“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5)
Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
Thus far we have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions, He is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent and sovereign. The most significant attribute God possesses is holiness.
To truly know God is to know that He is, according to Isaiah 6:1-3, holy, holy, holy. I Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Peter refers us to Leviticus 11:44.
What does it mean when the Bible says that God is holy? Holy, or holiness, is defined as being set-apart. The word is found in Scripture to refer to a variety of people, places and things, but the word holy ultimately points to God as the one who is qualitatively different or set apart from creation. Holy may also be used to describe someone or something that God has “set apart” for special purposes. In the NT holiness takes on the sense of ethical purity or freedom from sin. Holiness is God’s “otherness” and “purity”, as well as to God’s prerogative to set people and things apart for God’s own purposes.
In Isaiah 6, we see one of the most striking accounts of not only the holiness of God but also the un-holiness of man.
Isaiah 6:1 says that the prophet saw the Lord. The prophet continues by saying that the Lord is “high and lifted up.” Next we witness that the “train of his robe filled the temple.”
The following sentences focus upon the reality, the rejoicing and the resulting effect of the praise given to God by the Seraphim angels. “Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”
The Hebrew word Seraphim literally means burning ones. The Seraphim are specifically named angels whose task is to worship God before His heavenly throne. We do not know how many Seraphim angels there are before God’s throne, but we do know that there are more than one.
Dr. R.C. Sproul explains that, “Angels appear frequently throughout the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. In fact “angelos,” the Greek word that means “angel/messenger,” occurs more frequently than the term translated as “sin” (hamartia). Yet at the same time, Scripture does not give us much detailed information about these beings. They appear at key points in redemptive history to help God’s people, but the Bible says little about their appearance and origin. Still, the information we do have is sufficient for what we need to know about angels.”
However, God does give us information regarding the appearance of the Seraphim angels. To begin with, each one of these innumerable angels have six wings. Why six? The only reason given is what the Seraphim do with each set of wings.
With two wings, the Seraphim cover their face. Why do they do this? The reason is that the Seraphim have no inherent glory of their own which compares with God’s glory. Therefore, as created beings they cannot look upon the glory of God.
With two wings, the Seraphim cover their feet. Why do they do this? The reason is that Seraphim are created beings. As such, they recognize their lowliness before God even as they are engage in divine service. This is something which would be wise for humans to keep in mind regarding their own service for God.
Finally, with two wings the Seraphim fly. Why do they do this? The reason is that the Seraphim serve God in their flight. Fish swim, lion roar and snakes slither. Angels fly! That’s what God designed them to do.
The Seraphim have an all important task to perform. They call to one another in antiphonal praise and cry out “holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The threefold repetition indicates that this attribute of God is superlative. It is unmatched, untouchable, and unparalleled. There is no greater attribute that God possesses that holiness.
The title LORD of hosts refers to the most personal name for God: Yahweh. Yahweh, the self-existent One possesses divine control over the entire universe. He is the holy One.
Because the LORD of hosts is holy, holy, holy, all of creation is full of His glory. The LORD is ruler over all, and His glory, the truthfulness, righteousness and beauty of His character, fills creation.
The result of this anthem of praise by the Seraphim is that “the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” This symbolizes the wrath and judgment of God upon those who are sinners.
Dr. Sproul continues by saying, “That even the angels must shield their eyes in the presence of God shows the reverence with which we are to approach our Creator. He is our Most Holy Lord, so we cannot be irreverent in our worship. We come before Him knowing that He is holy by nature, and we can be holy only by grace. We trust Him to sustain us in His presence, remembering who He is and who we are. That is part of what it means to worship God in spirit and truth.”
To truly know God is to recognize and understand that He is holy, holy, holy, and that we are not. He is set apart from sin, while we belong and revel in sin. How then can sinful creatures ever hope to eternally be in the presence of this God who is holy, holy, holy?What hope then does any sinner have before the awesome holiness of God?
There is no hope in ourselves. Our only hope or confidence is in the gracious redemption by the LORD Jesus Christ.
Take the time today to meditate and consider the holiness of God.
Soli deo Gloria!