We will never fully understand the holiness of God – but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. The holiness of God is so important that we can’t afford to ignore it. Because we must deal with God, we must of necessity deal with His majestic holiness. The more we meditate on the holiness of God, the more we appreciate why sin totally cuts us off from God – and the more we will cry out to Him for forgiveness through the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. A vision of God’s holiness helps us understand the depth of our sin and that is good for our souls. John Stott says it best:
Even though we may not realize it now, the most terrible result of sin is that it cuts us off from God. Our highest destiny is to know God, to be in personal relationship with him. Our chief claim to nobility as human beings is that we were made in the image of God and are therefore capable of knowing him. But this God whom we are meant to know and whom we ought to know is a righteous Being, infinite in his moral perfection. The Bible consistently stresses this truth:
For this is what the high and exalted One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place…’ The King of kings and Lord of lords, who…lives in unapproachable light. God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. Our God is a consuming fire. Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning? Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 4:14. John 3:16; Colossians 1:19–20).
All the individuals in the Bible who have caught a glimpse of God’s glory have drawn back from the sight, overwhelmed by the awareness of their own sins.
Moses, to whom God appeared in the bush that was on fire but was not burnt up, ‘hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God’.
Job, to whom God spoke ‘out of the storm’ in words which revealed the full extent of his majesty, cried out, ‘My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’
Isaiah, a young man at the threshold of his career, had a vision of God as the King of Israel ‘seated on a throne, high and exalted’, surrounded by worshipping angels who sang of his holiness and glory, and said, ‘Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’
When Ezekiel received his strange vision of living winged creatures and whirring wheels, and above them a throne, and on the throne a figure like that of a man, enveloped in the brightness of fire and of the rainbow, he recognized it as ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD’, and he added, ‘When I saw it, I fell face down.’
Saul of Tarsus, travelling to Damascus, mad with rage against the Christians, was struck to the ground and blinded by a brilliant light which flashed from heaven more brightly than the sun, and wrote later of his vision of the risen Christ, ‘He appeared to me also.’
The aged John, exiled on the island of Patmos, describes in detail his vision of the risen Jesus in heaven, whose ‘eyes were like blazing fire’ and whose ‘face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance’, and he tells us, ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead’ (John 3:16; Colossians 1:19–20).
If the curtain which veils the indescribable majesty of God could be drawn aside – even for a moment – we too would be unable to bear the sight. As it is, we’re only dimly aware of how pure and brilliant the glory of almighty God must be. However, we know enough to realize that we could never approach such a God while still in our sins.
A great chasm yawns between God in his holiness and us in our sin. ‘For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?’ asks Paul.
Stott, John (2012-06-08). Basic Christianity (IVP Classics)