As a child, I remember singing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” with great gusto in my home church with my mother and father standing by my side.
Then, as I got older in my faith walk with the Lord, I sang the hymn with less gusto and more meaning as I pondered each of the words while singing them.
Some places just evoke a feeling of sacredness, of being a special place where we feel close to God. Consider the Canterbury Cathedral, where worship services to God have been conducted for over 1400 years!
Or, consider Bryce Canyon where we see the majesty and jaw-dropping creativity of our Sovereign God. The beauty and sheer magnitude of the canyon evokes a feeling of gratitude to God for the beauty of His creation.
Or, consider Yellowstone National Park with its geysers and pools of water that exceed the boiling point, spewing steam and sulfur continually from their fissures.
These things tell us that God is different than we are … that He is far greater than our finite minds can comprehend.
We say God is holy, that we have the Holy Bible, that Jesus foretold of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we know that are to be holy but: “What is ‘holy’?”
The Hebrew word for “holy” as found in Strong’s concordance is Strong’s Number H6944 which matches the Hebrew קֹדֶשׁ English transliteration “godesh”. This word occurs 519 times in 382 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the NASB
The word signifies apartness, sacredness, separateness and it is used in relation to God, places and things. There is a “set-apartness” for that which is holy. In reading Leviticus we see how the tabernacle and all its furnishings and utensils were “consecrated to God”, another way of saying they were set apart for God’s use, specifically for use in their worship of Him. The clothing that the priests wore was consecrated for when they were performing their priestly duties. They were set apart for use in the worship and service of God, taken out of the ordinary and set apart for God.
We remember that when Moses was in the wilderness and saw the burning bush, he walked over to it and, when he approached the bush, God spoke and told him to remove his sandals because the ground where he was standing was holy ground. Before the bush started burning the ground around it was just regular ground, like all the rest of the wilderness. But God’s presence, His use of the bush to get Moses’ attention, set the bush and surrounding ground apart from the rest: it became holy. His sandals that were covered in the dust of the ordinary had to be removed because they were contaminating the ground that had become holy.
God directed Moses to tell the people that they were to be holy because He, their God, is holy.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
God elaborates upon His relationship with His people in the next chapter:
You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
God set apart His people for His own purposes, that they should be His and that they should follow no other god. He separated them from all the peoples on the earth and they are His. They are a holy people – not because of their own abilities or value.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
God’s people are His because He has chosen them and He is faithful to fulfill all the promises that He made to the patriarchs of old.
In the New Testament, Peter tells the Christians that they are God’s children and that they are to be “holy” in their conduct!
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-16
We know, of course, that we cannot be holy on our own – we need the Holy Spirit to bring us the holiness that we need so we can show God’s holiness to the world. We are sinful creatures and cannot be “holy” in our own right. Because God is holy, we are to be holy as His children. Holiness is to be a family trait!
So, what does this have to do with me, or with you? We need to remember that, as Christians, we have dual citizenship – we are citizens of the place on earth where God has put us for His purposes, and we are citizens of God’s kingdom. As much as we are involved with the workings of our homes, cities, governments, schools, etc., these take second place when we think about our ultimate, eternal citizenship.
God’s world is a beautiful, magnificent creation that reflects His glory daily. But Scripture tells us that this world will pass away, but God’s Kingdom will never pass away.
Jesus said that our focus should not be on this world, but rather on heaven.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Be holy because God is holy. Think of the words of the hymn as you listen to it being sung on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise and Comfort, by Columbia Publishing House.
Father, I know that I cannot be holy other than by Your grace and mercy through the power granted to me by the Holy Spirit. Enable me to grow in holiness so that others may see You reflected in my life.