I learned a new word while reading Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust. That word is “Kabod”. It’s the Hebrew word in Scripture that is often translated as “glory” and is used in reference to God. As sometimes happens in scripture, we fail to catch the full grasp of what Kabod actually means; translation has lost some of the subtleties of it’s different uses. It has been used in scripture to represent something of great importance, a description of majesty, and a representation of rank. It eventually came to be associated with the glory of God appearing as a light so brilliant that God himself could not be seen for it’s glow. Victor Hugo once described God as “a divine and terrible radiance.” Many Bible scholars, Manning included, seem to think that this is a fairly accurate way to describe the response that a serious meditation of Kabod Yahweh is meant to bring out in us.
When trying to get his reader to understand that God is both personal and majestic – or as the title of Chapter 6 in the book says, “Infinite and Intimate” – he has this to say:
“Kabod is not a safe topic. It induces a feeling of terror before the Infinite and exposes as sham our empty religious talk and pointless activity, our idle curiosity and ludicrous pretensions of importance, our frantic busyness. The awareness that the eternal transcendent God of Jesus Christ is our absolute future gives us the shakes.”
I’ve had many moments in my life when God has been the source of comfort I have so desperately needed. He has been my loving Abba who has allowed me to, in a metaphorical sense, climb up in his lap and tearfully point out all the bumps and bruises that life has handed me. But I’m not really comfortable with thinking about his “divine terrible radiance.” Focusing on the transcendence of God is intimidating at best and terrifying at worst!
But there is this: if my Abba, the King above all Kings and the Lord above all Lords, is the same God whose glory is so beyond what I can conceive, how much more of a privilege is it to call him Abba and have the privilege of coming into his presence whenever and wherever?!
I’ve said it before and I’ll state it again here. As frightening as it can be to spend large amounts of thinking about Kabod, thinking about God’s transcendence, I do not want to serve a God who merely makes me comfortable. I do not want to serve a God that I can explain and understand. If I, a flawed human limited by my finite existence, can fully explain and understand God, then how great can he really be?! But if his character and Kabod are so far beyond me as to leave me a little shaken, then he is truly God and there is no other.