Psalm 99:5 Exalt the Lord our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy.
Three times in this Psalm, here and in verses 3 and 9, the Psalmist says that God is holy, as a reason to praise and worship Him. In terms of poetic structure, I get the impression this may have been something of a “call and response,” with the leader intoning or singing the first part of the verse and the choir, or perhaps the whole congregation, coming in with, “He is holy.” We tend to pay very little attention to the fact that God is perfectly holy, and even less to the fact that He calls us to be holy! (1 Peter 1:15-26, and many OT Scriptures) However holiness is one of the essential characteristics of God, and we ignore it to our peril. It is because God is perfectly holy that He cannot simply excuse sin; it must be dealt with. I often use the illustration of matter and antimatter, from physics. Every form of matter in the universe has its mirror image, which physicists call antimatter. (Why they can’t detect more antimatter is one of the mysteries that has yet to be solved.) When matter and antimatter come in contact, both are destroyed by being converted totally to energy, in a reaction more violent than a nuclear bomb. Using that as an analogy for God’s holiness and our sinfulness breaks down at only one point: God is not destroyed, only we are. It was to avoid our destruction that God gave His Son to deal with the problem of our sin. (John 3:16-17) However, we have to receive Christ’s work on the cross in faith in order to become holy, and that is the whole process of salvation. Those who want to “be saved” but don’t want to live holy lives miss the whole point of it all. I love a song written by a friend of mine, Makoto Iwabuchi, that he allowed me to translate. In English the first line says, “Spirit, flow from the throne of God and cleanse me and fill my heart and make me holy, like You.” That is a prayer God loves to answer! We focus on the power of God’s Spirit sometimes to the point of forgetting that He is the Holy Spirit. We need to have a grasp of the holiness of God, and respond appropriately.
This of course applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I am quite guilty of having taken the holiness of God lightly far more than I like to think about. I am very aware of the Biblical tension of being and becoming, now/not yet. God has made us to be holy in Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:30) but we are far from living it out fully. The Japanese term for “saints” is “holy people.” Paul’s usage makes it very clear that every believer is a saint! Not only am I to live as a saint, a holy person myself, as a pastor I am to teach, encourage, and admonish all those in my care to do likewise. A few years ago we used 1 Peter 2:9 as our Scripture for the Year: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” And of course we sing that verse, in a different translation. I need to grasp what that means myself, and lead others to do likewise.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me indeed walk more and more fully in Your holiness, leading others to do likewise, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!