Holy Holy Holy God ~ 20151206 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3
What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God's attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God's characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say 'God is love' or 'God is grace', and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says 'God is love' (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?
There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.
These six-winged seraphs surrounding God's throne are continually crying out 'holy, holy, holy'. They are not crying out 'love, love love' or 'gracious, gracious, gracious'. God is not heralded as 'righteous, righteous, righteous' or 'eternal, eternal, eternal' or 'almighty, almighty, almighty'.
John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God's throne.
Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say 'holy, holy holy'! Throughout eternity, the praise of God's holiness reverberates around his throne.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:
The first thing we are to pray is that the Father's name be hallowed, or treated as holy... on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:
God's name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.
God says in Leviticus 22:
And in Ezekiel 39:
God's name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.
What does Holy Mean?
God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord's use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.
I The Lord Am Holy
We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?
What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?
If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.
God's holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.
We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.
This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.
Delighting in God's Holiness
I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God's holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.
God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David's song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says
We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.
God's salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.
God's name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.
We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.
Psalm 29 says:
Psalm 96 says:
We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!
His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!
God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.
In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.
God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.
Holiness Inclines Toward Humility
We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.
Listen to Isaiah 57:
His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:
God's holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.
After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,
His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org