Tuesday, March 1, 2016

God Is Holy

Part 1 of God Is ______.

Text: Isaiah 6:1-13

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). 

A Life-Changing Experience 

Imagine reading the obituaries and seeing your name! It actually happened to someone—his name was Alfred Nobel. Nobel was the inventor of dynamite, and the newspaper described him as a man who had made it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone else who had ever lived. This is not how Nobel wanted to be remembered, so he decided to use his fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes.

Seeing his obituary while still alive changed Nobel’s life. In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah also saw something that change his life.

We Need a Vision of God 

Isaiah experienced this vision of God “in the year that King Uzziah died” (v. 1). It was an uncertain time for Isaiah and his nation. Like Isaiah, we are living in an uncertain time. During uncertain times, we need a vision [1] of God. In Isaiah’s vision, the holiness of God is emphasized. The seraphim cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts” (v. 3). What is the holiness of God, and how should we respond to it? 

Holy, Holy, Holy

If you were asked, “What do you think is God’s best attribute?”, what would you say? I’m guessing most Christians would say the love of God. But the angels seem to be most impressed by God’s holiness. In the Hebrew language, a word is emphasized by repeating it. [2] When the angels say, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts,” they are saying that no one is holy like God is holy. He isn’t just holy; he’s holy, holy, holy.

What did the angels mean when they said that God is holy? “Holiness implies absolute moral purity and separateness above creation.” [3] “God’s absolute holiness reveals how separate, different, or totally other he is in comparison to all other aspects of the created world.” [4]

When the Bible says that God is holy, it means that no one compares to God.

Isaiah 40:25 says, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” In our culture, holiness is often thought of as a negative attribute (e.g., people complain that someone has a holier-than-thou attitude). But the Bible describes true holiness as beautiful: “Worship the LORD in the splendor [beauty, KJV] of holiness (Ps. 96:9).

Our Response 

When we have a vision of God’s holiness, our lives can’t remain the same. That was true of Isaiah after his vision. We, like Isaiah, should respond to God’s holiness in two ways.

1. We should have an overwhelming desire to repent. 

Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!” (v. 5). Our sin is never so ugly as when we sense the holy presence of God. [This is sort of like how we feel when we think we’re good at something, and then we see how we match up against an expert.]

What’s amazing is that the holy God is quick to forgive. One of the seraphim “touched [Isaiah’s] mouth [with a burning coal from the altar] and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (v. 7). 

2. We should have an overwhelming desire to serve. 

In John 12:37-41, John twice quotes the book of Isaiah: he quotes Isaiah 53:1 in verse 31, and he quotes Isaiah 6:10 in verse 40. Then in verse 41, John says something amazing about Isaiah’s vision: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him” (John 12:41). In other words, Isaiah spoke of Jesus in Isaiah 53 and saw Jesus in Isaiah 6.

Earlier in John 12, Jesus says that he will be “lifted up from the earth” (v. 32). In Isaiah’s vision, the prophet sees the Lord (Jesus) “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). And in Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant, he says that the servant (Jesus) would be “high and lifted up” (Isa. 52:13). Put it all together and John is saying that the one who was “high and lifted up” in Isaiah’s vision is the same one who was “lifted up from the earth” (i.e., crucified for our sins).

God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (v. 8). Isaiah answers, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8). How could we not want to serve the holy God who died for us?

[1] I’m using the word “vision” loosely: seeing with the eye of faith through what is written in Scripture.
[2] For example, Jesus often began an important statement by saying, “Truly, truly.”
[3] ESV Study Bible, 1251.
[4] G. V. Smith, Isaiah 1-39, 190.

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