(Isa 6:3, Psa 99:5, 99:9, Lev 11:44)
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy. For I am the Lord your God: therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy:
Holiness is one of the key themes in the Bible; we are told in Leviticus that the Lord is holy:
“Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy” (Lev 21:8)
Holiness is a key theme of Leviticus – the word holy occurs more in this book than any other book in the Bible. Israel were to be holy, and their holiness was to be expressed in every aspect of their lives. They had to dedicate themselves to God, because they had to be holy – because He is holy. We also have to be holy because he is holy; we have to lay our lives down before him. He is holy because of what he has done; he is holy because of who he is.
Before we go any further we need to define what “holy” is. It is something that is dedicated, separated, and sanctified. In this article, we are going to look at 3 holy things, us, God and Jesus.
To worship God we have to be holy, it is the standard that has been set for us to seek to attain to. Thankfully we are God’s holy children – we have been made holy by the blood of Jesus: we are sanctified (Heb 13:12) and so able to worship God. Although Christ makes up our failings and makes us holy, this does not mean we should not try and be holy. We have to try and be holy in three main areas: in the body, in the heart and in prayer.
Let’s start with the body, Paul tells us in Romans to:
“Present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom 12:1)
We have to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Sacrifices in the Old Testament were consumed by the fire of God (see Lev 9) and we, like a sacrifice should be consumed by God so that there is nothing left of us and when people see us they see Jesus. If we were completely consumed by God, then we wouldn’t be so self-centred, But we live in a self-centred world, where its all about me: God loves me, he cares for me, Jesus came and died for me, its all about me, everything is for me, the Bible contains promises to me, for me, about me, that I can use for my life. The meeting is for me, I come here and its all about me, I didn’t like that song, I don’t like it when he presides, I don’t like it when he reads, oh I didn’t get much out of that. Well it’s not just for us!
Sometimes we walk out the door saying I didn’t get much out of that – well how much did you put in? Especially considering its not about us, because we come here for Jesus!
The second thing that needs to be holy is our heart; Jesus tells us that without having a pure heart it is impossible to see God (Matt 5:8). And in Thessalonians Paul prays that Jesus will:
“make us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father” (1 Thess 3:12).
So we have to let our love increase to each other and to all men! To add to this Heb 10:22 says:
“Let us draw near to God with a true, genuine heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Finally we need to be holy in our prayers; Timothy tells us that he wants:
“men to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1Tim 1:8)
To lift up the hands is the sign of supplication; it was common in the Old Testament to raise hands in prayer towards heaven (Ps 5:11, Ex 9:29, 33.) The hands that we raise should be “holy hands.” This means that our hands have not been used for sin. They should be without wrath, we should be calm, peaceful, and have no anger towards anybody; there should be no doubting, no dispute when we come to God in prayer.
We should follow after holiness (Heb. 12:14). We should serve our God in holiness (Luke 1:74,75). We have been chosen:
“before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph 1:4).
One of the key verses for us is 1 Peter 1:15
“But as he which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all your behaviour; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”
Now lets have a look at God’s holiness. Scripture tells us that:
“There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (1 Sam 2:2; Ex 15:11).
Everything about God is Holy. Isaiah tells us that he is the:
“high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; he dwells in the high and holy place, with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Is 57:15).
In Leviticus 11 God explains why he is holy, in verse 44 he says:
“For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy”.
He is separate because he brought Israel up from the land of Egypt. God is separate from all the gods in Egypt, and he is telling Israel that they should also be separate from Egypt and everything else, and be completely holy – as their God is.
In Hebrews 12 God tells us how he is going to maintain our holiness, the writer starts by telling us that God chastens the ones who he loves, that he deals with us as with children and then in verse 9 is the explanation of why God does this.
“We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness”.
God’s correction should allow us to see things for what they really are, and should make us want to be separate from those things. His correcting should make us want to:
“lift up our hands which hang down, and our feeble knees; and make straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. And to follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).
(see Psa 145:17, 47:8). God’s works are holy; and he sits on a throne of holiness, he is completely separate from the world; his light is the light that guides us and not the light from the world. The design of the tabernacle shows this, the priest would have entered from the east in the morning, so turning his back on the rising sun, then going into the holy place where Gods light from the lamp stand would have lit his way. The tabernacle tells us that God dwells in the most holy place, the most separate place; He dwelt at the centre of the camp, the tabernacle was what you would have seen when you opened your tent door in the morning, and this would have reminded them that God should be the centre of our lives. In Psalm 123 we read:
“Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us” (Ps 123:1-2).
We should come to God like these people humble and completely dependant on God for everything. The people waited for God to show his mercy and he did, he sent his son.
Finally let us look to Jesus who is also holy. In Luke 4 starting at verse 31, we read that Jesus:
“came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God”
Jesus is called the Holy one of God, by the man who had the unclean devil. Maybe this was an attempt to use the occult belief that saying the full name of somebody gave certain control of them. But we know that this had no effect and:
“Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.”
Jesus was holy because he was completely pure – he was the only begotten Son of God – and because he was anointed, and set apart to the work of the Messiah. He fulfilled what was said on the priests mitre, “Holiness to the Lord” (Ex 28:36). He was completely separate for God in his mind and in his body. Jesus displays his holiness in this chapter when he is tempted. He kept himself holy, he did:
“not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (v 4).
He also showed his holiness because he only worshipped the Lord our God, and nothing else, and did not try and tempt God.
Hebrews 7 reveals a lot about Jesus, it tells us in verse 24 that Jesus:
“because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6) he is the only one who can save us to the uttermost, completely. Jesus is our priest forever; Hebrews goes on to tell us that:
“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (v 26)
Jesus is our perfect example of what we should be like, he was holy, he never did anyone harm, he was not defiled by sin, he was pure, and he was separate from sinners – even though he mingled with them he did not think like they did, and was there to help them.
Jesus gave himself that we may be holy, in Ephesians 5, we read:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25)
Jesus gave himself out of love for us, his bride. That he might sanctify and cleanse us with the washing of water by the word. Elsewhere, Jesus told his disciples:
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (Jno 15:3)
He so cleanses us that we might be presented with no spot no wrinkle, or anything which could prevent us from getting married; that we should be holy and without blemish without any fault to be found in us. We are the bride of Christ; we are his body on earth. If we are his body, why aren’t his arms reaching out to people, why aren’t his hands working for God, why aren’t his words teaching people, why aren’t his feet going to preach, why is his love is not showing the world that there is a way? Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who can come.
Jesus describes what his body should be like in Matthew chapter 25. In verse 34 he says to those he has chosen for eternal life:
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”
We have to be holy, and our holiness is to be expressed in every aspect of our lives – we have to be holy in our body, in our heart and in our prayers, we have to Present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, our hearts have to be unblameable in holiness before God, and when we pray we are to lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. Because it is written, “Be ye holy; for I am holy”.
We know that:
“There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside him: neither is there any rock like our God. Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”
And Jesus who is our High Priest
“is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
God is holy so let our every thought, our every word, and our whole life, reflect the beauty and holiness of our Lord, because he means more to us than anything. Now is the time that we remember the holy act of Jesus in laying down his life, and what he has done for us his bride. As we partake of the bread and of the wine, we remember his holiness. As the physical emblems become part of us, let Christ’s holiness dwell in us, that we may seek to follow his example, and become more like him.