Students Need A Holy God
My parents had a set of China plates proudly displayed in a special cabinet for people to admire, but we never ate on them because they were too special. I think they had once belonged to an older relative, or maybe they were just expensive. Either way, they were too special to use for grilled cheese or spaghetti dinners. Maybe, just maybe, the adults would use them for holidays like Thanksgiving or Easter – but usually not.
Those plates are an incomplete but useful example of what the Bible means by holiness.
They are special plates. They aren’t intended for common purposes. Their use is determined by their worth, and their worth is obvious to anyone who looks at them because they are beautifully crafted and decorated. But the holiness-China analogy breaks down because these plates aren’t used. In some strange twist, their specialness has made them pretty useless.
But that’s not what God’s holiness is like at all. God is holy. He is not common or normal. He is unique, special, and so much more valuable than anything and everything else that the angels who enter his presence cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come! Heaven and Earth are filled with your glory.” Even the angels bow in worship before him. His worth is unmatched. His power is limitless. His perfections are far beyond our ability to comprehend, and his actions continually show perfect truth and perfect grace.
Most Bible scholars agree that holiness is the primary attribute, or character trait, of God that is given in the Bible. Everything else about God flows out from the truth that God is holy. Unlike those china plates, God’s specialness makes him utterly essential to us.
Psalm 99 beautifully portrays God’s holiness. Verses 1-3 highlight God as the Holy One who is worthy of being worshipped by all people. Not only is the LORD “great in Zion,” he “is exalted above all the peoples.” He is not a regional god like Apollo or Zeus or Baal – revered by people in a region, but whose glory is limited by geography and language (and by the fact that they don’t actually exist). Instead, the LORD’s holiness makes him worthy of worship from all people everywhere.
The rest of Psalm 99 portrays this holy God’s actions. God is holy in who he is and in what he does. He is perfect in justice, fairness, and righteousness. He has rescued his people from slavery through Moses. He provided the sacrificial system for their sins to be forgiven through Aaron. He led them through kings and through prophets. Although God is holy, he is not hiding. He has continually revealed himself to Israel.
In the midst of all these reminders about God’s holiness, it’s incredible that this holy God created us in his own image.
And yet we all face the temptation to make God in our own image. To treat him like a lump of clay to place on the idol shelf of our hearts. Shave off parts of God’s wrath that make us uncomfortable. Trim off his demands over lifestyle choices. Round off the hard edges that call us to joy in the midst of suffering and persecution. When we do this, we’re re-creating God as we want him. But God is so much better than we could carve him up to be. He is holy. After all, a god who is created in my image isn’t worth worshipping.
When you wonder what different the holiness of God makes, take a minute to consider, “What if God wasn’t holy?” Terrifying, right? A world ruled by an unholy god would be a world without grace, mercy, or security.
Thanks be to God for sending his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the holy God, born as a man. He was holy in both who he was and what he did… and yet he said, “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Even though he could have demanded worship and sent fire and judgment on anyone who rejected him… instead he gave up his life on the cross in order that we could be adopted as sons and daughters of God.
THAT’S the holy God we worship.
“Exalt the LORD our God;
bow in worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy.”
Connection Points for Students
- “Holiness” can be such a big concept it’s hard to grasp. How does the plate analogy above help?
- When your peers talk about God, what are some biblical truths about God they “shave off” to make him in their own image?
- Think about the gods you’ve learned about from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and other ancient cultures. Now consider the ways the Bible portrays the LORD. What noticeable differences stand out?