In Revelation 4, four very strange creatures call out, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts, who was and is and is to come." Something about holiness relates very directly to God’s essential being, his essential nature. The seraphim are saying more about God than just referring to his character or his attributes. They are saying something about that which makes God, God—his holiness.
If we want to approach an understanding of this we need to begin with the word holy itself. In Hebrew it is kadosh, literally meaning to divide. It speaks of marking off something, of setting apart something; it speaks of that which makes distinct or makes different. Kadosh separates from other things. In the Bible, the opposite of holy is the word profane. Profane means something which is common or ordinary. In Ezekiel 22:26 our holy God complains about the way his priests are conducting themselves. The holy is that which divides, separates, distinguishes, makes unique. The profane is that which is common, ordinary, not unusual.
When you are in spiritual rebellion, the lines tend to blur these distinctions between the holy and the profane, between the sacred and the secular. The secular tends to grow up like weeds in the flower patch of the holy and you no longer root it out. The world is trying to dissolve this distinction between the holy and the sacred and we should expect that, but not the people of God.
Sennacherib was doing this very thing, he was profaning the God of Israel because he was comparing YHWH to other gods. He says, "don’t you understand, no gods have withstood us, and yours is no different. He is not going to come to your rescue either, because he is just a common ordinary deity like all the others we have overthrown." That is profaning, blaspheming the name of God! That is saying of the holy God: "you are not holy, you are just ordinary. There is nothing distinct, different, unique about you, you have no otherness. You are just like all the other elohim; you are common, you are ordinary." That is the blasphemy Sennacherib spouts. And the Holy One of Israel responds. The One who is, who is being itselfturns Sennacherib into nothingness. The holiness of God speaks of God’s otherness, of his transcendence, of his uniqueness. He is a consuming fire.
In Exodus 15, God has just wrought an incredible miracle in saving the Israelites from the Egyptians; and here is this wonderful prophetic song that is proclaimed in the power of the Spirit. Verse 11 says, "who among the gods is like you, YHWH?’' In other words, "LORD there is none to compare to you, you are unique, distinct, set apart from, other than, you are totally different from all else, majestic in your holiness, awesome in your glory, you work wonders!"
In 1 Samuel 2:2, Hannah says, "there is no one holy like YHWH, there is no one beside you O Lord." Look at what Isaiah, the man who so powerfully knew of God’s holiness, says in 40:25-26. Do you understand why he is called the Holy One in this text? This is what holiness is all about. Who can you compare God? He is totally other than anything you know. I would to God that I have the gift of Isaiah because he could express these things so eloquently!
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