Holiness of God - The Distinction
Can man comprehend the holiness of God? In nearly every religion, there is a distinction between that which is holy and what is profane. In most cases, the religious man is the one to whom something is sacred, i.e. holy. Holiness requires a distinction be made between the holiness that is God’s very being and the holiness which reflects the character of His people.
Our comprehension of the holiness of God, based on natural senses, remains insufficient. In Exodus 15:11, Moses asks, “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.” Holiness embraces every distinct attribute of each Person of the Godhead, Father (John 17:11), Son (Acts 4:30), and especially the Holy Spirit as the One who provides us with an intimate knowledge of a Holy God (1 Corinthians 2:10). What exquisite words exist to convey glory, honor, and thanks to the Lord God Almighty? Before the Throne in Heaven, the angelic beings worshipped God, repeating day and night, “Holy, holy, holy” (Revelation 4:8).
Holiness of God - A Biblical Basis
In the Old Testament, the term holiness is applied to God in two senses. First, God is separate, set above all which is created. Yet, it is God who calls us to an ethical purity. Secondly, things are regarded holy because of their connection with God—Holy ground, Holy Sabbath, Holy place. God’s holiness permeates anything touched by Him, especially man.
Man’s encounters with the holiness of God in the Old Testament were often fearful. Following God’s destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the Israelites rested near Mount Sinai–-where God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Before God would establish a covenant with His people, He ordered them to separate from impurity, to make themselves sanctified (holy) to God. On the third day of preparation, God descended to Mount Sinai, demonstrating His power and holiness (Exodus 19:16–20). God warned that anyone touching the mountain would be put to death. Only Moses and Aaron were permitted on the mountain. Mount Sinai was “set apart as holy”–-a reminder of the immeasurable chasm between the divine and the human.
For 100 long years, the Ark of the Covenant had been absent from the Tabernacle and other places of worship. God specified that only Levites should transport the ark on their shoulders by means of poles passed through gold rings attached to the ark. Even the Levites were forbidden to even touch the ark or look in it because God’s holiness (presence) abided there. Yet, David chose to bring the ark back to Jerusalem on a cart. When the oxen stumbled, threatening to topple the ark from the cart, Uzzah tried to steady the ark with his hand. This irreverent act angered God, who instantly struck Uzzah dead (2 Samuel 6:1–11). To approach the holiness of God requires reverence and absolute obedience to His commands.
Holiness of God - Set Apart
When we consider the holiness of God, it may seem impossible for imperfect creatures like ourselves to obey His command to, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16). How are we to set ourselves totally apart from sin? When God created man, He intended for us to experience His glory. Man is the culmination of God’s creative activity. Our existence is not random, nor was it an accident. God knew who He was creating, and He intended for each one of us to receive holiness.
A great-grandmother was asked to describe “the holiness of God.” Bea closed her eyes for a moment, “All-consuming, takes over the whole body, peace, faith, joy . . . wisdom.” The Great Depression, World War II, losing both her father and baby brother as a child . . . even widowhood could not rob her of an adoring intimacy with a Holy God. When we sense God’s presence in difficult times, we embrace a faithful Father. When we fail in every way, we encounter a redeeming God. When we choose to worship, obey, and serve Him apart from all that the world demands, we experience the holiness of God.
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