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The Holiness of God [8-30-20]


From Genesis through Revelation, God's holiness comes up over and over again. Holiness is used more often as a prefix to God's name than any other adjective. Two men were given a glimpse into the throne room of heaven. Here's how they described it:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” - Isaiah 6:1-3

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” - Revelation 4:8-11

In its literary form, the Bible is very tuned in to numerical significance. Twelve tribes…twelve apostles…seven reflecting perfection…and the grouping of threes. No other attribute of God is repeated three times. Only His holiness. While the Bible says God is love, it never says He is love…love… love. But the Bible does say God is holy…holy…holy. That

means something.

Today we're going to look at truths about God's holiness that are so profound, they can cause us to tremble. As the old spiritual puts it, "Sometimes it causes me to tremble…tremble…tremble…were you there?" Isaiah was there. John was there. And they were shaken to the core. We will see and know why Job said what he said to God in Job 42:1-6:

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. {He spoke of things beyond his knowledge.} "Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ {Job repents of dialogue he was wildly blurting out.} I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

It is true and right and good for us to join Isaiah and look intently at the truth about God. Isaiah was a brilliant and passionate man of God. He had proclaimed God's holiness for years. We know his lofty and lifting words of anticipation for God's Messiah. After his personal encounter with God, here's all he is left with:

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” - Isaiah 6:5

Other translations render "For I am lost" as I am ruined or I am undone. That is a powerful realization and confession.

So, what does it mean to say God is holy?

First, to be holy is to be distinct, separate, unique. Its basic Biblical meaning has to do with to cut away or to separate. Think about finding an item of clothing or an electronic device or some other type of merchandise

that is of superior quality. You might describe it as "a cut above the rest."

When we say God is holy, we're not talking about one characteristic out of many. For example, you might describe me in a variety of ways…good sense of humor…tall…slow to anger…clean-shaven…those kinds of things. There are many characteristics by which to describe me. With God, when we talk about His holiness, we're talking about the character of God Himself. Holiness, when applied to God, means that He is utterly unique, incomparable, matchless, without parallel and without peer. Isaiah 40:25 asks, "'To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?' says the Holy One." And we must answer, "There is none." God isn't a supersized version of you or me. He is totally separate from us. Totally different. God is subject to nothing. He answers to no one. He is the One, True, Holy God.

David's confidence in God is strengthened as he considers His holiness in Psalm 86:8-10:

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

Even the name God gave to the archangel Michael tells of this truth. Michael is mentioned several times in the Bible. His name means, "Who is like God?" As you've probably noticed, this is a rhetorical question, implying no one is like God.

The second point on the holiness of God is He is not like anything or anyone we can come up with. He is above us. He is beyond us. He is so different and so rare that no one in the Bible, regardless of how smart or faithful they were, failed to crumble in fear and humility and repentance when they caught a glimpse of the One, True, Holy God. Here's how the

prophet Habakkuk described his encounter with God:

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. - 3:16

You can feel the weight of it. He was shattered by what he saw. When we see God for who He is, it traumatizes us because we immediately see ourselves for who we really are. The incongruity is overwhelming.

Make no mistake. There are all kinds of people, in the mistaken interest of making God more accessible; with the false understanding of that's what it means to plant seeds of faith; in order to make God more accessible and understandable to seekers, they think they have to make you feel comfortable with God at almost any level. God is your buddy, your friend, your pal. They want you to feel like God is someone you can hang out with, confide in, and call on when the going gets tough. It doesn't matter what your relationship has been with God up to that point or what kind of life you have been living. The point is, they want you to think of God as so accessible that He's like the great therapist in the sky, or some confidante, or a life coach. Here's something I'm not making up. I recently read where a prominent pastor referred to God as "Jesus' Old Man." It made me


Contrast that with this:

These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50:21-23

It is dangerous to loosen your grip on the holiness of God. God is not our buddy. Hebrews 12:29 says, "For our God is a consuming fire." Let that mystery strike you today. God will not fit into our preconceived notions of Him, or culturally conditioned ideas of who He is. God cannot be fully and completely defined in our boxy little brains. That's part of what it

means to say He is holy.

First, to be holy is to be distinct, separate, unique. Second, God is not like anything or anyone we can come up with. Third, God is authoritative.

Let's revisit Isaiah 6:1:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

God is in charge. He's sitting on a throne. No vision of heaven has ever caught a glimpse of God mowing the yard or sitting at a computer or loading a truck or filling out reports or working a spreadsheet. Heaven is not coming apart at the seams or unraveling because of a lack of attention. God is never confused or at wits' end. God sits. God sits on a throne. All is at peace. God reigns. He has control.

I've told this story before, but it was such a profoundly teachable moment,

it bears repeating. Years ago, after church one Sunday morning, a woman told me, with too much confidence, that after considering all the bad stuff in the world, when she died and got to heaven, she was going to tell God a thing or two. I wanted to correct her with, "If you got to heaven," but as a

pastorally sensitive guy, I cautioned her not to put herself in place of God.

The throne expresses God's right to rule the world. Here's something important to understand. You might want to write it down:


What folly it would be for anyone to claim they had a right to call God into question. Yet how many times do people indulge the folly of daring to judge what He does or doesn't do? I love how author Virginia Stem Owens puts it:

Let us get this one thing straight: God can do anything He damn well pleases, including damn well. And if it pleases Him to damn, then it is done, ipso facto, well. God's activity is what it is. There isn't anything else. Without it there would be no being, including human beings presuming to judge the Creator of everything that is.

One last Scripture before we pick up on some final points on the holiness of God next week:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Romans 11:33-36

And so we worship our God.

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