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Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord of Hosts; The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory!
Some of the themes in the book of Isaiah are the holiness of God, His trustworthiness, the incomparability of Israel’s God and His divine supremacy in judgment and redemption. In this blog, I will be highlighting God’s holiness and how he makes unholy people holy, keeps them holy in a dark world and sends them to go as his spokespersons and ambassadors to spread His light and truth (2 Cor. 5:20).
Woe is Me
What a magnificent and terrifying vision! Isaiah sees the Lord Almighty seated on His throne, surrounded by worshipping angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is filled with his glory.” Isaiah was terrified because he knew that God’s judgment proceeds from his holiness (Isaiah 5:16). The first five chapters of the book of Isaiah are the indictment oracles against Israel, that would eventually lead to their demise and destruction. Naturally, when Isaiah receives this vision in Chapter 6, his first reaction is to confess his (and his people’s) sinfulness and desolation. In the New Testament, the writer John further explains Isaiah’s vision to the readers of his Gospel, revealing that, in fact, Isaiah had seen the pre-incarnate Christ in His vision, the Son of the living God (John 12:36b–43).
None is Righteous
This was one of the holiest men in the land and he still needed mercy and cleansing (vv. 4–7). Think about what kind of message this sent to the common people in Israel –– and what this could mean for us today. It is probable that Isaiah already served as a priest of God as his calling from God took place in the temple (vs. 4), but this encounter with God confronted him with his unworthiness to be in God’s glorious presence. He recognized that he could not stand in the presence of a holy God without the provision of purification and forgiveness from God Himself. The provision to have his guilt taken away and his sin atoned for came from the altar of God. For Isaiah–and for you and I today–confession of brokenness as sinners in need of forgiveness is not optional: “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (Romans 3:10). The supernatural revelation of God’s holiness, perfection, and infinite worth shows, in return, the state of human brokenness and sinfulness. We are much more wicked than we would ever admit or could fully grasp, and God is much holier than we could ever think or imagine. The only way anyone can enter boldly into God’s presence is by having been cleansed and saved by the grace of God through faith in the Son of God who shed His blood on the cross for our sins (Heb. 4:16; Eph. 3:12).
It is after his recognition of being lost and having unclean lips that Isaiah received purification and forgiveness of his sins in order to be commissioned as a prophet to go as God’s spokesperson. The seraph brings burning coal from the altar and purifies his lips, signifying the removal of his sin and preparing him for prophetic speech (6:6-7). Isaiah is sent but, “with the chilling prospect of being ignored, scorned and rejected by the people to whom he is to speak (Carson, 448). The prophet accepts the task to be sent knowing fully well that many will harden their hearts to his message and still others God himself will harden (see Isaiah 63:15-19). Every follower of Christ today has been asked by Jesus to accept being rejected, ridiculed, persecuted and maybe even killed for their faith in Him whose will is good, perfect and pleasing. This is what Jesus tells his disciples today: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…” (Matt. 16:24-25). And we don’t do all of this alone or in our own power since Jesus promised His followers that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and they will be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).
I believe holiness in the church today is as important as it was in the Old Testament. As children of God, we are commissioned and sent to share the Gospel through our being, telling and doing. We proclaim the message of reconciliation and demonstrate the reason that God needed Jesus to come to earth to die as a sacrifice for us because God is Holy and just. We needed Jesus Christ to bring us back into a right relationship with a Holy God. So we could say that, “…when we are distinct from all that is sinful and bring our lives into conformity with God’s infinite worth and beauty [we are being holy]. That is, when we’re holy, we are, at the same time, acting in righteousness because we’re conforming to the highest standard in the universe…” (Piper). God is infinitely worthy and distinct from everything else. He has no equal and is above all things. Therefore, as His creation, we are to conform to His ways and standards.
Be Holy in All You Do
I believe Jesus raised the bar for holiness within the New Covenant for His people. I look at it as God having a higher standard now for His born-again children – those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and have the law written on the inside of us on our new hearts made of flesh. For instance, we are to look at hatred as murder and lust as adultery (Matt. 5:21-30). We are no longer just guilty if we commit an immoral act physically, but we are also guilty if we meditate on it. We read throughout the New Testament that even though we are saved by grace through faith alone we are to be holy and set apart as obedient children because our God is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).
The writer of Hebrews also mentions, “work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). In this passage, I believe the writer is saying that there is such a thing as the evidence of being born again, which is holiness. Other writers in the Bible mention similar thoughts pointing toward the fact that faith should bear the fruit of righteousness. Apostle John writes, “whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” and, “do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 4:8; 1 John 2:15). Apostle James writes, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds…” (James 2:17-18). Here James is not promoting salvation through works, but that works should be the fruit of our faith which also shows that we are set apart and empowered by God.
May the Lord help us to keep growing in our adoration and worship of Him as the Lord of Hosts and our God. May the Spirit empower us to live a holy life in which our thoughts, words and actions honor Him and point people to the King of kings and Lord of lords who is seated on the throne interceding for us (Romans 8:34).
Carson, D. A. “The Gospel According to John”, Apollos: Grand Rapids, 1991.
Piper, John. “God Is Holy and Righteous — Are Those the Same?” Desiring God, Oct 9,