Isaiah felt undone in God’s presence (Isaiah 6) and that’s not a terrible thing. If the biblical witness teaches us anything, it is that though God is wholly approachable through Jesus, He is nonetheless holy, and we neglect this truth to our spiritual detriment.
God’s holiness is often misunderstood. It is equated with purity and God is viewed as a distant, detached, intolerant deity who can’t have anything to do with us due to our sinfulness. (You have to ignore a massive amount of Scripture to end up with such a small view of God). For the tender-hearted, this kind of thinking can be crushing. No one needs to tell them that they sin and fall short of the glory of God—they know that! What they need is assurance that despite their self-despised waywardness there is hope for them.
And there is.
God’s holiness is our hope.
God’s holiness is His wholeness. He is complete and transcendent in every way. He is what we aren’t (fragmented and broken down by sin). He is, as the song says, perfect in power, in love in purity.
Rather than thinking about God’s holiness as a single attribute (like kindness or anger), we need to view it as the composite of His character. His love is whole, His justice is perfect, His grace and mercy are complete. Holiness is the rainbow of God’s perfect attributes.
Because God is holy, He will always do what is right, good and true. In the world’s ever-shifting sands of morality, God is the rock that doesn’t move. God doesn’t correspond with the truth—He is the truth. God doesn’t submit Himself to what is right because it doesn’t exist independently of Him. What is right is what corresponds with God’s character.
But how does all of this give us hope?
It’s quite simple. Because God is who He is, when He tells us we can draw near to Him through the sacrifice of His Son, we have absolutely no doubts. When He offers us forgiveness and life, we know He’s not playing games. When He tells us He loves us, we understand it’s the real thing. This hard side of God is what we build on. He won’t enable us, coddle us, humor us or insult us with the soft bigotry of low expectations (Michael Gerson). He will call us to be what He is—holy.
God’s holiness is our hope because this is precisely what we need. What we really need isn’t the latest upgrade, the coolest app, the trendiest clothing, another selfie, another trip, or more likes—we need a holy God who can make us whole.
The truth is, if God isn’t holy, then we have no hope.