The Holiness of God: Glory and Mercy

The Holiness of God: Glory and Mercy

The Holiness of God: Glory and Mercy.

We worship you for your holiness. We give you thanks for your goodness. We praise you for your glory. 

HOLY: To be set apart; to be separate in role and character; to be pure, and distinct because of that purity; to have attributes that makes one distinctive.

  1. God is holy because of His greatness. His power created everything out of nothing. He is utterly complete and doesn’t need anything. He is better than perfect. He is bigger than the universe. He is older than time. He outweighs the world. His fiery presence burns hotter and brighter than a million suns. No space can contain Him, even outer space. “His center is everywhere and his circumference is nowhere.” (Lockyer). We cannot discern Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself. We can only understand Him on His terms. Even with our extended knowledge of God, we are merely on the outer fringes of His ways. Even considering all we have heard about God, we have only heard the faintest of whispers about Him. (Job 26). His greatness sets God apart.
  2. God is holy because of His glory. Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory, hosanna in the highest!” (refer to Isaiah 6:3). God’s glory is so expansive that it fills the universe and then spills over. The whole world is too small to contain God’s glory. Glory has been defined as the weighty splendor of God’s personal presence. So to glorify God is to acknowledge and applaud the reality of God’s presence in the world; to make His presence heavier than it might appear, clearer and more obvious, more credible and less hidden; to live in a way that preserves and expands God’s good reputation and glorious Name. Because the weight of God’s presence outweighs the universe, His glory has more substance than anything in the world. Our Christian response to God’s glory is to glorify Him in word and deed. His glory sets God apart.
  3. God is holy because of His mercy. Mercy can be described in many ways: Eager love-in-action; steadfast kindness; loyal compassion; faithful favor; the deep love reserved for someone in an intimate relationship, and if there is no prior relationship, the strong desire to treat someone as if that relationship existed. In Scripture, mercy is accepted as the chief attribute of God. There are three Hebrew words that combine to give a full picture of biblical mercy. First is “chanon,” which is mercy in the context of grace, forgiveness and pity. Second is the great word “hesed,” which is mercy as loving-kindness, loyalty, and covenantal love. Third is “rachen,” which is the most frequently used word for mercy in the Jewish Bible, our Old Testament. It is a word related to the Hebrew word for womb, a protected place where life is nurtured and springs forth in new life. To live in rachem is to live in the womb of God. Psalm 56:15 says it all, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful (rachem) and gracious (chanon), slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness (hesed) and truth.” His mercy sets God apart.
  4. God is holy because His glory IS His mercy. There is a deep mystery here. We won’t get to the bottom of it. Somehow His mysterious essence is intertwined with His glorious presence. His glory is brightest when His mercy is most evident. His glory is most real when His mercy is most clearly expressed. His glory IS His mercy. That truth is clearly expressed in that His presence, His glory is situated above the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the Voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Mercy Seat. And he spoke there with the Lord.” (Numbers 7:89). And in one of the most dramatic and important portions in all of Scripture, Moses asked God if he could see His glory. (Exodus 33:18). God’s response was to reveal His full identity, His character, His essence: “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed His Name, Yahweh. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming ‘Yahweh, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and faithfulness, maintaining loving-kindness to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex. 34:5-7). Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God reveals His mercy. Somehow they are one and the same. His glory-mercy sets God apart.
  5. God is holy because He is lowly. In His greatness, God chose to humble Himself, a willing volunteer of love. He chose to empty Himself and made Himself nothing (Philippians 2). He left eternal heaven-time and submitted to temporal earth-time. After lowering Himself to become a human fetus, baby, boy, man, He gave Himself up to impotence and death. In all of this, it’s clear that His character embraces lowliness as He joins Himself with the humble. “Though the Lord is on high, He looks upon the lowly. Though the Lord is great, He cares for the humble.” (Ps. 138:6). “Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?” (Ps.113:4-6). “For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose Name is Holy – ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15). The high and holy God reveals Himself and makes Himself available to mankind, since we cannot possibly reach His height on our own. Because of His humility, we need not fear that God would abuse His unlimited power. His humility sets God apart.

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