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1. The Holiness of God

Read: Isaiah 6 v. 1-8.

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Key Verse

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” Isaiah 6 v. 3

God is holy. This is a truth which God taught particularly to the nation of Israel, but it is something He wants us all to realize. The things which happened to Israel, the New Testament tells us, are examples to us all.

What does it mean, to say that God is holy Basically, holiness means being separate, being completely different. There is one way in which God differs from us more than in any other. We think, say, and do things which are wrong: God never does. We are all sinful, some more, some less: God is absolutely pure and good.

We read in the Bible of occasions when people became aware of God’s presence. Sometimes this was in a vision, sometimes in other ways. Almost always they felt unclean, unworthy to be in His presence. They became very conscious of their own sinfulness in comparison with God’s purity. Adam and Eve, after disobeying God, were afraid to face Him, and tried to hide. When Moses heard God speak from the burning bush, he hid his face in fear.

The prophet Ezekiel and the apostle John both fell down as if dead when they were given visions. When Peter realized that Jesus was more than a mere man, he cried out.

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord”.

God did not give a vision of Himself to all Israelites, but they all had to learn the same lesson. He reminded them constantly of His holiness by commanding that things, places, and people belonging especially to Himself were also to be regarded as holy. They were different, separate, not treated in the same way as others. The nation of Israel itself was God’s, and was not to intermarry with nations which worshipped other gods. The seventh day in each week, the sabbath, belonged especially to God, and ordinary work was not to be done then. Even the perfume in the incense which was burned during the Temple worship was not to be used for any other purpose.

Israel was clearly taught that sinful mankind is unworthy to approach God. No ordinary Israelite could go beyond the Temple courtyard into the Temple itself. Only one family. chosen by God Himself, was allowed to do this. These were the descendants of Aaron, and they offered worship on behalf of all the others. Into the most holy part of the Temple, the high priest alone could go. Even he could go only once a year, after offering special sacrifices.

Occasionally the lesson of God’s holiness was impressed upon israel in a drastic way, when God punished people who disobeyed these Aaron’s family. They insisted on burning incense to God, to prove that they too could be priests. God destroyed them by fire. Hundreds of years later Uzziah, a great king, also tried to offer incense. Immediately, he became a leper. The Ten Commandments were kept in a box called the ark of God or the ark of the covenant. Out of idle curiosity some people once opened it, although God had said it was holy and must not be touched. Again, death was the penalty.

In all these ways the people were taught how unworthy they were to have anything to do with God. He was willing to hear their prayers and accept their worship if they came in the way He had told them, but they should never take this for granted. It was a privilege.

God’s holiness was taught not only in the rules about worship but also in the instructions He gave His people about their behaviour.

“You shall be holy”

He said,

“for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev. 19 v. 2).

Sinful behavior of every kind was an offence against God’s holiness and purity.

God has not changed, nor has mankind. He is still holy and we are still unworthy. We cannot make ourselves fit to worship Him or to be in His presence. But the wonderful thing is that the Lord Jesus can make us fit to approach God.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life”,

He said

“No-one comes to the Father, but by me”.

If we have put our trust in the Lord Jesus, God is willing to regard us as holy.

We should then, of course, behave in a way which is in accord with that.

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