When I have found myself in spiritual and emotional valleys, one thing has always played a key role in helping me come victoriously out of them: meditating on the nature and characteristics of God. This meditation, which has consistently led me into deeper prayer and worship, has been a tremendous blessing to my life. Thus far in this brief series we have considered God’s goodness and sovereignty. Let’s consider another of God’s traits.
God is holy. At the root of “holiness” is separation from that which is common or mundane. Mounce offers this concise definition, “Separate from common condition and use” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Therefore, to speak of God’s holiness is to affirm that he is in a class by himself. “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Exo. 15:11). “For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears” (2 Sam. 7:22). Such passages could be multiplied many times over.
One primary application of God’s holy character, especially as it relates to us, is his separateness from all that is evil and sinful. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You cannot look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13). Writing about Jesus, God in the flesh, the author of Hebrews said, “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). When I consider the holiness of God, I am forced to look at myself and admit how dependent I am on his goodness. This is what happened to Isaiah. In a vision, he saw God, the one who is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3), and his immediate response was, “Woe is me…I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). A proper understanding of God’s holiness will shine a bright light on my lack of it.
But God doesn’t want me to remain in that condition. His will for my life is that I steadily progress in holiness. He wants me to grow more and more like him each day. “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet. 1:15). Paul affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (i.e., holiness). I am to pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14) and perfect holiness (2 Cor. 7:1).
All of that being so, I remind myself often that God will work his sovereign will, governed by his abiding goodness, to discipline me in the direction of holiness. If I am willing to cooperate with the process, he will use my circumstances, even (especially?) the painful ones, to mold my character and move me ever closer to his holy character. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). Therefore, even in the harshest of trials, I can worship and thank God because “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness” (Heb. 12:10).