Candy blogs: I recently spoke on the subject of one of God’s almost forgotten character traits … that of His HOLINESS. I preface this by saying that God’s holiness is only one of many of his character traits. I happen to be calling out this one in particular to take a look at today.
I experienced, what some might label, a more “severe” religious upbringing. I wasn’t allowed to wear pants to church or have my ears pierced or go swimming on Sundays or play games with a regular deck of cards or go to school dances. We didn’t say gosh or gol or darn or dang. And when the PG rating for movies first came out when I was in high school, I wasn’t allowed to go to them. I was taught that these things were part of living a “holy” life. I had my little run-ins with these “rules” growing up but my perception of God was never stern or harsh or unfeeling. Somehow I was able to understand the co-existence of God’s holiness and God’s grace and mercy. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Even though I moved away from those types of severe behaviors when I grew up, I believe that, in the pursuit of being palatable to the culture, the Church today has lost much of the reverence that God’s holiness requires.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the Church didn’t need to make some changes to stay relevant. I don’t believe we should stay stuck in one place. There are many ways to live out the Christian life and many ways to “do” church and many ways to reach out to pre-Christians. But somewhere along the way, I believe the holiness of God became a bit like this scene from the Wizard of Oz … (click on the link to view)
Notice how their initial reverence and respect and awe, and even fear, turned to casual conversation and even confrontation and demands when they discovered that the wizard was common and approachable. In their eyes, when “that veil was torn”, the wizard had lost his awe and mystery.
Let’s clarify the meaning of these words … holiness and reverence and respect and awe.
-specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated
-HOLY refers to the divine, that which has its sanctity directly from God or is connected with Him
a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe
esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person
-an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, produced by that which is grand, sublime or extremely powerful
-power to inspire fear or reverence
-to influence or restrain by awe
Wow, we really don’t think in these terms anymore, do we? There aren’t a lot of people or things we feel this way about anymore. Everything is so accessible now. We use these words so flippantly, so non-chalantly today … Holy (holy cow!) … awe/awesome (you’re so awesome, dude). The way we use these words in our culture have nothing to do with their true meaning. They’ve lost their impact.
In the Old Testament pleasing God was very black and white. God’s presence was represented in the Ark of the Covenant. If you were in the presence of the Ark, you were in the presence of God. Thus, the Ark was holy because God dwelled there. God gave very clear instructions how to treat the Ark, and thus how to respond to Himself.
• When the Philistines captured the Ark in battle, so many horrible things happened to them, they couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. (I Sam. 4-5) God rained down judgment on them because they were treating the holy Ark with such disrespect. And since the Ark represented God, they were disrespecting God himself.
• Uzzah just touched the Ark and God struck him down (II Sam. 6) He didn’t wait to consider that Uzzah’s intentions were good. God had said that the Ark wasn’t to be touched, and when it was, punishment and justice were immediate. The comments in my study Bible say that this event is a reminder to those of us who claim to serve God that we must acknowledge His rule with absolute seriousness. I had to sit with this awhile.
In our culture we tend to have a very blasé view of sin. We tend to justify our sins and dismiss them as “mistakes”. But the holiness in God still hates sin and requires justice. God will forgive the sinner, but He will, He MUST, still judge the sin.
Ah, but you can’t talk about God’s holiness without talking about God’s mercy. Stay tuned for part II! Mercy came running …
I’ve missed you all! I’ve been busy writing new talks. Pray for me.