Theme: God—Holy God
If there is ever anything about which we might possess a sense of pride, it is that we know and understand God (Jer. 9:24). And if there is anything about God which we ought to know, it is that He is holy. Obvious emphasis is given to this point in both the Old and New Testaments when it’s exclaimed by those who know best—those in His presence in heaven—that He’s not just holy, He’s “holy, holy, holy!” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).
When we describe God our tendency is to compile a list of all the traits He possesses; He’s loving, compassionate, just, kind, pure, merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, and so on. We would tend to add “holy” to that list. Such would be a mistake, for His holiness is synonymous with who and what He is, not just one trait among many. God is God because He is holy–the fundamental idea of which is separateness. God is so far removed from all that we are and all with which we are familiar—including sin and unrighteousness. By His very nature He is separated. Therefore, we can’t simply add “holy” to the list of things God is. Instead, His love is holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, His justice is holy justice, His power is holy power, and so on (R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, 57).
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, the very first petition of that prayer—though most of us probably hove thought of it as part of the address—is that God’s very name would be kept and treated as holy (Matt. 6:9). His holiness demands something of us in our relationship to Him.
As last week’s reading was more extensive than usual, this week’s will be more brief than usual. There are few events recorded nor extended discussions for which God’s holiness is the primary subject. There are, though, a multitude of exclamations of the fact. Like other aspects of God and His nature, Scripture does not set out to prove or establish that He is holy, it assumes it.
Readings and Introductory Comments:
Isaiah 6:1-6; Revelation 4:1-11
As mentioned in the introductory remarks, twice we are privileged with glimpses into the throne room of God in heaven. On both occasions those present before God’s throne are exclaiming with great emphasis the holiness of the Almighty.
Leviticus 10:1-3; Numbers 20:2-13
In two instances during Israel’s time in the wilderness leaders failed to treat God as holy by not obeying Him as He commanded. Both the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and Moses himself failed to honor God’s holiness by their actions and each paid dearly for the grievance.
Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:21; 26:18-19; 1 Peter 1:13-21
If a people—or a person—would claim to be God’s, they then must also reflect the likeness of God, including His holiness. So it is that Israel was called upon repeatedly to be holy to the Lord. The motivation for their holiness was God’s own holiness—a theme upon which Peter also focuses in the New Testament for those under the New Covenant.
Joshua 24:19-28; 1 Samuel 6:19-21
The fact of God’s holiness is intimidating. He is separate from us; far removed. Isaiah talked about Him and His ways being higher above us than the heavens are above the earth (Isa. 55:9). Recognition of that separateness (holiness) puts us in our place. No wonder Isaiah’s response to being in God’s holy presences was “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). So it is that those who would be God’s people do feel a real sense of discomfort with that relationship. Joshua said the people were not capable of serving a holy God (Josh. 24:19; note that this is in the context of Joshua’s challenge to choose whom they would serve—read vv. 14-18).
Psalm 99:1-9; Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 5:16, 19, 24
We end this week’s readings with beautiful exclamations of God’s holiness. Note that in verses 19 and 24 of Isaiah 5, God is referred to as “the Holy One of Israel.” This is Isaiah’s favorite designation for God. He uses it 30 times throughout the book while the reference is found only six times total outside of the book of Isaiah.
- When did Isaiah see the Lord on His throne? (v. 1)
- What/who stood above the Lord? (v. 2)
- How is God referred to in v. 3?
- What was Isaiah’s response to what he saw and heard? (v. 4)
- What did John see in heaven? (v. 2)
- Who sat around the throne? (v. 4) Whom else were around the throne? (vv. 6-7)
- How frequently is God’s holiness proclaimed? (v. 8)
- How else is God lauded? (v. 11)
- How will God be treated by those who are near Him? (v. 3)
- What were God’s instructions to Moses about how to get water from the rock? (v. 8) What did Moses do? (vv. 10-11)
- What did Moses fail to do in regard to God? (v. 12)
Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7
- What were God’s people to be since God was this same thing?
- In what way would God’s people be holy to Him?
Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:21; 26:18-19
- Why was Israel a people holy to the Lord? (7:6)
- In what way are God’s people to show that they are His treasuredpossession? (26:18)
1 Peter 1:13-21
- Holy conduct is here described as not being conformed to what?(vv. 14-15)
- How else is Christian conduct described? (v. 17)
- What did Joshua say the people could not do? (v. 19)
- How else is God described besides being holy? (v. 19)
1 Samuel 6:19-21
- Why did the men of Beth-Shemesh question their ability to stand before God? (vv. 20-21)
- What about God is to be praised? (v. 3)
- What has been executed in Jacob that demonstrates God’s holiness? (v. 4)
- What acts of God demonstrated His holiness in v. 8?
- In this verse, how is God’s holiness described?
Isaiah 5:16, 19, 24
- In what is God said to be holy? (v. 16)
- How is God here described? (vv. 19, 24)
- If the fundamental idea of holy is “separate,” is not the instruction of Paul in 2 Cor. 6:17 a call to holiness (“…go out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord”)? How can that be carried out in a practical way?
- What impact should a consciousness of God’s holiness have on our worship assemblies?
- Based on the incidents of Leviticus 10:1-3 and Numbers 20:2-13, in what ways should we treat God as holy today?
- In what ways can we keep God’s name “hallowed” (holy) today? (Matt. 6:9) Is their application beyond how we use it in speech?
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)