future glorification is a sure thing. And every time we talk about it and tell others of it, God gets glory. Even talking about the gospel brings God glory. Pointing others to Jesus brings God glory. Living in reliance and dependence on Him in this life brings God glory. Making much of God and less of ourselves brings God glory. Keeping our focus on the future instead of the here-and-now brings God glory.
Father, I want my life to bring You glory. Forgive me for the many times that I end up trying to turn that equation around, desiring to believe that You exist for MY glory. I want to make much of You. I want to live my life in such a way that You become the focus, not me. Help me to understand that my glorification is future. In the meantime, my desire should be to bring You glory in all that I do. May my life be a vehicle for Your glory. Amen