I think, in our current time, we have lost or nearly forgotten what the word “holy” really means. We may have an idea of it, but that idea is only a candlelight compared to the blazing inferno that it truly is. The word carried monumental weight in the ancient world, and during the Biblical eras. It was the driving force behind godly practice and worship, so much so that the word “holy” appears over 600 times in the Bible. The context primarily being summarized by: “God is holy,” and/or “I should try to be holy because God is holy.”
Even in those two summaries, what is clearly shown is the fact that God is holy. The holiness of God is a big deal, and should be viewed in it’s proper respect. The simple definition of holy is, “set apart” and there is obvious truth in that. But, I want us to look at the Merriam-Webster definition of holy. It says holy means, “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” What a powerful word holy is then if we understand that definition!
We tend to view holiness as being just godly or righteous, and yes, those are all parts of it. But holiness is much more dense and powerful than that. If someone is holy, then we must bend our knees in worship to the Being who is. God alone is holy and worthy of praise. Why? Because He is perfect in goodness and righteousness (Psalm 145:5-7, and Daniel 9:14). Being holy goes far beyond just being set apart or godly. There is a weight to it! It is a word that we ought not dare use in reference to ourselves as it is ascribed to God and God alone.
What is our response to this weighty description of God? If He is truly holy, how can we ever hope to come into His presence? If Israel had to encamp away from the mountain of Sinai or be killed because of His holy presence, what can we do? If Paul tells us to “work out our own salvation in fear and trembling,” but the author of Hebrews empowers us to, “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace…” what should the response be to God’s holiness in regards to our salvation and His presence on the throne? If God is holy, and we are not, how may we enter properly into His courts?
Much like Moses, the High Priests, Isaiah, and John, we must possess a reverence for God and His holiness as we enter into His presence. God desires us to come and “make our requests known to [Him]” (Phil. 4:6), and so as we approach in confidence, we must also recognize and praise Him for his goodness and righteousness. We must praise Him for His holiness. We are undeserving of being in His presence, and not deserving of His goodness. Yet, God in His steadfast love, mercy, and holiness, desires us to come to Him. Yes, we must work out our faith with fear and trembling, and yes we must also approach His holy courts with confidence, but in the middle of those two we find ourselves falling down at God’s feet in true, authentic praise and worship of His beautiful holiness.
How do you view holiness? Is it just another word we use to ascribe to God (omniscient, omnipresent, righteous, etc…)? Or is it a weighty, powerful title that deserves recognition? May we all, in proper understanding, sing out like Israel did of God when they sung: “Who is like You, O LORD among the gods? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Ex. 15:11).