“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NASB)
When Moses met with God in the tent of meeting, in that divine conference room, he made a quite a special request. “Please,” he asked God, “show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18).
God’s glory is difficult to define. What exactly is it? What does it look and feel like? We know that it shone so brightly in Exodus that it made the skin of Moses’ face glow for a time after he left a meeting with God (34:29-30). We know that sin cannot exist in its presence. We know there was a supernatural manifestation of it above the mercy seat in the most holy place.
To truly get a sense of what the Bible has to say about God’s glory, we would need to examine its usage wherever it appears in Scripture. We won’t attempt that here, but we find another description in Exodus 24:17, which explains that God’s glory appeared “like a consuming fire on the mountaintop” to the eyes of the Israelites in the valley below.
God granted Moses’ request, although Moses received only a partial revelation of God’s glory at that time. As God descended to stand before him in the cloud, He placed him in the cleft of the rock and covered his eyes with His hand. We don’t get much detail here from Moses about what He saw, but we do know what he heard. God declared His name to him: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful (compassionate) and gracious, longsuffering (slow to anger), and abounding in goodness (lovingkindness) and truth…” (NKJV with words from NASB in parentheses). This is the way God identifies Himself – as compassionate, loving, gracious, good and true.
If we read the first chapter of the gospel of John, we can’t help but recognize some allusions to the Old Testament in general and to the above-mentioned verses in particular.
First, when John says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” the Greek word for dwelt was the same word used in the Septuagint for the tabernacle. Quite literally, John is saying that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. Likewise, when John says “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,” the word used for glory was the very word used to describe the shekinah glory of God found in the most holy place in the Old Testament.
Now, let’s consider some Johannine allusions that those of us who haven’t studied biblical languages can pick up on. The rest of John 1:14 says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” Does that sound familiar? This statement is a direct allusion to God’s name as described in Exodus 34:6. “The LORD… gracious… and abounding in (or full of) goodness and truth” (italicized text added). The Amplified Bible actually provides the words favor and lovingkindess as alternate translations for the word grace. So literally, both verses say their object (the LORD God in the OT and Jesus in the NT) is full of grace and truth.
Let’s not miss these points – first, Jesus could not be more full of truth, because He is the truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Second, the self-proclaimed name of God includes compassion, an undeniable attribute of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Other examples of Christ’s compassion can be found in Matthew 14:14, 15:32, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2; Luke 7:13. You get the picture.
In Jesus, we have a complete and perfect revelation of God’s glory. We read in the book of Hebrews that Jesus is the “brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (1:3). Now we can behold Christ with uncovered eyes. Though Moses made that special request, we can see in Jesus all the brightness of God’s glory. Not a partial but a full revelation. Once we have looked upon Jesus, we have seen God’s glory.
Heavenly Father, let us contemplate Christ in the word of God, and in so doing, let us be changed into His image; let us be covered by Your grace and filled with Your truth today.