David Jeremiah - Knowing a Holy God
God is all loving, but the angels around the throne aren't singing, "Loving, loving, loving". God is all knowing but there's no record of the heavenly host singing, "Omniscient, omniscient, omniscient". His power and might have no limit but the songs recorded in the book of Revelation don't say, "Powerful, powerful, powerful". The cry of the heavenly host is, "Holy, holy, holy". God is called holy more than he is called anything else in the Scripture. He is repeatedly referred to as the Holy One of Israel or the Holy God. What does it mean when the Bible says that God is holy? It means two distinct things. First of all, God's holiness is his separateness. That's not a word we use but it is exactly the right word.
The Bible says that God is separate from everything and everyone. In 1 Timothy 6 we read these words: "Who alone has immortality, dwelling in the unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see". Theologians talk about the otherness of God. Hosea says it this way: "I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst". In several places in the Bible we read passages that start like this: " God is not a man that he should". Over and over you see that. The Scripture teaches us that we should always view God not as just one of the human family but God is separate from us. He is the only being in the whole universe who was not created, for he is the Creator. He is separate and above his creation. He is eternally unique because there is no one like him. There is no one who can be compared to him. Before there was anything, there was God. He always has been and he always will be. There never has been a time when he ceased to be nor will there ever be a time when he is not who he is. He is the distinct, unique being of history. He is the holy God. God's holiness is also his sinlessness. The holiness of God conveys the idea of absolute purity.
1 John 1:5 says: "This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all". Examining the holiness of God, if somebody asks you, what does it mean when the Bible says that God is holy? You can answer them in two ways. It means he is unique, unless any creature because he's originated all of life and he is absolutely perfect. He does not have one sin stain on his person nor will he ever. He is holy. In the Bible there were people who met this God and encountered his holiness. I guess it would be a good thing for us to just ask ourselves what would we do if God were to make himself visible in this room today, if we encountered the holiness of God?
The Bible is filled with kings and beggars and prophets and prostitutes and warriors and weaklings, merchants and thieves, but when they encountered God they reacted almost remarkably in the same way. They trembled, they cowered, some of them went mute. The ones who could manage speech expressed despair and they were convinced they were about to die. I'd like to take you on a little journey. This is gonna be fun 'cause I love these stories and just tell you about a few people in the Bible who met the holiness of God. Let's talk about Moses for a moment. Now it's impossible to see a full manifestation of God's holiness and live to tell about it. But the Lord gave Moses an approximate experience. Let me read this to you. This is not a well-known part of Moses' life: "So the Lord said to Moses, 'I will also do this thing that you have spoken,'" but he said, "'You cannot see my face for no man shall see me and live.' And the Lord said, 'Here's a place by Me. You shall stand on the rock and it shall be while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand while I pass by. And I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face you shall not see.'"
In some mysterious way, Moses was unable to see the front of God. He only glimpsed the back side of God's glory. But this is what the Bible says happened when he descended from Mount Sinai and reconnected with his followers: "So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him". His face was so illuminated with the holy light that he had to wear a veil when he spoke to others. His face was aglow with the reflected glory and holiness of God. That's how it was for Moses. And then there's this man in the Old Testament named Job. He was a righteous man, the wealthiest man of his generation. And you know his story. Within a few days he lost all of his money, all of his health, his children were all taken from him in a series of devastating satanic attacks. I always tell people when I reference Job, if you're having a bad day, go read Job in the first few chapters. You will feel immensely better when you are done.
In the 38th chapter of Job, God comes to Job and reveals himself to him. God takes Job on a tour of the sciences, pointing out the wonders of geology and meteorology and oceanography and astronomy and zoology and, in light of all the supreme grandeur of God's holiness, Job was shaken and he responds to his vision of the holiness of God in the 40th chapter with these words. He says, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes". When we experience the holiness of God that's what we want to do every time: put our hands over our mouth so we don't say something stupid.
Probably the most famous encounter with the holiness of God had happened with a man by the name of Isaiah. The prophet went to the temple to pray and ask for God's direction during this transition. What do you do when a man who's been the king for 52 years finally dies? What happens next? And when he arrived at the temple that day, he wasn't prepared for what he saw. Isaiah 6 tells us that "in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he did fly. And one cried to 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 were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
So Isaiah said: '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 my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.' And one of the seraphim flew to him, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar. And he touched his mouth, and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.' And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' And I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'" Very seldom do we see triplicates and never of any other attribute of God is there a triplicate in the Bible. But when Isaiah was in the temple beholding the Lord, high and lifted up, the angels were crying, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory". Isaiah was stunned, and the Bible says, he saw himself as he really was.
And then along with Job and Moses and Isaiah, there's Paul. Remember Paul on the road to Damascus? All of a sudden, he sees a bright light from heaven and it was brighter than the noonday sun and it knocked him to the ground and when he experienced the holiness of God he was blinded as though his eyes had been burned out by the infinite brilliance of the Savior on his throne. His spiritual and physical eyes were opened and his life was changed. Through that experience Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle. And finally, there's John. Read the first chapter of Revelation. It will tell you that when John looked into heaven he saw the enthroned Lord whose hair was like blinding snow. His eyes were flames of fire. His voice was like the sound of many waters and his countenance was like the sun shining in all of its strength. Out of his mouth came a two-edged sword and John said, "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead". Encountering the holiness of God.
I rather think if you and I were to have any experience like one of these five guys we would do the same thing, don't you? We'd put our hand over our mouth, we'd fall on our face, we would say, "Woe is me, for I am undone". When you see the holiness of God it has an incredible impact on you. And we know that. Maybe that's why we're a little bit timid about even exploring this subject. How am I impacted by the holiness of God today? Is this just something I need to have in the hard drive of my mind so that if somebody ever asks me about it I can give them an answer? No, it's much more than that. Let me see if I can help us get our arms around that. What are the takeaways for you and me when we know what the holiness of God is all about?
Well, let's talk first about association. When we understand how holy God is we see ourselves in the light of that holiness. The standard of all morality is God's absolute, perfect, unsullied holiness. And anything that falls short of that can never measure up for fellowship with the holy God. That's why Jesus Christ had to come to this world 'cause we could never be holy enough to know God. We had to borrow our holiness from God's Son. The cosmic disconnect between God and man can only be understood in a real way by our next point which is appreciation, understanding the cross as a picture of God's holiness. While we may never fully understand all that took place on the cross of Calvary, we will better appreciate it when we understand the holiness of God.
Christ came into this world as God's sinless, only begotten Son and he lived a sinless, perfect life. His life reflected the holiness of heaven and when he came to the cross he came as the spotless Lamb of God. He had never sinned in any possible way and he went to the cross and he died and gathered upon himself that day all the sin of the world and gave up his life so that the penalty of sin could ultimately and finally be paid. He was the only one who could have done that because he was the only sinless person who ever lived. And the Bible tells us that when God the Father looked down out of heaven on his Son hanging there between two thieves, bearing the sin of the whole world, the Bible says God the Father turned his back because he could not bear to see the putrid iniquity of all mankind reflected in his Son.
And you hear the words of Christ on the cross: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me"? If God could have answered that he would have said, "My holiness is so great, my standards so high, that I cannot look upon my own Son, knowing that he is not sinful himself but that he bears the sin of the world. My righteousness and my holiness demand that I look away". The cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest picture of the holiness of God you will ever see. In that moment, when Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, something wonderful happened. When he came down from the cross, he took his holiness and he wove it into a suit of clothes and he offers the suit of clothes of his holiness to anyone who will believe in him and accept them as their Savior.
So if we're Christians today we walk around and we're wearing the holiness of Jesus. When God the Father looks at us, though we are sinful, he doesn't see us. He sees the clothes we wear: the holiness of the blessed Savior who paid the penalty for our sin on the cross of Calvary. So we come to him in prayer and how do we pray? In Jesus's name. That's our entry into the holy place of God. And it all happened at Calvary. And then, here's the third takeaway: adoration, worshiping God in the beauty of his holiness. Did you know that the first recorded hymn in biblical history is Moses's song. Here it is. "Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders"?
According to the Bible, the holiness of God is beautiful and we are called to worship God in the beauty of his holiness. Let's never forget what worship is all about. It's not about those of us on the stage, not about those in the choir, not about those in the orchestra pit. It's about Almighty God. We play it out before him. And then let me talk about application. We see ourselves in the light of God's holiness, we understand the cross as a picture of God's holiness, we worship God in the beauty of his holiness, and we cultivate habits of holiness in our own life. It is God's will that we be holy and the Bible says that God created us and called us for that reason. We have been chosen to be holy, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy".
God's purpose for us is that we cultivate holiness in our life. We have been commanded to be holy, it says, "but as He who has called you is holy, be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" We cannot be holy like God is, we cannot approximate the perfection of God's holiness. But that doesn't mean we should give up on the idea of cultivating holiness in our own lives. And let's face it, folks, this is a frightening thing and intimidating to all of us 'cause most of us don't feel all that holy. Most of us don't, including your pastor. But here's what I know and here's what I gain from this. In life, for all of us, there are always choices. There is a good choice and a bad choice for us. We face them every day. You face them every day. Every day, you're confronted with what to do.
Do I do the right thing which we might call holy or do I do the other thing which might be more comfortable for me? And we forget, do we not, that whatever choice we make, those choices bear children. When we make a holy choice, it bears holy children. It helps us to make other choices that are likewise holy. When we make other choices that benefit us, pragmatic choices that make us feel better or get us further down the road we have decided to follow, those choices also bear children. What can we do when the Bible tells us to be holy? We can understand that every day we face challenges, every day we face choices, and we pray every morning when those choices come: "Dear God, help me to take the holy road. Help me to take the right road. Don't let me get caught up in the reasoning and pragmatism of the world and go down this road because when I go down that road, it not only affects me, it affects so many others as well".
We are called to be holy. Let me end all of this with the brightest moment of all the study. And the word here is the word "anticipation". Here's what I want you to know. We are given the opportunity to look forward to the day when we will all be as holy as God is. One day, you and I who are Christians are going to be as holy as God is. 1 John says it this way: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now are we the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, as He is pure".
One day soon, God is going to touch us. He's going to touch you, he's gonna touch me, and all sin will be gone and we will be made holy just like Jesus. And the Bible says that when we are made holy, this will grab hold of some of you, we will also be made beautiful. Holiness is God's beauty. When he makes us holy, he's gonna make us all beautiful, amen? I guess it's all right for guys to be beautiful in the eyes of God. And throughout eternity we will worship God and Revelation 4:8 repeats the praise: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come"! The holiness of God.
So here's the question: what is there that's in your way from receiving him today as your Savior? He wants you to go to heaven. He loves you. God loves you and he's done everything that can be done to make heaven available for you. But you have to make the decision. If you've never put your trust in Jesus Christ I want to boldly ask you today, "Why haven't you? And what is keeping you from putting Jesus Christ in the right place in your life"? He wants to take your test. Let him do it.