Holy.

It’s very interesting for such a short word. Either it’s not used enough or we throw it around nonchalantly. Sometimes it’s even used to bludgeon another person over the head. It’s in tons of worship songs and on our Bibles.

When you think of holy what comes to mind? Perfection, purity, or moral goodness might be a few of your thoughts. All of those things are included in the word holy of course. But none of them define the word itself. In fact, the New Testament has other words for all those things. Sometimes they are translated holy and sometimes they are not.

In the Old Testament, holy means “apartness, separateness, or distinction”. In the New Testament, it is a little bit harder to define. The opposite of holy is “profane”. We usually think of something evil when we think of the word “profane”. But in New Testament thinking, profane simply means “common”. So, holy is something distinct. Something not common, but rather something separate from that which is common. I prefer the word “unique”.

There are a few attributes God ascribes to the very fabric of His nature. For example, God is merciful, but He’s not mercy. He’s merciful because He is love. Psalm 99:9 says, “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.” It’s who He is, not what He does. It’s a part of His very nature. If someone asks you, “What is God like?” you can answer with 100% surety that He is holy. What does that mean though?

In Numbers 20, the people complained against Moses because there was no water. Moses took it to the Lord and God told Moses to speak to the rock so water would come out. Moses was angry and yelled at the people before he struck the rock. Water came out and the people drank. God pulled Moses aside and disciplined him for misrepresenting Him. Now, that sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it? Moses was one of the few people loyal to the Lord amidst all the desert travels. Hadn’t he sacrificed a lot for the Lord?

Listen to God’s charge against Moses in v12: “… Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Insert our word holy for “sanctify” because it’s the same word. Moses gave people the impression that God is just like all of us. So, God had to discipline Moses severely to show that the picture Moses gave wasn’t true. Thus, in v13 it says, ” … because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and He was sanctified in them.”

See God is unique. He is different than you and me. There is only one Him. By disciplining Moses, He proved that. By giving them water when they didn’t deserve it, He proved it. Would you have done that? I wouldn’t have. I’d have probably been angry too if God told me to speak to the rock. But Jesus isn’t like me 🙂 And I am so very thankful for that. I’m so thankful He loves me when I’m not lovable. I’m so thankful He empowers me to do that which I can’t do on my own. I’m so thankful He never fails, never lies, and never gets tired (unlike me). I’m so thankful He knows everything, can do everything (unlike me again), and paid the price for my sin when no one else would have.

When I sing songs about God’s holiness, I don’t simply meditate on His purity or moral goodness. I worship from the depths of my being the One who alone is unique and nothing like me at all. After contemplating God’s uniqueness in his letter to Timothy, Paul said in 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

One other quick thought. We’re supposed to be holy too aren’t we? That doesn’t simply mean we’re to be morally good or pure. It means we need to love like no one else does. 1 Corinthians 13 is a good picture of what holy love looks like 🙂 Don’t read that and get discouraged. Read it and recognize you need the Holy (see it’s everywhere) Spirit to actually do it.

So, the next time you sing a song with the word “holy” in it, think about Jesus’ uniqueness. Think about how different He is than you are and thank Him as you let your heart magnify Him as the one and only God! And then let Him live through you that people might see Jesus 🙂

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