Summary: There are only two places where we see the expression in the Bible, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Isaiah 6:3 and the Apostle John’s praise and worship of God found in Revelation 4:8. Why is God considered Holy? Why did the Seraphim say Holy three times?
I love that hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826) and John B. Dykes (1823-1876)
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty," read Reginald Heber's widow. Among her dead husband's papers, she found the words of one of the most powerful and beautiful hymns ever written. But years would pass before the lines took their place in worship services around the world.
In 1861, a publisher rediscovered the words. He asked John Bacchus Dykes to furnish him with a tune. It made sense for him to turn to John who had a natural aptitude for music (he graduated with a music master that same year). John had been a church organist since he was ten-years-old and was co-founder and president of the Cambridge University Musical Society.
John accepted the words. Within thirty minutes he wrote the tune "Nicea," which carried the praise of the Trinity to Christians everywhere.
There are only two places where we see the expression in the Bible, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Isaiah 6:3 and the Apostle John’s praise and worship of God found in Revelation 4:8. There are subtle differences:
Isaiah 6:3 - Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!
Revelation 4:8 – Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!
Heavenly creatures are uttering the words in worship of God in both cases. In Isaiah’s testimony it is the Seraphim, angelic creatures who call “to another and say, Holy, holy, holy.” In John’s Revelation, it is the four living creatures who “day and night they never cease to say Holy, holy, holy.”
Holy in the Hebrew is “qadowsh” (kaw-doshe’) and in most cases indicates something that is “sacred ceremonially or morally.” In general, holy means “to be set apart.”
Leviticus 11:44-45; as well as many other places, God proclaims “…ye shall be holy; for I am holy:”
Twenty-four times in the Old Testament, holy is used in reference to Tabernacle or Temple, “in the holy place.”
Holy can be applied to; “being consecrated or singled out”, “those things that are given in offering to God”, “the holiness of a place (Tabernacle or Temple, etc.)”, “to be removed from common use”, and “the faithful”
The moral attribute of God is His holiness.
The Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology writes: "
One does not define God. Similarly, the idea of holiness is at once understandable and elusive. Nevertheless, there is not term equal to the fullness inherent in holiness. All of heaven’s hosts, Israel, and the church ascribe praise to a holy God because that idea sets him apart from everything else (Exod. 15:11; Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). Holiness is what God is. Holiness also comprises his plan for his people.
With that in mind, let us begin our look at Isaiah 6:1-7 and Isaiah’s call to be a prophet for God.
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah identifies the time in which he is writing and called to speak for God to "this people."
In the year that King Uzziah died – Thiele identifies King Uzziah’s death from leprosy at 740-739 B.C. Uzziah was the king over Judah at the same time that Jeroboam II was king in Israel. His reign brought about national prosperity. King Uzziah was probably the last great king over the southern kingdom of Judah. F. Delitzsch says, “The national glory of Israel died out too with King Uzziah and has never been recovered to this day.”
The outlook for the nation of Judah was bleak. In contrast to Isaiah’s mood and the condition of the Southern Kingdom, is the throne room of God.
The true King over all the world is still on the throne: The Lord is “sitting upon the throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” God is on the throne and I believe it would be good to be reminded that God is still on the throne today!
Isaiah’s vision of the throne room is awe inspiring. He sees the "Lord sitting on a throne" - "Adonai" is the "royal title" of God. Adonai is always explained as the plural of majesty. In the Bible, it is only used to refer to God. Historically, the Jews stepped away from using the Tetragrammaton during the Hellenistic period and replaced YHWH with "Adonai" in their speaking about God and in their prayers.
The New American Commentary says: "Each of these symbols—the title Lord, the throne, the lofty position, and the all-encompassing robe—reinforced His sovereignty over all of the universe, over all its kings, over all of their nations, and over all peoples, including the chosen children of Israel."