The Holiness of God

What is man, that he could be pure?
And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?
If God puts no trust in His saints,
And the heavens are not pure in His sight,
How much less man, who is abominable and filthy,
Who drinks iniquity like water!”
Job 15:14-16

The attribute of God that we will be focusing on today is holiness as we continue to make our way through The Attributes of God by AW Tozer. In thinking over this attribute yesterday afternoon (yes, I looked ahead) I was taken aback while I was listening to my daughter read out loud the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds at the birth of Christ. Here is what they said:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Luke 2:14

Knowing the entire plan of the life of Jesus, and knowing that His life would end at the cross – the angels who proclaim the perfection of the holiness of God, proclaimed amidst it all “peace” and “goodwill”. The Jews of the time of the birth of Christ had interpreted the scriptures pointing to the Messiah out of their own view of holiness – not from the perfect holiness of God as declared by the angels. We must realize that our minds do not have the ability to even perceive God's holiness in its entirety and that is why when God does things we do not understand we must obey Him instead of trying to understand Him. Another way to see our place in within the perspective of God's holiness is to come to the realization of how far our own nature comes from that of the Most Holy God we serve.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.' I am greatly fascinated by the fact that the King James Bible refers to it in the abstract – 'the holy' rather than 'the Holy One.' And yet the Jewish Bible says 'the knowledge of the Holy One.' Provers 30:3 also uses the phrase 'I neither learned wisdom, no have the knowledge of the holy.' Again, the Jewish Bible translates it 'the knowledge of the Holy One' or 'the All-Holy.' The Jewish translators encountered exactly the same word more than forty times and translated it 'the Holy One.'...In the New Testament, we have a Greek word about God being holy. 'Be ye holy; for I am holy'. I notice that the definition of that Greek work is 'Awful [full of awe] Thing.' Now think of that. The Awful Thing – that's one meaning of the word holy – the Holy One!” AW Tozer

Our human ability to fall into the trap that we can understand the perfect holiness of God and somehow replicate it by living within our own terms of “holiness” by no means comes close to the great, awesome, awe-ful, holiness of God. We can try and try and still we will always come up short, always interpret the words and works of the Lord improperly because we are not holy beings. Instead, we are sinful to the core and until we find ourselves kneeling in pain, sorrow, anguish, and humility at the foot of the cross for out utmost un-holy ways we cannot even begin to conceive the fathomless and perfect holiness of God.

Years ago I was taken aback when reading a Catholic translation of 1 Peter 1 where the text said, “Be perfect, as I am perfect.” I took great offense at this translation, probably in the same way that Tozer took offense to the King James' lack of parallel language with the Jewish Bible. The word “perfect” in our English language I feel comes with too many human ideals to make it a word that fits well into translating the true meaning of this text. In seeing the word “perfect”, that is used in so many instances in every day speech, it is too easy to insert my own ideas of what “perfect” is. Conversely, the word “holy” is further away from my every day speech and therefore with it comes a sense of reverence and a connection to God Himself – a connection I never want to lose when I think about the means by which I can obtain holiness – that being the cross alone.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'” 1 Peter 1:13-16

To truly see God's holiness we must stop trying to be holy and instead allow God to be holiness in our midst. To see our depravity to ever reach holiness on our own or even understand what that holiness may look like. Instead we just seek the Lord, do what He asks of us, and allow Him to re-make us in His Awe-ful holiness each and every day until we are able to look upon His perfect holiness in heaven.


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