October 2, 2015
By Skip Heitzig
Perhaps the least discussed, least popular attribute of God from a human standpoint is His holiness. However, it's the most discussed attribute of God in the Bible, where the adjective holy is affixed to God's name more than any other adjective. We see His holiness on display in Isaiah 6:1-9, where the prophet Isaiah encountered the holy God and also ended up encountering himself. We can divide his encounter into four sections: he was captivated, convicted, cleansed, and commissioned.
Isaiah 6:1-4 shows us what captivated Isaiah: a vision of the Lord "sitting on a throne, high and lifted up" (v. 1). Notice what the angels around the throne were saying. They weren't saying, "Faithful, faithful, faithful is the Lord"—though He is. They weren't saying, "Loving, loving, loving is the Lord"—though He is. There was one key characteristic they were honing in on that caused their reaction: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" (v. 3).
If you could put the holiness, righteousness, and goodness of all people of all times in one big pile, it would be a speck of dust compared to the holiness of God, because He is wholly other; He is unmatched. And until we recognize the pure holiness of God and the utter sinfulness of humanity, we will never appreciate the need for atonement by Christ on the cross.
The second part of Isaiah's encounter was conviction. "So I said: 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts'" (v. 5). Instead of this incredible experience puffing him up, it humbled him. Isaiah understood there was a gulf between himself and God. In seeing God, he saw himself, and this produced conviction of sin. And so it is throughout the Bible: whenever somebody came face to face with God's holiness, there was conviction of sin.
After this conviction, Isaiah was cleansed. "Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged'" (vv. 6-7). Holiness can never coexist with unholiness. God must either destroy the unholy or purge the sin.
Finally, Isaiah was commissioned. "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.' And He said, 'Go, and tell this people'" (vv. 8-9). Here's the beautiful part of the story: God took a cleansed sinner and sent him to a corrupt nation. And God wants to make you wholly holy, completely His, given over to His use. In Leviticus 11:44, God said, "I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy." That's His mandate.
Making your life count for something begins by seeing yourself for who you really are, which you do by seeing God for who He really is, in His perfect holiness. And then you discover in that lowly place how God can cleanse you and use you, just as He did with Isaiah.
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