3/1/2021 [Year of Knowing God’s Holiness 1] www.lifechurchmissions.com
God is Holy but we are not <Isa 6:1-8>
Prelude: God says, “Be holy because I am holy.” Perhaps one of the most overlooked areas in the teachings of the church today is the holiness of God. We may often hear that God is loving, righteous, or faithful, but the truth that “God is holy” is weakening in the hearts of believers. Think about it, why don't people like to discuss about a holy God? Is it because human behaviour is getting more and more atrocious? Or are people in this world having less and less love? Or are there fewer and fewer good people in the world? Actually not. There are in fact more and more moral doctrines in this world. The spirit of universal love in this world is also increasing. In fact, we continue to see many videos on the Internet that bring out moral values, telling us how to respect our parents, be humble, kind, have ethics, and be helpful to others, etc. The many large-scale popular movements in this world (e.g. the Pink Dot movement, support family planning movement, Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights movement, migration policy movement, etc) are meant to bring out a spirit of universal love, as if to allow these minorities to have some privileges. There is a rise in humanistic movements to show people of the world how great and selfless human civilisation is. With the progress of such humanistic movements, people forget that they are not the source of love and righteousness. They forget their own limitations and shortcomings, thinking that the good in human nature can replace God’s truth. But actually, if there is no God, humans cannot even survive. Human good cannot be considered good and their love is but limited love. Therefore, when we ask why people do not like to discuss about a God who is holy, the most accurate answer is because man is carnal. People continue to seek to coexist so as to receive mutual approval. However, God is completely holy. Only He is completely set apart as holy and is absolutely different from people of the world. In fact, we must understand why God’s holiness is the greatest threat to fallen human beings. Because when people depart from God, they are completely unholy. From the moment they are separated from the holy God, God’s holiness overthrows all the goodness in human nature. Man cannot boast of any merit and virtue in himself but must admit that he is born in unholiness. Actually, we need to understand that the natures of man and God are different. Man can be like a man because he is created by God and he must follow the instructions of God to be considered good. If man departs from God, their entire thoughts, the outward appearance they portray, their words and actions are in fact like those of the devil. Therefore, the Bible says, before we know God, the faculties of our entire life follow the ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air <Ep 2:2>. Our hearts are deceitful, our human nature is ugly and human ways are limited. Think about it, will a person who is full of humanism accept such a truth? Will he want to know a holy God? Not only will he not, he will instead refute all God’s holiness and replace it with human goodness, wisdom and universal love. Therefore, if a person truly sees God’s holiness, he does not first praise God’s virtues but he will say, “Woe to me, God is holy but I am not!”
1. The seraphim standing above God called to one another and praised God: Holy, holy, holy!
1）Who was king Uzziah?
Uzziah became king of Judah when he was 16 years old. Initially, he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The Bible tells us: Uzziah sought God and God gave him success. Thus, God helped him attack all the enemies of Israel such as the Philistines, Arabs, Meunites. His fame spread as far as the border of Egypt. He also brought financial prosperity to Judah, digging many cisterns, owning many livestock and vineyards. In terms of military strength, he had many fighting men following him, and they had all kinds of sophisticated weapons. Think about it, such a small nation of Judah could be so powerful in politics, economy and military, this must be the grace given by God. However, one most terrible thing happened, that is, after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God <2 Ch 26:16>. Because he was proud, he entered the holy temple to do what only the priests, the descendants of Aaron could do, which was to burn incense to the Lord. When the priests stopped him from doing so, king Uzziah became angry. Suddenly, at that moment, leprosy broke out on his forehead, so he left the holy temple in shame. The Bible says: King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord <2 Ch 26:21>. This verse tells us that until death he did not repent. From here, we will know how dangerous human pride is, and how evil that is in the eyes of God. In fact, we cannot imagine how such a glorious and flourishing king Uzziah could have fallen like this. Actually, from this, we will know that God can raise up people and also humble people. Man’s success and prosperity on earth are insignificant because all those come from the grace of God. But once a person becomes proud, no matter how successful he is, he will also be like ordinary kings, and fall like anyone else. Think about it, how many saints today have become proud because of earthly success? They do not read the Bible, and do not obey the word of God. After they are successful, they gradually think highly of themselves, and see themselves as more superior than others. In fact, in the eyes of God, they are totally not holy. Thus, we will see that they may succeed for a while, but eventually, their downfall is almost the same as the pagans. They cannot make their family members walk in holiness before God. They cannot become vessels suitable for God’s use, and they have nothing for later generations to remember them for, then they just leave like that. We can even say that when a spiritual leader is more successful but if he does not fear God, then as long as he still lives, God’s holiness will not come to him or to those whom he is leading. Because the message and system he brings are all human-centric. Therefore, we see that only in the year that king Uzziah died, the holy vision came to prophet Isaiah.
2）The seraphim praised God
Here, we once again see the praise of angels, especially the seraphim standing before God who are praising God. Seraphim are angels closest to God, standing above God, praising Him. Thus, we know how glorious these angels are. God Himself is glorious and He is also glorified by the praise from the mouth of the seraphim. But here, we see a very amazing sight, that is, these seraphim all have 6 wings. When God created all things, each of the functions He placed on everyone is not redundant, just as every limb and organ in our human body has its unique function. So we ask, why do these seraphim who stand above God have 6 wings? The Bible says:
(1) Two wings are used for flying (this is certainly our most common understanding of the function of wings). God created animals with vigor, thus they are lively and can move. Thus, we humans also use our lively and dynamic life to praise God.
(2) Two wings are to cover the feet. Think about it, the most honorable part of us humans is the head, the least is the feet. Thus, when we take photos, we focus on the head instead of the feet. Because God is too holy, the seraphim who serve before God cover their lowliest part. This is also why when Moses came to mount Horeb and came near the burning bush, God told him to take off his sandals, for the place where he was standing was holy ground <Ex 3:5>. Perhaps through this, we must understand why when we saints come before God, we should dress well and presentably, and prepare our hearts, so that we can praise Him in a most glorious manner; that is most fitting in the eyes of the glorious and holy God.
(3) Also, two wings are to cover the face. Here, it may be hard for us to understand, because since the face is most glorious, why must it be covered? Moreover, angels are different from humans, they have no sinful nature. That is because God is holy to the most extreme sense, such that no one can be equal with Him and His holiness, not even those who are without sin. The difference between Him and everything else not only make those with sin unable to face Him, but even created beings without sin must also completely humble down before Him. Thus, we will know why we who serve God should “cover our faces” before God. We who serve God cannot exalt ourselves. We preachers should not boast about our gift of gab and knowledge, we worship-leaders do not boast about our feelings or mood, we who serve must not boast because we have served well, nor should we feel down because we did not serve well or did not receive men’s recognition. We serve the Lord not to find our self-worth or display our gifts, but we must “cover our faces” in our serving, so that others can see the glory of God through our serving.
* These flying seraphim who serve before God covering their faces and feet, they praised God, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
3）God is different from humans and angels
Here, we cannot imagine how holy is the God who is high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Indeed, His glory is not manifested elsewhere but at the place where saints worship Him. Why is it that in the Bible when the angels praised God’s holiness, they sang out a threefold praise? Why did the angels not sing “good, good, good” or “love, love, love”? Because God’s holiness is the most distinctive among all His attributes. If God is not holy, His loving kindness and goodness will be no different from people of the world. That will just be the same as human universal love and goodwill. If God is not holy, His glory will be no different from the angels’. Why is it that before the Bible records that the angels called out, “holy, holy, holy”, the Bible especially talks about a king of Judah, then it talks about the angels covering themselves? Because among everything, no matter how great a king is or how glorious an angel is, it cannot be compared with this God. He is set apart from all things! He is totally different! Just as <Job 36:22> says: Who is like Him? His nature is different, His attributes are different! His power is different! His purpose is different! His works are completely different! These are all set apart from people of the world. Thus, the honor He is to receive before all men is different! Today, woe to those who has a frivolous attitude in knowing Him, preaching about Him and calling out to Him as if knowing and calling out to the idols worshipped by people of the world! Today, how many in the church come to seek blessings, instead of calling upon Him? How many believers offer second-class things to Him? Thus, we cannot see His glory. We unknowingly enter into typical living, and are embroiled in many typical thoughts and state, always living in helplessness, not only cannot see the presence of God and cannot use His power, but also cannot spread His gospel.
2. Unless God has mercy on us, gives grace to us, no one can stand before Him
1）After Isaiah saw God, he said, “Woe to me! I am ruined.”
Why is it that the seraphim were calling out “holy”, but Isaiah said, “woe is me”? This is because God is holy, but we are not. Actually, our uncleanness and unholiness are made known to us when we see God’s holiness. It is exactly the glory of God’s holiness that completely reveals our unholy heart. Today, many believers use “holy” as an interjection. Many hymns also sing praise of the holiness of God, but do those who sing them truly see their own unholiness and be humbled? When we partake in the Holy Communion, do we see our own unholiness, causing us to humble and examine ourselves, and thus seek the mercy of God? Can we cherish our sins, and still partake in Holy Communion? In early churches, the holiness of God is so clearly manifested, such that those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ, eat and drink judgment on themselves, therefore many are weak and sick, and a number of them have fallen asleep <1 Co 11:30>. When we observe the Sabbath, or Sunday, the day the Lord made as holy <Gen 2:3>, how can we take that day lightly and not come for meetings, or come to meetings in a rush? Those who serve the Lord are actually doing holy work. How can we do it carelessly, or do it to satisfy our desires or vanity? Actually, the easiest sin we sinners fall into is to treat things that are holy as ordinary, mundane and normal, such that we do not do them with a consecrated heart. After some time, all the holy work in the church is done in a human-centred manner, and people gradually do not see how God’s grace is coming upon those who do these work. Even worse, unholy purposes and notions will enter into holy affairs, like believing that Holy Communion will bring about physical healing, serving God will bring about earthly prosperity and health. This shows that deviant and unclean things have infiltrated the holy church. Also, some believers may say, “God is holy, but we are not”, only to console themselves, to acknowledge that they are not that spiritual, but they did not humble down or repent because of this statement. Actually, this proves that we have not seen God’s holiness. Think about it, even when the blessed prophet Isaiah saw the holy God, he could only say, “Woe is me! I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips!” In <Isa 6:5>, he realised that all the thoughts in man’s heart and all his endeavours cannot stand up to God’s holiness? Can man’s universal love, good works, morality and kindness be holy? Actually they have all fallen short of God’s glory <Ro 3:23>. Therefore, our faith living is not to seek approval from one another, but we must know our sins and humble before the holy God.
2）God used the live coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s mouth and atoned for his sin
God’s throne and altar are different. God’s throne is for God, and it is where the holy God is seated, so even angels around who are serving Him need to cover themselves. However, the altar is for us, to bring about atoning of sin and cleansing. The burning coal from the altar represents the holy God’s judgment on sin. Imagine how hot this burning coal from the altar is, that even the seraphim need to use a tong to take it from the altar. Therefore, we will know how intense is the judgement that is happening on the altar. What judgment exactly happened on the altar? That is the Son of God, Christ, taking our place for our sins, dying for our sins, and the holy fire burning within is unimaginable. However, when the live coal touched the lips of Isaiah, it did not burn him, but it set his whole heart and mind apart. Why was he not burnt to death by the coal? Because his sin had already been atoned for. When the live coal touched his lips, his life was consecrated, he realised he could no longer live for himself. From that moment, he became a vessel set apart for God, a prophet sent by God. Why can a person become a pastor or preacher? Is it because he has studied theology or has been given that role by some church or organisation? Why is it that a person can take the word of God and receive messages that come from above? Why is it that the fire a holy worker lifts up to God is a holy fire, not strange fire? That is when he is consecrated by the holy God through the redemption of His Son and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, today, the most blasphemous teaching on the pulpit is when the speaker says, “We have been made holy by the redemption of Christ.” The congregation says “Amen!” but in these people, there is not a tinge of God’s holiness, and they do not have any fear and trembling. They continue to say that Christ has cleansed them, but at the same time, they live for the world, sing the songs of the world, and pursue the things of the world. They come before God to seek the earthly peace and success and take them for granted. Today, many ministries in church do not bring people before God, but bring them before other men. People serving in ministries are often comparing with and are jealous of each other. Such a church offers strange fire, and their messages become worldly, and people who stay in the church are worldly people, not saints (born-again). After some time, great judgement will come upon them.
3）Isaiah was called by the holy God, to be a holy worker
Many people serving in the church do not have a heart that is set apart. They are like being tasked by a person, or are just serving God out of their zeal. Their serving will slowly reveal human-centredness, seeking men’s favour and preaching human-centred messages. Today, for many people who are leading the church, their lips have not been touched by the coal, so they preach a message from man. When they see that one has psychological problem, they apply positive psychology. When they see someone with marital problem or issues with children, they use the world’s counselling techniques. When they see someone with health or financial problems, they will preach prosperity gospel and use messages related to wealth and health to attract people. As long as it pleases man and gets their recognition, they will be happy to preach. Such a preacher is not sent by God, but by man. These people are the reasons why the church becomes weak. Why did Isaiah dare to rebuke Judah at the start of his ministry proclaiming woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption <Isa 1:4>? Because his lips (heart) had been consecrated. He could no longer preach a message that pleases others, his holy perspective sees that the humanistic culture in the church needs to be eliminated. Only such a person can become God’s messenger. Today, those serving in the church must also be consecrated, if not they will stumble. They may be stumbled by needs of family, demands of work, or opinions of others. For some, if their work becomes busy, they will first let go of church serving. Sometimes when the demands of the ministry increase, and when the co-workers around them do not do as much, they will feel aggrieved. Some do better and start to belittle other co-workers who are less gifted. Some are hurt when they face people’s demands. Some do not know how to set apart themselves in important serving, so they do not receive anointing. Some are not called at all, and have been offering strange fire. Some are called but did not preserve a holy heart and are entangled by many unholy things. The calling of Isaiah tells us how holy is the God who has called and forgiven us, and if we come before Him to serve, our heart and the contents of our serving must be consecrated. Of course, no one can be as holy as God, but if we often see His holiness, we will not offer strange fire (typical offering). At the very least, as a saint, we must set apart Sabbath (holy day), and from the consecrated day, extend to the remaining 6 days, so that our remaining days form a week where we live in obedience to God, not as we please. If in the current God-permitted pandemic, we consecrate ourselves, after the pandemic, we will be useful vessels of God.