The Comfort of Holy God

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
– Isaiah 6:3, ESV

Since the last women’s newsletter, I’ve been thinking more about what it means practically to find comfort in God. I believe that ultimately this comfort comes, first, from who God is and, second, from what He has done for us. This order is very important, too, because what God has done for us becomes even more amazing when we gain a greater understanding of who He is. I’m confident I will not do this subject justice, but there are other theologians who have. One such theologian is R.C. Sproul. In what might be the defining book of his ministry, The Holiness of God, Sproul details his search to more fully understand this attribute of God, or what we often think of as one of God’s attributes. But Sproul claims, “The tendency is to add the idea of the holy to this long list of attributes as one attribute among many. But when the word holy is applied to God, it does not signify one single attribute. On the contrary, God is called holy in a general sense. The word is used as a synonym for His deity. That is, the word holy calls attention to all that God is. It reminds us that His love is holy love, His justice is holy justice, His mercy is holy mercy, His knowledge is holy knowledge, His spirit is holy spirit” (48).

Sproul also explains that repetition is a literary device found in Hebrew forms of literature. It’s used for emphasis the way we might use underlining or italics or boldface type today in English. To repeat a word or phrase twice in Hebrew is to call extra attention to its importance, but to repeat something to the third degree “is to elevate it to the superlative degree, to attach to it emphasis of superimportance” (32). There is only one attribute of God that is mentioned three times in succession—holy, holy, holy (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8). God is so far above us and everything else in holiness, that when Isaiah comes into this vision of the Lord sitting upon a throne and His train filling the temple, Isaiah responds, “Woe is me! For I am lost; 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!” (Is. 6:5). He responds this way because he realizes the depth of his unholy nature in the presence of the holy God. In order to stand in the presence of the Lord and to serve Him as a prophet, Isaiah needs to have his guilt removed and his sins atoned for (Is. 6:6-7).

When we meditate on God’s holiness, when we realize how far He is above us and how wretched we are before Him, it makes the incarnation of Jesus Christ even more amazing. The all-powerful, perfect, mighty, creator God condescended to earth to atone for the sins of His people and remove our guilt. No other religion on earth claims that about their deity or deities. It is unfathomable. And yet our God, the one, true God, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Our greatest need is not to be happy, healthy, free of anxiety or worry or stress. Our greatest need is to have our sins atoned for and our guilt removed so that on the day of the Lord when we stand before Him in judgment we will be counted holy, righteous, blameless. Whenever Jesus healed people, He regularly declared, “Your sins are forgiven.” Because more than needing their diseases cured or their physical bodies healed, the people needed to have their sins forgiven. And the same is true of us today. Do we really believe that this is our greatest need? When we do truly believe this because we know who God is, it makes the freedom from sin, the removal of guilt and shame, and the adoption as sons and daughters in Christ all the more amazing.

The charges God brings before the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah comes to a climax in chapter 40 with an astounding proclamation: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God . . . And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Is. 40:1-5). This glory that was to be revealed is Jesus Christ. He is the comfort by which we are comforted. Whatever happens to us in this life, whatever trials or struggles we have faced, however we have failed, if we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, His blood has washed us clean and made us holy in God’s sight. He has removed our shame and made us whole again, and because of that, when we stand before Him on the Last Day, we will not stand condemned but we will stand before Him redeemed. We will stand there as His sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ in His kingdom. Praise God! Let us find all our comfort, all our hope, all our peace in this truth.

Bible Study Tip

Don’t only study small portions of Scripture at a time, but also make it a practice to read big chunks of Scripture in one sitting so as to better keep in mind the larger narrative of the Bible. Rosaria Butterfield writes, “God’s story is our ontology: it explains our nature, our essence, our beginnings and our endings, our qualities, and our attributes. When we daily read our Bibles, in large chunks of whole books at a time, we daily learn that our own story began globally and ontologically” (Openness Unhindered, 3-4). One way to do this is by following a yearly Bible reading plan. There is one 52-week plan available on the resource wall in the foyer at Westwood. Melissa Kruger offers her favorite Bible reading plan here, and Justin Taylor lists several other ways to read the Bible in a year here.

Recommended Books

Links in this section are Amazon Affiliate links to books we find helpful

The Holiness of God
by R.C. Sproul

This classic can help you better understand the biblical picture of God’s awesome holiness and why it is so foundational to God-centered, God-honoring theology and Christian living. In The Holiness of God , R.C. Sproul demonstrates that encountering God’s holy presence is a terrifying experience. Dr. Sproul argues that this struggle is nonetheless necessary because it is the only way to cure our propensity to trust in ourselves and our own righteousness for salvation.

“The human dilemma is this: God is holy, and we are not. God is righteous, and we are not.”

Recommended Media

Paige Brown delivered this message at the 2012 Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando, Florida. It’s titled, “In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God (1 Kings 8),” and in it, she offers such a clear and beautiful picture of the gospel while explaining the meaning of the temple and its implications on our lives today.

For the Kids

“No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he should be.”

– A.W. Tozer

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn…

Isaiah 61:1-2

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