Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Holy, Holy, Holy

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Isaiah 6:1-3

There I was- twenty-four years old and ready to ask the woman I loved to marry me. It had hit me all at once. One day, I just knew I was ready to marry this woman, but I needed to buy a ring before I could ask her. So I did what most young men in that situation do. I begged a woman to help me pick out a ring! There are only a few mistakes in life that really stick with you but mucking up your engagement with a bad ring is one of them. Thankfully, my future sister-in-law came through for me. Seven and a half years later and my wife still likes her engagement ring.

It isn't uncommon at a wedding ceremony to hear the pastor wax eloquently about the symbolism of the wedding ring. How its circular shape pictures the couple's endless love, etc., etc... But today I want to use the engagement ring as a picture of God's holiness. In the prophet Isaiah's vision, as he saw God Almighty seated on a throne, there around Him were powerful angels called seraphim who cried out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty." Holiness can be a hard concept to wrap your head around, but our God is three times holy. He is holy to the third degree. So it is worth the effort for us to try to understand this important aspect of His nature. 

Three elements of the engagement ring makes it easier for us grasp the concept of holiness.

  1. Engagement rings almost always have a diamond in them. Diamonds of course are very valuable because they are relatively rare. You can't get them just anywhere. And the more rare the diamond, the more valuable it is. This is a great picture of God's holiness. God is set apart by the fact that He is one of a kind. King Solomon said of Him, "There is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below." (I Kings 8:23) More to the point, Hannah prayed "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God." (I Samuel 2:2) God is holy, exalted, and completely different from anyone or anything else.
  2. Another thing about diamonds is that you want one with the least amount of impurities or inclusions in it. If the diamond has cloudy parts, dark spots, or cracks then it is worth less. In other words: the more pure it is the more valuable it is. God's holiness means that He is completely pure from sin and imperfection. He is separate from all evil and darkness. In fact, Scripture often depicts God as shining with brilliant light. I John 1:5-6 says, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all."
  3. Lastly, the engagement ring signals to the watching world that the two of you are set apart for one another. To be holy also means to be set apart for a special purpose- God's purpose. It may seem odd to say that God is set apart for His own purpose. But He is. Imagine how weird it would be for God to serve some other lesser purpose, for Him to spend His time accomplishing lesser goals or worshiping false gods. No. For God to be holy He must spend His time accomplishing His own perfect ends and extending His own awesome glory. We too are called to be set apart to serve God's purposes. The Apostle Paul said, "'Come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord...Therefore, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." (2 Corinthians 6:17a & 7:1) We are called to be set apart from sin and the world, so that we may be used by God.  
It is important for us to understand God's holiness because it is such a singular and vital part of His nature. But it's also important because God calls us to be holy like Him. In Leviticus 19:2 God tells Moses to call all Israel together and give them the following command. "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." 

Are you holy? Has your life been set apart for use by God? Are you becoming increasingly free of sin? Are you different from those around you? God promises to conform believers into the image of His Son. Each day we seek to become more like Christ. As we do, we increase in holiness and become more like the Father as well. So my prayer for you and for me today is that we would throw off the sin that entangles us, that we would stop conforming to the pattern of this world, and that we would be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we might increase in holiness as we are made into the likeness of Christ. (Hebrews 12:1, Romans 12:2 & 8:29)

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