Theology Thursday: God is Holy


“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 fee, and with two he flew.  And on cried to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; The who earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:1-3 

            One of the most important habits to develop in Bible study is to look for repeated words.  Ancient writers did not have things like bold print, underlining or italics to capture their reader’s attention, so when they wanted to emphasize an idea they would repeat it.  In this passage, we see the word Holy repeated three times..  Some Bible teachers have suggested that the threefold repetition of the word “Holy” is a reference to the trinity.  However, a more likely reason is that Isaiah wants us to recognize that the central attribute of God is that He is Holy. 

            The word translated Holy in this passage means “to be set apart.”  When we say that God is Holy, we mean that He is set apart from everything and everyone else in the Universe because He created and rules over it.  The word Holy refers to the perfection and absolute moral purity of God.  Wayne Grudem says, “God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor.” (Systematic Theology, 201) Henry Theissen points out that, God’s, “…Holiness is not really an attribute that is coordinate with the other attributes, but is rather coextensive with them all.  It denotes the perfection of God in all that He is.” (Introductory Lectures, 128)

Standing in the light of God’s Holiness, Isaiah immediately recognized his own sin and depravity and cried out “Woe is me, for I am undone.”  No one can understand the Holiness of God and not become aware of his or her own sin.  A.W Tozer points out the problem we face in understanding the Holiness of God when he wrote; “We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of.  God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered.  We know nothing like the divine holiness.  It stands apart, unique and 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.” (Knowledge of the Holy, 111)

        The word Holy can also be understood as a description of all the other attributes of God.  For instance, Exodus 34:6 says that God is merciful and kind.  This does not mean that God is merely more merciful or more kind than the best person we know.  Instead, the word Holy is used to set God’s attributes apart from everyone else in the universe.  Therefore, God displays a Holy mercy and a Holy kindness.  His mercy and kindness are set apart and unique.  In other words, God is kind and merciful in ways that no other being in the universe can match.  The greatest display of His Holy love, mercy and kindness is the cross upon which He sacrificed His own Son in order to save sinners like you and me.

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