God and His Holiness
I guess every preacher has to take on Isaiah 6 (Isaiah’s vision of God’s throne room) at one time or another. My opportunity came this past Sunday. It is such a beautiful and powerful text and it was a great pleasure to just soak in it for an entire week. Don’t worry! I am not going to rehash my sermon in blog form.
Before I began studying this text and finding out how I could form a sermon from it, I had assumed it would be a relatively easy one to understand and apply. In reality, it was surprisingly difficult, something that may not shock those who have attempted it before me! I want to make just a few observations about this text that stood out to me.
God’s Holiness Is Difficult to Define
Holiness is a difficult term to define. Most Christians know that a dimension of holiness is God’s set-apartness, his being essentially different from everyone and everything else, but there is far more to it than that. I thought I would be able to just find an R.C. Sproul book, quote his definition of God’s holiness, and be done with it. It was not so simple. In the end, the best I could do is speak about some small fragments of what it means that God is holy. This shouldn’t be surprising, of course. If holiness is very near the heart of what it means for God to be God, it would make sense that it will be difficult for finite minds to understand and to distil to just a few words.
What does it mean that God is holy? Entire books would not come close to exhausting it. It means that God is different from everything else that exists in the universe. God is unique and set apart. Everything God is, everything God has, everything God does is saturated with holiness and flows out of his holiness. He is pure and good and perfect in all his works and all his ways. God’s goodness is good because he is holy; God’s justice is just because he is holy. Whatever God is, his holiness is right at the very heart. The more we accurately reflect God, the holier we are; the less we reflect God, the unholier we are.
And that is only the most meager start…
God Is Good to Reveal His Holiness To Us
We see in Isaiah 6 that God reveals his holiness to Isaiah for a good purpose. This one glimpse of God forces Isaiah to come to this sudden realization—one that he cries out—that he has been undone, that he is lost, that compared to God he is utterly and completely defiled by sin. But God has done this to Isaiah out of love. We see in the seraphim, and eventually in Isaiah, that the right response to God’s holiness is worship. We simply cannot see God for who he is and be unmoved and unchanged. God reveals himself as holy so we will worship him. This is a great incentive for any of us to read about God’s holiness in the Bible and to otherwise study this doctrine. To know God as he is, is to be moved to praise and worship. It was a worshipful week of study as I began to catch these small glimpses of a holy God.
God Is the Initiator and Mover
One of the great joys of this text is seeing God at work; there is great joy and reassurance here. God is Sovereign. He reigns from his throne room over all the affairs of men. He is the one who initiates and the one who moves. Isaiah does not ask for and does not expect this vision and this encounter with God. Isaiah has no idea of his lost condition until God takes action to make him aware of it by revealing his holiness. That is grace. Once Isaiah has seen his condition, he can do nothing more than cry out that he deserves to be cursed. And again, it is God who must move, who must take the initiative, to save the one he loves. That is grace again. God destroys Isaiah with that glimpse of his holiness, and then heals him by his grace, and all of this for the good of Isaiah and the glory of God. In it all, God is the initiator and the actor.