Disclaimer: this subject is the most difficult I have ever broached and will be so imperfect. Also, this post is longer than usual, and it might even be rambling. Please try to stick with me and read my heart more than my words.
The subject of holiness can be so uncomfortable. Especially because 1 Peter 1:16 commands His people, the church, to be holy because God is holy, just like He originally commanded in the book of Leviticus. How could I possibly be holy like God is? The foundation of this imperative is that He is our God and we are His people, therefore we should be like Him. Our conduct, thoughts, and words should follow that truth.
But this post is about God, not us.
With Him, it’s different. He is holy in essence, not just conduct, thoughts, or words. He is totally set apart, unique, and one else is like Him. It is a complete “otherness”, meaning He is in a category all of His own. He is a cut above everything or anyone else.
In two instances in scripture, heavenly creatures cry out holy, holy, holy in reference to God. What would that mean? In simple terms, it is an emphasis on this particular facet of His nature. Nowhere in Scripture are his other attributes emphasized in this way. You won’t read He is love, love, love. Or God is just, just, just. Even though He is these things. Also, it is possible the creatures declared His holiness three times in reference to the triune nature of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The point is this: God. Is. Holy.
I’ve been reading the chronological Bible this year. I’m still in the Old Testament. A common thread lately is that the prophets go off on Israel and Judah (at this point, they are separate kingdoms—so sad and so avoidable) for their adulterous idol worship. Having the only living God as their God, they still chose to make graven images out of wood, stone, gold, silver—ironically, resources God himself provided. And then they worshiped them. As if a chunk material called Baal or an Asheroth pole could answer their prayers or protect them from anything. Before this, they had the calf that priest Aaron forged out of gold (although he claimed he threw the gold into the fire and the calf just popped out. Seriously?) while poor Moses was up on Mount Sinai getting the ten commandments to set their messy lives straight. Moses was not a happy camper when he came down saw what was going on. To prove it, he smashed the tablets it took him forty days to get.
Friends, man is always trying to come up with something to compare to God or outdo Him or in some way make Him more tangible, more accessible, more in our own image. And it just isn’t going to happen. He is out there all on His own. In every single area. And it would behoove us to accept that and to embrace His holiness.
We are loved and cared for by the same holy God who also sustains the universe. Yes, sustains. He did not create it and then just walk away. As much as I enjoy the series, The Big Bang Theory, the whole concept of that ideology doesn’t hold water. If God weren’t paying attention, all the galaxies would collide and spin into oblivion and we would immediately be thrust into an oxygenless black hole “somewhere” that only He would know how to find.
All this is all part of His uniqueness, that part of Him He doesn’t share.
I don’t know how you feel about it, but the bigger and better and holier, the more unlike me I can grasp God is, the more I respect Him, the more the awe factor is jacked up to the nth degree, and the more I can trust Him. Why would I want to trust someone flawed, selfish, and imperfect like me to hold the universe together or direct my path?
If He is holy, is He also perfect? Absolutely. Down to every single detail.
So, when Scripture says He “repents” for doing such and such, is it saying He made an error? No in the sense of its normal usage. It seems that it is the best word the translators could come up to explain a concept. The intention is more like, “What you guys did makes me sad, and even mad. I wish I hadn’t had to do it, but I did have to. And now you’re seeing the results and will have to live the consequences.” All with a purpose.
It must be so hard to be God. Not a job any of us would aspire to.
I want the holy God to be bigger than my imagination. I want His being to fill my mind, my thoughts, my emotions, my goals, my yearnings. I don’t want to stand in the way of Him being everything He promises to be in my life.
In conclusion, please let me share two of my favorite Scriptures:
Amos 4:13: For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!
Jeremiah 9:23-24: Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
If the Holy God, the Lord of hosts, wants to be known, then I want to take him up on it.
How about you? Please share your thoughts.