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The Holiness of God

Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.
–Isaiah 6:3

If somebody asked your best friend to describe you in one word, what word would they use? Is there one word that captures who you are? Maybe they would say, “Oh, he is funny.” Does that mean you’re funny all the time? No, there are probably times you are serious. You probably don’t laugh through that many funerals. Or they might say, “Oh, she’s spontaneous.” Does that mean you’re always spontaneous? There are probably a few things you plan for as well. The truth is, there’s probably no single word that describes you. And that would be true about God as well. God is a number of characteristics. He is omnipotent: all-powerful. He’s omniscient: all-knowing. He is immutable: unchangeable. Those are things that are true about God all the time. But even though those things are true about God all the time, there is no single word that sums up God. God is greater than all His attributes combined just as you are greater than all your attributes combined.

But if we had to pick a single characteristic of God that transcends all others, it would be the word “holy.” When the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord high and lifted up, he saw angels circling the throne of God and crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (6:3). It is interesting that the seraphim did not cry out, “Love, love, love” or “Justice, justice, justice” or “Omnipotent, omnipotent, omnipotent.” Instead the single attribute of God they cried out about was His holiness. Holy, holy, holy.

What does the word “holy” mean? It comes from a Hebrew word that means “to cut” or “to separate.” When we say God is holy, we’re saying He is a cut above anyone in heaven or earth. When Isaiah saw the separateness of God, how did he respond? In Isaiah 6:5, he said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” The true God is different than any other god. Pagan religions picture their gods as participating in evil, but not the true God. Habakkuk said this about the true God: “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor” (1:13). God has zero tolerance for sin. We are so fallen as human beings we imagine ourselves to be more tolerant and loving than God is. We say, “Why can’t God be accepting of people like we are? We hang around sinners, and we don’t mind it. And we’re able to overlook sin in our life as well as the sin in other people. Why can’t God be more like that?” Our ability to tolerate sin in ourselves and others is not a sign of our godliness; it’s a sign of our ungodliness. We are comfortable with sin because we are sinners, but God is absolute purity and holiness, so He has no tolerance for sin of any kind. And it is that zero tolerance for sin that creates distance between God and us. God is not like we are. He is the one true God who is holy, who is different, and who can only be approached in one way. And the old way was one way.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Old Way Was One Way” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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