Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:5–7)
One of the most important questions any human being can ask is: Does God exist?
In answer to this question, God gives himself a personal name in the Scriptures. The name was so sacred that the Jews did not pronounce it. The generally substituted the word Adonai or Master. Today we usually pronounce the name Yahweh. Sometimes Jehovah. It is used for God over six thousand times in the Old Testament. It is usually translated LORD in our English Bible with all capital letters.
God gave himself this name in order to make sure that his absolute existence would be affirmed every time we used his name.
The Only Absolute Reality
You can see this in Exodus 3:13–14 where Moses explains how the name came into being.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
The name Yahweh is built on the Hebrew word for I am. So every time God’s personal name was used — over six thousand times — the point was, and is, I exist absolutely. My existence does not depend on anyone else’s existence. I am — who I am.
I am not defined by any other reality. Nothing determines who I am or what I am like. I did not come into being. Nothing was before me. And so nothing created me, or gave rise to me. I am not in the process of becoming. I am complete.
All other reality is dependent on me. Everything that exists outside of me, exists because I made it. Therefore, I give meaning to everything. I decide whether anything exists, and why everything exists. I am the only absolute reality. “I am who I am.” “Moses, tell Israel, ‘I AM’ has sent you. That is my name.”
But for me, the next question is just as significant as the question, Does God exist? It has shaped my life and ministry even just as profoundly as the existence of God. Namely, the question: Why did this absolute God — who was complete and lacking in nothing — create the world? If you answer that question the way God does, it will affect everything you think, everything you feel, everything you do.
The short answer that resounds through the whole Bible like rolling thunder is: God created the world for his glory.
We’ll talk in a moment about what that means, but let’s establish the fact first.
Created for His Glory
Let’s start with Isaiah 43:6b–7. God says,
“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Even if the narrowest meaning here is: I brought Israel into being for my glory, the fact that he used the words “created,” “formed,” and “made” point us back to the original act of creation. Israel was made for the glory of God because all things were made for the glory of God.
In His Own Image
When the first chapter of the Bible says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27), what is the point? What’s the point of setting up an image of someone in your town? The point of an image is to image. Images are erected to display the original — the person they are images of. They point to some famous person so that we will think of that person and honor that person. Images glorify the original.
God made humans in his image so that we would be images of God. God has put seven billion statues of God in the world. He has filled the world with images of himself in every country, every tribe, every ethnicity, every language. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody — unless they were stone blind — could miss the point of humanity, namely, God. God is the point of the world. Seeing God, knowing God, admiring God — that is the point of the world.
The Heavens Declare
But human beings are not God’s only pointer to his glory. So is nature! Why did God make such a breathtaking world for us to live in? Why such a vast universe? I read the other day that there are more stars in the universe than there are words and sounds that all humans of all time have ever spoken. Why?
I have heard people say that the vastness of empty, uninhabited space, with human beings inhabiting only a tiny speck called earth — that this makes believing in God harder. But the reason this seems out of proportion is because people are treating the universe as though it were about human life. It’s not mainly about human life. It’s about God.
The Bible is crystal clear about this: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Someone may ask, “If earth is the only inhabited planet and man the only rational inhabitant among the stars, why such a large and empty universe?” The answer is: “It’s not about us. It’s about God. It’s about his greatness and his glory. And it’s understatement.”
The universe is declaring the glory of God, and the reason we exist is to see it and be stunned by it and glorify God because of it.
The Tragedy of Glory Exchanged
So Paul says in Romans 1:20–21,
His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God.
The great tragedy of the universe is that while human beings were made to glorify God, we have all fallen short of this purpose and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Romans 1:23) — especially the one in the mirror. This is the essence of what we call sin. Sin is preferring anything — any pleasure, any treasure, any glory — above the glory of God. This is why Italy and every other country is in desperate need of God’s mercy in Christ. More on that later.
Recognized as Glorious, Not Made Glorious
So, why did God create the universe? Resounding through the whole Bible — from eternity to eternity — like rolling thunder is: God created the world for his glory.
Isaiah states it plainly in Isaiah 43:7, and presses home the reality over and over to help us feel it and make it part of our fabric of our thinking:
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; . . . And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 40:4–5)
I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. (Isaiah 42:8)
Break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. (Isaiah 44:23)
For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you . . . I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:9–11)
And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isaiah 49:3)
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1–3)
This is why God created the world — “that he may be glorified.” Which does not mean: “that he may be made glorious.” We don’t make God glorious. God is perfectly and completely glorious no matter what we do. We don’t add to his glory when we glorify him. That is not what glorifying God means.
When God created the world, he did not create out of any need or any weakness or any deficiency. He created out of fullness and strength and complete sufficiency. As Jonathan Edwards said, “Tis no argument for the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that it is inclined to overflow.”
So we don’t glorify God by improving his glory. We don’t glorify him by making up for some deficiency in God. He has no deficiencies. We glorify God by seeing his glory for what it really is, and delighting in it above all things, and then showing it or displaying it to others for what it really is.
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