At the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, it was so that He could demonstrate His glory. Indeed, begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
As Abraham Kuyper wrote, “In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’”
All creation is here out of God’s great joy in His glory and His desire to make it known through His Son.
Throughout redemptive history, God has commissioned His own people in that mission to make His glory known. Yahweh chose the nation of Israel and charged the Israelites to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
That began with the patriarch of the Israelites, Abraham. God told Abraham that the world would know Him and that nations would be blesse by Abraham’s offspring. “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” ()
The call was there for Israel to be a light to the nations and to make Yahweh known through their blessing and His power and might.
The great missionary psalm, , calls upon God to bless His people. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,” the opening of the Psalm, echoes Aaron’s blessing to Israel ().
Scripture shows us that Israel ultimately failed to make God known. The Old Testament records the history of Israel — from Judges, where everyone did what was right in his own eyes, to the decline and split of the kingdom after Solomon, to the dispersion and exile of the split nation — and it’s a history of turning away from Yahweh.
The prophet Isaiah would condemn Israel for its empty religiosity, idolatry and a heart far from God. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.” ().
The problem was that not all of the people of Israel really were people of God. The nation was set aside by God as a people of His own possession, but it was a nation largely of unbelievers — who went through God’s sacrifices by mere ritual and not by faith, if they followed the rites at all — mixed with a believing remnant. And so the nation turned its heart from God.
But while Isaiah pronounced woes upon Israel for its hands full of blood, there was also promise.
Jeremiah foretold a day when all of His covenant people would know God, when there would be a New Covenant, one in which God declared He “will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.” ().
The New Covenant people all know God because they have been redeemed by Christ and have been given power through the Holy Spirit who dwells in them. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,” so that we as the church may “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” ()
God has truly blessed us in Christ and made His face to shine upon us so that His way may be known. The call to God’s royal priesthood, His holy nation — New Covenant people — is to achieve what the psalmist desired: to make His way known upon the earth, and to make known His saving power among all nations.
19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (ESV)
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (ESV)
2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (ESV)
67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him! (ESV)
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (ESV)
2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations. (ESV)
12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. (ESV)
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (ESV)
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (ESV)