Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
HEROD AGRIPPA WAS A MEAN PIECE OF WORK. But what can one expect? As grandson of Herod the "Great" (what a misnomer!) he had an excellent tutor in nastiness. The execution of his father undoubtedly helped hone his natural tendency towards malicious acts. In the late 30s AD his skill in making life miserable for others was recognized by the cruel new Emperor of Rome, Caligula, who appointed Herod king over territories northeast of Palestine. Later, Emperor Claudius added Judea and Samaria to his possessions, making Herod king over virtually the same territory as his infamous grandfather. His tempestuous and ruthless character was considered quite an asset by Jewish leaders in Palestine in their campaign to rid the earth of pesky disciples of Jesus Christ. They found in Herod a willing ally. About ten years after Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension Herod, inspired by a desire to curry favour with his Jewish subjects, put James, one of Jesus' disciples, to death (Acts 12:2). This perfidy was quickly followed by an abortive attempt to kill Peter.
Yet God did nothing about it. He let Herod get away with the murder of one of His apostles, and the attempted murder of another. He took no action against him when he generally harrassed the church (vs. 1). But when, in 44 AD, at the age of 54, Herod overstepped the mark, God smote him with worms which chomped away at him till he died (12:23). His crime? Let Scripture tell us:
Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king's personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king's country. So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:20-23).
Herod failed to honor God; he allowed people to treat him as on a par with God. It's one thing to persecute and kill God's disciples, it's another thing entirely to refuse to give honor and glory to God.
This era of silence on God's part, during which, in His infinite wisdom and self-control, He remains seated quietly on His throne in His holy temple, with Jesus Christ "at His right hand", could all too easily lead us to draw some dangerously false conclusions. Such as, in particular, that God cares little about the cause of His glory. May we not make such a disastrous mistake. Indeed, to propose that giving honor and credit to God is a more worthy goal than saving human lives would not be to overstate the case.
Fight the good fight
If we wish to please our heavenly Father we need to heed Paul's words - "do all to the glory of God". "Glory" stands for everything God is - His infinite power and goodness. Our personal goal should be to "glorify Him", that is, to give credit, honor and praise to God at every opportunity. We should love nothing more than to throw the spotlight onto Him at all times. Such a laudable goal flies in the face of human nature. No natural human desire outweighs the lust for personal glory. The spirit of competitiveness drives human beings to heights of frenzied exertion. Solomon said,
Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor (Eccl. 4:4)
Unfortunately, this translation misses the point. Consider these other renditions:
Then I saw that all toil and all skilful work is the rivalry of one man for [against] another (NAB).
Then I turned and saw that all labor, and all excelling in work, that it is a man's rivalry with his neighbor (Soncino).
Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy (Living Bible).
We are naturally inclined, above all other desires, to want to be seen as superior to others. This motivation is so strong that Jesus spoke of those who sought the praise of men above the praise of God (John 12:43). We want to outshine others. The foul frame of mind we get into when we see others outshining us is called, in the Bible, "envy". This vice lies behind many of today's ills:
Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?(Prov. 27:4, KJV).
When a person is envious of you, in the sense of seeing you as a rival who must be beaten, get out of their way. Better to be the object of another's anger than of their envy. Paul was targeted by some who saw him as their rival in preaching the gospel:
Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: the former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.(Phil. 1:15-16).
In the eyes of the world, envy is promoted as a virtue. Winners gain all, losers are such a sorry lot. Fight the good fight: put to death in yourself the desire to glorify the self and seek, instead, to glorify God. Jesus was "obsessed" with giving glory to His heavenly Father. He prayed "Father, glorify Your name" (John 12:28). Just hours before His betrayal and Passion His thoughts were on God's glory:
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You" (John 17:1).
In glorifying His Son, Jesus, through His humble death and powerful resurrection, God was glorifying Himself. Give God credit for everything. Do that, and you have Jesus' assurance that "there is no unrighteousness" in you (John 7:18). What more could one ask for?
God may be silent today, in one sense, but His written Word speaks as loudly as ever, and it makes as clear as can possibly be that perhaps no cause is of more significance in the scheme of salvation history than that of His glory. The testimony from both testaments overwhelmingly demonstrates God's keen concern to see His name, which stands for His infinite power and impeccable character, honored by His disciples and ultimately by all men and women (Rom. 14:11). Some Bible students go so far as to propose that history's outcomes, planned and overseen by God Himself, are geared more towards the doxological cause (the cause of God's honor) than towards the soteriological cause (the cause of salvation). Donald Guthrie makes this observation:
It is astonishing how frequently the NT writers mention the glory and majesty of God. Moreover, men are prompted to glorify God (1981, New Testament Theology, p. 90).
In this article we will touch on a few of the highlights of scriptural testimony to this effect. Consider a number of passages that amply prove God's concern for the cause of His honor. But first, let it be said again; we happen to live in times when God remains silent. Our times seem to have been in God's mind when He told Isaiah,
I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. (42:14).
In 57:11 He adds,
Is it not because I have held My peace from of old [for a long time] that you do not fear Me?
The silence of God may well be the chief reason why some periods in history are called "the day of small things" (Zech. 4:10); we are instructed not to "despise" such periods for a noble purpose lies behind divine inaction or "slackness" (2 Peter 3:8-10). The saints are being tested; God is being patient. But it hasn't always been that way, nor will it remain that way. Many times God has "invaded" human history to cause human beings to drop to their knees in utter awe of His glory.
1. Let's begin our brief survey shortly after the waters of the Great Flood had dried up and population began to increase. The natural inclination of human beings to refuse to give God glory quickly became apparent:
And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4).
We are undoubtedly justified in taking this passage about the building of Babel's tower to be talking about man's desire to enjoy honor in the eyes of one's fellow man rather than to give all honor and glory to God. God's response shows His displeasure. We have problems communicating with our fellow man today because our ancestors were more concerned about their own prestige than God's.
2. Much has been written about the purpose of biblical prophecy. Its purpose is not to enable nations to take evasive action to avoid pain. Nor is prophecy given to showcase who is and who is not a servant of God. God foretells the future so that, when it happens, He will receive glory:
Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.
The ultimate fulfilment of promises and warnings made thousands of years ago will redound to the glory of Israel's God, the Father of Jesus Christ. It will make men and women give all credit to God who foretold history's major events. Yes, God's dealings with mankind are directed at glorifying Himself. Sixty three times the prophet Ezekiel says, after foretelling major future events, that people would then know that God is God. For instance, Ezekiel 39:7 says,
So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel. Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.
3. Scripture shows that God has often intervened in human affairs to demonstrate His glory, and that He will do so again. The exodus of Israel from Egypt stands near the top of history's list of mighty events. Why did God do it? Why did He stretch forth His hand against the Egyptians in a series of stupendous, unrepeated acts? Why did He cleave the waters of the Red Sea to provide safe passage to Israel? Here is the chief answer:
Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake, that He might make His mighty power known .
Read the confession of Jethro, Moses' father in law after he heard of this dramatic event:
Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, "Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them" (Ex. 18:9-11).
In earlier times, before the current era of silence began, God often moved in dramatic ways to display His glory to entire nations. Jeremiah put it this way:
You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel and among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day (32:20).
Whether or not God will soon rise from His heavenly throne and once again reveal His glory as He did in halcyon days remains moot. But students of prophecy know that the time is coming when the topic of God's glory will become the ultimate "barbecue stopper":
Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day (Is. 2:10-11).
Hasten that day! For once it has arrived, all men and women will be preoccupied, not with the wondrous works of basketball and tennis stars, but with the majesty of their God:
For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14).
Scripture shows as plain as can be that the cause of God's glory is of utmost concern to Him. We cannot go wrong if we make it our mission to glorify Him. If we sincerely hope to serve under Jesus Christ during His millennial reign (a la Revelation 5:10), during which time knowledge of God's glory will sit squarely at the centre of all educational syllabuses, we obviously need to be concerned with the cause of His glory now. You need no special anointing or appointing or commissioning to labor in this cause; universal permission has already been granted:
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! (Ps. 105:1-2).
Go for it! Seek God's glory in any way you can. God may not be making a name for Himself right now, but He must surely be pleased to see His people seeking to extol and exalt His name.
4. The election of the people of Israel to serve God as His chosen people stands out as a key divine initiative in the plan to save the human race from sin and to bring salvation to all mankind. But why did God choose a group of people to serve in a special way? Let Scripture tell us why:
This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise (Is. 43:21).
"Declaring God's praise" is synonymous with glorifying Him. The concept is the same. Israel will yet fulfil this divine purpose. (For more information on the role of Israel in God's plan for mankind, see the Dawn to Dusk book "Showdown in Jerusalem".)
5. Scripture pronounces awful judgments on those who allow the evil inclination to seek their own glory to override the noblest of all possible causes - seeking to honor God. The extent to which this evil urge masters human beings can be astounding to behold. Jesus declared that many people in His time were "not willing to come to him that they might have life" (John 5:40). To acknowledge dependence on another for the gift of life itself is to acknowledge that other's superiority. These carnal folk stubbornly refused to accept God's grace. Yes, it was their envy of Jesus, their hostility towards Him for outshining them, that led to their delivering Him up to be killed (Matt. 27:18). How wicked can people be? These people were being faithful to a long and inglorious tradition of refusing to glorify God.
If you will not hear, and if you will not take it to heart, to give glory to My name," says the Lord of hosts, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart.
The priests of Malachi's day, like human beings in general, were occupied and preoccupied with their own prestige and status rather than with God's. God was not impressed. Travelling forward in time to the very end of this age of human rule we see the same folly thriving:
And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory (Rev. 16:9).
Oh that such wickedness should be!
The Catholic Encyclopaedia, article "Heaven", speaks truthfully when it says, "We exist to give God glory and to find our happiness, but we find our happiness only in giving God glory.". We can give glory to God by both the things we say and the things we do. We can praise Him with our lips directly (Ps. 105:1-2), and we can honor Him by our actions (Matt. 5:16). Abraham and Moses were zealous for God's reputation; Elijah sought to open the eyes of his brethren to the majesty of God; Jesus put glorifying His Father above all other goals. We must not be blasé about giving our loving Father credit for all good things.
Why does God insist that we seek His glory and that of His Son, Jesus Christ? Is He like so many human beings who just love being the centre of attention, who love the praises of men? Did He, in fact, create angels and human beings merely to provide Himself a host of cheerleaders? Not at all. Remember; He lived for an eternity or two of total contentment without a choir. Just as a tree falling in the forest makes a noise whether or not anybody is there to hear it, God is glorious whether or not He has adoring subjects to see His glory. And He knows that. God needs nothing, not even adoration.
The answer to this question can be deduced from the mind-blowing statement that, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). In love He created beings to whom He can give gifts unimaginable, including eternal life. The only way perfect harmony, and therefore joy, can be maintained for eternity in a family of billions of individuals is if they all adore the One who made them. Simple logic tells us that we will seek to honor and please those whom we love. Since God will always be greater and more more good than all His saints put together, the principle of right proportions requires His creatures to seek His honor above all others. How can anyone be trusted with eternal life if they refuse to face simple facts and bow down before Him and acknowledge that he is forever "the greatest"? God's plan of glorification is designed to advance his plan of salvation! God instructs us to honor Him for our good.