God’s Holiness

When I think of God’s holiness, I think of his moral perfection (Matthew 5:48) and my sinful behavior (Romans 3:23), but there is more to God’s holiness than just his purity.  God’s goodness, his moral perfection, is definitely a big part of his holiness, but there is also his transcendence and his otherness that sets him apart and makes him holy.  He is the Creator of the Universe (Jeremiah 10:12).  He gives life (Acts 17:25).  He is totally unique (Jeremiah 10:6).  He is above and beyond all of us, above and beyond everything. He is incomparable (Psalm 89:6-8).  And God is changeless (Psalm 102:27). God is self-existent.  He has always existed (Genesis 21:33).  He is 100% independent.  He has no needs (Acts 17:25), so he is totally self-sufficient.  He is complete in himself.   He is without fault.  He is transcendent in all things. There is no one like him.  He is very different from us, and yet we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). God is faithful, and there is no falsehood in him (Numbers 23:19).  We can trust his love and goodness (Psalm 145:8-9), and God is worthy of our worship and praise (Revelation 4:11).

This excellent Bible Project video on God’s holiness inspired me to write this post. (I would rather read, so I tend to avoid videos, but Bible Project videos are very well done.) Do watch the video! I am going to ruminate on what the video talked about.  The video starts out by comparing God’s holiness to the Sun as a metaphor. Our Sun is unique, the only star in our solar system.  It is powerful and its rays give life to us on Earth.  It is also dangerous.  If you get too close, you can burn up.  The same is true of God’s holiness.  God’s holiness can be dangerous too.  Because we are morally impure (i.e. sinners) we can not abide in the presence of God because he is so very good.  Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush illustrates this.  He was told to take off his sandals and not get too close (Exodus 3:1-6).  God’s holiness is intense. Moses never got to see God’s face.  He could only see God’s backside from a protected place (Exodus 33:18-23).  Another example is only once a year on the Day of Atonement could the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies, where God was in the Temple, and atone for the sins of the people by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat..  Any other time was certain death (Leviticus 16:2). 

Besides us being morally impure, the Old Testament law designated several things that could make you ritually impure, things like menstruation, childbirth, nocturnal emissions, touching a corpse, certain types of skin diseases, and eating ritually unclean food. There was a lot that could make you ritually impure.  A ritually impure person was unable to worship in the Temple and had to be isolated (Numbers 5:1-4). Touching an unclean person or thing could make you ritually impure. There were a variety of ways to become ritually clean, varying from washing (Numbers 19:11-12) to sacrifice (Leviticus 15:25-30).  Leprosy is the skin disease I am most aware of in the Bible and it has a pretty serious procedure for one to be proclaimed clean (Leviticus 13).  These ritually impure things point out how God’s holiness is something to be taken seriously and that sin has corrupted us and broke the world. Our impurity (sin) must also be taken seriously.

When Isaiah had a vision of being in the presence of God, he cried out that he was done for, because of  his uncleanliness (Isaiah 6:5) , but he had his lips touched by a burning coal from the altar and he was cleansed of his sin (Isaiah 6:6-7).  God’s holiness went out with forgiveness and made him clean.  That was his commissioning as God’s prophet. Similarly, Ezekiel has this vision of water flowing from the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12).  It creates a river and brings life to the land with fish and fruit trees and more.  Here again we see God’s holiness going forth and restoring the brokenness of the world.

This all comes together with Jesus.  He was and is morally perfect,  the human embodiment of God’s holiness (John 6:68-69), because he is God.  Jesus went around and instead of becoming impure when touching a leper (Matthew 8:1-4) or a dead person (Matthew 9:23-26) or being touched by a woman with chronic bleeding (Matthew 9:20-22), he remained pure and instead brought healing and restoration to those in need.  The holiness flowed out from him to heal and restore.

By the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are God’s Temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and we have “rivers of living water” flowing from us (John 7:37-38).  We have the ability to heal and restore. That is our calling. We can be a part of the Lord’s business of reconciling the world to himself.  One day at the end of time, we will be totally free from sin, pure, and fully restored. Ezekiel’s vision of the River of God will then be fully realized (Revelation 22:1-2).

Let us praise God now for he is a mighty and holy God!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

One thought on “God’s Holiness

  1. Nice synopsis of God’s holiness. There’s a couple more examples from Scripture that could be cited of men encountering the terrifying ‘otherness’ and holiness of God or his representatives:

    When Ezekiel saw the amazing vision he described in detail in the first chapter of his book, he said, “I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.’ And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.”

    Daniel, when he saw the angel in chapter 10, wrote, “On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a man dressed in linen, whose waist had a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like topaz, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great fear fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my complexion turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. Then behold, a hand touched me and shook me on my hands and knees. And he said to me, ‘Daniel, you who are treasured, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand at your place, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. …'”

    And John, in Revelation 1, describes encountering the glorified Jesus this way: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, ‘Write on a scroll what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.’ Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And after turning I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and wrapped around the chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been heated to a glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.'”

    It’s interesting that John, having known Jesus in his youth, when Jesus appeared purely human, would still fall like a dead man at the feet of the glorified Jesus.

    I sincerely hope that when I’m in heaven, perfected and without sin, that I will at long last finally be able to see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as they truly are, and not be burned up by the experience and die. I want to see the full radiance and magnificence of their glory, and hear their voices, and am also hoping they will have the time and desire to talk with me at length. I have a LOT of questions to ask … and the more answers I hear, I’m guessing the more questions those answers will generate in me. But it’s more than just that. I want to hear more about them, like their history, what they think about things, what makes them laugh (besides the impudence of the rebels in Revelation, that is), what their long-range plan for eternity is, and whether angels and the saved still truly retain all their free will in Heaven despite the possibility of sin appearing in Heaven again, like it did the first time around with Lucifer and his followers, and many other things.

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