A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

True Holiness Is Irresistable

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.'

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!' (Isaiah 6:1-5).

"Christians should worship God in awe and wonder," said St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Apparently Isaiah has no choice but to worship God in this way.

Isaiah not only witnesses the grandeur of God, but God's holiness as well. In the world of the ancient Near East, the word "holy" was not extensively used, and it was a word that had no moral connotations. When Israel's neighbors used the term "holy" to describe their deities, they were simply affirming that their gods were not common. But for the Israelites, the notion of God as holy was very different. God's holiness not only meant that he was different from human beings, but that he was morally superior to human beings. His character was perfect and his actions were always just.

As Isaiah stands in the presence of this holy God, he realizes, perhaps as never before, that he is anything but holy. "Woe to me!" Isaiah shouts. "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."

We are an unclean lot, and as Isaiah is enveloped in the presence of divine holiness, he knows he is a sinner. Yet, this truth is not only confined to the prophet; it is true of God's people as well. Perhaps in the presence of the holy, Isaiah believes that God will now destroy him. But Isaiah underestimates the grace of God. God will send upon him, not the fire of destruction, but the fire of purification. "Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a hot 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 sin atoned for.'"

Isaiah is made holy. Holiness is necessary so that others can see the character of God in us and in his people. There are those who think quite negatively about holiness. Some believe holiness means walking around looking as if one has been sucking on sour lemons. Others believe that holiness means a life of boredom. But as that great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis writes, “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible.”

1 comment:

Jason B. Hood said...

Thanks Allan. I love this passage so much and appreciate your comments.