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Seeing the Glory of God
“Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
That which is the only thing worth seeing, that which will fill and gladden the soul when it is seen and known, that in comparison with which all other sights are nothing, is “the glory of God.” That which righteous men of old desired to see, but saw only in brief, shadowy glimpses, that for which Moses prayed in the tabernacle, when he saw the Lord face to face, that for which we who believe most earnestly and constantly pray, that without which our longing hearts can never be satisfied is “the glory of God.” That which everything in heaven and earth is intended to reveal, that which our eyes were made to behold and which our minds were formed to appreciate, that for which sin was allowed to come into the world that it might be expelled by righteousness, and for which death came to be succeeded by everlasting life, that for which the Son of God came into the world, lived, died, and rose again to reveal is “the glory of God.”
At the Tomb
Our Lord Jesus is standing before the tomb of Lazarus with his sisters, Martha and Mary. It appears that Martha questioned both the Savior’s wisdom and His power. She seems to have questioned the Lord’s wisdom in providence, because He had not come sooner to prevent her brother’s death (v. 21). And she seems to have questioned His power and ability to raise Lazarus from the dead (v. 39). Without question, Martha was a believer. She was loved of God and born of God. But, like us, she was weak, faltering, and failing. She struggled with unbelief. She looked at her present situation; and circumstances told her that Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, was beyond hope. She had grace to believe for the future. She said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v. 24). But she did not trust Christ for the present. She walked by sight, not by faith. She acted according to reason, not revelation.
Then, “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” The only thing preventing Martha from seeing the glory of God on this occasion was her unbelief. Our Lord said, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God.” These words were not spoken for Martha’s sake alone. They were not intended to reprove and instruct Martha alone. They are recorded for our learning and admonition as well. This is what the Lord Jesus says to you and me — “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God.”
In another place our Lord says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But here the Savior is not speaking of seeing God Himself, but rather of seeing the glory of God. He is talking about the revelation of that which is in God. Horatius Bonar said, our Lord is talking about seeing “some display of the invisible excellencies that are in Him.” The glory of God is that which shows Him to be the glorious Being that He is. It is through the knowledge of His glory, through seeing His glory, that we reach the knowledge of God Himself — “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The glory of God is spread out before us in all His wonderful works. It is revealed in creation’s handiwork. — “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). It is written out plainly in the Book of Holy Scripture. It is embodied in Christ, the incarnate Son, who is the image of the invisible God and the brightness of His glory. And it is the glory of God, above all else, that is proclaimed in the Gospel of His grace.
The glory of God is the thing we desire. That is the thing we long to see, and must see. We who believe have dedicated our hearts, our lives, and all that we possess to the glory of God. Every time we bow our heads in prayer, both in private and in public, our hearts cry out for a manifestation of God’s glory. Why then do we see so very little of the glory of our God? —— The only thing that keeps us from seeing the glory of God is our own unbelief. Here is the high, high honor that God our Savior puts upon faith in Himself. He says, — “If thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God!”
First, let us understand that it is God’s purpose to reveal His glory. The supreme, ultimate purpose of God in creation, providence, redemption, and grace is to reveal Himself and to show forth His glory. The prophet Isaiah says, “So didst Thou lead Thy people, to make Thyself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:14). For His own sake and for our sake, God is pleased to manifest His glory. — God reveals Himself and shows forth His glory for His own name’s sake, so that He might receive the honor and praise that rightfully belongs to Him from all his wonderful works. And God reveals Himself and shows forth His glory for our sakes as well, so that we might know and enjoy Him as God.
Particularly, in John 11:40, our Lord Jesus speaks of God’s glory being seen in bringing life out of death. It was for this cause that Christ came into the world, that He might reveal the glory of God in abolishing death by His own death on the cross. Christ came to remove the penalty of sin which is death, to undo the work which death had done, to destroy him which had the power of death, to swallow up death in victory. This work of redemption is altogether the work of God’s free grace. And its accomplishment is a marvelous manifestation of His glory.
Even God’s strange work, His acts of judgment, is designed of God to show forth His greatness and His glory. — “For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Romans 9:17). Vessels of wrath, made unto dishonor, shall show forth the glory of the great Potter and serve His purpose, just as fully as the vessels of mercy “which He had afore prepared unto glory” (Romans 9:21-24).
Everything in God’s creation is designed, ordained, brought to pass, and ruled by God in His total sovereignty to glorify Himself, and to reveal His glory to His creatures. Nothing happens by chance. Everything, the bad as well as the good, is sovereignly ruled by God for the glory of His own great name. This is plainly the doctrine of Holy Scripture. — “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10). — “The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4). — “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). — “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). — It is the purpose of God to reveal His glory in all things. To that end He ordained all things, made all things, and rules all things.
Secondly, the Scriptures reveal that it is the desire of the one Mediator between God and men, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Substitute, the God-man our Savior, that we see the glory of God (John 1:18). Sin has hidden God’s glory from fallen man. Christ Jesus came to unveil the Father’s face, to make known the Father’s character, to manifest the Father’s glory. — “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). This was the errand upon which Christ came. It is true He came to save His people from their sins. But His purpose in saving us was that He might reveal the glory of God, that God might be glorified in us and by us (John 12:27-28; 17:1, 4; Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14, 2:7).
The Lord Jesus seeks our eternal blessedness; and He knows that our blessedness is to be found in beholding the glory of God. What are we without this glory? We are nothing. Our existence is meaningless, vain, and empty. We are like a world without a sun, a bee without a hive, or a well without water. Will you not look to Christ and behold the glory of God? The Son of God delights to show sinners the glory of God. It was for this purpose that He came into the world, lived in righteousness, died in agony, and rose again in triumph. Will you not turn and behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that in beholding Him, your soul may be filled with heavenly light and gladness?
To say that Christ desires the salvation of sinners, the holiness of His elect, and the comfort of His saints is to say much. But to say that He desires to make known to men the glory of God is to say much more. — To say this is to declare that the Son of God desires and delights in men beholding that which, as soon as it is beheld, will bring life, gladness, holiness, and comfort to your heart and soul. When the Lord Jesus says, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest,” His meaning is, “Come unto Me and I will show you that which will immediately cause you to rest.” When He says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” His meaning is, “Come unto Me, and I will show you that which is more refreshing to your soul than a fountain of water to a thirsty man.”
We have seen that it is the purpose of God in all things to reveal His glory. The Word of God makes that fact crystal clear. And the Book of God shows us plainly that Christ Jesus, the Mediator, desires for men and women to see and know and enjoy the glory of God. Why is it, then, that so few see the glory of God, and that those few see so little of God’s glory? To answer that question, let me show you a third fact, plainly revealed in the Word of God. — It is our unbelief, only our unbelief that keeps us from seeing the glory of God.
This is the reproof given in our text. — Our Lord Jesus said, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God.” The one, singular evil about which our Lord complained most often while He was upon the earth was unbelief. He found wretched unbelief not only in the Pharisees and the common people of the world, but also among His own disciples. They were slow of heart to believe God! How often they shut both their eyes and stopped both their ears against the wonders performed in their midst and spoken in their presence by the Son of God! They would not believe the message of free-grace, redeeming love and eternal life! They would not believe, therefore, they could not see the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ!
But we must not be too quick or severe in our judgment regarding those early disciples. That which was their shame and crime is ours as well. How slow we are to believe our God! And, like Israel in the wilderness, like Martha, like those before whom the incarnate God walked upon the earth, it is our unbelief that keeps us from seeing the glory of God today. It is unbelief alone that keeps sinners from Christ. It is unbelief alone that keeps God’s saints from enjoying the privileges that are ours in Christ. It is unbelief alone that keeps redeemed, regenerate sinners from the joy of full assurance. It is unbelief alone that keeps God’s children from that peace that passes understanding. It is unbelief alone that keeps you and me from enjoying the fulfilment of God’s promises.
Matthew Henry said, “Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God’s promises.” Robert Traill wrote, “A great many believers walk upon the promises at God’s call in the way to heaven even as a child upon weak ice, which they are afraid will crack under them and leave them in the depth.” John Calvin tells us, “Our own unbelief is the only impediment which prevents God from satisfying us largely and bountifully with all good things.” It is unbelief that prevents our minds from soaring into the celestial city and walking by faith with God across the golden streets. Oh, wretched, sinful, shameful unbelief! God grant us grace to overcome this weakness and infirmity of the flesh.
It is unbelief that hinders Christ from performing those works in our midst which would show us the glory of God. That is an incredible statement, contrary to all human reason. I would not dare think of making such a statement, were it not for one thing. It is plainly given in the Word of God. Can a child’s hand smother the sun? Can a withered leaf, fallen into a mighty river, stop its flow, or dry up its waters? Can the breath of a man extinguish the stars of heaven? Of course not! Yet, the Word of God plainly informs us that unbelief prevents Christ from performing His mighty works in our midst, by which the glory of God might be seen. — Matthew tells us that when the Lord Jesus “was come into His country…He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (13:58). — Mark uses much stronger language, telling us, “He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them, and He marveled because of their unbelief” (6:5-6).
The hand of God is not prevented from working in our midst by our unworthiness, or by the multitude of our sins, or by our inability, but only by our unbelief. What wonders God might perform for us, among us, in us, and with us if we would simply take Him at his word! It was unbelief that prevented the Son of God from performing His mighty works in Galilee. Unbelief lays hold of Christ’s hand, and says, “Work not here!” Unbelief despises the grace and power of God and says, “Depart out of our coasts,”
It is unbelief that prevents us from seeing the glory of God in His works, even though they are wrought before our very eyes. Christ’s hand is not always stayed by man’s unbelief. Thank God for that! Where He wills to work, He will work. Man’s will cannot overthrow His will. And man’s unbelief cannot frustrate, nullify or even alter God’s eternal purpose. Very frequently the Lord Jesus did work the works of God, works in which the glory of God was evidently revealed, before the eyes of unbelieving men. Multitudes saw the works performed by the Lord Jesus; but, because of their unbelief, they could not see the glory of God in those works. They saw the healing of the leper, but did not see the glory of God in the leper’s healing. They saw the opening of the blind man’s eyes, the unstopping of deaf ears, the giving of feet to the lame, the casting out of devils and even the resurrections of Jarius’ daughter and of the widow’s son; but they did not see the glory of God in these things. They no more saw the glory of God in the works of Christ than they did in Christ himself. Even after Lazarus was raised from the dead, some who saw that mighty miracle did not see the glory of God in the miracle (John 11:43-46).
In John 6 there were five thousand men, not counting the women and children, who were fed with five barley loaves and two small fish. It is estimated that at least twenty thousand people were fed that day. A mighty miracle was performed. Those people ate the bread and the fish. They both saw the miracle and partook of its benefits. But they did not see the glory of God in it all. They ate from the hand of Him who is the Bread of Life and knew it not. They followed the Master for a while, because of the abundance of loaves and fish He gave them. But they saw nothing glorious in Him, or in His works. The glorious God was standing before them; but they could not see Him. And the Lord told them plainly, “Ye seeks Me, not because ye saw the miracles,” that is to say, not because you saw the glory of God in the miracles I have performed, “but because ye did eat the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26).
The glory that is wrapped up in God’s works can be perceived only by faith. Faith draws aside the veil. Faith sees the glory of God in His works, for faith sees the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Faith eats the Bread of Life and drinks from the Fountain of Living Water and is refreshed by the abundance of grace, which all of Christ’s miracles portrayed. The charismatic looks for and sees nothing but carnal miracles; and Satan gives him his desire. The believer sees in every miracle performed by Christ a picture of God’s grace; and in that grace he sees the glory of God. We do not look for carnal signs of grace, which is what the miracles were. We have the Word of grace; and believing the Word of grace, we see the glory of God in all His works of grace.
Unbelief keeps us from enjoying the glory of God even after we have in some measure seen it. The Lord’s disciples saw the glory of God in His wondrous works. Yet, after all they had seen, heard, and experienced, they realized very little. The glory of God seems to have been seen by them at intervals, in glimpses, but not continually. Like men with a telescope at their side, sometimes using it to look far beyond the scope of natural vision, and sometimes not using it at all, these disciples seem to have exercised great faith at times and virtually no faith at other times. There was more unbelief in their history than faith. They had faith enough to show them something. But their unbelief kept much more hidden from them. They entered but little into the glory which they acknowledged and at times enjoyed.
How much like those disciples we are! Like Martha, we have seen the glory of God in Christ yesterday. And we have hope of seeing more tomorrow. But for today, where is the faith by which to see the glory of God? We have seen the glory of God in the death, resurrection, and exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our eyes rest upon Him who is the glory of God. But, oh, how faintly do we behold Him! And the reason is our shame. We see but little of the glory of God because we believe but little. Unbelief is the thing that grieved our Lord. Unbelief is what He reproves in us more than anything else. Unbelief dishonors God, quenches the work of the Spirit, and keeps us from usefulness for the glory of God and the souls of men.
But our dear Savior’s words in John 11:40 are much more than a reproof. The Lord Jesus is calling us to faith. — “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” He is saying, “Have faith in God. Only believe. Be not faithless, but believing. Trust God in everything and for everything. Even in the most trying circumstances, say, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’”
Faith honors God and God honors faith! He always has and he always will. Ask Job (Job 1:20-23; 2:9-10; 42:10). Ask Noah (Genesis 7:23). Ask Abraham (Genesis 22:8, 13-14; Romans 4:20-22). Ask Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1). Ask Naomi (Ruth 4:14-15). Ask David (1 Samuel 17:45-51). Ask the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:14-16). Faith honors God and God honors faith!
Believe and See
If we would believe, we would see the glory of God. Martha and Mary were placed in hard, trying circumstances. Their beloved brother was dead. What could they hope might be done? Had the Lord arrived earlier, they might have hoped that He would have healed Lazarus. But it appeared that He had arrived too late. Lazarus was dead. They comforted themselves with the hope of the great resurrection. But for the present Martha was full of despair. Then the Lord spoke to Martha, saying, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” It is as much as if He had said, — “Martha, Martha, if you would just trust Me, I would do for you far greater things than you could ever think or ask. If you would but trust Me, there is nothing I would not do for you, no length to which I would not go, no limit to the power I would exercise on your behalf to show you the glory of God.”
And He says the same thing to you and me. Child of God, you may be enduring some great trial right now. But your trial is no greater than Abraham’s, when he was called to offer up his son, Isaac. If he believed and staggered not, if he hoped against hope and was strong in faith, giving God the glory, why should we not do the same? Are we the children of Abraham, to whom the “God of glory” appeared? Is it not reasonable for our Lord, who is always faithful to us, to expect faith from us? After all He has done, can we be hesitating, fearful, and distrustful? God forbid! This is His promise: — “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God.”
If we would believe, we would see the glory of God in salvation by Christ our Substitute (Exodus 33:18-23). The glory of God can be seen only by those who are standing upon the mount of sacrifice, looking through the blood of Christ slain upon the cursed tree (Romans 3:24-26). In the cross of Christ, in His death as the sinner’s Substitute, I see the glory of God. There “mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). We see the glory of God most fully in the substitutionary sacrifice and sin-atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, because in His death all the glorious attributes of God are plainly revealed: His sovereignty and His grace, His righteousness and His goodness, His inflexible justice and His pardoning mercy, His unmitigated wrath and His everlasting love (Exodus 33:19, 34:5-7).
If you will believe on the Lord Jesus, you will see the glory of God in the sacrifice of his Son. But if you believe not, you never can. Reason may see the doctrine of the cross; but only faith can see the glory of the cross. Only faith can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
If we would believe, we would see the glory of God in His wise and good providence (Romans 8:28; 11:36). If Martha had believed, she would have seen the glory of God in Lazarus’ sickness and death and in her own grief as well. All things are of God; but only faith can see the glory of God in all things. How adorable His providence is! But only faith sees the glory of God in providence.
If we would believe, we would see the glory of God in the works He performs in our midst. God’s glory is seen in His works. And faith perceives both His work and His glory in his work. God’s glory is to be seen in what He has done, in what He is doing, and in what He shall do.
If we would believe, we would see the glory of God in the fulfilling of His promise. — “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified” (Isaiah 43:26). I wonder how much spiritual blessedness we miss simply because we do not believe God. Because we insist upon having much goods laid up for many years, we miss the blessedness of seeing God raining manna from heaven, giving us each day our daily bread.
If we would believe, we would see the glory of God in His resurrection power (John 5:25-29). I know that God works in total sovereignty. He depends upon us for nothing. His work depends upon us for nothing. But I know this also: — God works in His sovereignty by the faith of His people (Ezekiel 36:33-38). I take Ezekiel’s prophecy to mean that if we would but believe God, we would see His glory in spiritual resurrections, we would see God save His elect. Yes, God will save all His elect, when and where it pleases Him. But I am certain that in the Church of God we lack for conversions only because we lack faith. It is written, — “When Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” And if we believe, we shall see the glory of God in the resurrection of our bodies at the last day (Job 19:25-26).
Fifth, be sure you understand that faith to behold the glory of God is itself the gift of God’s grace and a work in which His glory is to be seen (Ephesians 1:19; 2:8; Colossians 2:10-12). We believe only by the working of God’s mighty power in us, only by the gift of His grace. If you now believe God, it is by that very same power that raised our Lord Jesus from the dead, it is by the creative, resurrection, omnipotent power of the omnipotent God! Yet, our Lord Jesus declares, “If thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God!” Believe God! Believe and you shall see the glory of God (Mark 9:23-24).
Faith is the gift of grace alone,
My God, how can it be
That You should choose, in saving love,
To give that gift to me?
Faith owes its birth to sovereign grace,
And lives beneath the throne,
Where grace maintains her dwelling place
And reigns supreme alone!
A sinner saved by sovereign grace,
My praise I cannot hold:
Hail, sovereign, free, unchanging grace!
“Salvation’s of the Lord!”