Monday, 20 March, 2023

The holiness of God (Part-1)

Reverend Martin Adhikary

The Gospels record that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray to God (Matthew 6; Luke 11).  It is remarkable that the first clause in both the versions of the prayer for what they should ask God for is that they wished that God’s name be hallowed.
This very thing teaches us that it was Jesus’ will that God’s name ought to be hallowed above all things; the people failed to do that. So the disciples must pray that his name is kept above everything in the world. We cannot think of God apart from his holiness. This is the very thing where many people stumble. Many of us ignore God’s holiness most and understand it the least in our attitude. ‘Proverbs’ says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10). The English word ‘holy’ translates the Hebrew ‘qadosh’ meaning separated, marked off or set apart. God is holy implies, God is transcendent above all his creation. He is “the Other”. He is altogether distinct from creation. God’s holiness is his inherent attribute that makes him transcend all the moral corruption of his creation and as such he is entirely separated from all that is unholy or profane. This, among some others, makes God unique from all that is there!
The idea of God’s holiness prevails throughout the Holy Bible. Let us, in this article, consider this theme from what we can learn from the call and appointment of Isaiah, one of the great prophets in the Old Testament. During the 8th century before the birth of Jesus the Hebrew people fell degenerated. As a nation they became unholy in moral, ethical and as such spiritual sense. They became disobedient to the holy will and purpose of God. The narrative of the call of the great 8th century B.C prophet, prophet Isaiah is a revealing one.  “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”. At the sound of their voices the door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Owe to me!” I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sins atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will for us?
And I said, “Here I am. Send me!” He said, “God and tell this people: “ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turned and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “until the cities lied ruined and without inhabitant, until houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” In the vision thus described depicts God’s holiness, man’s apostate condition and what the prophet’s work or mission would look like. Uzziah, the earthly king died of leprosy in the year 739 B.C. of leprosy, a diseases considered primarily associated with uncleanness in those days, is now dead. But God, the King of Kings is alive and reign supreme is eternally alive. He appeared to Isaiah in his holy temple to appoint him as his messenger to the wayward, stubborn and thick-necked people to turn to him for their goodness.
 The Israelite people that time were so far away from God that their case was denounced in stern language right from the beginning of the Book of Isaiah. In history God exhorted his people Israel saying: ‘Be holy as I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19. 2; 20.7, 26; etc.). In the same way the New Testament also teaches us to live holy lives.

The writer is a Christian theology teacher and church leader