The God with Whom we have to do is Holy

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." (Isaiah 6:1-5).

"And the people answered and said, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods…We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.’ Then Joshua said to the people, "you will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you’. And the people said to Joshua, ‘No, but we will serve the Lord.’ And Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’" (Joshua 23:16-22 NASV).

"For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘You must not see visions’; and to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’" (Isaiah 30:9-11 NASV).

""Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29).


If there is one single thing that could be said to characterize the contemporary American church scene it is the appalling ignorance of the holy nature of the Triune God. One searches almost in vain to find a group of professing Christians who truly understand this essential attribute in the One to whom they claim to belong. This is readily observant by the careless and loose lives of so many whom have taken His name upon their lips. Far too often, there is no distinguishable difference between them and the seed of the serpent that surround them. In their speech, their conduct, their demeanor, they have so blended into the culture that for all practical purposes they are one with it.

Now what is the cause of all this? The answer is simple but succinct; they do not understand the holiness of the God with whom they have to deal. Perhaps the reader is inclined to take exception to this and would respond by saying; "Oh no, I know that God is holy. I’ve read it in the Bible and I believe it". But do you really KNOW He is holy or might you be in the same situation as the prophet Isaiah so many years ago.

It is evident from reading the first chapter of the book that bears his name that Isaiah had been prophesying to Israel some years before this vision took place. In other words, he was already engaged in the ministry to which he had been divinely appointed. Faithfully declaring the word that had been entrusted to him, he had met with little success in reaching the hearts of this stubborn people. It is safe to assume that Isaiah was not a godless man. It would be hard to fathom one of God’s true prophets of that age living a wanton life while preaching a message of repentance. In spite of this, the vision he receives of the Most High completely overwhelms him. What is this that he has seen? What could have produced such a profound effect upon this faithful servant of Jehovah? The answer – a revelation of the holiness of the living God!

Now, there is no doubt that Isaiah was not uninformed of the fact that Jehovah was holy. Certainly he would not be ignorant of the contents of the scrolls on which were recorded the Word of God. He had more than likely read the passage in the scroll of Joshua quoted above as well as many others which declared the holiness of the God of Israel. Yet when confronted with the reality of this holiness he is immediately filled with the sense of his own inward corruption and his utter sinfulness by nature. The exact same thing occurs with another Old Testament saint by the name of Job. Look at his reaction upon encountering the living God:

"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes". (Job 42:5-6).

Once again, the encounter with Him who spoke out of the whirlwind causes this man to sense his own inward defilement and the great gulf between the sinful creature and the transcendently exalted Divine Majesty.

Dear reader, do you see the point? It is one thing to assent to the truth concerning the holiness of God. It is another thing to truly understand and "see" it. Many claim to believe that God is holy and no doubt they are quite sincere when they say that they do. But how many really understand what they are saying? For instance, there are many that would assent to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified on a cross almost two thousand years ago and would claim to believe it. But consider what Paul wrote to the Galatians:

"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" (Gal 3:1).

Where was Christ "evidently set forth" before their eyes? Did Paul carry about with him a primitive photograph, a sketch, a wood carving of some sort? Of course not! Then what could he be referring to? Why, in the gospel that he preached of course. Christ was set forth before their eyes in the message of the cross. It is through it that the "eyes of their understanding" were opened to see Him as the bloody sacrifice for sin. They understood or "saw" that and were saved through faith in that report. Yet how many claim to believe this and yet do not truly "see" it. "Having eyes, they see not" as our Lord often spoke during His days in the flesh.

Now this is precisely the same thing that occurs with countless multitudes. They claim to believe that God is holy and yet they do not genuinely "see" it. If they did, their reaction would be the same as that of both Isaiah and Job. No longer would they be capable of frivolity or carelessness or looseness of living. Instead they would conduct themselves in a solemn awareness of the majesty of the One from whose eyes they cannot hide or conceal themselves. No longer would they think it a light thing to serve the living God but rather they would heed the injunction of the apostle to "have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear". Alongside of a sincere love for this One whom they call Father, they would possess a filial fear and a holy dread of offending His sovereign personage. They would cry mightily to the One on high to be given the grace to heed the admonition of the apostle Peter:

"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear…" (1Peter 1:15-17).

Now, how can a man be expected to be holy if he doesn’t truly know what it means when God says that He is holy? The answer is simple – he cannot. This was precisely the problem with the Israelites of Joshua’s day as we read above. Not understanding that He was holy and that he required holiness from all those that would take His name upon themselves, they vainly imagined that serving Jehovah was a light and relatively easy thing to do. They could not have been more wrong! That is exactly what Joshua was telling them when they foolishly pledged that they would indeed serve Him who was, and is and is to come. They knew not the God with whom they had to do. It was with them as it would be with a later generation of Israelites as it is indeed with a multitude of professing Christians today:

"…You thought that I was just like you" (Psalm 50:21 NASV).

The simple truth is that God is not just like us. He is so far exalted above us that it cannot be measured. Listen to what the Scriptures say concerning Him:

"Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in His sight; how much less one who is detestable and corrupt, man, who drinks iniquity like water." (Job 15:15-16 NASV).

Only when one has truly seen the Most High in the light of His holiness does he realize his desperate need for the Lord Christ and for His righteousness. In addition, he now realizes how far short he has fallen of the glory of God. This understanding causes him to cling to the One who can supply him with the grace he needs in order to conduct himself in a manner worthy of Him who has called him into His glorious kingdom. Seeing the vast gulf that separates him from God and by consequence "the plague of his own heart" (1Kings 8:38), he is careful "to order his way aright" (Psalm 50:23 NASV) knowing that "there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psalm 130:4), not trifled with nor presumed upon.

So how does one come to "see" this holiness of God? Are we to expect the Lord to visit our house in a whirlwind and speak out of it? Perhaps we can anticipate a divine vision along the order of the one granted to Isaiah? No, we "see" the holiness of God revealed in the pages of Holy Writ. That is the place from which He will speak to our hearts and flood our mind with light. As we gaze upon its contents, the Scriptures will unfold before us and we too along with Moses will "see Him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). As we see this, His glory, we will be "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2Cor3:18).

Yet all too often, this essential attribute of God’s character is rarely if ever heard or even mentioned in the churches. Modern day ministers have so cried up the love of God that they have completely lost sight of His holy nature that burns against the evil doer and the worker of iniquity. They fondly imagine a God who more closely resembles a beneficent old grandfather rather than the God of Scripture. Now they may call this "God" but long ago the God of Sinai warned us about making graven images and that is exactly what a God who consists of all love and no holiness is- a graven image. No, it hasn’t been chiseled into wood or stone but it is nonetheless still "a work of men’s hands" for it has been carved into the minds of those who sit beneath such a gross caricature of the living God. It brings to mind the description given to the idols of the heathen world surrounding Israel:

"The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them." (Psalm 135:15-18 NASV).

The reason behind this sinful misrepresentation of God’s character is simple. Set before a man the true holy nature of God and the evil that is in his heart will be exposed! It is only then that the enormity of sin and its hideous and abominable nature will become evident.

And if there is one thing that men will not tolerate, it is being informed that they are evil and corrupt by nature. They are quite content to serve a God of all mercy and forgiveness; a holy and jealous God is an altogether different thing. This is a God who makes demands on His people and requires them to be holy, simply because He is holy. And to the unregenerate and carnal heart, holiness is repulsive to his flesh for it cuts across the lustful inclinations of his corrupt nature and commands him to "make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts thereof" (Romans13:14). A thing he is loath to do. As a consequence of this innate aversion to this particular truth, he cries out the same thing that those of Isaiah’s day cried out:

"For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, ‘You must not see visions’; and to the prophets, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’" (Isaiah 30:9-11 NASV).

They wanted nothing to do with Isaiah’s declaration of the holy nature of God. That produced far too much disturbance to their slumbering consciences. Indeed this is the very thing that this truth is calculated to produce in men. When it breaks home in power upon their hearts, it quickly shatters their false illusions of peace and safety and fills them with uneasiness and dread. The result is that the vast majority of them take offense at the bearer of these "bad tidings" and soon express their disapproval by absenting themselves from the place in which their peace is disturbed to seek out a more quiet and serene place for their uneasy conscience to find repose. In more succinct terms, they leave the church whose minister is faithful to expound and declare these things.

When confronted with the reality of this problem, the majority of ministers unfortunately choose to do what to them is the most expedient course of action- they simply stop preaching on this topic altogether or simply mention it in passing being ever so careful not to press this truth too hard upon the consciences of their hearers for fear of alienating them. The results of this policy are disastrous as witnessed by the pitifully worldly and lukewarm state of much of American Christianity.

Long ago the Holy One of Israel revealed to those who would bear His name the folly of willfully ignoring His holiness. It was at their own risk that they would henceforth attempt to trifle or toy with or presume upon Him. In the book of Leviticus a most solemn incident is forever recorded to instill in the people of God just how serious a thing it is for those who would approach Him in an irreverent or light-hearted manner, carelessly forgetting the holiness of His being:

"Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’" (Leviticus10:1-3 NASV).

One wonders if many of today’s church have already been slain by the Lord being judicially robbed of their discernment and being given over to error, falsehood and a seared conscience! Jude in his epistle refers to them as being "doubly dead".

Until men realize that the God of Scripture will not apologize for His character nor will He remake Himself so as to accommodate wicked and worldly-minded men, the church will remain mired in corruption and compromise and the lives of its members will bear little resemblance to the New Testament standard of discipleship.

Dear reader, if you are trapped in such a church as this, for the well-being of your own soul, flee from that place of compromise and mixture and get yourself to a church where the beauty and glory of holiness is faithfully and fearlessly declared. You will never grow the slightest in "grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (1Peter3:18) unless you truly behold the "high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity" (Isaiah57:15). Never forget that He with whom you have to deal is a "consuming fire". Make it the chief effort of your life to better understand this God whom you call your own. In so doing, you will be richly rewarded and your life will bear an ever-increasing harvest of the fruits of righteousness. You will soon find yourself yearning, yea, even panting after more of this holiness for your own life and so prove to be a true child of the King of glory.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Dan Norcini

Copyright © 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church

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