Psalm 3:3 “You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My Glory, the one who lifts my head.”
What is glory?
A byproduct of victory, that feeling of being on top of the world, admired and valued? Consider that final scene in Hoosiers when the underdogs triumph and the crowd is electric with celebration. That’s glory.
Maybe you consider glory to be the renown of your achievements or a sense of honor others bestow on you. We can all pinpoint moments of such glory in our lives. For me, those moments have been as varied as giving the valedictorian speech at my highschool graduation, scoring loads of points in a basketball game, or in seventh grade, receiving the “Future Surgeon” award, because I had so meticulously sliced that earthworm from “head to toe” in science class. But those are in the past, and as much as those memories are fun, they don’t give me a solid foundation on which to build my future.
These are all examples of horizontal glory, that is, glory found on the plain of human relationships and experiences.
However, nothing is ever purely horizontal, and glory, in its truest and deepest nature, is first of all vertical, that is, on the plain of the divine-human relationship. After all, glory originates not with humans, but with the creator of the universe.
So, what is glory? Glory is the radiance and splendor of God. It’s the byproduct of his character, the heat from his very existence.
God’s glory dominates the Biblical narrative. In the Old Testament, God’s glory was synonymous with His presence (as seen in the filling of the tabernacle). God’s glory is the prominent factor in every theophany. When God shows up, like face to face with Moses or on the mountain above Israel, His glory bathes the moment. Again, when Jesus transfigures before the disciples, His glory is wildly on display. The problem of sin is that we rob God of his glory and in turn, are kept from experiencing it. The solution of the cross is that Christ lays down his glory so that we may have a way back into that glory-presence of God. And finally, the book of Revelation is full of the glory of heaven.
Glory is overwhelming, meaning that its magnificence cannot be ignored. Its splendor and majesty obtrudes upon our earthly existence bringing increased Yahweh-awareness. We realize that what’s really real is not the visible or earthly, but the invisible, heavenly, and eternal.
The Hebrew root of the word glory means “weight, burden” and truly, when we experience God’s presence, we feel a heaviness, not like that of depression, but like that of unveiled goodness. When Isaiah falls to the ground in the manifest presence of God and says, “Woe is me!” his falling is not a deliberate bowing. It’s a buckling under God’s glory. It’s a reaction to a reality greater than himself.
Now to Psalm 3: 3 and the beauty of converging realities:
“You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My Glory, the one who lifts my head.”
David calls God his glory, his true splendor, the deepest reality in his life. But also, God is the lifter of his head. Heaviness and lightness in the same God. The one whose very presence weighs on us, is the only one who can lift us up above sin and death. The beautiful presence that is more real than the chair you sit on, is the one who shields you.
There’s no other way to be lifted up than by the heavy glory of God.