Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Holiness of God

God has been revealing to me, in little tiny pieces, that His holiness is the essence of who He is, and that in my finite mind I cannot begin to comprehend what His holiness looks like. A.W. Tozer wrote, "We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising it to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing of the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique,unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness he cannot even imagine."

So why is it that we cannot understand the holiness of God? It's quite simply because we have absolutely nothing with which to compare it - it is totally beyond our grasp. But God's holiness is the one attribute that the angels cry out. In Hebrew literature words are repeated for emphasis. We can see this with the teachings of Jesus when He would say "verily, verily" or "truly, truly I say to you." Note that we do not see anywhere in the Bible where the angels say "Love, Love, Love is the Lord of Hosts" nor do we see anywhere them saying "Omniscient, Omniscient, Omniscient, is the Lord of Hosts" - and He is both of these - but we do read that the angels call out to one another:

"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth." (Isaiah 6:3)

The passage that this verse comes from shows us the reaction of a man when he encounters the holiness of God. In Isaiah chapter six we read that in the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah had a vision, an encounter with God, and in this encounter he saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with his robe filling the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him, and they called out to each other "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth."

Isaiah wrote that when he saw this the foundations of the doorway shook and the temple was filled with smoke. Then he said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have see the King, the Lord of Hosts." In other words, Isaiah, when he was confronted with Gods holiness, pronounced a curse upon himself and thought he was going to die.

Isaiah's reaction to being in the presence of God's was quite different than the stories we hear today about people who say they have encountered God. We talk so flippantly about being in the presence of God, like He was just like one of us; we forget that He is not like us, He is Holy. And when we truly do have an encounter with Him, we will, just like Isaiah, be so confronted by our own sinfulness that we will not stand, we will not be flippant, and we will not be irreverent. We will fall before Him, we will pronounce a curse upon ourselves, and we will cry our for mercy.

Let me try to explain; in this passage from Isaiah it says that there are Seraphim that are standing above the throne of God. What are Seraphim? We are not exactly sure, but we do know that they are some kind of angelic being. The description that we are given here in Isaiah 6:2 tells us that they have six wings, and that they use two of these wings to cover their face, two to cover their feet, and they use two to fly. We also know that the Seraphim are the most holy creatures that God ever made. How do we know this? We know this because of all the creatures that God has created it is the Seraphim who are in the closest proximity to Him and His throne. And what is it that they are doing in this passage? They are covering their faces, and they are covering their feet, and they are crying out to one another "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts." Why do they do this? Because they understand what we do not - the absolute and total Holiness of God.

The act of covering their faces shows that they do not feel worthy to look upon the holiness of God. Albert Barnes writes, " [The Seraphim] covered his face so that he could not see. To cover the face in this manner is the natural expression of reverence." In addition, they also cover their feet which is acknowledging their lowliness and humility before the one sitting on the throne. Albert Barnes continues, "if the pure and holy seraphim evinced such reverence in the presence of [God], with what profound awe and veneration should we, polluted and sinful creatures, presume to draw near to him! Assuredly their position should reprove our presumption when we rush thoughtlessly and irreverently into his presence, and should teach us to bow with lowly veneration and deep humility."

While it is true that we are told that because of Jesus we can now approach His throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16) we need to remember that the God we serve is a Holy God, He is not like us, and even though we call Him Father we still need to approach Him with reverence and fear. Spend some time alone with God today and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Once you get just a little glimpse of who He really is, you will never be the same.
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