Holy, Holy, Holy
“Although we may have a wealth of Bible knowledge, we must make sure our conclusions are consistent with all of God’s Word, not just parts of it.” (Life Application Study Bible) Isaiah 6:3 – Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory.”
I have noticed that a lot of emphasis is being placed on God’s love today, but not so much on his holiness. Holy, holy, holy doesn’t roll off our tongues quite as readily as love, love, love. I recently read an article written by someone expounding on the love of God. In summarizing his message, he said , “God is love, that is all.” Sounds right, but is it? Is that consistent with God’s Word? God is love, but is that all he is? Isn’t he also holy? When worshiping the holiness of God, the Seraphs cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). The Seraphs’ focus was on the holiness of God. Makes me think that maybe a little more of ours should be as well.
Let’s face it, God’s love is just more pleasant for us to focus on than his holiness. Maybe that is why we are so quick to speak of God’s love and his grace, but not so quick to speak of his holiness. God’s love is always a part of his holiness. We can love and our love not be holy, but God cannot. God’s love is always holy, because it comes from his nature, our love sometimes isn’t, because it comes from ours. Oswald Chambers (My Utmost For His Highest) wisely cautions, “Beware of counterfeiting the love of God by following your own natural human emotions, sympathies and understandings.” This is the problem in failing to acknowledge that God is also holy. We confuse God’s love with our love, a love that comes from our own natural human emotions. I John 1:5 tells us that God is also light. (NKJV Commentary – Light represents what is good, pure, true and reliable. Light is related to truth in that light exposes whatever exists, whether it is good or bad.) I like the word “reliable” to define light. If we hold our love up to the reliable light of God’s word, and see the reflection of his holiness there, we will know if we are walking in God’s love or the counterfeit love of our own human emotions.
God desires for us not just to walk in love, but for our love to be one with holiness, just as his. Hebrews 12:14 cautions that, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” It is not our lack of love that will keep us from seeing God, it is our lack of holiness. Not seeing God’s holiness, puts us in danger of confusing his love with our natural love. We can’t see God’s love until we see God’s holiness. We must acknowledge the holiness of God before we can accurately identify the love of God. Ephesians 4:22 instructs us to, “put off your old self; which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; and to be made new in the attitudes of your mind; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Our old self can still be corrupted by deceitful desires. What we desire creates our own love, a love that can be corrupted when we twist God’s word in order to serve the deceitful desires of our flesh. I think A. W. Tozer rightly pinpoints our problem in saying, “The biggest problem of man is not that he will not forsake his sin, but that he will not forsake himself.” We are our own worst enemy when it comes to being deceived.
Love is what God calls us to do, but holiness is what God calls us to be. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (I Peter 1:15). Once again, I draw upon the wisdom of Oswald Chambers, who sums up this truth much better than I. He writes, “Anything that belittles or obliterates the holiness of God by a false view of the love of God, is untrue to the revelation of God given by Jesus Christ.” The revelation of God, given by Jesus, was that he was love and he was holy and he was truth. These three attributes of God are represented in the three-fold trinity of God: God the Father, the holiness of God, Jesus the love of God, and the Holy Spirit, the truth of God. We cannot have the existence of one facet of God in our lives without the existence of the others, and that is the problem. We desire the love of God, given in his grace to us in Jesus, but we are content to stop there. We don’t desire the truth of God or the holiness of God as much as we do the love of God, and we cannot have all of God until we do.
I don’t always walk in the love of God, and I don’t always walk in the holiness of God, and I haven’t always received the truth of God. I come nowhere close to having mastered the forsaking of my self, but as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I think that is the key to being holy, walking in love, and knowing truth; pressing on in God’s grace, not standing still in it. Pressing forward in his grace to attain the high calling of God for us in Jesus; not just settling in and embracing sin in our lives, while deliberately relying on God’s love, in his grace, to enable us to remain there. That is the danger of believing, “God is love, that is all.” It keeps us from pressing on to attain the prize of the high calling of God for us in Jesus. “Be ye holy, for I am holy” is the high calling of God for us in Jesus. It is the goal of his grace. We may not fully reach it here, but that doesn’t mean we stop pressing on toward it every day of our lives. Mark 12:13 says, “But Jesus knew their hypocrisy.” He knows ours too! He knows if we are pressing on in his grace with a contrite and sincere heart toward sin in our lives, or if we are settling in and embracing sin in our lives, while using his grace to allow us to do so. God’s love in no way compares to or should be confused with the counterfeit love of our own human emotions. If we think, “God is love, that is all,” we don’t know the God the Seraphs worship. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty!”
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY
Lord is there a word your glory to describe
Can man ever comprehend you who are Most High
Though we in earnest seek to know all that you are
It’s like reaching up to heaven in hopes to touch a star
Yet you who are Most High reach down to mortal man
and in your love toward us all boundaries transcend
The heavenly Seraphs hesitate to even look upon thy face
And shake their heads in wonder at the mercy of thy grace
Even the host of heaven who worship you on high
cannot find the words your glory to describe
They cry, “Holy, holy, holy” before the presence of thy throne
For your glory cannot be described by mere words alone
And so I too in worship come before thy holy throne
and give to you the glory that belongs to you alone
And with thy holy angels in reverent awe proclaim
“Holy, holy, holy” is the glory of thy name!
(To say the word holy twice in Hebrew is to describe someone as “most holy.” To say the word holy three times intensifies the idea to the highest level. In other words, the holiness of God is indescribable in human language. (Nelson Study Bible NKJV)