by Vijay Chandra
HOLINESS IN BIBLE: SET APART
In the Old Testament, holiness is spoken of primarily in relation to God. “THE LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9). Holiness is God’s very nature—the very foundation of His being. Thrice, intensely holy is the Lord (Isaiah 6:3). God is Holiness. Holiness is God’s permanent crown. It is the ‘shining of all His perfection’ as the Puritans used to say. Holiness is the backdrop for all else the Bible declares about God.
The Old Testament concept of divine holiness presents three main truths about God.
- First, it denotes the separateness or otherness of God from all His creation. The most common Hebrew word for holy (‘qados’) has its most fundamental meaning to be separate or apart. God is above and beyond all His creation. Nothing is like Him (Deuteronomy 4:35,39, 1 Kings 8:60, Isaiah 45:5-6, 14, 18, 22, 46:9, Joel 2:27).
- Secondly, it denotes God’s total ‘apartness’ from all that is unclean or evil. God is moral perfection. His holiness is total righteousness and purity (Isaiah 5:16, Habakkuk 1:13).
- Thirdly, due to God’s being set apart by nature and from all sin, He is unapproachable by sinners ‘apart from holy sacrifice’ (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Only with bloody, life-giving sacrifice can the holy God justly dwell among sinners (Romans 6:23)—and that for Christ’s sake, the Sacrifice that was to come. In and through the coming Messiah, the unique and perfect God of Israel can live among His chosen people.
From this threefold concept of God as the Holy One, it naturally follows that all associated with God [that is ‘divine phenomena’] must also be holy. God’s instituted sabbath is ‘holy sabbath’ (Exodus 16:23), His home is ‘holy heaven’ (Psalm 20:6), His name is holy (Exodus 20:7). So too, his church is called to be a ‘holy assembly’ (Exodus 12:16). His covenant people is a ‘holy people’ (Deuteronomy 7:6). Israel, God’s covenant people, is called to holiness by means of holy ‘separation’ from sin (Deuteronomy 7:6), holy consecration to God (Leviticus 11:44), holy ‘worship’ and ‘inner holiness’ or cleansing (Leviticus 16:30, Psalm 24:3-4).