I noticed something interesting today in the book of Numbers that I hadn’t seen before (even though I’ve read the book, who knows how many times?), namely, the Lord swears by the fact that the earth will be filled with his glory: “Truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord…” (14:21).
In Psalm 72, we find the idea stated as a petition: “May the whole earth be filled with his glory!” (v. 19) This is something I find myself praying for on a regular basis. As a petition, it might seem as if there is an element of contingency implied. In Habakkuk, however, we find it stated as a fact: “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2:14; cf. Isa. 11:9).
What is noteworthy in Numbers is the strengthened certainty of the fact by the unique oath formula. It is so certain that the Lord himself swears by it. We frequently find the formula, “As I live, declares the Lord,” meaning, “As certainly as I live,” I will do what I have promised. In Numbers, however, we find the Lord swearing by two things which are to be regarded as equally and unquestionably true: “Truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord…” (14:21) The second element of the oath formula is as certain as the first. The matter is not in doubt. It is inconceivable that the almighty and eternal God, the Maker of heaven and earth, should fail of his purpose in making his glory known, which largely consists in people acknowledging his sovereignty and goodness, and rendering him a free and joyful obedience.