03. Chapter Three

Holy and Righteous

The goal of knowing God is to be changed by Him. It is to enter into a relationship with Him and have Him rub off on you. It is my prayer that as you study the attributes of our awesome God that you are changed in three ways.

    • I pray that your mind is awakened to the glory of God
    • I pray that your heart is opened to the love of God
    • I pray that your will is dedicated to the service of God

When we see the glory of God, the sum total of all His perfection, then we can see our true needs and that only God can meet those needs. When we come to grips with the love of God we are made strong in faith and hope, and we are enabled to receive blessings from God. Finally, when we dedicate our wills to the service of God our lives take on great joy. There is no greater joy in life than to live for the glory of God and the good of His people.

To begin this change we need to understand two crucial truths about God. He is holy and He is righteous. Psalm 99 is a song of praise for the holiness of God.

The LORD reigns; Let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; 10 Let the earth be moved! The LORD is great in Zion, And He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name. He is holy. The King’s strength also loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool.  He is holy. Psalm 99:1-5

Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His holy hill; For the LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:9

God wants us to understand that He is holy. It is central to our understanding who and what He is. The word holy is used more often to describe God than any other word. God is called holy more than good, kind, powerful or wise.

God is holy because He is the sum total of all that is morally good, pure and excellent. He is the epitome of undiminished and untarnished goodness. God is absolutely morally flawless in all His motives and actions. There are no excesses or deficiencies in His character. There are no microscopic traits of evil in Him at all. At the center of all that He is, He is holy. In Exodus, chapter 3, we have the first use of the word holy in the Bible. The context is God calling to Moses from a burning bush. God wants Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”

So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Exodus 3:1-5

The ground where Moses stood was holy ground because the presence of the most holy God was there! And from this story we learn that on our own we are not worthy to draw near to God. Our holy God is not someone with whom we can be chummy. He is not the “good ole’ guy upstairs” who waits upon us to meet our every whim. God must be respected, honored and feared. We must approach Him only as He allows us, with great reverence and respect. But there is also more to learn.

And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land, to a land flowing with milk and honey . . . Exodus 3:7-8

God is not only holy and worthy of our honor, respect and fear because He is morally pure; but our God is holy, because He hears the cries of His people and desires to deliver them from bondage. In His holiness God sees the evil that His people suffer and He desires to redeem them. So God sent Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. And after their deliverance, Moses and the people of Israel sing a song of praise to God. In the song, the virtue of God’s holiness is proclaimed.

Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth. 

Whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation. (Exodus 15:11-13)

God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and destroyed their oppressors because He is holy. There is no one like Him, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders! In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, a woman named Hannah is married but childless. She prays to God for a child and He answers her prayer. And Hannah offers praise to God.

And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none beside You, Nor is there any rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:1, 2)

Hannah, like Moses, proclaims that there is no one like the LORD. No one is as holy as He. In a prophetic picture in Revelation 15, the people of God praise God for their salvation. And again they sing of His holiness.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous; seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.

And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!

Just and true are Your ways,O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested. (Revelation 15:1-4)

Only the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is just and true and holy. And because He is holy, He is righteous in all that He does. The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desires of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and save them. The LORD preserves all who love Him. But the wicked He will destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever. (Psalm 145:17-21)

In righteousness, God saves His people and meets their every need. And in righteousness God will destroy those who are wicked and oppose Him. When the Bible says that God is righteous, it means that He always does what is right. He does what should be done, consistently and without prejudice. God’s righteous acts are in accordance with His holiness. Every act of God is righteous and in absolute agreement with His holy nature. Psalm 48:10 declares:

According to Your name, O God, So is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness. Psalm 48:10

This means that everything God does is righteous and just. All that He does is good and right. There is absolutely no one like our God. He is glorious in holiness, perfectly righteous.

The primary meaning of the word “holy” is to be separate, apart, unique, to be cut off from everything else. When the Bible calls God “holy.” it means that He is so far above and beyond us in goodness, justice and purity. Sometimes we discover clothing or a car or some other merchandise that outshines everything else, and we say that it is a cut above the rest. God is a cut above everything that might be called “good”. There is no one like Him among the so called gods of men because He is consistently glorious in holiness and all His ways are righteous. He is the sum of all moral excellencies. A song of Moses says:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God.

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. (Deuteronomy 32:1-4)

Our God is holy and His works are perfect. He is just and true and righteous. When God puts forth His power, He is holy. When He displays His wisdom, He is holy. When He loves and blesses His people, He is holy. And when He judges sinners, it is a holy, just and righteous judgment.

This is the message which we have heard and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

What does it mean to say that God is light? The light refers to God’s character. There is no evil in God at all. He is absolute purity. And His purity is manifested in all of His works. Also physical light makes things visible. When we have full light on something we can see it for what it really is. When we look through a mist or a haze or darkness, we really do not see things as they are. A dim light can soften the wrinkles in our faces. The darkness of night can obscure the actions of a thief. But when the lights come on, we see everything for what it is.

In the same way when our holy God reveals Himself, when He speaks and acts, we see life in greater clarity. When the light of God’s holiness is revealed we see what is true and what is a lie. We see what is right and what is wrong. When the light of God’s holiness is manifested we are delivered from deception, even the deceptions we pull on ourselves.

There isn’t much teaching on the holiness of God, because we don’t like the bright light of a holy God to shine on our lives. But that is exactly what we need. We need to see the holiness of God because it reveals our sins and it heals us. Our God is holy and His Word is holy and just and true. And when we take heed to God and His Word we are changed.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

The light of our holy God, shed forth from His Word, converts or restores our souls. It makes us wise and rejoices our hearts. The holy light from Scripture warns us and rewards us. It teaches us how to live good and holy lives and it reveals to us our good and holy God.

Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalm 103:1-6)

Our holy God forgives, heals, and showers His people with lovingkindness and tender mercies. He judges righteously. And because God is holy He expects His people to be holy.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

God expects us to be holy because He is holy. And He will judge us for not being holy. Why should we stand before Him in shame when we can worship Him in the beauty of holiness? As Christians we have been given God’s holy Spirit 11 And the Spirit can empower us to live lives that show forth the beauty of holiness.12 Yet we so often fail to live holy lives. We are selfish and cruel. We are arrogant and insensitive. We are unkind and unloving. Why? The answer is that we do not realize that we live in the presence of a holy God. The holiness of God should shake us to the very core of our being, just as it did to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim;13 each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:1-5)

The angelic seraphim cover their faces because they dare not look upon the brilliance of our holy God. They cover their feet because they are not worthy to be in the presence of our holy God. And they are always ready to fly at God’s command to do His will. And they cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD.” Never in Scripture do we hear God called “Wise, wise, wise is the LORD” or “Good, good, good” or “Powerful, powerful, powerful.” We hear “Holy, holy, holy.” And this threefold repetition of the word holy emphasizes the grandeur and majesty of God’s impeccable holiness. This vision of God shook Isaiah to the core of his being. He feared for his life!

Why do we, as Christians, sin? We do not fear a holy God. Why do we doubt God? We do not believe that He is holy and just. No person, no church, no family, and no nation is ever better than its understanding of God. Our low vision of God’s holiness is the main reason for the host of problems that plague our lives. We need to see the holiness of God. We need to tremble before it. We need to let it shake us to the core of our being. And we need to let it heal us just as it did Isaiah.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:6-8)

God revealed His holiness to Isaiah, not to condemn him, but to forgive him and send him out to preach. The holiness of God should shake us to the core of our being. But then it should motivate us to live for God and serve Him with all that we are and all that we have.

In holiness and righteousness God has punished our sins in His Son Jesus Christ. In holiness and righteousness He has saved us, justified us and made us holy in Jesus Christ. And in holiness and righteousness God has made us ambassadors for Christ. And He sends us to a world that needs the healing light of our holy God.14 May the words to this poem be our response to the holiness of God.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let it sing
Always, only, for my King.

Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages for Thee;
Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold.

Take my love, my God I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Take my will and make it Thine.
It should no longer be mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne.
(Francis Ridley Havergall)

See Endnotes: 10,11,12,13,14