God’s will #3: Holiness
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:8b ESV
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
Psalm 111:9 ESV
Last week we established two aspects of God’s will – salvation for all people and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. The aspect we’ll be looking at today follows directly from these two: holiness.
Did you notice the interesting thing about the above two verses? In Revelation 4, when the four living creatures sing of the Lord Almighty “who was and is and is to come”, it’s a play on the Tetragrammaton – YHWH, the great “I AM WHO I AM/I AM WHAT I AM/I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE” as revealed to Moses in Exodus. Same thing in Psalm 111 – “holy and awesome is his name”. Something very important about God’s will is revealed in his name:
When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
[…] Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 4:4-8; 13-15 ESV)
When Moses approaches the burning bush he is told to remove his sandals because he’s standing on holy ground. As the footnotes in the ESV Study Bible point out, “The ordinariness of the location helps make the point that it is holy ground, not because of any special properties of the place but only because of God’s presence.” By telling Moses to remove his sandals, God was letting Moses know that he was stepping into the presence of something fundamentally different from the world around him, the world that he knew.
Notice that this is God talking about himself. Moses asks him how he, Moses, is to identify God to the slaves in Egypt, and God uses the Hebrew verb “’ehyeh”, “to be”. This is the fulfilment of the promise God made to Jacob in Genesis 28:13: “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring…” He’s literally saying, “I will be with you.” God is setting himself apart from the “other” gods in the region. Unlike them, he isn’t fickle; he is steadfast, the same then as he always was and always would be. A god who kept his promises and saw the affliction of his people. He sets himself apart from the traits humans, creating their idols in their own likenesses, typically assigned them. He’s saying, I’m different. He’s saying, It’s this difference that makes me holy. It is this constancy that makes me holy.
In the same way that Moses was standing on holy ground that day in the desert, we are constantly standing on holy ground because God has made his home in us, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that God expected Moses to remove the sandals from his feet, to acknowledge that here was something different – something set apart – from the world around him, God expects us to live our lives “apart” from the sin of the fallen world. In the same way that God remains undefiled by the world, he wills that we try to live the same way. He cannot but will this for us, because he alone realises the repercussions of this unholy, fallen state. It is, after all, the reason Jesus had to die on the cross – to allow us back into God’s holy presence, to tear the veil in two (Matthew 27:51). Instead of facing God’s holiness in fear and despair, we can look on it with the awe and reverence of those in whom he dwells, whom he loves, and through whom he works.
With this idea of “being set apart” in mind, and to “[bring] holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1), let’s pray: