It is difficult for us to even begin to imagine what true holiness is, or what it would mean to be holy. In Revelation 4, we see the creatures, covered in eyes, around God’s throne who, all day and night long, continue to cry out and proclaim God’s holiness.
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holyRevelation 4:8
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
I’m reminded of a similar story when Isaiah was called by God to go and speak for Him. As I say, it is difficult to understand what holiness truly is, but we can begin to get a sense of what it means by seeing Isaiah’s reaction just upon entering into God’s throne room and seeing the scene in that place:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “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.”Isaiah 6:5
We can see that Isaiah immediately understood how broken he truly was. We can see that he understood his sin, that he understood the sin of the people from whom he came, and now he has seen the Lord.
I think that this is critical to understand. God is perfect. He is the definition of perfection. He is holy.
But we are not.
Isaiah was a prophet who was called by God to speak for God to the people of Israel. So surely, if there was a holy man in Israel, it would have been God’s prophet, wouldn’t it? But yet, Isaiah, at the moment that he understands and sees for whom he is speaking, what does he say?
Woe to me!
And so we can begin to get a sense, through Isaiah, the level of perfection that we are speaking about when we hear the creatures crying out Holy, Holy, Holy! We can begin to understand the gulf, the spanse of difference between God and man, the perfection and holiness of God and the imperfection of man.
So this is why it is such foolishness for us to think that we can be “good enough” to be able to reach God. Muslims, for example, but also Catholics, tell me that they hope that their good deeds will outweigh their bad and that they will, therefore, be accepted by God into heaven. I saw this recently with a friend who wanted to honor his friend who had passed away, posting on Facebook that he hoped God would allow him entrance into paradise and that God would add his friend’s desire to clean the mosque to his list of good works.
It deeply saddens me that my Muslim friends are blind to God’s holiness. Despite the words that we may have shared with them, they have been unable to see the holiness of God and our absolute spiritual poverty before Him. We have nothing to offer. We have nothing that we can give. Like Isaiah, we are men and women of unclean lips, and that is all that we can say. God is holy and we are not.
And so we need a savior. We need one who can cleanse us to make us clean. God did this for Isaiah by bringing a coal from the altar to cleanse his lips. And God did this for us by offering Himself in the Person of Christ as a sacrifice for our sins. This is all God’s doing. In our sin, we can do nothing, and we remain in our blindness if we think we can. But God can and will, if we will let him. He will also make us holy and clean so that holy can be with Holy. This is our desire, that through Christ, we can come to the only one who is Holy.