The phrase “holy, holy, holy” appears twice in the Bible, once in the Old Testament (Isaiah 6:3) and once in the New Testament (Revelation 4:8). Both times, the phrase is spoken or sung by heavenly creatures, and both times it occurs in the vision of a man who was transported to the throne of God: first by the prophet Isaiah and then by the apostle John. Before addressing the three-fold repetition of God’s holiness, it’s important to understand what exactly is meant by God’s holiness.
The holiness of God is the most difficult of all God’s attributes to explain, partly because it is one of His essential attributes that is not shared, inherently, by man. We are created in God’s image, and we can share many of His attributes, to a much lesser extent, of course; love, mercy, faithfulness, and others. But some of God’s attributes, such as omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, will never be shared by created beings. Similarly, holiness is not something that we will possess as an inherent part of our nature; we only become holy in relationship to Christ. It is an imputed holiness. Only in Christ do we “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s holiness is what separates Him from all other beings, and what makes Him separate and distinct from everything else.
God’s holiness is more than just His perfection or sinless purity; it is the essence of His “other-ness,” His transcendence. God’s holiness embodies the mystery of His awesomeness and causes us to gaze in wonder at Him as we begin to comprehend just a little of His majesty.
Isaiah was a firsthand witness of God’s holiness in his vision described in Isaiah 6. Even though Isaiah was a prophet of God and a righteous man, his reaction to the vision of God’s holiness was to be aware of his own sinfulness and to despair for his life (Isaiah 6:5). Even the angels in God’s presence, those who were crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty,” covered their faces and feet with four of their six wings. Covering the face and feet no doubt, denotes the reverence and awe inspired by the immediate presence of God (Exodus 3:4–5). The seraphim stood covered, as if concealing themselves as much as possible, in recognition of their unworthiness in the presence of the Holy One. And if the pure and holy seraphim exhibit such reverence in the presence of the Lord, with what profound awe should we, polluted and sinful creatures, presume to draw near to Him?
The reverence shown to God by the angels should remind us of our own presumption when we rush thoughtlessly and irreverently into His presence, as we often do because we do not understand His holiness. Note: God is holy and we can be holy like Him because He has asked us all to be holy because He’s holy. If God did not see such a possibility, He would not tell us to commit to holiness. To be holy is possible and we can be if we ask for His help through Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray: Lord, help us to be holy; You’re holy and we want to keep an everlasting relationship with you, through Jesus Christ, our redeemer. Amen.
Today’s reading:Amos 1-3; Revelation 11
Holiness is Possible Only Through Christ Jesus.