The dividing barrier of sin has been torn down by the cross, and as a result, the children of God are welcome into His presence. And as such, we should come—even boldly—into that presence. This is what the Bible tells us to do.
What do we mean when we say God is “holy?” We are familiar with the word – we use it as an exclamation in phrases like, “Holy cow!” or “Holy moly!” or worse. So we use it frequently enough. We are familiar with the word; perhaps even too familiar. Perhaps we have become far too comfortable with a God who is holy.
The basic meaning of holy is one of separateness. Sacredness. Something that is not common or like other things. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself in a place where you clearly do not belong. Maybe it’s a fancy restaurant where you’re the only one wearing t-shirt and flip flops. Or maybe it’s in the middle of a very serious conversation you walked in on your parents having. Whatever the case, you get this sense all of a sudden that you are in a place that is too serious for you. And it’s uncomfortable.
The holiness of God reminds us just how separate and sacred God is. He is not meant to be treated trivially, and those who do so do so at their own risk. This is part of what the prophet Isaiah discovered.
If you take a look at Isaiah 6, for example, you find that beginning to understand holiness is the beginning of learning about God. “Holy” is the cry that even now is ringing in the heavens to describe God. That’s what Isaiah encountered as he was taken up in a vision and saw the Lord:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one has six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth.’
By calling God “holy” three times, the seraphim were pointing to the absolutely essential and foundational nature of God’s holiness. They didn’t chant “loving, loving, loving” or even “glorious, glorious, glorious.” They opted for holy, and therefore we must recognize that to understand a bit of who God is we must start here with this characteristic.