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And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:8-11)

In this passage, we see the four living creatures gathered around the throne of “the Lord God Almighty”. As they behold the one seated upon the throne, they are compelled to draw attention to His self-existence. He is the One, “who was and is and is to come!” He has no beginning or end. He is the same now as he was and as he will be. The Lord Almighty does not change! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!!!

But this vision of the throne of God also includes the praise of the twenty-four elders, who praise the worthiness of the One who sits upon the throne. But of all the works of God they could consider in their praise, they focus their attention upon God as the sovereign creator of all things – “for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”. God was not compelled to create anything! You and I were not created by our will, but because of the will of God!

Questions to Ponder:
What are the implications of the reality that God is self-existent? How often do you remember that you exist by God’s will? You and I exist because God!! Do we exist as instruments to fulfill the will of God? Or does God exist as an instrument to fulfill our wills? If God is the Creator and we are part of His creation, who has the right to tell whom what to do?

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3)

“The LORD of hosts” is the one to whom these seraphim ascribe the title “Holy, holy, holy.” LORD in all capital letters indicates to us that they were declaring Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as Holy. This is not some unknown deity that is declared to be holy, but the very God who revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush (Ex. 3) and then delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. (Ex. 14) and led Moses to declare: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11).  This same God had revealed Himself through the law and the former prophets, and now was making Himself known through the prophet Isaiah.

Twenty-five times in the book of Isaiah God is referred to as “the Holy One of Israel”. Therefore, it seems that this revelation of the holiness of God to Isaiah left a lasting mark on his prophetic ministry. In his vision, Isaiah, beholds seraphim ministering in the presences of the enthrone Lord of Israel and worshipping Him for His unrivaled holiness. Notice the immensity of this God – “his robe filled the temple” and “the whole earth is full of his glory”. His presence is pervasive. His glory is immense! He is so massive and majestic that “the whole earth is full of his glory!” There is no square of inch of all creation that does not in some way and in some measure display the glory of God. As we look around, we should see the glory of God, the glory of the LORD! As the Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

Now here is something to think about: Do you see the glory of God displayed in the creation around you? Do you see the weightiness of God displayed in the thunderstorm or the calmest day? Do you see how the wonder of God is set forth in the solo sun that shines by day and millions stars that shine at night?

Before leaving Isaiah 6, we should take note of Isaiah’s response in verse 5: “And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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’s concern is over this “unclean lips” and that he “dwells in the midst of a people of unclean lips”. This is no little concern. He declares, “Woe is me! For I am lost…” He not just convicted but terrified. He is undone. He is uncomfortable (to say the least). What has brought on this fear? It has been brought about by His beholding “the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Which doctrine, do you think is the most essential in determining proper understanding of God and His gospel? Some people might argue that our view of Scripture is most important, because it determines the reliability of what we know about God. Others might say that our view of Christ and the cross is the most crucial, because on Calvary we see the Son of God actually accomplish our redemption. Still others might argue that our view of human depravity is decisive, because it shapes our understanding of what (if anything) man can contribute to his own salvation.

However, I believe that the most pivotal doctrine in determining our understanding of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ is our understanding of the Holiness of God. Your understanding of the holiness of God will radically affect almost every other area of theology. Consider the following:

  • If God is holy in the sense of being set apart from the rest of creation, then man cannot come to know God on his own effort. Rather God must in some way speak in terms that we can understand, and God has done this through the Scriptures.
  • If God is holy. Then we must recognize, first and foremost, that God is God and we are not. He create us and we belong to Him. He has the right to demand from us as His creatures whatever He desires. We cannot demand anything from Him, because He is not indebted to us, but rather we are indebted to him for our life, our breathe and our being (Acts 17: 25).
  • If God is holy. We must also recognize that humanity though it was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) has fallen from its original state. Thus all of us fall short of God’s standard of holiness. Before the Holy One of Israel, we are all evil and rebellious creatures. While there may be degrees of rebellion, everyone is a rebel.
  • If God is holy, then there is no way man can satisfy the righteousness of God. God cannot compromise His standard of justice. The wages of sin is death, so those who sin must die.
  • If Jesus is God and Jesus is Holy, then there is hope for sinners. Jesus as the only man who was perfectly holy has satisfied God’s high standard of holiness. Furthermore, Jesus as the God-man is able to offer up his holiness as the basis of approval before God for all who believe in Him.

I think Jonathan Edwards was right when he asserted that God’s holiness consisted “in a regard to to himself, infinitely above his regard to all other beings” (The End for Which God Created the World). The holiness of God is not simply the fact God is set apart from sin, but also that God is set apart from everything by the fact that He is God and nothing else is. So I whole-heartedly agree with exhortation made by John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory:

“I would encourage the reader to wrestle earnestly with this truth…This is a continental divide in theology. If you really believe this, all rivers of your thinking run toward God. If you do not, all the rivers run toward man. The theological and practical implications are innumerable. Settling this issue is worth many nights of prayer and study. Edwards calls God’s regard to himself his “holiness.” It may be more proper to call it God’s righteousness.” Thus his “holiness” would be the infinite worth that God has in his own estimation, and his righteousness would be his valuing and respecting that worth without wavering and upholding it in all that he does.” (p. 141)

“We quickly learn that God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve more around good jobs, nice houses, and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple” in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leads to death, while the former leads to life.” (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 200)

Carson here does a great job of reminding us of the difference between God’s priorities and those of the world. I hope and pray that my desires (as well as yours) would be in line with the God who made us, than with the world system that has rebelled against him. That he would give you and I the grace to grow in godliness.

*It is my hope to started sharing some of the more thought provoking quotes from my personal reading on a weekly basis.