Soli Deo Gloria

Soli Deo Gloria

Glory is one of those concepts which can be difficult to nail down because it is so broad. The Hebrew word translated glory has a sense of weight to it, a heaviness. This is why C.S. Lewis entitled one of his books, The Weight of Glory. There were times in the Old Testament narrative where a darkness is described as “a darkness that could be felt,” implying a heaviness to it, and, thus, it was considered a manifestation of the glory of God. Scripture tells us that God “wraps Himself in darkness like a cloak.”

But God’s glory is also often displayed in light. Sometimes it is a fire, like the pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the desert, or the shekinah glory in the temple, or the glorious light that accompanied the angels at the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Glory is displayed in sound, like thunder or God’s voice that splits the cedars (Ps. 29:5). And, of course, God displayed His glory through His Son, as His exact image.

A study of the use of the word glory in the Scriptures is rich and deep, and too vast to do much more than touch on here, but suffice it to say that glory is both a manifestation of God’s multifaceted presence, and our response to it.

God’s glory is important to Him and He is protective of it. He says, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Is. 42:8). This isn’t because God is some kind of glory hound (as His enemy sometimes likes to insinuate in our minds), but because glory is only due to Him alone. He is the author of all; everything else—every other accomplishment or accolade—is only derivative. He alone is the Originator and deserves our acknowledgement, adoration, and praise because of that. No one else can say, “I deserve praise,” because we are not the author of ourselves. We did not give ourselves our talents, our drive, our advantages. If we have succeeded it is only because God gave us the building blocks. We may have done great things with those ingredients, but we can never say we are self-made, and the author of our success. Only God is beholding to no one for all He has done and is.

This is why “Soli Deo Gloria” is such a powerful declaration. It is an acknowledgement of the ultimate truth that God alone is worthy of Glory and honor for who He is and what He has done. These are words that we say all too infrequently and live out even less of the time. We all too often forget that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

How frequently do we arise in the morning and think, “How am I going to glorify God today?” How often do we consider the decisions we make in terms of whether or not our choice will glorify God? Paul tells us, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all to the glory of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17), and “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Word, deed, eating, drinking—do it all to God’s glory—that’s pretty inclusive, but how much is the glory of God at the forefront of our minds in even these nitty gritty choices throughout the day? Perhaps if it were more in the front of our thoughts our words would have more salt and light, and be less salty and full of heat. If God’s glory was our daily goal in our eating and drinking, perhaps we would be more mindful of where our stomachs (appetites) have become our gods, and have robbed us of our health and vigor, and have caused us to neglect sharing of our abundance with those who have so much less than we do.

When we think of people who glorify God with their lives we often think of those we consider super saints—the Billy Grahams or John Pipers or John MacArthurs or Elizabeth Elliotts or Amy Carmichaels of this world. We look up to our religious leaders and missionaries and think that this is how people glorify God, and we don’t qualify because we’re just Joe or Jill Average Christian, warming our seat on Sunday morning, and maybe even serving in a ministry—faithful, perhaps, but hardly stellar. In our view we have little hope of reaching the status of those who glorify God.

But the truth is God’s glory is designed to be revealed in all that He has made; that includes you and me. He has designed each of us to reflect Him and reflect on Him in ways that no one else can. When we intentionally look for His glory displayed around us and acknowledge Him, or look for ways to give Him glory, then we are fulfilling the reason for which we have been created. He delights to see us discover His goodness and glory, and He delights to see His glory displayed in us shining through.

In the past, I have shared with you about a friend of mine who delights in nature, particularly birds. Her enthusiasm has overflowed into me and has made me aware of birds and nature in ways I never was before. We share with each other when we’ve spotted something unusual or amusing. There is a sense where her delight in the glory of God in these things was contagious. I now revel with her in God’s amazing creation in ways I never would have without my association with her and her God-given perspective on Him. That can be true of each of us, as well. Our delight in the particular glories of God we see from our point of view, when expressed to others, can draw them into our perspective and give them a new glimpse of a facet of God’s glory they would not naturally see from their own vantage point.

In this way, even the most obscure, behind-the-scenes of us can radiate the glory of God in ways that change other’s views of God for the better, exalting and magnifying Him like no one else can. So, let us do more than just sing, Soli Deo Gloria, let us seek intentionally to look intently for His glory around us, acknowledge it with our praise when we do, and more purposefully to live to give Him glory with our lives each day.