HOLY IS HE! These words of the Psalmist set God apart, literally. When we think of holiness, we think of conducting ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God. We think that if we can be a little more like God, we can be holy, like God is holy. But it just can’t be. To be holy is to be alone in the middle of a crowd. To be holy is to be set apart from the rest. To be holy literally means to be one of a kind. The word Qadesh – that we translate as holy – means to be uniquely set apart from all others. We cannot be holy, for HOLY IS HE!
In this repeating idea of God’s holiness we see this idea of God being holy, alone. The Psalmist says “The LORD reigns” and “He sits enthroned upon the cherubim.” God reigns alone. There is only room for one on that throne. He says “The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.” There is no one who is exalted like Him, no other as great as He. HOLY IS HE!
So when the psalmist describes characteristics attributed to God, he is saying that they truly belong exclusively to Him. God alone loves justice; establishes equity; executes justice and righteousness. God alone is forgiving; He alone avenges wrongdoings. These are not the characteristics we share in common. We might all think we love justice and equality; we might all like to believe we are just and righteous; we might all talk about being forgiving of wrongs done to us while avenging wrongs done to others. This is the way we want to see ourselves, we see ourselves as holy, but it is a lie. If these were true of us as they are true of God than we would be like God, and God would not be holy alone. So this can’t be true of us for HOLY IS HE!
But don’t you see? This is why He came. We could not love justice and establish equity. In our sin we want to be better than the rest; we want to be number one; we want to be like God. So Jesus came “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We could not forgive those who sin against us and we are incapable of truly avenging the sins of others. So Jesus came and when they crucified him for your sins and mine, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We could not be righteous; we could not be just; we could not forgive; and we could not pay the price for our own forgiveness. So Jesus came. And just as God spoke to Moses and Aaron out of the pillar of could, so the voice of the Father spoke to Peter, James, and John out of the cloud descended on the mountain in our Lord’s transfiguration saying “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” For HOLY IS HE!
God wants us to be holy. God wants us to be set apart from our selfishness, from our sinful nature and to be set apart for Him alone. God wants us to be holy His. So by the grace of the Holy Father, through faith in Jesus Christ alone we are saved from the power of sin and death. And when we arise to eternal life on the last day and we are truly completely His alone, we shall be holy, for the Lord our God is Holy!