Godís Passion For His Glory
Reverend Bryn MacPhail / December 1, 2002
††††††††††† I would not be telling you anything new, if I began this morningís sermon by asserting that something has gone awry in the modern celebration of Christmas. I suppose I could speak, at great length, about the many ways the Christian celebration of Christmas has gone amiss . . . But Iím not going to do that today.
††††††††††† Sometimes, as preachers, we spend so much time explaining what is wrong with something that we neglect to say what this something should look like in the first place.
††††††††††† As we begin our preparation for the celebration of Christís birth, let us first be clear in articulating why the Son of God was sent to us. Among the many purposes for God sending us Jesus, let us first ask: What was Godís ultimate aim in sending His Son?
††††††††††† I remember the first time I asked myself this question, the answer I came up with was: the crossóďGod so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting lifeĒ(Jn.3:16). Yet, that answer only begged another question: What is Godís ultimate end in the salvation of sinners?
††††††††††† I agree with Jonathan Edwards, who asserts that, 'It is manifest from Scripture, that God's glory is the last end of . . . the work of redemption by Jesus Christ'(The Works Of Jonathan Edwards, volume 1, 110).
Charles Spurgeon says much the same when he writes, ĎThe great end of God in Christ was the manifestation of his own glorious attributes.í In other words, God's ultimate end for sending His Son to earth was to glorify Himself .
††††††††††† Godís passion for His own glory is precisely what we find in Isaiah, chapter 42.† The chapter begins by providing us with the job description of the promised Messiah and, in verse 8, we are given Godís purpose statement, ďI am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.Ē It is in this verse that we learn that Godís purpose for sending His Son is intimately related to His concern for His glory.
This assertion should not come as news to us. As Christians, we believe and confess that God is holy and righteous. Being perfectly holy and righteous, it then logically follows that God would delight in that which is holy and righteous. And, necessarily, because God is perfect in holiness, He must delight in Himself above all things.
If it were possible for God to delight in anything more than Himself, then that thing would be worthy of our worship. But of course, there is nothing that fits this description. And so for good reason, the first of the ten commandments reads: "You shall have no other gods before Me"(Ex. 20:3).
The plain truth of Scripture is that God is relentlessly self-exalting. The Bible commands that we praise and adore Him. The God of the Bible cares immensely about His reputation, His righteousness, and His glory, and He opposes those who belittle it. You can scarcely find a page of the Bible without seeing God excited about God. This is precisely what we find in Isaiah, chapter 42.
As you might expect, the latter part of chapter 41 provides context for chapter 42, telling us about what displeases, and angers, the Lord. And so, by way of contrast, chapter 42† introduces us to what ďdelightsĒ the Lord.
We read in verse 1 that it is Godís Servant, the Messiah, that "delights" the Lord. God is excited about His Servant because His "Spirit" is "upon Him".
And what will be accomplished by the Lord's Servant? The one word answer is justice. Verse 1, "He will bring forth justice to the nations"; verse 3, "He will faithfully bring forth justice"; verse 4, "He will not grow faint or be crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for His teaching".
Now I recognize that when we hear the word justice, each of us probably imagines something slightly different. What kind of justice was the Messiah to usher in? Our clue to understanding this particular Hebrew word, mispat (justice), comes from the parallel in verse 4 between "justice" and "teaching"(Motyer, Isaiah, 259).
The word mispat occurs nearly 30 times in Psalm 119(i.e. v.7, 13, 20) and nearly 20 times in Deuteronomy(i.e. 4:1, 5:1) translated, not as "justice", but as "(God's) ordinances". Mispat then, is perhaps better described here as Godís righteous standard.
Now plug ĎGodís righteous standardí back into Isaiah 42. "He will bring forth Godís righteous standard to the nations . . . He will faithfully bring forth Godís righteous standard. . . He will not grow faint or be crushed until He has established Godís righteous standard on the earth; and the coastlands wait for His teaching"(v.1-4).
When we talk about Ďthe objective content of the gospelí, this is what we mean. We are asserting that Jesus both incarnated, and delivered, this righteous standard to others. And this righteous standard† was not intended merely as an example for us, but as our representation. We needed the Son of God to come to earth because we had put ourselves in a dreadful situation. Instead of living according to Godís righteous standard, we exchanged that standard for one of our own making.
And so the Lord warns us in Isaiah 42, verse 8, "I am the Lord, that is My name; My glory I give to no other, nor My praise to idols".
The Lordís people had abandoned the righteous standard of the law. The Lordís people had begun to attach disproportionate honour and value to things other than God. And because God is unwilling to give His glory to another, He set out to reestablish His righteous standard through the Incarnation of His Son.
And, while it is true that we benefit from this Incarnation in many ways, we must confess that our benefits do not represent the ultimate aim Christís mission. The ultimate end of Christ coming to earth was to glorify the Father.
Jesus affirms this purpose on numerous occasions, but let me point you to a few of them. In John, chapter 7, verse 18, Jesus asserts that He came to earth,† "seeking the glory of the One who sent Him".
In John 12, verse 28, Jesus prays, "Father, glorify Thy name". To that, the Heavenly Father answers, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again". And, in what is called 'The High Priestly Prayer' of John 17, Jesus prays, "I have glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do"(17:4).
There is no debating the Jesus accomplished a great deal through His birth, life, death, and resurrection, but what we must not lose site of is His ultimate purpose for accomplishing these things. Jesus came to earth "seeking the glory of the One who sent Him".
Our self-centred nature, I suspect, has trouble comprehending that salvation is not all about usóit is, first and foremost, about God. Salvation is about God and the demonstration of His glory. This is not some new concept, it is a truth that is affirmed throughout Scripture. In Psalm 79, verse 9, the psalmist prays, "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name; And deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake". "I am the Lord, that is My name; My glory I give to no other", says the Lord(Isa. 42:8).
And did you know that God's concern for His own glory is our good news? This is an amazing truth. When human beings act in a self-centred fashion it is almost always to the detriment of someone else. This is not the case with God. God's passion for His glory, rather than opposing love, is the foundation of it. God has chosen to manifest His glory by showering grace upon undeserving sinners. God has chosen to glorify Himself by giving, to undeserving sinners, the unblemished righteousness of Jesus Christ.
What is unfortunate about this time of year, is how all of the wrong things are glorified. This is the time of year when commercialism and materialism are glorified. It is the time of year where family members and family dinners are glorified. It is the time of year when even singing certain hymns and lighting certain candles becomes glorified.
It is easy to say our Lord is not glorified by the way our society celebrates Christmasóthat is too easy a targetóI think we can look a little closer than that. I suspect that the way Christians approach Christmas often fails to properly glorify our Father in heaven.
When Jesus was born, angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest heaven"(Lk. 2:14) and, shortly before His death, Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify Thy name".
From His birth to His death, God's purpose remained the sameóthe manifestation of His glory.
God's concern for His glory is our saving grace. And if God is concerned about His glory above all else, shall we not share this concern?
Why do we do the things we do? What motivates your decisions? What is your chief goal when you make plans? I pray that we all share the same answer hereóSoli Deo Gloriaóto God alone be the glory.
Our Heavenly Father sent Jesus into this world because He was passionate about His glory. And during His life on earth, Jesus sought the glory of the One who sent Him.
Now, what about us? I implore you: Go from here with a singular purposeógo from here seeking the glory of the One who saved you by His grace. Amen.