Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 29: 2

 

According to Merriam-Webster the verb ascribe has a simple definition; “to refer to a supposed cause, source, or author: to say or think that (something) is caused by, comes from, or is associated with a particular person or thing.”

Ascription indicates the source or the cause; so, when David tells us to ascribe glory to the Lord, he is saying that the Lord, Himself, is the one who wrote the book on glory. This form of brilliance is both greater than all light, including the illumination that comes from the sun, and also gives off a form of illumination that penetrates to the depths of the heart and the soul to reveal all that is to be found there. This is the glory that is of the Lord and that also emanates from Him. We cannot draw near to God and not be caught up in the power and the beauty of His light of glory.

 

So, if we seek to be close to God, we will encounter glory. As we seek to know Him, we experience this same great light, and the glow that comes from God’s presence is one that is infused with His holiness and that also pours out that same great cleansing truth over and into all who will accept God as our Lord. This is a wonderful gift and a marvelous reward for turning away from the influences of this world and surrendering to the love, grace, and mercy of the Father as expressed by and through Jesus Christ, the Son. In simple fact, we do not actually cause glory to be associated with God, for God is self-referential in this matter. We acknowledge what is there as we speak out our comprehension of the character and nature of our Lord and Creator. His glory is something that predates all of Creation. It is a part of the fabric of the universe as God imparted His great light of truth into all that His hands formed and granted life to. God’s glory is present in Heaven and in all that exists outside of it.

 

Although we encounter this glory in and around us in many places and as a part of much of our world, there is still only one source for it. In addition, all that is truly glorious in our world and in life comes from that same source. Now God is not stingy with giving out His glory to us; instead, He distributes it freely and widely. However, if we desire to know the source of this life-giving light, we must seek after and draw near to the Lord. As we call out God’s name and associate it with words of adoration, praise, and petition, we are engaging in worship. We also do this when we bring the pain and the struggles of our days to our Lord with trust in His goodness and mercy and expectant hope for His comfort and provision. The Lord is honored by the way that we live out our lives when we do so in response to Christ’s great sacrificial love for us, and He counts it as worship when we pour out justice, mercy, comfort, and protection upon people who are broken and downtrodden. Each and every aspect of worship comes about in response to who God is and as a reflection of the glory that radiates from His presence. As we worship we speak back to God the truth of His great love, and we open our hearts and our minds to encountering ever more of God’s awesome presence.

 

 

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For this is he who has spoken by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“’The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord;

Make his paths straight.’”

Matthew 3: 3

 

John’s message was straight forward and rather simple, for he called upon people to repent. He pointed them toward God and to the awful difference that existed between the way that they were living and the standard of righteous life that was set out for all people by the Lord. Interestingly, John went out into the wilds of the countryside to proclaim this message from God. He left the populated centers behind and found his audience out among the open spaces and the scattered villages, long-distance travelers, and assorted wanders that he encountered in those less hospitable locales. His first and primary appeal was to the people at large and not to the powerful or the prominent. John didn’t start out speaking with religious or with governmental leaders, and his message wasn’t directed at corrupt institutions or at their ungodly leaders.

 

John was called by God to go to people who were not so different from any of us, and he was directed to call upon us to turn to the God of our creation as our only valid hope for salvation from the ruinous path that we and that all of the rest of humanity had taken. Although John went out into the literal desert places to start to preach the Lord’s call to return to Him and to the truth of His word, he was restating the words that Isaiah had set out long before when he spoke about God’s promise of restoration and of peace with Him that was given then to the people of Israel and promised in extension to all of the world. In Isaiah we see the idea of wilderness as depicting the vast wasteland of human souls and all of the barriers that we have built up that separate us from God and from doing His righteous and redemptive work in our world. Isaiah speaks of mountains made flat and valleys being raised up, of other forms of impediment gone so that God’s glory is revealed to all of the world.

 

This is done through the lives of people just like us. God works in and through His people to bring this same message of hope through repentance to the world around us. We all reside in a barren landscape like that of Isaiah’s and john’s wilderness of the soul, and every one of us rubs shoulders on a daily basis with people who dwell in the harsh and bitter lands of that wild place. Our first calling is to personal repentance as we hear God’s voice and respond to His Gospel of righteous hope, peace, and love by turning our lives in full measure to Christ and to serving Him. Then we are to turn to our neighbors and to others that we encounter and that we seek out and reveal to them the glory of the Lord as it is made visible and tangible in our redeemed and transformed manner of thinking and living. Christ calls to each of us in our own wilderness, and then He sends us forth to do this crying out to a lost and a needy world. As Christ sends, so we must respond like john did with all of our mind, heart, and soul.

And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6: 3

 

The Seraphim speaks, and from that place close to the throne of God profound truth pours forth. As Isaiah tells about what he saw in that great vision of the Lord, we are informed regarding important aspects of the fundamental reality where we dwell as followers of Christ. God truly rules this world. This is a season in the long history of Creation wherein Satan’s reign of evil has impact and retains the power that we humans unleashed into our world. But there are limits on his capacity and on his authority, and the time for him to have any influence at all is now quite short. Even at this moment, Satan’s gains are minimal in relationship to those of Christ.

 

Christ works in this world to bring people into the light of God’s saving truth and then into living the righteous life that comes out of that truth. He elevates us out of our natural and worldly habitat so that we now dwell in spirit in God’s holy place of righteousness, love, and grace. Yet, our feet are still attached to the dirt of this world, and our bodies reside within its borders. However, those borders are all encompassed by a greater boundary that is God’s kingdom. This is where God’s glory overcomes all that Satan’s evil attempts to bring about. In Christ, each of us is a citizen of this heavenly nation with full rights and responsibilities of that citizenship. We are free to live out the truth of God’s Word without concern for what others may think, say, or do. Yet, we are also responsible for living in the full expression of that word’s redemptive purpose.

 

This brings me to the point of Isaiah’s words for me today. The Lord was calling Isaiah out of living as a follower of the ways of his world and into that extraordinary realm of separateness that is God’s holiness, His purity and truth, while also sending Isaiah into that same world as a person who would live out that righteousness and speak the hope of redemption and restoration into a dying land. I think that Christ is calling upon me to do the same things. Christ’s purity and love bring my sinfulness into the bright light of exposure that leads to repentance while His grace forgives all of it. Then He, as He did with Isaiah, sends me into my world to live in a manner that brings the presence of God’s glory into the lives of others.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19: 10

 

God is always seeking. He never stops pressing on to reach into the darkened depths of the souls of people, for He claims everyone on this earth as His own. The Lord will not rest from the quest after relationship with us until we have totally closed and locked away any possible access to our hearts. Since God sees nothing but the potential that He designed into us, He continues to view us with that Father’s eye for the potential beauty within until the moment that we draw our last earthly breath.

 

Christ wants me to view others in this same way. He tells me to love my neighbor, to forgive wrong doing, to offer up my un-injured cheek to the person who just hit me, and to care about the eternity of others more than I care about my own security or comfort. Jesus seemed to actually enjoy the company of such flawed and coarse people as we are. He gathered the imperfect and the self-focused to His side; and He continues to delight in being in the close and intimate company of these people. People such as you and me.

 

Jesus came after me. He has come after you, and He wants us to join Him in the relentless pursuit of others. This world is filled with lostness and the pain that it causes. Christ provides the answers to the void that sin has carved out. People who know Him are the means that God uses to connect that empty need with His healing love. Jesus desires to walk with each of us through this day of seeking that which is lost. Christ will do the work as He gifts to us the right words and deeds for us to use for this purpose and to His glory.

 

 

Then Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

John 6: 32

 

A parable for living in our world might go something like this, “Work hard, take care of business, and plan well; then, everything that you wish, want, or desire will be yours for the taking”. This is a description of a world that revolves around self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and those who are strong and confident are held up as examples of how everyone should be. This was true for the wandering Israelites, too, for they looked to Moses to be the leader who knew all of the answers and provided them with whatever they thought that they required.

 

This was a false notion for them, and it is a silly way for us to view life. When they were fed, it wasn’t Moses who provided the food. When they traveled, it wasn’t Moses who set the course; and when they were secure, it certainly wasn’t Moses whose strength and great love brought about that state of being. Even when we use our skills, training, and talent to accomplish the things that we do in this life, these are all gifts from our Creator, for every good and useful aspect of who and what I am has come from God and is empowered by His Spirit. Although God may not provide me with mysterious miracle food in the way that He did for the Israelites, He does fill my life with miracles of provision that are constantly with me.

 

Christ is calling on us to make seeking after God’s will and growing in our trust and reliance on Him our primary daily mission in life. Doing this often involves nothing more than simply opening our eyes and accepting what is right in front of us. God is actively reaching into our world with His care, concern, compassion, and grace. He seeks to bless the days of His people with the deep and unshakable peace and joy that comes only from living in the presence of His righteousness and truth. Then, as we sit at God’s table of blessing and eat from His exquisite feast of life giving bread, we are truly prepared to use all of the gifts and the talents that we possess for God’s glory.

 

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.

Romans 3: 23, 24

 

I am not God, and this is the most striking example of this fact. I am sinful. I allow, even encourage at times, my mind to dwell on all manner of things that are clearly not in alignment with God’s will for me or for anyone else. For example, I am fearful or concerned; so, I contemplate all of the worst possible outcomes. I encounter disagreement or difference of opinion, and I assert my will over others in a way that damages our relationship. There are more ways in which my disregard for God and abandonment of the truth of His Word are expressed in my sinful ways; I will just stop the listing here.

 

My righteousness is nothing. It is flawed, failed, and bankrupt. There is nothing holy about this person, and there is no hope, within myself, of ever reaching that place of god-like purity. So, love, peace, mercy, and grace are foreign to me. However, that is not the state of existence that God desires for His people. God pursues us and He is a relentless suitor. God presents His truth to us in ways that can speak to anyone who is willing to listen. God has come to live with us, and Jesus gifted all of us with the image of who God is, with a permanent solution to our sin caused separation from God, and with a judge who finds His own people innocent.

 

With Christ all is changed. In Christ, I do not need to find my own resources in order to live in a manner that is god-like in its perfection; for He is now my righteousness. This does not mean that I can think and do as I might please. In fact, the Spirit of Christ who dwells within me makes that sort of thing very difficult and painful. He continually points me toward the peace that comes from following God’s will in all of the details of life. Although the damage that my past has caused, that my sinful disobedience to God creates, and that living in this world brings about is very real; I can have unending hope. For Christ has redeemed me from it all. He is my salvation, and because of Him and as a result of His infinite grace I now live in the reality of God’s glory.

You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be regularly set up to burn. In the tent of meeting outside the veil that is the testimony. Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord.

Exodus 27: 20, 21

 

Here is the way it was, and the way that it is for many. God seems to be set up, established in a place, and we are required to perform in a manner that is acceptable and pleasing to Him in order to approach that holy residence. God demanded us to gather some of our best and most valuable possessions, in this case olive oil, and give them as tribute gifts to Him. We also had to stand a working vigil over the flame in order to keep its beacon light glowing. In all of this there was labor with its potential for exhaustion and failure, and there was separation of people based upon an unequal calling to service to God. This is the way that we wanted it to be, for we humans departed from the ready and continual presence of God and moved away to unfriendly wastelands of defiant sin.

 

All of the process, rules, and procedures that God commanded His people to perform in order to gather to worship Him had a purpose. They forced us to stop taking care of business as we would prefer and to turn our attention to gathering around the Lord and to listening to His word. The sacrificial tribute that we were to bring to God was intended to be painful to surrender. It came from the work that we did, and it was often the source of pride and the focus of our adoration. Giving it up to be consumed required faith that God would replace it and sacrificial turning away from our own wants and desires and toward God’s calling. Yet, in all of this God was doing nothing more than pointing us toward the future when He would first be present in and with anyone who would accept Him, and ultimately when He will reclaim and restore all that is fallen to its creation glory and Christ will reign supreme over all forever.

 

We now live in the reality that is the middle portion of this three part narrative. Jesus gave Himself. His blood was shed for our sakes. There is no need to surrender our costly and precious goods to earn a place of worthiness before God. Instead, Christ is the total, final, and perfect sacrifice that has already been presented upon the altar of life. The tent which was the holy place of gathering near to God’s presence has been replaced. We, our bodies, are that new dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. In Christ, we are sacred and holy. However, the call to sacrifice has not ended. Instead, God demands something far more costly and precious than olive oil or gold, for He requires that we give ourselves, all that we are, over to service to Him. In this new calling, Christ, Himself, becomes the glory that shines through those dark nights, and we are all equally servants of His gospel.