What do you think of when you hear the word ‘holy’?
Something pure perhaps? Untouched by sin? Something unapproachable?
Psalm 99 reminds the reader, with three refrains, that the Lord in Zion, the King is holy.
Rich with powerful imagery, the psalmist describes nations trembling before Him, the earth shaking beneath His feet as He establishes His throne, ruling over all things.
All who see and hear are commanded to praise His great and awesome name. The reason? He is Holy.
In the second stanza of the psalm, we are reminded of the Lord’s justice. He loves justice. Under the Lord’s sovereign reign, decisions will be just and right. He doesn’t just believe in equity, He established it.
Again, the reader is invited by the strength of His command to worship Lord. Why? Because He is holy.
Some dictionaries define ‘holiness’ as a life that is devoted to God. They imagine a dignitary of high religious standing – ‘his holiness’, the Pope, for example. But that cannot explain or describe God’s holiness.
The Hebrew and Greek words translated as ‘holy’ in the Scriptures point towards the sacred – things set apart from the common or profane. The Lord is holy because He is set apart, separated from anything in the human realm that resists His will or denies His truth. We are separated from Him for the opposite reasons. “…your iniquities have separated you from your God”, said Isaiah in 59: 2. The human stain of sin is repugnant to the One who is in His very essence is free from the urges that drive us to selfishness, pride and rebellion.
In light of His holiness, the mind-boggling truth is that God seeks fellowship with us. Without a moment’s hesitation.
He even paid the cost by making the necessary sacrifice himself. “For our sake, he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5: 21).
In fact, because of the enormity of what Christ did on the cross for us, when we respond with repentance and faith, we, too, become holy. God’s Holy Spirit is freely given to us. The One who was once set apart from us gladly replaces our sin-stained hearts with new ones.
What is the proper response to this?
In short, live in the holiness he has given you. Be set apart. Be in the world but not of it.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12: 1 – 2)
Note the term, ‘living sacrifice’. To sacrifice something means to kill it. Paul is urging disciples of Jesus to live and yet die; to daily put to death. We put to death the notion that we own our lives; we kill the belief that we are free to continue in our sin. We live to be set apart.
Jesus put it this way, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8: 34).
In other words, “Be Holy because I am holy” (1 Pet 1: 16)
Suggested prayer: “Lord, you are holy, and yet you have invited us into your throne room. Thank you that I can enter your loving presence because of Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead. Lord, I offer you afresh my body and life as a living sacrifice for your purposes. Amen.”