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What is Glory?

What is a good and clear definition of the word "glory"?

The word, glory, or some form of the word (like glorious or glorify) is found in the King James Bible 538 times. It is one of those important words that is hard to explain. However, I think we can get a good start in understanding this word if we think of it as being used in three different ways. Here they are:


Something that is concrete is something that is real; something we can see, hear, or touch. In its most basic usage, the word glory refers to brightness as in a bright light. Something's glory may be its brilliance as a shining light or fire. In the book of Exodus, the Israelites were told that they were going to "see the glory of the LORD" (Exodus 16:7) and when they saw it we are told that "the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel" (Exodus 24:17). The glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire--a fire that could not be put out. 

Other verses also show the connection between glory and ideas like light or brightness. Ezekiel 43:2 says of the Lord: "the earth shined with his glory." Paul gave testimony of his salvation on the road to Damascus when "the glory of that light" (Acts 22:11) caused him to go blind. Paul spoke to the Corinthians about "the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2Corinthians 4:4) and "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" (2Corinthians 4:6). In Hebrews 1:3, the Son is called the brightness of the glory of the Father. And finally, in Revelation 21:23, we are told that the New Jerusalem does not need the sun, "for the glory of God did lighten it." 


That which is abstract is not something we can touch or see. Ideas like truth, love, and justice are abstract. The abstract meaning of glory is that form of excellence which naturally brings admiration and praise. Just as a bright light gets our attention and causes us to look upon it, so the glory of something is that which draws our attention and causes us to be amazed. To say that something is glorious is to say that it is just about (or absolutely) as wonderful and perfect as it could be. That which has glory does not need to seek praise--all who understand its glory will naturally sing its praises. So many verses use glory in this way to refer to God that we must limit our examples. One good place to look is at the Song of Moses that he wrote immediately after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptians were drowned in the same sea. In this song, we see that the Lord is "glorious in power" (Exodus 15:6), "glorious in holiness" (Exodus 15:11) and that He has "triumphed gloriously" (Exodus 15:26). 

God's glory is His excellence that deserves to be praised. It is His brilliance over all others. It is His greatness of power which demands our fear and honor. It is His beauty by which He is adorned. It is His strength and honor; HIS excellence and grace. God's glory is wrapped up in all those qualities that demand our praise. 


This brings us to the third use of the word, glory--its use as an action verb. We are to glory in God. This means that we are to express our admiration and praise for the excellency that we see. Although men seek and receive glory, we are told to "let no man glory in men" (1Corinthians 3:21). We may honor men--an action that is similar to glory but of a milder form, but we are not to glory in men. Our glory is to be given to God. Psalm 29:2 tells us, "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 105:3 tells us, "Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD." May we learn to give the Lord glory all the days of our life.