Prominently displayed at the National Archives in Washington DC are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These documents are protected and preserved in special cases. On display for all yet separate and untouchable except by a few using special protocols. They are treated as something unique and precious. To use a much older word, they treated as something holy (although not in a religious sense). But treating something as holy and being holy is not the same thing.
So far we’ve looked at God’s all-powerfulness, all-knowingness, everywhereness, and eternalness. Today we are looking at a Biblical term for which there is no common adequate replacement. Holy is an old word that has been used and abused for thousands of years. At its very core, it means separate. But in the Biblical use, it has connotations of purity and otherness.
When common implements were created for use in the Temple they were consecrated and set apart – they were declared holy. But God is not declared holy He is holy. The easiest way to grasp this is to consider God as separate in His otherness. The Bible says, “There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2, NASB95) And, “Exalt the Lord our God And worship at His holy hill, For holy is the Lord our God.” (Psalm 99:9, NASB95) In a way, holy sums up all the attributes of God in one word.
This otherness is so stark that the Bible says it is always being declared. Consider this heavenly scene, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”” (Revelation 4:8, NASB95) God is holy. Yet, as we’ve seen in His other attributes, He’s not locked away for safe keeping like those precious documents at the National Archive but He is active and intimately involved with His creation.
Even though God desires to relate with humanity there is a basic conflict between God’s holiness and the unholy choices of people. In basic terms, sin is a violation of God’s holiness. The Bible says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, NLT) And yet, the essence of humanity is to go our own way, plot our own course, attempt ascension to a god-like status through our own efforts.
Unlike the treasured documents at the National Archives, God is approachable. The whole point of the Biblical narrative is about bringing people into real life contact and relationship with God. He isn’t “up there” in some guarded kingdom waiting for us to get our act together. Or watching with lighting bolts in hand for us to mess up. God invites everyone to connect with Him through Jesus, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. At this point, it is sufficient to say that God, in His holiness and otherness, desires a relationship with His creation.