Summary: the Holiness of God is central to our understanding of the christian faith and a true relationship with God.
GOD IS HOLY – ISAIAH 6.1-8
If someone called you ‘holy’ would you take it as a compliment? Well it may depend whether or not something was appended to ‘holy’. I mean if they said your were a ‘holy Joe’ or a ‘holy roller’ that would not be complimentary. Secondly it would depend on how they defined ‘holy’. If they meant that you were straight laced, Victorian in your outlook, judgemental, uptight and other negative things then again it would not be a compliment. When we speak of ‘holy’ we are not really sure what we mean. When we say God is holy what do we mean and what difference does it actually make to our lives? When we read in the Bible that we ‘are to be holy as he is holy’ does it actually mean anything to us? Does it make any difference to how we live? So this morning we are going to look at what the Bible teaches about God’s holiness.
As we begin let me give you a definition of ‘holiness.’ In the Bible when someone or something is described as ‘holy’ it means that it has been ‘set apart’ or ‘separated’ for God. That is, it has been set aside and apart from everyday use and dedicated wholly to God and His will and purpose. When the Bible says God is holy it means He is ‘apart’ or ‘separate’ from His creation. You see the word ‘holy’ comes from a Hebrew word which means ‘to cut off’ or ‘to separate’ or ‘to set apart’. So to apply ‘holy’ to God means He is separate, apart, above and beyond His creation and His created creatures. To say God is holy is in fact another way to say God is God. To explain this further I am going to use Isaiah 6 as a kind of case study – so turn to Isaiah 6 now.
Verse 1 The Context:
Isaiah writes that this vision took place in the year that King Uzziah died, 740BC. You can read all about Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, 2 Kings 15.1-7 and also 2 Kings 26. The vision which Isaiah saw on this occasion never left him. In fact he was so profoundly touched by it that his ministry was never the same again. His vision is of the majesty of the Lord God. Note will you he describes the majesty of God and not the Lord himself. Note how he begins in verse 1. Uzziah the king may have died but God, the King of kings is still on his throne. God sits on the throne – his sovereignty is stated right at the beginning of this vision. Isaiah goes on to say that the Lord was seated – a position of authority, power and teaching. The teacher always sat to teach in Hebrew – that is why Christ after he had read from the prophet Isaiah in the temple sat down – so the people knew he was going to teach. So God is seated on his throne. Isaiah says it was ‘high and exalted.’ The throne of the Lord exceeded all the thrones of the earth. He was above, beyond and greater than all the earthly kings and thrones.
He next says the ‘train of his robe’ – stop there for a moment. It was only the train and not the whole robe – why? Well the train of the robe depicted and symbolised ‘royalty’ (and or majesty). It is only the train that fills the temple – God’s royalty, or majesty fills the temple. God cannot be contained by a building. No building has ever been constructed that could contain the full revelation of God. Here God in his love for Isaiah self-reveals his majesty. Note where he reveals his majesty – in the temple. In the place set aside for his people to worship and adore him. God is present in his majesty in the presence of his people as they worship and adore him. It is in the place ‘set apart’ for the worship of God, ‘holy’ unto the worship of God that God reveals his majesty. Here we see the greatness of our God. The magnificent temple built by Solomon was only able to accommodate the revelation of the train of God’s robe – a very small part of God’s self-revelation.
Verses 2-3 God is Holy.
Isaiah then reveals that when he looked up he saw ‘Seraphs’ flying to and fro before the throne of the Lord. ‘Seraphs’ can be translated ‘burning ones.’ Isaiah says that these angels hide their faces and their feet before the living Lord’s throne. Why? They were covering their createdness and their nakedness before the Lord. They covered their faces, their eyes before the Lord – but please note they did not cover their ears. They were to Hear the Word of God – how else could they do his bidding? They covered their eyes because even though as angels they had not sinned, as humans have sinned, they could not look at the face of God. The Seraphs (the burning ones) could not look at the greater brightness of the face of the Lord. They cover their feet in admission of humility before the living Lord. With the two remaining wings they fly to and fro at the Lord’s bidding. There is nothing new here in their actions before the Lord’s self-revelation of himself. Go back to Genesis 3 and what do we encounter with Adam and Eve? When they have disobeyed God and sin has entered into creation what is the thing that they seek to cover before God – their nakedness, their very created, creaturely nature. You see when the created comes before the Creator it can do nothing but hide. When the sinful meets the holy the sinful can only cower and hide. In the presence of the holy light of the Lord all things, even the burning ones, the Seraph, hide their face from the brightness of holiness.