Sunday, March 15, 2009


When Isaiah saw the vision of the LORD high and lifted up he saw seraphs above him and they were calling to one another, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3). God is holy. That seems to be the essence of who he is. And it is something we American Christians have a very difficult time understanding. It is impossible for us to spend too much time meditating on the significance and meaning of God’s holiness. The seraphs repeat this truth over and over again and they say the whole earth is full of the glory of his holiness.

Leviticus 9 and 10 have passages that illustrate the holiness of God. Beginning in Leviticus 9:7 Aaron celebrates the sacrifice of atonement. What is this sacrifice? In his law God provided a sacrifice that could be offered by the High Priest to make atonement for the sins of the people. Why did atonement have to be made? Because God is holy and he will not tolerate sin in his presence. If the people were to be allowed to live then atonement had to be made for their sins. The people of Israel seemed to have some degree of understanding of this truth. The text explains in detail how Aaron went through the whole process God prescribed for the sacrifice of atonement. When all was ready, he and Moses went into the tent of meeting, into the very presence of God (9:23). When they came out they pronounced the Lord’s blessing on the people and God revealed his glory to them (9:23). Then, Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown (9:24). The people shouted for joy because their sins had been forgiven and they had acceptance from God.

The very next verse (10:1) says, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. The holiness of God had just been clearly demonstrated before all the people. How Nadab and Abihu could do what they did seems beyond understanding! But they brought sin into the presence of the LORD! So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. The same fire from the holy God that accepted the sacrifice of atonement was the fire of judgment that brought destruction of sin! Why did God destroy these men? Moses told Aaron, This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.”

Twice fire came out from the presence of the LORD. Once it came because he is holy and he accepted the sacrifice of atonement that allowed his people to live. Once it came because he is holy and he would not tolerate sin in his presence. Same fire. Same holy God.

When Jesus hung on the cross he cried out to his Father, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The sky grew darker than night. The earth shook. The holy God accepted the sacrifice of atonement, once for all, that allows us to live in his presence. Jesus offered himself as both our High Priest and the sacrifice of atonement. Because of his sacrifice, we have life.

Do we understand the holiness of God? Do we understand the glorious sacrifice that was offered on our behalf? Do we see that this sacrifice had to be made if any sinners would be able to live in the presence of God? How do we approach our weekly corporate worship? Do we come into the presence of the Holy God? Do we offer him our very best? This doesn’t mean that we have to be maudlin and serious and grieving in worship. Quite the opposite. Remember, the people shouted for joy and fell facedown! But we can’t forget that God said, Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored. I would think that, at the very least, we would consider whose presence it is we are entering and how he wants to be honored!


At 1:45 AM, Blogger Brenda said...

I believe that an understanding of the holiness of God would change everything in our lives. Each day we would be becoming more godily. I just read this quote by C.S. Lewis that makes this point to me:-"Every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature -- either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures and with itself."

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Thanks for the brilliant quote, Brenda! Lewis had a way of very simply stating the truth and showing how we are either becoming more like Christ or more like the Enemy! I remember reading this bit of Lewis and I liked it because it emphasizes a "lifetime" of life-shaping rather than a radical, momentary transformation.


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