Holy things seem odd to us. We should just admit it. We might call religious art or ancient church buildings holy, but only if we have some reverent feeling in their presence. In the Bible, the word “holy” is an objective description; if something is holy it is separate. Holy things are above and beyond the normal, and that is why they are called holy.
But holiness is still a foreign concept to us. It suggests something we can’t reach. Even when we use the word “holy” in everyday life, we save it for extraordinary things. Scripture uses this word in the same way—to set things apart. Isaiah describes God with a hat trick of holies:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:3).
Using more words might seem to express the idea better, but Isaiah says simply, “holy, holy, holy,” as if that is enough. God is holy. Three times holy. More holy than we can understand.
But that is not the amazing part. There is not much of an argument that God is holy. Even if you struggle to believe there is a God, the God you probably imagine would be holy—separate, other, and perfect. That sort of God can be holy and still not have any interaction with humanity.
The shocking part of our God’s holiness is that He dwells with humanity, a creation that has proved itself unholy. This is the great mystery: holiness dwelling with the unholy, the perfect with the imperfect, the pure with those who need purity. God’s holiness is not only perfect purity, but also a perfect engagement with the unholy.
What makes this truth amazing is not just that God is holy but that this holy God is also with us. He dwells with us and makes us holy. And this stirs in us, as it did with Isaiah, a longing to be with God even as we confess our unworthiness to stand before Him. What is that longing about? It is the longing for the resurrection, the longing to dwell forever with the Holy One—the separate, perfect One who is with us always. Isaiah’s audience longed for the day they would know this kind of unity with God, a unity that is ours now in Christ.
Written by Jason Tippetts