No one will be able to stand before God on the final day and say: “I was never aware of You. You failed to show Yourself to me.” Scripture makes it very clear that the Lord has revealed His power and His divine nature, at least partly, in the creation (Rom. 1:18–20). He has even revealed His glory. As David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1).
So, on some level, all human beings know that there is a glorious God in heaven to whom they owe worship and thanksgiving. From the unreached person in the remotest corner of the globe to the person who has heard the gospel many times, everyone has some awareness of the existence and nature of God.
And yet, there is coming a greater revelation of the glory of God throughout the world. In one sense, the glory of God is already known across the globe, but in another, “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” has not yet covered the world. This is what we learn from Habakkuk 2:14, which predicts a day when the knowledge of God’s glory will fill the earth “as the waters cover the sea.”
In the original context of today’s passage, Habakkuk is referring to the destruction of Babylon and the rescue of the Israelites from the Babylonian exile. The judgment of the enemies of God’s people and their redemption from bondage would mark a further revelation of the divine glory—the nations would see the Lord as the all-powerful Savior of His people. But this prophecy must cover more than just the physical return from exile of the old covenant people, for Isaiah 40–66 broadens the rescue from exile to finally include a new heavens and earth, brought about ultimately by the work of the Messiah who atones for the sin of His people. In that work of judgment of sin and salvation of God’s children, the world will see an aspect of divine glory that is not revealed in nature—they will see His glory as Savior.
John Calvin comments on today’s passage, “The power, grace, and truth of God are made known through the world, when he delivers his people and restrains the ungodly.” The divine glory will be fully manifest on the final day, but even now the knowledge of the glory of God continues to spread over the earth. As the church serves her calling as the herald of the King, making disciples of all nations, we bring to them the knowledge of God’s glory in salvation (Matt. 28:18–20). And all those who receive this knowledge in faith today, trusting in Christ alone for redemption, glorify God as Savior.