“There have been men before now who got so interesting in proving the existence of God that they cam etc care nothing for God Himself.. as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or a lover of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.” – C.S. Lewis – The Great Divorce Chapter 9
This quote should chill you to your marrow. As both an evangelist and lover of books it particularly frightens me. Because at it’s end it reveals an idolatry. The thing that is “loved” is not truly loved. It becomes a means to an end. The idol is self. And like any idol it is jealous for it’s glory. Books are there to say something about the person, not to be enjoyed in themselves, and certainly not to roll up into reflection and glory of God. Charity is to advance the perceptions not to bless the poor and obviously not to display Christ’s love for the needy. And these are just the smaller matters.
Jealous for His Own Glory
“God’s glory is the result of his nature and acts. He is glorious in his character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that he must be glorious. The actions which flow from his character, the deeds which are the outgoings of his inner nature, these are glorious too; and the Lord is very careful that all flesh should see that he is a good, and gracious, and just God; and he is mindful, too, that his great and mighty acts should not give glory to others, but only to himself.” – C.H. Spurgeon Sermon 502
The context of this sermon is Exodus 34:14 “You shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Idols are poor pretenders to the throne. Any glory they possess is a pale reflection of their creator. Even if the self is an idol, it has been made in the image of God. It is an infinitesimal portrait of the Creator God.
When the glory of God is understood His jealousy for that glory comes into specific relief. There is nothing greater than God, it is inescapable. And to worship at any other alter is frankly like the idiot kid robbing a convenience store who believed the quick witted cashier to show ID proving he was old enough to rob the place. It is thick in the most concrete sense. God’s jealousy is perfectly felt. Noting so inferior should receive on iota of praise.
All that is around us are to cause worship, it is creation that praises the creator. Humans are the highest form of creation and are to direct the worship.
“My brethren, do you marvel at this? I felt in my own soul while meditating upon this matter an intense sympathy with God. Can you put yourselves in God’s place for a moment? Suppose that you had made the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures that inhabit this round globe; how would you feel if those creatures should set up an image of wood, or brass, or gold, and cry, “These are the gods that made us; these things give us life.” What-a dead piece of earth set up in rivalry with real Deity! What must be the Lord’s indignation against infatuated rebels when they so far despise him as to set up a leek, or an onion, or a beetle, or a frog, preferring to worship the fruit of their own gardens, or the vermin of their muddy rivers, rather than acknowledge the God in whose hand their breath is, and whose are all their ways! Oh! it is a marvel that God hath not dashed the world to pieces with thunderbolts, when we recollect that even to this day millions of men have changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. With what unutterable contempt must the living God look down upon those idols which are the work of man’s hands“ – C.H. Spurgeon Sermon 502
Beholding the Glory
I would posit that all of creation is to be sign posts on the road to glory. They point us on toward that which is most worthy of all our praise. When Ardbeg Blaaak is nosed and sipped it is a delight. But it should not terminate on itself. We are not to praise the Scotch but the God that made the tastebuds and olfactory senses for the scotch. The God that in his foreknowledge laid down peat, and grain, and spring water. Who prepared the dram beforehand. The distiller did not know your name, but the creator does. To praise the liquid in the glass is pointless, to herald the pot still or barrels is empty. But to glorify God as the glass is drained it to enjoy it rightly, it is to enjoy Him. He made it, and He gave it.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every prefect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” James 1:16-17
Since we are not like Moses, worthy enough to even look at the backside of God while hidden in the cleft of the rock. We are given alternate means to behold the glory of God. There is direct diving revelation. God has spoken, or as Schaffer would say, “He is there, and He is not silent.” His word is in our hands. And even more so now than at any other point in human history. Consider that not only do we have a full cannon, we are blessed enough to be able to squabble over it with those on the opposite banks of the Tiber and Bosphorus.* Scripture plainly reveals to us the majesty and glory of God, His works, His nature, in short who He is. We also have to glory of God revealed to us though natural revelation. All that God has made is for his glory. Immediately one might think of wonders in nature, Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Ireland, etc. But we also are directed to glory God in how we, as creation, wield creation in our own unique ways. God first created, then gifted this world to His creation and told us to try and copy him. As Doug Wilson says, “It is arrogance to think we could, but it is humility to think that we should.” Those who have undertaken the task to modify creation and make new beauties are like priests (mostly inadvertently)** guiding us to glorify God through music, food, drink, painting, sculpting, writing, speaking, dance, film, etc.*** We can be moved by these things to praise and marvel. But they are still only the sign posts, they should not exist for themselves, they are dependent on the first creative act.
“The relation between Creator and creature is, of course, unique, and cannot be paralleled by any relations between one creature and another. God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other being. He is further from us because the sheer difference between that which has Its principle of being in Itself and that to which being is communicated, is one compared with which the difference between an archangel and a worm is quite insignificant. He makes, we are made: He is original, we derivative.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Chapter 3
Glory Laying us Low
There is a third way in which we see the glory of God. And that is the rare occasion where He is so kind as to reveal Himself though His Spirit and breaking you down. These are not common events and I would hesitate to say they should be sought. They are the times in which, for various reasons God makes plain his reality. It has come upon me rarely, once before preaching, once in the middle of a long dark night of the soul when despair had gripped my heart. And once when alone on a Christmas day while I listened to the broadcast of Lessons and Carols from Cambridge.
In these moments you are brought to your knees before the Lord. They are beautiful, but rare and for good reason. I think because A. We could not bear it constantly. B. We would seek it out, counterfeit or try to gin it up. C. We would be tempted to think that we have arrived.
“This brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” – C.S. Lewis The Weight of Glory
Glory is a hefty business. And on this side of eternity we can not bear such weight. True counters of glory prostrate one. Like the prophet we call out, “woe is me!’ we are laid low as we are lifted it. For indeed we are all unclean men with unclean lips.
We began with idols, inferior replacements for a living God. Yet creation in it’s proper place rolls up into praise and glory. But we must constantly check ourselves. Calvin reminds us our hearts are idol factories, constantly churning out new petty gods. Our disordered affections must be corrected. We must realign our sights on the one in whom we live and move and have our being or as John Owen said:
“Oh to behold the Glory of Christ! Here in would I live, Here in would I die, here on would I dwell in my thoughts and my affections until all things here below become as dead and deformed things, and in no longer, any way, calling out for my affections” – John Owen
*Lets be clear just in case it doesn’t seem that way. This is a Protestant blog. We are so Protestant that if given the option we would burn icons in a bonfire while giggling like schoolgirls before belting out a Mighty Fortress is our God.
**”In English, the word person, parson, and priest are near neighbors: they share some footage of fence in the backyard of usage. Enough at any rate, to suggest that somebody has already caught the hint that both parson and person are up to the same thing – they are both priest offerers. The definition of a human being as a person, and of persons as priestly agents within history, turns out to be not altogether whimsical.” R.F. Capon – The Romance of the Word, Chapter 8 The Courting Dance
*** Receive Reject and Redeem must come in at some point. Not everything that is made is glorious. Satan can create nothing only twist the good gifts of God perverting them into evil. Drink that is not received as God intended becomes drunkenness. Sex outside the confines of heterosexual marriage is adultery. These are vile attempts to wrestle the control from God and blaspheme.