People see God’s exaltation and communication of his own glory as a problem. They don’t like it. They think such self-exaltation is immoral and loveless, even pathological. But there is another way to look at it.
Suppose your heart is a template made for its counterpart, the glory of God. Suppose you were created to know and love and be satisfied by the majesty and beauty of God. Suppose the glory of God was the most beautiful reality in the universe to you and therefore the most satisfying to your soul. Suppose you hungered and thirsted for the presence of the greatness of God more than for anything in the world. And suppose this God, in spite of all your sin, had made a way for the glory of his holiness and righteousness to be maintained and exalted, while still giving himself in friendship to you for your enjoyment forever.
If that were true, then God’s unwavering commitment to uphold and display his glory would not be a mark of selfish pride but a mark of self-giving love. He would be upholding and communicating the very thing for which your soul longs. This would not be the pattern of an old woman wanting compliments, or an egomaniac, or a needy tyrant, or an insecure, jealous lover. Rather, it would be the pattern of the true and living and gracious God. You would see that there is no other God like….
This was his mission. But how would it happen? By self-emptying and servanthood and humiliation and death:
Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6–8)
Because of this majestic lowliness, in love for sinners, God exalted Jesus and gave him a name above all names (Phil. 2:9). But the aim of it all was that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 11). This is the peculiar glory of God and of his Scriptures: the glory of God is everywhere the aim, and the central means is the self-humbling of God himself in Jesus Christ. This is the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
The glory of the paradoxical juxtaposition of seeming opposites in Jesus Christ is at the heart of how God shows himself glorious in the Scriptures.
Piper, John. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016, pages 215-216, 223.
The following was a short exegetical essay for Dr. Richard E. Averbeck’s Pentateuch and Historical Books course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
At the close of his prayer, Nehemiah describes God’s servants as those who “delight to fear your [YHWH’s] name.” Interestingly, out of the handful of commentaries examined, this author was unable to find a single comment on this quick phrase. However, this somewhat odd and seemingly paradoxical expression is certainly worthy of further study because undoubtedly it speaks volumes to fundamental questions about the source and nature of the believer’s delight, let alone his or her relationship with God.
יָרֵא means to fear, to hold in awe or deference. It connotes a level of honor and respect. And often, it is used to refer to the proper fear due to God (Holladay, 142). But paradoxically, Nehemiah’s words indicate that delight is found in fearing God’s name. (As is commonly known, “name” in the OT is often used to represent one’s essential characteristics. Therefore, this refers to those who fear God as He truly is.) However, this is very much contrary to common opinion; many live, act, and think as though pleasure is found in anything but God and His commandments. In fact, God is even called the “cosmic killjoy.” Contrary to this thought, Nehemiah demonstrates the belief that pleasure is found in fearing God, “that there is a kind of sweetness to the very experience of fearing God” as Piper says. Fear itself is a sweetness to the believer (Piper, “Kindness and Severity of God”). As Piper further explains,
There’s a reason why people run away from scenes of terror in real life, but still go to movies to see the same terror. There’s a reason why no one wants to fall out of an airplane, but they will pay money at Valley Fair for the same sensation of falling. The reason is that we were created to be safely afraid of God. Everything else is an echo of this truth. We were made to be safely afraid of God, because when we are safely afraid of God—when there is no condemnation and we know that he is our Father and our Friend—then what remains in fear of God is deeply pleasant. (Piper, “Kindness and Severity of God”) In sum, Nehemiah’s description of the saint alludes to the reality that there is ironically greater pleasure found in living a life that honors God’s way and refuses the temporary and lesser sinful pleasures. That’s the paradox of “delighting to fear.” It’s not to say that fearing God won’t mean the forfeiting of some pleasures. But paradoxically, the forfeiting of such pleasures in the pursuit of reverencing God yields even greater, unshakable pleasure.
What is Christian Hedonism?
“Christian Hedonism” is term coined by John Piper. According to Piper, all men by nature seek their own happiness. However, this pursuit of happiness is not in competition with God (contra. self-centeredness). In fact, as Piper has famously said, “God Is Most Glorified In Us When We Are Most Satisfied In Him.” And conversely, we are most satisfied as we seek that satisfaction in God. C.S. Lewis, who greatly influenced Piper’s view of Christian Hedonism, said,
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory.”
C.S. Lewis provides a great explanation to the accusation that God’s love must be selfish if God seeks it for His own glory when Lewis says,
What is called selfish love among men is lacking with God. He has no natural necessities, no passion, to compete with His wish for the beloved’s welfare. . . . A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him.
Lewis’ point is not that God needs our worship, but that God’s desire in making us is for worship.
God of mere miracle has made Himself able so to hunger and created in Himself that which we can satisfy. If He requires us, the requirement is of His own choosing.