The Hebrew prophets chose the word kadosh (holy) to characterize the one, true God. And by that they meant his transcendent otherness. It is not just another of his attributes, it is the sum and root of them all. In fact all these other characteristics are extensions and expressions of his holiness. When we say that God is omniscient (all knowing), who else is omniscient? No one.
When we say he is omnipresent (present everywhere), who else is omnipresent? No one. When we say he is omnipotent (all powerful), who else is omnipotent? No one. As God is totally unique, different, other than the work of his hands, so his attributes are all expressions of his holiness and his character. Who loves like God loves? Who is merciful like God is merciful? Who is forgiving as he is forgiving? Who is gracious, patient, long suffering, just, kind (etc.)? Nobody does it like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does—he is kadosh, kadosh, kadosh (holy, holy, holy). His holiness sets him apart from his creation, it distinguishes and divides him from everything else. It is what makes God God—his awe inspiring transcendence. He is awesome, majestic, radiant, mighty, august. Paul says of this holy God, "he dwells in unapproachable light." We cannot look upon his face, we must hide in the cleft of a rock just to get a glimpse of his glory because he is so radically other than anything else we know or even can conceive. He is a consuming fire, therefore let us worship him as he should be worshipped with reverence and awe. Because he alone is kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
As his possession, we are called to be a peculiar people. This simply means we are called to be different. You have a high-calling to participate in and to extend the dimension of the Holy in this world. You and I are the guardians of his holiness. We are the bearers of his reputation; we are the ambassadors of his kingship; we are the ones who by our actions and our conduct are to show this world that we serve a different, a distinct, a unique, a transcendent, a wholly other, holy God. It is beyond expression, the metaphors fail you. I so envy Isaiah, his Hebrew is so incredibly brilliant, complex and eloquent! How can one possibly express the inexpressible? As I was studying this today, at times just like a breeze passing me I would get a glimpse of it. I would get so excited and then it would pass. This caused me to delve some more, work some more, study some more. And I would get a glimpse of it again; I would read a text and it would come alive, and then it would pass. I don't know how you would express it, but I pray to God that you would experience it. And that he would raise up Isaiahs in our day to call his people to holiness.
With the help of the God of Isaiah, I will be teaching on the demands of holiness in part two of this seminar. I'll be addressing the question of what does all this mean in terms of how you and I are to live? But for now, I simply ask you to open yourself, to think about and to pray about our holy God.
Ask him to reveal his holiness to you—if you dare. Being burned beyond recognition would be a big improvement for all of us, spiritually speaking. It would cast away the impure and the old, and would bring forth the new, conforming to the very image to the Holy One of Israel—even Jesus, his son and our Lord.
O Lord God of Israel, majestic in holiness, surrounded by your faithfulness; O God, is it only in times of old that you show your holiness to your people or is it time to do that again? Father we can never be the different peculiar, distinct, set-apart people that you commanded us to be if we don’t have a vision of your holiness. How can we be holy if we don’t even understand your holiness? God by your grace, by the power of your Holy Spirit, impress this teaching on our hearts. Father go far beyond mere words. Help us to be made truly different, for your sake, not for ours. Not so that we are known as somebody who is eccentric, but to be known as somebody who serves a different God, a God who stands in his holiness radically opposed to the profaneness of this world. Amen.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
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