We recognize many of God’s attributes, often according to what will make us feel better, or more secure at any given time. We speak of God’s love, mercy, faithfulness, grace, sovereignty, providence, etc. But we rarely speak of His holiness, unless it is in a song during worship. Think about it. When is the last time you were talking with someone and they mentioned, “God is so holy”? It just doesn’t happen. I’d say you hear, “God is not angry at you” more than you hear, “God is holy.”
It is an interesting phenomenon. Look at this list of words regarding God’s character, and how many times you find them in Scripture (depending on version.)
Grace – 134
Mercy – 111
Faith – 539
Love – 700
Holy – 565
Now, all of these instances are not directly in relation to God. The Bible speaks of faith, and love and mercy in regards to people as well as to God. The same happens with the idea of holiness. My point is that holiness is a huge concept in the Bible… but not so much in our daily conversation about who God is, and what we are to be.
That may explain why we have more of a grandfatherly image of God. Without taking away from His more ‘cuddly’ attributes, we must recognize that His holiness is the bedrock of who He is. He is holy. That says so much about Him.
Merriam-Webster defines the word ‘holy’ as, “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” That is God. He is perfect in goodness and righteousness. That is precisely how He can be unreasonably merciful and completely just at the same time. We struggle with finding and dispensing mercy and justice correctly. But God does not… because He is holy. He is perfect in goodness and righteousness. Everything God does is good and right. His most outrageous act of wrath is good and right. His most outrageous act of mercy is good and right. If He sends the nicest grandma to Hell because she did not receive His free offer of salvation, He is right and good. If He receives the worst terrorist into His eternal presence because they did receive the redeeming work of Christ in their life, He is good and right.
Here is what one of the Psalmist had to say about God…
“The Lord reigns! Let the peoples tremble.
He is enthroned above the cherubim.
Let the earth quake.
Yahweh is great in Zion; He is exalted above all the peoples.
Let them praise Your great and awe-inspiring name.
He is holy.
The mighty King loves justice.
You have established fairness; You have administered justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God; bow in worship at His footstool.
He is holy.
Moses and Aaron were among His priests; Samuel also was among those calling on His name.
They called to Yahweh and He answered them.
He spoke to them in a pillar of cloud; they kept His decrees and the statutes He gave them.
Lord our God, You answered them.
You were a forgiving God to them, an avenger of their sinful actions.
Exalt the Lord our God; bow in worship at His holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy.” (Psalm 99)
We may not refer to God’s holiness in every conversation. But we must believe it, and live in the light of it. It must be a foundational truth to which we hold and lean. Our understanding of God is as incomplete without a proper appreciation of His holiness as it is without a proper appreciation of His love.
The fact that God is holy does not just impact how He interacts with us, but how we live our lives before Him and others. He is a holy God and He has every right to expect holiness out of His people. I think most people, including most Christians avoid the topic of God’s holiness because they don’t want to have that measure of accountability. We want God to be holy, but we don’t want to have to be holy. This is interesting because we want to love like God, show mercy like God, be as faithful as God, and have the wisdom of God. But we seem to avoid His holiness.
Today, to the best of your ability, recognize His holiness and let it inform and inspire you to live a life that is well-pleasing and reflective of the God you serve.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.