“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8b, ESV; all Bible quotations except my closing one are from the ESV) is what the four living creatures around the throne kept saying in the first of John’s heavenly visions.
As the words which the four creatures kept saying indicate, God is the Most Holy One. Many other Bible passages refer to Him in the same way. A few are:
– “I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 71:22).
– “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:9).
– “And one called to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'” (Isaiah 6:3; the “one” and the “another” were seraphims which Isaiah saw near the Lord on a throne in a vision).
Yesterday my family and I read in our after breakfast Bible reading time the section on the holiness of God, His separation from sin and evil, in Chapter 12, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 1),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994). Grudem points out that in the Bible the concept of holiness includes not only separation from sin and evil but also devotion to God. This can be seen in such Old Testament passages as the following:
– “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8, 11).
– “Let them [the people of Israel] make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” and “And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy [Place]” (Exodus 25:8 and 26:33b-34; in them God tells the people to build the Tabernacle and to divide it into two parts, each including “holy” in its name).
– “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests” (Exodus 29:44; “consecrate” means “make holy”).
Because holiness is a communicable attribute of God, we can and should display it to. Some passages which encourage us to imitate God’s holiness are:
– “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6a; what God told Moses to tell the people of Israel in preparing them for His making a covenant with them).
– “Be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; quoted in 1 Peter 1:16).
– “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifuce, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable worship” (Romans 12:1).
– “Strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Grudem concludes the section on God’s holiness in his Systematic Theology by observing that Zechariah prophesies that sometime in the future everything will be holy or separated from sin and evil and devoted to God. I’ll quote the passage from the version which he quotes it from, the Revised Standard Version, which was my favourite modern version of the Bible as an adult before the New International Version came out:
And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day. (Zechariah 14:20-21)