"...Then he caught one sudden glimpse of a holy God. In that single moment, all of his self-esteem was shattered...The instant he measure himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed—morally and spiritually annihilated."
-Dr. R.C. Sproul writes of Isaiah's encounter with God
Our God is an Awesome God
As a Christian in high school, I was actively involved in church. I was part of a small youth group, had a wonderful youth pastor, and many Christian friends.
I was at church on average three times a week. I read my Bible daily and thought I knew everything there was to know about Christ.
But looking back, I realize now that although I knew much about Christ...I knew nothing about God.
How can that be since they are One in the same?
I didn't know about God because I was never really shown who our God is in His word.
Oh I was taught about His loving forgiveness toward sinners, His anger toward sin, and how He created the world with His awesome power just by speaking it into existence. But I was never told about perhaps the most important of His attributes:
The Holiness of God
It wasn't until many years later in 2000 when I read Dr. R.C. Sproul's most moving book about God, The Holiness of God, that I began to see who our God is...and I trembled.
In what I consider to be Dr. Sproul's masterpiece, The Holiness of God takes the reader through the vision Isaiah had after King Uzziah died and he seeks God for wisdom.
I thought I knew that familiar passage of scripture...but I had no idea!
Dr. Sproul did an excellent job of showing the believer whom they serve by going verse by verse through Isaiah 6 interpreting and dissecting everything that Isaiah saw in the Temple, everything he heard, and his reaction to God's presence.
I was captivated...intrigued by the mystery...then humiliated by my sin when God began to lift the veil from my eyes and show me just a tiny glimpse of His glory and His holiness.
I was never the same.
Holy, Holy, Holy
You see, I was content to think of God as love, like most people. Even unbelievers know God as "love" meaning God understands, He accepts you just as you are, He even will look the other way at your sin because He loves you so.
I fell for these lies.
Yet God, in His mercy, revealed to me the Truth just as He did Isaiah in that vision.
Dr. Sproul pointed out that even the Seraphs, angelic beings without sin, could not stand in God's presence. Yet, God provided them a way to be with Him in that He gave them wings:
-One pair so they could fly
-One pair so they could cover their feet
-and One pair so they could cover their faces (Is. 6:2)
In the presence of the exalted God, even these angelic beings cannot look upon the face of God, stand on the same holy ground, or show their feet.
Then, Sproul pointed out that the "crux" of Isaiah's vision was when the seraphim cry out their message:
"And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.'" (Is. 6:3)
Notice that they did not cry out "God is love, love, love" or "God is just, just, just"
They cry out "Holy, holy, holy" with significance because in Hebrew poetry, the repetition of words is used for emphasis. For the Bible to mention something three times shows us the importance of those words. They are elevated to the next degree as though they are "super important" in scripture.
When I read these words, I was met with the same reaction as Isaiah...
Woe Is Me
Isaiah 6 tells us the sound of the seraphim's voices shook the threshold and the temple was filled with smoke. What an awesome sight!
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined!" (Is. 6:5)
I remember well feeling the same way when I read these passages. When given a tiny glimpse into the holiness of God, I remember being confronted with my own sin.
So many times, through the years, I mistook God for this far off distant "Father" figure, but Jesus was warm and near and friendly and loving.
I saw God as cold and cruel at times. But Jesus was the Good Shepherd, kind to His sheep.
Isaiah 6 brought me to reality: God is near and God is holy!
And in His holiness, He commands that we be holy. In fact, he is so holy, that when Uzzah touches the Ark of the Covenant, he is instantly struck DEAD.
God saw man's touch to be more filthy than the mud and dirt of the earth.
How cruel it would be for God to demand holiness of His people without providing us a way to attain to that holiness...
One in the Same
Not by works that we do...but by the perfect and complete work of Christ do we now have access to a holy God.
"...he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.." Titus 3:5
It was only after Isaiah saw his sinfulness in light of God's holiness did God move. The seraphim comes down and purges Isaiah's sins with hot coals and tells him his sin is atoned for. Once purged, then...and only then...does God speak. He asks who will go...and Isaiah says, "Here am I. Send me!"
I finally saw what God was trying to tell me in those verses.
I wanted to be used by God, but with sin in my life, I could not be used.
By seeing who God was for the first time in my life, I was confronted with my sin, begged forgiveness, and was used by God in ministry.
I was finally able to see that it was God Himself who came down in the flesh and died for my sins on that cross.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." John 1:1-3 & 14
My eyes were opened to the fact that only God could be the one Perfect sacrifice that could ever satisfy and redeem us because He alone is perfection.
Nailed to the cross (the ultimate sign of shame and cursings to the Gentiles), stripped naked and beaten for our iniquity (the ultimate sign of shame to the Jews)—it was God Himself who became that Passover Lamb, that scapegoat taken outside the city gates and slain for the sins of His people.
I realized then and there that Jesus and God are One in the same.
And I was so humbled, I wept.
Our Holy God
Is God love? Yes.
But He is also holy. He is also Just. And His wrath is real.
And His wrath must be satisfied. There is only one way for that to happen and that is through Christ whose sacrifice was sufficient alone to atone for our sins.
So, to fully understand and know who our God is, one must try to know all of His attributes, not just the ones that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside or all safe and secure.
God is holy and He demands holiness. He does not wink at sin. Sin must be...and will be dealt with.
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." John 3:36
The wrath of God remains on those without Christ. There is no exception.
Some would say, "that doesn't seem very loving..."
But this Truth is the most loving gift of all: through Christ we have life. Without Christ, death.
It would be most cruel if we had to depend on someone else or on ourselves for eternal life. Then, we would most certainly die. That is why if you truly love someone, you must tell them the truth about their sin.
Otherwise you love them straight to hell.
I highly recommend The Holiness of God for those who long to know God more. I urge you to read it, study it, discuss it, and be prepared because once you are given that glimpse of who God truly is...
You will never be the same.
Your turn: When did you first begin to understand who God truly is?