1 Chronicles 16:29 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”
Isa. 6:3 “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
As is the case every so often, the theme of our worship in song congregationally is God’s holiness. There are many hymns, choruses, and worship songs, that focus on the holiness of God. One song we often sing at Berearn has a refrain that says:
“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord; How awesome is your name”
I have noticed over the years that whenever the congregation sings of God’s holiness, physical manifestations of our heart worship increase significantly. In other words, more hands are raised up in worship, faces are intent, eyes are often closed, some sway, while others at times, clap. I put my mind to wondering, “why is this?” In other words, why do we not see the same response when we sing of God’s wrath, his judgment, his truthfulness, or even his love to a certain extent? Why do we not have songs whose refrain is “wrathful, wrathful, wrathful Lord, how awesome is your name?”
As I thought about it, I concluded that it is because our hope is fundamentally in his holiness. Our hope is not so much in his justice, judgment, kindness, love, etc. Certainly, those things are true of him and all of them to some extent are hope engendering. But what makes those attributes meaningful to us is that his justice is holy, his judgment is holy, his kindness and love are holy. Ultimately, if these attributes are not holy then we are hopeless. This is true in two ways:
- God’s holiness is our hope because without it we could have no confidence in his promises. How tragic it would be to have a God that was more Stalin like than saintly? Who could ever have hope in a God that was more Hitler like than heavenly? If God is not holy, he can change his mind. If he is not holy, he can act capriciously rather than predictably out of a holy character. If he is not holy, he does not have to keep his Word! What if God changed his mind about our salvation? What if he did not have to keep his promise to save us and keep us? We would have little reason to hope in a God like that. But because he is a holy God, we can have hope that he will always do right and will never change his mind but will always keep his promises according to a holy character.
- Christ’s holiness is our hope as our substitute. If Jesus Christ was not completely holy and sinless, he could not be the substitute sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin. He would not be himself righteous and thus could not impute that righteousness to us by faith. In short, without a sinless and holy Savior we could not be saved.
This is why, I think, the theme of God’s holiness plays the strings of our hearts so. We intuitively know that our hope is in this truth that he is holy, even if we cannot articulate it theologically. We are filled with hope precisely because we know he is holy. This is why we hope in God. This is why we hope in Christ. If my hope is in my own righteousness, or my own supposed holiness, I am undone. I have no hope. I instinctively know that I am not holy. My only hope at that point is that in the final analysis, God won’t mind that I’m not holy, that somehow, he will overlook my unholiness. This is the hope of so many “good people”. They offer up their best effort, their kindest iteration of themselves, and their good works in the hope that God will not require holy perfection from them. But this is a fool’s errand. It is at best, whistling past the graveyard.
Dear friend, hope in God and Christ today rejoicing in their holiness. Without it we have no hope. With it imputed to us by faith in Jesus Christ, we have every hope. His holiness is our hope.