In the early 1980s, I attended the National Campus Ministers’ Seminar in Seattle, Washington. I was engaged as a Campus Minister at Kansas University, and this annual seminar, hosted in various cities in the U.S., was a regular event for me.
The seminar involves the standard large group keynote messages intertwined with dozens of breakout session offerings. One such offering at the Seattle seminar was simply titled The Glory. It was taught by my counterpart at the University of Washington. I was intrigued by the title so I attended his lecture.
Thirty-five or so years later, I still recall sitting in that auditorium hoping to walk out with some understanding, some definition of “glory.” I do recall the gentleman’s lecture was engaging, and I even recall a specific illustration he used involving his thumbprint all over the auditorium walls. But I didn’t feel satisfied that I left the room with a definition of glory.
Given the difficulty of constructing such a definition, attempting to write today’s blog posting may be a fool’s errand.
A Song or Psalm of David. O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. – Psalm 108:1, KJV
Those of you who read and interact with me regularly know that I’m not a fan of the King James translation, and may have caught that I used it in the quotation above. I chose the King James rendering specifically because of their use of the word “glory” in translating כָּבוֹד (kavod). Let’s look at a few more.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. – Psalm 62:7, ESV
Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! – Psalm 57:8, ESV
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. – Psalm 19:1, ESV
The same word is used in all four places, but note in the first three instances, the issue is my glory, whereas in the fourth instance it is the “glory of God.” So, what is my glory?
We get a clue to the meaning of “my glory” when we see how the New Testament handles Psalm 16:9. In Acts 2, the apostle Peter is delivering his mighty Pentecost-day sermon, and in verse 26, he makes a reference to Psalm 16:9.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. – Psalm 16:9, NASB
Now, let’s look at how Peter used that in Acts 2, and how Luke recorded the quotation.
Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. – Acts 2:26, ESV
Peter has taken Psalm 16:9 and applied it to Jesus, saying, “my tongue rejoiced,” rather than “my glory,” leading us to conclude that my glory in the Old Testament scriptures is a reference to what I do with my tongue.
Is there any other evidence to substantiate this? Yes! There is.
To serve the predominantly Greek-speaking world, the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek and codified into a collection known as the Septuagint. Commissioned by Ptolemy II of Philadelphus around 285 BCE, seventy Jewish scholars produced a Greek translation of their Hebrew scriptures, and in that translation, they translated the term for glory as “tongue.”
With that understanding, it makes perfect sense that “the heavens declare the glory of God,” Psalm 19:1. Similarly, when we use our tongues to declare the glory of God, those same tongues become our glory as the Psalmist has taught us. As men and women created in the image of God, it is our ability to declare God’s glory that distinguishes us from the animals.
God has blessed humanity with the intelligence to understand, and the ability to speak. It is God’s desire to communicate with us and we respond with praise and worship of him. That is our glory!
May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your comands are righteous. – Psalm 119:171-172, NIV-1971
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 89:1, ESV