Our Awesome, Holy God

By Larry Riekenberg

There is a striking picture in the Book of Revelation when John is transported in the spirit into heaven, he sees God on His glorious throne and the four living creatures are praising Him continually. Of all the characteristics that the Scriptures use to describe God, their chant is Holy, Holy, Holy.

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

Night and day they do not cease. Praising our magnificent God never reaches a completed point, it goes on forever.

The essence of the word ‘holy’ is to be separate. God is separate and above all His creation, He stands apart from everything. He is the absolute Holy One, in His purity, majesty and glory.

Isaiah writes of his encounter with this Holy God. He saw the angels in the temple giving praise to God in Isaiah 6.3.

And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

This awesome sight brought fear to Isaiah as he recognized the supremacy of this majestic being and this absolute holiness brought into sharp contrast his own sinfulness.

The temple in the Mosaic system had two rooms, the holy place and the most holy place or holy of holies. The most holy place was where the presence of God resided. There was one man in all of Israel that was allowed into this most holy place, once a year. This was the high priest who would go in to make a sacrifice with blood that was not his own and intercede before God for the nation. This prescribed approach to God was very narrow. This image is carried through in the New Testament with Jesus Christ who entered the most holy place with the sacrifice of His own blood, making retribution for the sins of the world.

With this debt of death paid in full, the path is clear for all to come to repentance and eternal life.

As believers we are given a very curious order from God; to “be Holy as I am Holy.”

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-15).

This would seem to us as an insurmountable standard, and humanly speaking it is. In 2 Timothy 1:9 we get a glimpse into the riches of the grace of God:

[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.

This holiness that we are called to is beyond our capability, but with the grace of our holy and righteous God it is possible. In His pre-determined plan, He has provided everything we need to be qualified as children of light through the work of Christ in His death and resurrection. The magnitude of the gift of eternal life– when God takes a hell-deserving sinner, who is as far away from holy as you can imagine, and turns him into His child through His mercy–is staggering. Yet too often we become complacent in our position in Christ and exploit the Lord’s kindness by being devoted to pursuits that will not survive this life.

When confronted with the holiness of God, we need to follow Isaiah’s response and have an attitude of humility and gratitude, living our lives with complete thankfulness.