What Are We Singing: Holy, Holy, Holy
- Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Heber’s inspiration would have continued with passages from the 4th chapter of Revelation in which John, having been beckoned through a door in Heaven, received a vision comparable to Isaiah’s. There he saw a throne, surrounded by 24 thrones. On the center throne sat one who had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow encircled the throne and a sea of glass—clear as crystal, John writes—was before it. On the 24 thrones sat 24 elders, dressed in white and crowned in gold. Within this beautiful vision were four living creatures who cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” At this, the 24 elders fell before the one sitting upon the center throne, lay their crowns down and cried out their praise to Him, He who alone was worthy to sit upon the throne.
While we can read about these two moments in time, we must remember as we sing that these are scenes we shall surely witness ourselves, and—I believe—now become a party to when we raise our early morning songs of worship and praise to our King.
The Uniqueness, the Glory, and the Perfection of Jesus Heber’s song goes on: Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee.
What, in your life, compares to God? To knowing Him? To having invited Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? As I researched various writings in the writing of this article, I found many online songs, poems, and psalms written to Jesus, to tell Him of His incomparable worth. Some were so beautifully penned and so heartfelt, tears stung my eyes and my heart leapt.
So, then, what about you? Would you take a moment to give the Lord a shout of praise? Tell Him how matchless He is. Think of one thing in your life that you hold as dear and then hold it up to the Light of Jesus. How does it shine next to Him?
A Praiseworthy Doctrine There are two main focuses within Heber’s hymn.
- The trinity of God
- The holiness of God.
The Trinity of God
If you want to start a good argument, begin by attempting to explain the Trinity. There is no such word in the Bible as “trinity” but the concept is most definitely there. The trinity is, in short, the God-head made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; all being God and yet all being uniquely distinct from the other.
The concept of the Trinity can be traced back to Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God… God, here, is Elohim or Elohiym. This title is a plural intensive with a singular meaning. In Genesis 1:2 we read that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. Then, in Genesis 1: 26, God Himself declared, “Let us make a man in our image.”
We also have the remarkable words from Deuteronomy 4:6, known as the Shema, which has been recited by faithful Jews for millennia. “Hear O Israel,” they cry out, “the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
Loraine Boettner, in her Studies in Theology, wrote: the doctrine of the Trinity is the distinctive mark of the Christian religion, setting it apart from all the other religions of the world.
Christians alone recognize and rejoice in God as Father, Son (in the person of Jesus), and Holy Spirit.
The Concept of Holiness
The answer to the question of what song we should be singing is this: we are to praise God in the morning—indeed, all day long—because He is holy. Therefore, we should sing a song of praise, adoration, honor, and glory. Our hearts should cry out the distinctiveness in Him as God and God alone. Our lips should sing, now and forever, “You are holy, holy, holy.”
Holiness is as difficult to explain and express as the Trinity, and this is what makes our focus hymn all the more inspirational and intriguing. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary says this about the holiness of God: One does not define God. Similarly, the idea of holiness is at once understandable and elusive. Nevertheless, there is not term equal to the fullness inherent in holiness. All of heaven's hosts, Israel, and the church ascribe praise to a holy God because that idea sets him apart from everything else. Holiness is what God is. Holiness also comprises his plan for his people.
In other words, God is holy. He is holy. He is holy. He is holy. And we, as we draw near Him in our praise and in our worship, should strive to be holy, too.
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