For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2.14.
This morning’s verse is one that used to puzzle me somewhat. “How can waters cover the sea?” I used to ask. “Surely the waters arethe sea!” Then, one morning in the mid-nineties, I was staying in a hotel in Sunderland (in the North-East of England) while attending a conference there, and I got up at dawn and looked out of the window. The hotel was situated on the promenade at the edge of the North Sea and my room faced due East so I was privileged to see the sun rise and a dazzling reflection of its light spread over all the surface of the sea until the golden splendour had spread as far as the eye could see. It was then, of course, that I understood what Habakkuk meant. It was the surface of the sea — “the waters” — that were giving me the knowledge of the glory of the sun, and they “covered” the hidden depths of the ocean whose that I could see nothing of and could only guess at as I gazed upon it from my hotel window.
So it will be on the great Day of the Lord. Ezekiel once, in a vision, saw “the glory of the God of Israel … coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory” (Isaiah 43.2). But the promise of that day went back much further than that. God had told Moses: “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14.21); and that had been something that the Psalmist had prayed for: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! (Psalm 72.18-19).
But what is glory? In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty says to Alice: “There’s glory for you!” and Alice replies, “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory'”. And we can sympathise with her for “glory” is difficult to define. We can “give” glory, which suggests that it is praise and worship … but to give glory is really a way of saying to ascribe glory and recognise it in our worship. Glory itself is that brilliant, radiant, majestic beauty and splendour which, in the end, belongs to God alone. The promise of the New Jerusalem — the City of God — is that it will have “no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:23-24). When the earth is filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea, there will be no room for any glory that is independent of his.
So all this glory is in the future, is it? No, I know that it isn’t. I can see it now. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4.6). There, deep within, by the Spirit, I “see” in Jesus something of God’s “brilliant, radiant, majestic beauty and splendour” and that leads me to worship … to “give” glory to him. But the glory of God in the face of Jesus the King is largely hidden from the world. Sometimes those who are still outside the kingdom catch, as it were, a gleam of it on the water. But one day it will be everywhere — on that day when the seventh angel blows his trumpet and the voices in heaven proclaim that: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And on that day, the earth will indeed be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.