God’s Central Attribute
The holiness of God is the central attribute of all of His attributes. All of His attributes reflect His holiness. His wisdom is a holy wisdom. His power is a holy power. His faithfulness is a holy faithfulness. His goodness, justice, mercy, and grace are all wrapped in perfect holiness. The apostle John wrote that “God is love.” Yet even God’s love comes from His holiness. Nothing that He does or says in His word has the least bit of sin, wickedness or evil attached to it; not the tiniest spot or shadow of sin. His holiness is so far above sin, that it is not even possible for it to touch Him. Everything is perfect holiness with God.
In Isaiah 6:1-7, the prophet experienced a vision that none of us will experience until we stand before the Lord in heaven. He was overwhelmed with heavenly images the likes of which we will never know in this life. No matter how hard I try to paint word pictures in your minds, nothing can come close to what Isaiah witnessed firsthand. His vision was so clear to him that throughout the remainder of his book, Isaiah refers to God as the “Holy One of Israel” no less than twenty-nine times. It’s safe to say that God’s holiness had a profound impact on him. Does it have that kind of impact on us today?
The purpose of Isaiah’s vision was threefold. First, to have a glimpse of God’s holiness that he would never forget and that would shape the rest of his life and prophetic ministry. Nothing that he would ever do, see, say or experience would ever come close to surpassing what he had experienced.
Second, I believe that Isaiah needed to understand that the nature of the seraphim’s high calling and purpose was to be set apart solely for the worship of God and the declaration of His holiness. He had been a witness to the ultimate worship experience and had learned the supreme purpose of worship: the declaration of God’s holiness. Additionally, the reality that that declaration was something that went on non-stop in Heaven. Are we beginning to see the importance of holiness?
Third, as God’s prophet Isaiah needed to understand the immense importance that God placed on his personal holiness. God went to the trouble, through a vision, of bringing Isaiah into His presence and sent one of the fiery angels with a hot coal from the heavenly altar to purge him of sin. Why? Because Isaiah could not declare the holiness of God if he himself was not holy. The messenger of God’s holiness must also be holy, beginning with the forgiveness of his or her sins.
As Christians, the highest goal in our lives should be to become communicators of God’s holiness by our actions and our words. Like, full length, three dimensional mirrors, we are to reflect the holiness of our living, holy God. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:9, that
“God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus” (NLT).
The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:14-15:
“So, you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (NLT)
What Isaiah heard and saw completely broke him down. If it had not been for the grace of God, it would have totally destroyed him. When his eyes beheld the undefiled, absolute holiness of the Living God, when his ears heard the chorus of seraphim reverberating throughout the temple, Isaiah became filled with the awareness of his sinfulness and complete lack of holiness. All of his wickedness and vileness became so overwhelmingly evident to him that it left an awful, bitter taste in his mouth and on his lips. In that same moment Isaiah suddenly became overwhelmed with a sense of doom and ruin. “Woe is me…” he cried out. To be ruined or undone in the Hebrew literally meant to die a violent death by being torn apart. Under the blinding light of the holiness of God, he became aware for the first time how utterly horrible and foul his sin really was and he felt as if he was about to be annihilated.
“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul wrote, “Here Isaiah felt the holy flame burning in his mouth. The acrid smell of burning flesh filled his nostrils, but that sensation was dulled by the excruciating pain of the heat. This was a severe mercy, a painful act of cleansing. Isaiah’s wound was being cauterized, the dirt in his mouth was being burned away. He was refined by holy fire. In this divine act of cleansing Isaiah experienced a forgiveness that went beyond the purification of his lips. He was cleansed throughout, forgiven to the core, but not without the awful pain of repentance…”
If you’re feeling a tug on your heart, a nudge from the Holy Spirit, there is no sense in trying to run from it, resist it or deny it. Embrace God’s “severe mercy.” Pursue holiness by humbly obeying God now, or risk facing His discipline later. You know what you need to do. Confess your sin. Mourn over it. Repent of it and ask God to change the direction of your life and use you for His glory.
Questions for 21st century difference makers:
1. Take some time to reflect on what Isaiah may have seen in that holy vision. What do you think it may have been like for him?
2. What was the threefold purpose of Isaiah’s vision? Why is that important to you?
3. How can we as Christians best communicate God’s holiness to the world?