Seeing God’s Holiness

In Bible/Theology, Blogs, Devotional by Paul Pierce2 Comments


The hymn writer Reginald Heber penned these words in the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy”:

Holy! holy! holy!
Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man
Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy
There is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love and purity.

Heber captured the essence of God’s holiness in the closing words: “There is none beside Thee/Perfect in pow’r in love and purity.” Holiness is more than the absence of evil. In our language, the word indicates the presence of good health—and spiritually it is defined as the presence of absolute righteousness. 

God’s All-Encompassing Holiness

Many have described holiness as God’s most important attribute, and certainly He alone is the standard and definition of holiness. John the apostle recorded what he observed in Revelation 4:8–11 as a most reverent and powerful scene: 

The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

God’s acts of justice and righteousness are holy and, as Heber wrote, “perfect in pow’r.” All that God has done, is doing, and will do is not only perfect in power but also holy. One apt description of God’s holiness explains, “His holiness totally saturates His being. His holiness epitomizes His moral perfection and His absolute freedom from blemish of any kind.” God’s unique attribute of holiness is evident in the truths that He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), He cannot tempt with evil (James 1:13), and He cannot sin (1 John 3:3). 

God’s Promise to Israel

His holiness is not only applied to sin and its consequences but also to His reward for obedience. We can trust God, our heavenly Father, because He is perfectly holy in who He is and all He does. This attribute of God is observed in the history of Israel—and it serves as clear instructions for us today.

We can trust God, our heavenly Father, because He is perfectly holy in who He is and all He does.

We can see God’s actions regarding the nation of Israel in both His discipline of Israel for their rebellion and disobedience as well as His reward, or blessings bestowed, for Israel’s obedience and submission to Him. God told the Israelites, “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lᴏʀᴅ your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lᴏʀᴅ your God” (Deuteronomy 11:26–28).

Punishment for Disobedience

As a righteous and just God, our Lord must deal with sin and rebellion. If He did not, He would not be holy. The tragic account of Achan and his family (Joshua 6—7) illustrates the vital importance of obeying a holy God. Following the Israelites’ miraculous defeat of Jericho, Achan acted in direct disobedience. Joshua communicated that Jericho was “under the ban” and the people were not to take anything for themselves because everything belonged to the Lord (6:17–19). 

But Achan took things that were banned (7:1), which brought about the Israelites’ defeat at the hands of the men of Ai. Because of Achan’s disobedience, he and his family were put to death; and “the Lᴏʀᴅ turned from the fierceness of His anger” (v. 26). There was no “gray area” of uncertainty here. Jericho was a kind of “firstfruits” in that Israel was to offer all of it to the Lord. Rebelling against God brought about His holy judgment and justice.

Blessing for Obedience

Conversely, while God’s holy justice and righteousness require that He must deal with sin (and He does), they also lead Him to reward or bless submissive obedience. 

While God’s holy justice and righteousness require that He must deal with sin (and He does), they also lead Him to reward or bless submissive obedience.

Hebrews 11 is a record of many who acted in faithful obedience. Among those mentioned, we find Rahab, whose faith and obedient actions led to God’s blessing of sparing her and her family (v. 7; Joshua 6:17). Abraham is also listed as one whose faith was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3), being commended for his faith when he offered up his son Isaac in obedience to God (Hebrews 11:17–19). 

True to His Word—“the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lᴏʀᴅ your God” (Deuteronomy 11:27)—our holy God is faithful in rewarding, or blessing, those who obey Him. That reward may be realized in part in this life, but most assuredly it will be realized fully in heaven. Even if we receive few rewards in this life, God has “provided something better for us” (Hebrews 11:40)—that which is eternal. 

Hebrews 11:6 provides a sufficient summary of God’s faithfulness: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Our God is holy in all He does, for such holiness is His character and attribute. He is holy in His justice, compassion, patience, and reward. May our hearts be motivated to humbly serve and obey our holy God.

About the Author
Avatar photo

Paul Pierce

Paul is the Church Ministries Manager and a Bible teacher for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry in the Pacific Northwest.

Comments 2

  1. Thank you for a very timely article. We live in an age where the concept of a truly Holy God is foreign to so many. Churches must start teaching the basics of His holiness and showing respect in His sanctuary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.