'Who is like unto Thee, O Lord! among the gods?
Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Thou in Thy mercy hast led Thy people which Thou hast redeemed: Thou hast guided them in Thy strength to the habitation of Thy holiness
...The holy place
, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.'
-- Ex. xv.11-17.
In these words we have another step in advance in the revelation of Holiness. We have here for the first time Holiness predicated of God Himself. He is glorious in holiness: and it is to the dwelling-place of His Holiness that He is guiding His people.
Let us first note the expression used here: glorious in holiness. Throughout Scripture we find the glory and the holiness of God mentioned together. In Ex. xxix.43 we read, 'And the tent shall be made holy by my glory,' that glory of the Lord of which we afterwards read that it filled the house. The glory of an object, of a thing or person, is its intrinsic worth or excellence: to glorify is to remove everything that could hinder the full revelation of that excellence. In the Holiness of God His glory is hidden; in the glory of God His Holiness is manifested: His glory, the revelation of Himself as the Holy One, would make the house holy. In the same way the two are connected in Lev. x.3, 'I will be sanctified in them that come nigh unto me, and before all the people I will be glorified.' The acknowledgment of His Holiness in the priests would be the manifestation of His glory to the people. So, too, in the song of the Seraphim (Isa. vi.3), 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.' God is He who dwelleth in a light that is unapproachable, whom no man hath seen or can see: it is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God that He gives into our hearts. The glory is that which can be seen and known of the invisible and unapproachable light: that light itself, and the glorious fire of which that light is the shining out, that light is the Holiness of God. Holiness is not so much an attribute of God, as the comprehensive summary of all His perfections.
It is on the shore of the Red Sea that Israel thus praises God: 'Who is like unto Thee, O Lord! Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness?' He is the Incomparable One, there is none like Him. And wherein has He proved this, and revealed the glory of His Holiness? With Moses in Horeb we saw God's glory in the fire, in its double aspect of salvation and destruction: consuming what could not be purified, purifying what was not consumed. We see it here too in the song of Moses: Israel sings of judgment and of mercy. The pillar of fire and of the cloud came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel: it was a cloud and darkness to those, but it gave light by night to these. The two thoughts run through the whole song. But in the two verses that follow the ascription of holiness, we find the sum of the whole. 'Thou stretchedst out Thy right hand: the earth swallowed them.' 'The Lord looked forth upon the host of the Egyptians from the pillar of fire and discomfited them.' This is the glory of Holiness as judgment and destruction of the enemy. 'Thou in Thy mercy hast led Thy people which thou hast redeemed. Thou hast guided them in Thy strength to the habitation of Thy Holiness.' This is the glory of Holiness in mercy and redemption -- a Holiness that not only delivers but guides to the habitation of holiness, where the Holy One is to dwell with and in His people. In the inspiration of the hour of triumph it is thus early revealed that the great object and fruit of redemption, as wrought out by the Holy One, is to be His indwelling: with nothing short of this can the Holy One rest content, or the full glory of His Holiness be made manifest.
And now, observe further, how, as it is in the redemption of His people that God's Holiness is revealed, so it is in the song of redemption that the personal ascription of Holiness to God is found. We know how in Scripture, after some striking special interposition of God as Redeemer, the special influence of the Spirit is manifested in some song of praise. It is remarkable how it is in these outbursts of holy enthusiasm, God is praised as the Holy One. See it in the song of Hannah (1 Sam. ii.2), 'There is none holy as the Lord.' The language of the Seraphim (Isa. vi.) is that of a song of adoration. In the great day of Israel's deliverance the song will be, 'The Lord Jehovah is become my strength and song. Sing unto the Lord, for He hath done excellent things. Cry aloud and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.' Mary sings, 'For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His name.' The book of Revelation reveals the living creatures giving glory and honour and thanks to Him that sitteth on the throne; 'and they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, which was, and which is, and which is to come.' And when the song of Moses and of the Lamb is sung by the sea of glass, it will still be, 'Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy.' It is in the moments of highest inspiration, under the fullest manifestation of God's redeeming power, that His servants speak of His Holiness. In Ps. xcvii. we read, 'Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His Holiness.' And in Ps. xcix., which has, with its thrice repeated holy, been called the echo on earth of the Thrice Holy of heaven, we sing --
Let them praise Thy great and terrible name.
HOLY IS HE.
Exalt ye the Lord our God,
and worship at His footstool:
HOLY IS HE.
Exalt ye the Lord our God,
and worship at His holy hill:
For the Lord our God is HOLY.
It is only under the influence of high spiritual elevation and joy that God's holiness can be fully apprehended or rightly worshipped. The sentiment that becomes us as we worship the Holy One, that fits us for knowing and worshipping Him aright, is the spirit of praise that sings and shouts for joy in the experience of His full salvation.
But is not this at variance with the lesson we learnt at Horeb, when God spake, 'Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes,' and where Moses feared and hid his face? And is not this in very deed the posture that becomes us as creatures and sinners? It is indeed: and yet the two sentiments are not at variance: rather they are indispensable to each other; the fear is the preparation for the praise and the glory. Or is it not that same Moses who hid his face and feared to look upon God, who afterwards beheld His glory until his own face shone with a brightness that men could not bear to look upon? And is not the song that sings here of God as glorious in holiness, also the song of Moses who feared and hid his face? Have we not seen in the fire, and in God, and specially in His Holiness, the twofold aspect; consuming and purifying, repelling and attracting, judging and saving, with the latter in each case not only the accompaniment but the result of the former? And so we shall find that the deeper the humbling and the fear in God's Holy Presence, and the more real and complete the putting off of all that is of self and of nature, even to the putting off, the complete death of the old man and his will, the more hearty the giving up to be consumed of what is sinful, the deeper and fuller will be the praise and joy with which we daily sing our song of redemption: 'Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?'
'Glorious in holiness; fearful in praises:' the song itself harmonizes the apparently conflicting elements. Yes, I will sing of judgment and of mercy. I will rejoice with trembling as I praise the Holy One. As I look upon the two sides of His Holiness, as revealed to the Egyptians and the Israelites, I remember that what was there separated is in me united. By nature I am the Egyptian, an enemy doomed to destruction; by grace, an Israelite chosen for redemption. In me the fire must consume and destroy; only as judgment does its work, can mercy fully save. It is only as I tremble before the Searching Light and the Burning Fire and the Consuming Heat of the Holy One, as I yield the Egyptian nature to be judged and condemned and slain, that the Israelite will be redeemed to know aright his God as the God of salvation, and to rejoice in Him.
Blessed be God! the judgment is past. In Christ, the burning bush, the fire of the Divine Holiness did its double work: in Him sin was condemned in the flesh; in Him we are free. In giving up His will to the death, and doing God's will, Christ sanctified Himself; and in that will we are sanctified too. His crucifixion, with its judgment of the flesh, His death, with its entire putting off of what is of nature, is not only for us, but is really ours; a life and a power working within us by His Spirit. Day by day we abide in Him. Tremblingly but rejoicingly we take our stand in Him, for the Power of Holiness as Judgment to vindicate within us its fierce vengeance against what is sin and flesh, and so to let the Power of Holiness as Redemption accomplish that glorious work that makes us give thanks at the remembrance of His Holiness. And so the shout of Salvation rings ever deeper and truer and louder through our life, 'Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?'
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
'Who is like unto Thee, O Lord! glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?' With my whole heart would I join in this song of redemption, and rejoice in Thee as the God of my salvation.
O my God! let Thy Spirit, from whom these words of holy joy and triumph came, so reveal within me the great redemption as a personal experience, that my whole life may be one song of trembling and adoring wonder.
I beseech Thee especially, let my whole heart be filled with Thyself, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, who alone doest wonders. Let the fear of Thy Holiness make me tremble at all there is in me of self and flesh, and lead me in my worship to deny and crucify my own wisdom, that the Spirit of Thy Holiness may breathe in me. Let the fear of the Lord give its deep undertone to all my coming in and going out in Thy Holy Presence. Prepare me thus for giving praise without ceasing at the remembrance of Thy holiness. O my God! I would rejoice in Thee as my Redeemer, MY HOLY ONE, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. As my Redeemer, Thou makest me holy. With my whole heart do I trust Thee to do it, to sanctify me wholly. I do believe in Thy promise. I do believe in Thyself, and believing I receive Thee, the Holy One, my Redeemer.
Who is like unto Thee, O Lord! glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
1. God's Holiness as Glory. God is glorified in the holiness of His people. True holiness always gives glory to God alone. Live to the glory of God: that is holiness. Live holily: that will glorify God. To lose sight of self, and seek only God's glory, is holiness.
2. Our Holiness as Praise. Praise gives glory to God, and is thus an element of holiness. 'Thou art holy, Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.'
3. God's Holiness, His holy redeeming love, is cause of unceasing joy and praise. Praise God every day for it. But you cannot do this unless you live in it. May God's holiness become so glorious to us, as we understand that whatever we see of His glory is just the outshining of His holiness, that we cannot help rejoicing in it, and in Him the Holy One.
4. The spirit of the fear of the Lord and the spirit of praise may, at first sight, appear to be at variance. But it is not so. The humility that fears the Holy One will also praise Him: 'Ye that fear the Lord: praise the Lord.' The lower we lie in the fear of God, and the fear of self, the more surely will He lift us up in due time to praise Him.