From 'Covid' to 'Kavod'?
Just over a week ago, I went for an early morning walk around a small lake, just a few minutes walk from our home. Whilst enjoying the sunshine at the beginning of a beautiful day, I was listening to a chapter from the book by John Mark Comer called ‘Garden City’. He began by speaking of an early morning walk, enjoying the wonder of nature and in that moment feeling close to God, combined with a renewed sense of God’s goodness. Then Comer speaks of his love of design and architecture that also impacts him in a way that leads him to have spontaneous feelings of gratitude. His response is to say, ‘Thank you, God, for being this good.’
Perhaps we can think of times and specific activities or places where we can identify with such feelings. One of the places for me is in playing golf – enjoying the fresh air, the beauty of the countryside and the opportunity to do something I really enjoy – ‘Thank you, God, for being so good.’
John Mark Comer goes on to ask the question, “What is it that causes this and what are doing?” His answer is that we are recognising ‘the glory of God’. His glory is signified by two things in particular: i) presence and ii) beauty.
The Hebrew word for ‘glory’ that is most used is ‘kavod’. Whilst the word can mean a number of different things (the root meaning is ‘heaviness’, which can refer to physical weight as well as something that is of great significance), it is the most commonly used word for glory. There are over 30 references to the phrase ‘the glory of God’ in the Old Testament.
One such example is at the dedication of the temple built during the reign of Solomon. It took seven years to build and when it was complete, Solomon offered a powerful prayer of dedication. We read in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3: “As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshipped and gave thanks to God, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
The glory of the Lord is experienced in his presence, and the beauty of this leads people to worship and declare his goodness. We may empathise with this having experienced the ‘glory of the Lord’ at church services and Christian conferences. But doesn’t that simply remind us that we are unable to meet in such ways at this time? It could do, which is why it is important to recognise that the glory of the Lord is not confined to a building. In Psalm 19 we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The glory of the Lord is all around us and perhaps that is why Psalm 24 exhorts us to: “Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” The encouragement to ‘lift up our heads’ is repeated because if we are going to see the king of glory, we need to pay attention. There is a sense within the word ‘kavod’ (and a way it differs from the ‘Shekinah’), that the glory, whilst present, can be missed. We need to pay attention in the midst of all that is going on.
As I walked around the lake that day, I was encouraged to reflect on those places where I sense the glory of God and also to challenge myself on how much I pay attention. There are so many different things that catch my attention. Right now, the news continues to be dominated by Covid-19. The message of the Westminster Government encourages people in England to ‘stay alert’. I wonder… amidst all the distractions, am I as alert to the glory of God as I should be? Can I overlook the reality of his presence and beauty that leads me to say, ‘You are good’? I suspect the answer is too often ‘yes’. Perhaps I need a shift in my thinking… from ‘Covid’ to ‘Kavod’!
Having started on this line of thinking I went a stage further. The coronavirus has changed the way we lead our lives in major ways: I work from home; the children are being schooled at home; I cross the road to avoid walking close to people; I wash my hands for longer and more regularly than ever before; when I meet with people (via the internet or socially distanced), we talk about the affect the virus is having on our lives. And so I could go on giving examples of the way my day to day life is impacted by Covid-19. It has had an enormous impact every single day since it has become a part of life. Can I say the same about experiencing the glory of God? Does his beauty and presence affect me as significantly every single day? Does the reality of his presence and beauty change the way that I am… in the way that I think, speak and act? Do I bring more of a sense of the presence and beauty of God to the things that I am involved in… every day and in every place? Perhaps I need more of a shift in my thinking, speaking and acting… a move from ‘Covid’ to ‘Kavod’!
And finally, as I recognise that the glory of God can be missed, it made me think of friends, neighbours and our wider society. How many people’s lives have been impacted by the coronavirus? Surely the answer has to be: ‘Everyone’s life’. How many people recognise and are impacted in such a profound way by the glory of God? Surely the answer is: ‘Too many people are missing it’. I finished my walk praying for the nation… that we might see a change from the focus and attention on ‘Covid’ and shift to ‘Kavod’.