'I am the Lord that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God
; ye shall therefore be holy
, for I am holy
. I the Lord which make you holy, am holy
.' -- Lev. xi.45, xxi.8.
'I am the Lord Thy God, the Holy One of Israel, Thy Saviour. Thus saith the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.' -- Isa. xliii.3, 14, 15.
In the book of Exodus we found God making provision for the Holiness of His people. In the holy times and holy places, holy persons, holy things, and holy services, He had taught His people that everything around Him, that all that would come near Him, must be holy. He would only dwell in the midst of holiness; His people must be a holy people. But there is no direct mention of God Himself as holy. In the book of Leviticus we are led on a step further. Here first we have God speaking of His own holiness, and making it the plea for the holiness of His people, as well as its pledge and power. Without this the revelation of holiness were incomplete, and the call to holiness powerless. True holiness will come to us as we learn that God Himself alone is holy. It is He alone makes holy; it is as we come to Himself, and in obedience and love are linked to Himself, that His Holiness can rest on us.
From the books of Moses onwards we shall find that the name of God as holy is found but seldom in the inspired writings, until we come to Isaiah, the evangelist prophet. There it occurs twenty-six times, and has its true meaning opened up in the way in which it is linked with the name of Saviour and Redeemer. The sentiments of joy and trust and praise, with which a redeemed people would look upon their Deliverer, are all mentioned in connection with the name of the Holy One. 'Cry aloud and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.' 'The poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.' 'Thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.' In Paradise we saw that God the Creator was God the Sanctifier, perfecting the work of His hands. In Israel we saw that God the Redeemer was ever God the Sanctifier, making holy the people He had chosen for Himself. Here in Isaiah we see how it is God the Sanctifier, the Holy One, who is to bring about the great redemption of the New Testament: as the Holy One, He is the Redeemer. God redeems because He is holy, and loves to make holy: Holiness will be Redemption perfected. Redemption and Holiness together are to be found in the personal relation to God. The key to the secret of holiness is offered to each believer in that word: 'Thus saith the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord, your Holy One.' To come near, to know, to possess the Holy One, and be possessed of Him, is Holiness.
If God's Holiness is thus the only hope for ours, it is right that we seek to know what that Holiness is. And though we may find it indeed to be something that passeth knowledge, it will not be in vain to gather up what has been revealed in the Word concerning it. Let us do so in the spirit of holy fear and worship, trusting to the Holy Spirit to be our teacher.
And let us first notice how this Holiness of God, though it is often mentioned as one of the Divine attributes, can hardly be counted such, on a level with the others. The other attributes all refer to some special aspect or characteristic of the Divine Nature; Holiness appears to express what is the very essence or perfection of the Divine Being Himself. None of the attributes can be predicated of all that belongs to God; but Scripture speaks of His Holy Name, His Holy Day, His Holy Habitation, His Holy Word. In the word Holy we have the nearest possible approach to a summary of all the Divine perfections, the description of what Divinity is. We speak of the other attributes as Divine perfections, but in this we have the only human expression for the Divine Perfection itself. It is for this reason that theologians have found such difficulty in framing a definition that can express all the word means.
The original Hebrew word, whether derived from a root signifying to separate, or another with the idea of shining, expressed the idea of something distinguished from others, separate from them by superior excellence. God is Separate and different from all that is created, keeps Himself separate from all that is not God; as the Holy One He maintains His Divine glory and perfection against whatever might interfere with it: 'There is none holy, but the Lord;' 'To whom will you liken me? or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.' As Holy, God is indeed the Incomparable One; Holiness is His alone; there is nothing like it in heaven or earth, except when He gives it. And so our holiness will consist, not in a human separation in which we attempt to imitate God's, -- no, but in entering into His separateness; belonging entirely to Him; set apart by Him and for Himself.
Closely connected with this is the idea of Exaltation: 'Thus saith the High and Holy One, whose name is Holy.' It was the Holy One who was seen sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, the object of the worship of the seraphim. In Psalm xcix. God's Holiness is specially spoken of in connection with His exaltation. For this reason, too, His Holiness is so often connected with His Glory and Majesty (see 'Sixth Day'). And here our holiness will be seen to be nothing but the poverty and humility which comes when 'the loftiness of man is brought low, and the Lord alone is exalted.'
If we inquire more closely wherein the infinite excellence of this Separateness and Exaltation consists, we are led to think of the Divine Purity, and that not only in its negative aspect -- as hatred of sin -- but with the more positive element of perfect beauty. Because we are sinners, and the revelation of God's Holiness is in a world of sin, it is natural, it is right and meet, that the first, that the abiding impression of God's Holiness should be that of an Infinite Purity that cannot look upon sin, in whose Presence it becomes the sinner to hide his face and tremble. The Righteousness of God, forbidding and condemning and punishing sin, has its root in His Holiness, is one of its two elements -- the devouring and destroying power of the consuming fire. 'God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness' (Isa. v.16); in righteousness the Holiness of the Holy One is maintained and revealed. But Light not only discovers what is impure, that it may be purified, but is in itself a thing of infinite beauty. And so some of our holiest men have not hesitated to speak of God's Holiness as the infinite Pulchritude or Beauty of the Divine Being, the Perfect Purity and Beauty of that Light in which God dwelleth. And if the Holiness of God is to become ours, to rest upon us, and enter into us, there must be, without ceasing, the holy fear that trembles at the thought of grieving the infinite sensitiveness of this Holy One by our sins, and yet side by side, and in perfect harmony with it, the deep longing to behold the Beauty of the Lord, an admiration of its Divine glory, and a joyful surrender to be His alone.
We must go one step further. When God says, 'I am holy: I make holy,' we see that one of the chief elements of His Holiness is this, that it seeks to communicate itself, to make partaker of its own perfection and blessedness. This is nought but Love. In the wonderful revelation in Isaiah of what the Holy One is to His people, we must beware of misreading God's precious Word. It is not said, that though God is the Holy One, and hates sin, and ought to punish and destroy, that notwithstanding this He will save. By no means. But we are taught that as the Holy One, just because He is the Holy One, who delights to make holy, He will be the Deliverer of His people. (See Hos. xi.9.) It is Holiness above everything else that we are invited to look to, to trust in, to rejoice in. The Holy One is the Holy-making One: He redeems and saves that He may win our confidence for Himself, that He may draw us to Himself as the Holy One, that in the personal attachment to Himself we may learn to obey, to become of one mind with Him, to be holy as He is holy.
The Divine Holiness is thus that infinite Perfection of Divinity in which Righteousness and Love are in perfect harmony, out of which they proceed, and which together they reveal. It is that Energy of the Divine life in the power of which God not only keeps Himself free from all creature weakness or sin, but unceasingly seeks to lift the creature into union with Himself and the full participation of His own purity and perfection. The glory of God as God, as the God of Creation and Redemption, is His Holiness. It is in this that the Separateness and Exaltation of God, even above all thought of man, really consists. 'God is Light;' in His infinite Purity He reveals all darkness, and yet has no fellowship with it. He judges and condemns it; He saves out of it, and lifts up into the fellowship of His own purity and blessedness. This is the Holy One of Israel.
It is this God who speaks to us, 'I am the Lord your God: I am holy: I make holy.' It is in the adoring contemplation of His Holiness, in the trustful surrender to it, in the loving fellowship with Himself, the Holy One, that we can be made holy. My brother! would you be holy? listen again, and let, in the deep silence of trust, God's words sink into your heart -- 'Your Holy One.' Come to Himself and claim Him as your God, and claim all that He, as the Holy One who makes holy, can do for you. Just remember that Holiness is Himself. Come to Him; worship Him; give Him the glory. Seek not, even from Him, holiness in yourself; let self be abased, and be content that the Holiness is His. As His presence fills your heart, as His Holiness and Glory are your one desire, as His holy Will and Love are your delight, -- as the Holy One becomes all in all to you, -- you will be holy with the holiness He loves to see. And as, to the end, you see nothing to admire in self, and only Beauty in Him, you will know that He has laid of His glory on you; and your holiness will be found in the song, There is none holy, but the Lord.
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
O God! we have again heard the wonderful revelation of Thyself, 'I am holy.' And as we felt how infinitely exalted above all our conceptions Thy Holiness is, we heard Thy call, almost still more wonderful, 'Be ye holy, as I am holy.' And as every thought of how we were to be holy, as Thou art holy, failed us, we heard Thy voice once again, in this most wonderful word of all, 'I make you holy.' I am 'your Holy One.'
Most Holy God! we do beseech Thee, give us in some due measure to realize how unholy we are, and so to take the place that becomes us in Thy presence. Oh that the sinfulness of our nature, and all that is of self, may be so discovered to us, that it may be no longer possible to live in it! May the Light that reveals this, reveal too, how Thy Holiness is our only hope, our sure refuge, our complete deliverance. O Lord! speak into our souls the word, 'The Holy One, your Redeemer,' 'Your Holy One,' with such power by Thy Spirit, that our faith may grow into the assured confidence that we can be holy as Thou art holy.
Holy Lord God! we wait for Thee. Reveal Thyself in power within us, and fit us to be the messengers of Thy Holiness, to tell Thy people how holy Thou art, and how holy we must be, and how holy Thou dost make us. Amen.
1. This Holy One is God Almighty. Before He revealed Himself to Israel as the Holy One, He made Himself known to Abraham as the Almighty, 'who quickeneth the dead.' In all your dealings with God for holiness, remember He is the Almighty One, who can do wonders in you. Say often, 'Glory to Him who is mighty to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.'
2. This Holy One is the Righteous God, a consuming fire. Cast yourself into it, that all that is sinful may be destroyed. As you lay yourself upon the altar, expect the fire. 'And yield your members unto God as instruments of Righteousness.'
3. This Holy One is the God of Love. He is your Father; yield yourself to let the Holy Spirit cry in you, Abba Father! that is, to let Him shed abroad and fill your heart with God's father-love. God's Holiness is His fatherliness; our holiness is childlikeness. Be simple, loving, trustful.
4. This Holy One is God. Let Him be God to you; ruling all, filling all, working all. Worship Him, come near to Him, live with and in and for Him: He will be your holiness.
'I am the Lord your God; ye shall therefore make holy yourselves, and be holy, for I am holy' (Lev. xi.44).
'I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy' (Lev. xi.45).
'Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy' (Lev. xix.2).
'Make holy yourselves therefore, and be ye holy, for I am the Lord your God; ye shall keep my statutes and do them: I am the Lord which make you holy' (Lev. xx.7, 8).
'Ye shall be holy unto me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from other people, that ye should be mine' (Lev. xx.26).
'The priest shall be holy unto thee, for I the Lord which make you holy, am holy' (Lev. xxi.8).
'I will be hallowed among the children of Israel; I am the Lord which make you holy' (Lev. xxii.32).
'I am the Lord which make them holy' (Lev. xxi.15, 23; xxii.9, 16).
See Note C for some account of the different definitions that have been given.