God’s Holiness

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you..” 

Saint Augustine

Rev 4:8 – “And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty…’

Isaiah 6:3 – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

The two verses quoted above are very similar. They both depict a scene of worship in heaven where heavenly beings (seraphim or living creatures) are proclaiming God’s holiness.

The word ‘holy’ is said three times. I’ve always taken this to be a reference to the triune nature of God. At the very least, it indicates that God is so holy that saying it just once isn’t enough.

However, I felt I was given a fresh insight into this recently. It stems from the realisation that the phrase ‘Holy, holy, holy’ is repeated again and again. 

I can imagine that every time the heavenly beings attempt to look towards God, they see another dimension or manifestation of His holiness, and this motivates them to declare that He is holy all over again.

In the Isaiah passage, Isaiah is initially traumatised by the vision he saw, and cries out that he is undone. But he ends up being purged from his sin and responding to God’s call be saying “Here am I [hineni], send me”.

This reminds me of when Moses was on mount Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments and all the instructions for building the Tabernacle. Exodus 28 records God giving Moses instructions for how to make the High Priest’s garments, including the words ‘holiness unto the Lord’ to be engraved on the front of the High Priest’s turban. 

What Moses was unaware of was that, at that very same time, Aaron, whom God had appointed as High Priest, was prancing naked and engaging in a wild orgy around the golden calf that he had made for the people to worship.

Yet, in spite of Aaron’s cataclysmic moral fall, he still became High Priest, and he still got to wear that turban, and he still got to enter the Holy of Holies to atone for the sins of all the people, including himself.

I think there’s a salutary lesson for us here.


“Lord God, we acknowledge Your superlative holiness, and our own abject sinfulness. We’re so grateful that, through the blood of Jesus, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, so that we can enter into Your holy presence, clothed in the righteousness which Christ gives us. And we thank You that Your Holy Spirit continues to sanctify us day by day, so that we become more and more like Jesus in our own minds, character and behaviour. But, Lord, we never forget the wormwood and the gall from which You delivered us. Like those heavenly beings, we pray that we will see more of Your glory and receive continually fresh revelation of the multifaceted expressions of Your holiness, and may that stimulate us to love You more, worship You more, and serve You more. In Jesus’ name. Amen!”

Ian Toone