In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
In 1993, even though I was already a pastor, God revolutionized my faith by giving me a glimpse of his holiness. Any more than a glimpse and I’m not sure my heart could have taken it. I was studying R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God, and at the same time studying Paul’s understanding of grace in the Book of Romans. I still remember sitting in my house alone (this is before I was married), weeping over how good God’s grace really is. But I first had to understand how holy God truly is to appreciate his grace.
Like many folks born and raised in mainline Protestantism, I grew up hearing lots and lots about God’s love. And thank God for it! However, I think I came to understand God’s love as an entitlement which was due me. I mean, God is love after all… he owes me love. In reality, God’s love didn’t mean that much to me. Yet, as I began seeing God’s holiness through a biblical lens, I couldn’t help but be humbled…and all the more as I saw my fallen and sinful state as God did. Newton’s “Amazing Grace” started really making sense to me.
A.W. Tozer writes about this “aha” moment that I, like the prophet Isaiah, had. He says…
The sudden realization of his personal depravity came like a stroke from heaven upon the trembling heart of Isaiah at the moment when he had his revolutionary vision of the holiness of God. …[Isaiah] expresses the feeling of every man who has discovered himself under his disguises and has been confronted with an inward sight of the holy whiteness that is God.
Until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing.
Godly men believe that God is holy, first of all, because that is what God has revealed to us about himself. He wants us to know he is a holy God. Second, I believe we must understand that God is holy because it truly impresses upon us how precious God’s love and grace really are and compels us to desire and appreciate God’s love and grace that much more. God forbid we should ever come to a place in our thinking where we believe love and grace are our due.
The third reason we must see God as holy is because God commands us to be holy because God is holy. God wants us to imitate him. But we’re sinful and fallen, so how in the world can we ever obtain the holiness which is required of us? Tozer answers this question well…
We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God.
This holiness God can and does impart to his children. He shares it with them by imputation and by impartation, and because he has made it available to them through the blood of the Lamb.
We must hide ourselves in Christ and put on his righteousness by grace through faith. Only then can we be holy.
Brothers, I encourage you to draw close to the One who was put to death for your transgressions and raised on the third day for your salvation… to make you like himself… to make you holy.
Grace and Truth,