And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”Isaiah 6:3
Does it seem strange to start the topic of thankfulness with God’s holiness? I added Myriam Webster’s definition to help remind us that holiness doesn’t just mean separation from sin, although that is a natural byproduct. I read a quote by Sinclair Ferguson in our ladies Bible study that talks about God’s holiness in a better way than I could ever describe.
“Probably the most common explanation of the term ‘holiness’ is that to be ‘holy’ means ‘to be separate from’, ‘to be cut off from’, ‘to be placed at a distance from’. And so we often say that God’s holiness means that he is separate from sin and therefore separate from us.
There is a good measure of truth in this. But in my own view, it starts from the wrong place. It describes the Creator’s attribute of holiness from the viewpoint of the creature; it describes his purity from the standpoint of the sinner. And ultimately that is to do our thinking the wrong way around. It may give us a partial perspective but not the entire picture.
Why is that true?
Any description we give of what God is like in himself–in technical terms, describing his ‘attributes’–must meet a simple test. For anything to be true of God as he is in himself it must be true quite apart from his work of creation, quite apart from our existence or even the existence of angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim. It must be true of God simply as he always existed as the eternal Trinity. But in that case, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit had no ‘attribute’ that involved separation.
That is not to say that God the Trinity cannot be described as ‘holy’. But it is to say that holiness cannot be defined as separation. Yes, there were personal distinctions within the fellowship of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but there was no separation, no being placed at a distance from each other. In fact, it would be nearer the mark to say that the reverse was true.
What then is God’s holiness? What do we mean when we say ‘Holy Father’ and ‘Holy Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘Holy Trinity’?
We mean the perfectly pure devotion of each of these three persons to the other two. We mean that the attributes in the Trinity that corresponds to the ancient words that describe marriage: ‘forsaking all other and cleaving only unto thee’–absolute, permanent, exclusive, pure, irreversible, and fully expressed devotion.”
– Sinclair Ferguson from his book Devoted to God
What glorious truth! This description of holiness helps us to understand why there is a separation from sinful humanity to begin with. Humanity has chosen to rebel against the relationship God intended, and we have corrupted ourselves with sin. We have broken the covenant relationship He ordained.
But, God! He has made a way to rescue us from the sin that brings corruption, death, and separation from Him. Through Jesus Christ, He has made it possible for us to be united with Him in a perfect, holy relationship completely free from sin.
PRAISE: God, You alone are worthy of all majesty, honor, and glory. You are perfect in holiness, and your holy love pursued me so that I could be holy devoted to You.
THANKSGIVING: Thank God for being completely free from any form of imperfection, sin, or corruption of any kind. Thank God for being completely devoted to the other members of the Trinity in holy love. Thank God for his holy love that calls you into this same relationship and makes it possible for you to be holy, too.
CONFESSION: Ask God’s Holy Spirit to reveal a lack of desire to be holy devoted to Him. Confess where you have allowed your affections to be turned away from Him.
For Further Study: Take time to breathe in God’s truth from His Word and breathe out your response to Him in prayer. The following passages are a good place to start when considering God’s holiness.
Isaiah 6; Psalm 99; Psalm 29; Revelation 4; 1 Peter 1
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