Holy Holy Holy!

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Holy, Holy, Holy!
 Lord God Almighty!

 So goes the first line of the very familiar hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826). I sang this hymn as a Roman Catholic boy, and I have sung it joyfully for the past thirty-three years as a born-again believer. But I am especially thankful for this hymn and the frequent role it has played in the last twenty-five-plus years of my family’s regular family worship times -- we have had so many happy memories of singing this hymn…

Is it not wonderful to sing of our Thrice-Holy God (Isaiah 6:1-8)? O how the angels love to repeat the Biblical pristine word “Holy” in its triplet-form, with antiphonal-response, And one called to another and said: Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! (Isaiah 6:3; “Holy” and its derivatives appear more than 700 times in the Bible!).

This sacred word, in its most basic form, means “separation.” It’s no wonder why a very wise medical doctor once told me   that the Christian life, and its ongoing maturation, can be simply explained as being one, long, series of separations… I agree… In addition, notice how this pure Scriptural word, sung in triplet-form, reminds us of who we are, in light of who God is, 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 6:5). Do you not also see when this word is sung in triplet-form, how it instructs us about our true standing before our Thrice-Holy God? Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for (Isaiah 6:7). And lastly, can you see how our having an understanding of God as Thrice-Holy, can affect our service for Him? And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me (Isaiah 6:8). So, it’s helpful to understand Isaiah’s words thus far, if we remember that Israel: (1) …was to be a people who are not only Holy here, and not just in heaven; (2) …and its worship was to revolve around Holiness; (3) …was to be led in worship by a Holy People [priests], who wore Holy garments, in the Holy land [Canaan], within a Holy place [Tabernacle/Temple], using Holy utensils and objects; (4) …was to celebrate Holy Days, while living by God’s Holy law; and   (5) …was to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy nation. So, when Peter quotes directly from Leviticus 11:44 (in 1 Peter 1:16), since it is written, you shall be holy, for I am holy. Does it not all make sense? Indeed!

This call to Holiness is a call to progressive sanctification, through the power of the Holy Spirit! Therefore, we who are sanctified positionally before God, are thereby Holy (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and are enabled by God to pursue daily, practical, Holiness, without which no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). This life fights against: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:5-9; cf. Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 13:13; et al), and fights for: a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…forgiving each other; …love, …and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…And be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15; cf. Romans 12:9-21; Galatians 5:22-23; et al). And when, at times, we grow numb in our fight against and for these things, God proves Himself to be our true Father, that we may share His Holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Amen and Amen! It was the great Scottish Presbyterian preacher of the 19th century, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who once said very wisely, My people’s greatest need is my own personal Holiness. He meant, of course, that without a Holy undershepherd, God’s people would be, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Dearly beloved, as you heed God’s call for personal Holiness, and as we respond to His call for corporate holiness, please remember me and our church in your prayers! For more instruction on Holiness, please read the enclosed free copy of Joel Beeke’s very helpful booklet, Holiness: God’s Call to Sanctification.

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