Who Is God? Part 1 - page 3

 


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From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Who Is God? Part 1

by Thomas A. Tarrants III,  D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director
Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute

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  As God’s redemptive work in the world progressed. His personal, gracious love was powerfully demonstrated in His choosing the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the ancestors of Israel, a special people with a unique destiny. Through provision, protection, and extraordinary promises of blessing, God revealed His grace and love and future plans to them. His grace continues to unfold as He reveals Himself to one of their descendants, Moses.

God Reveals Himself as Holy and Self-Existent

 At the burning bush God commissions Moses to deliver His people, Israel, from Egyptian bondage, and at the same time reveals His holiness. God said to Moses, “‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exod. 3:4–5). In this encounter, God accentuates His holiness, the most emphasized of His characteristics and one of the central themes of the Scriptures. It is one that we know little of today.
 The essence of God’s holiness is

His separateness, i.e., His uniqueness, His distinction as the Wholly Other, the One who cannot be confused with the gods devised by men (Ex. 15:11), the One who stands apart from and above the creation. Secondarily the holiness of God denotes His moral perfection, His absolute freedom from blemish of any kind.6

  Because of God’s holiness, even the ground in His presence was holy, that is, set apart, separated from normal use to divine use, which required Moses to remove his sandals. People and material things that are set apart and devoted to God are also designated as holy. Moses’ encounter with God’s blazing holiness made a profound impact on him, one that would powerfully shape his life and produce a deep, lasting humility in him. So much so that we are told “the man Moses was very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). The impact of God’s holiness was lasting and is still seen when, near the end of Moses’ life, he exclaims, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? / Who is like you, majestic in holiness, / awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exod. 15:11).
 God emphasized His holiness not just to Moses, but through him to the entire nation of Israel. He did this by giving laws, statutes, and precepts, in which everything is in some way connected to holiness. He commanded, “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Lev. 20:26). Because God is morally pure, these requirements include human moral and ethical behavior, including truthfulness, fair dealing, and sexual purity. The response God sought from His covenant people is summed up by Moses in what is called the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4). The concrete expression of this wholehearted love was obedience to God’s commands. God’s call for holiness continues throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament, where it is emphasized by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and others. Peter sums it up well: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 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” (1 Pet. 1:14–16). The seriousness of the call to holiness is highlighted by the writer to the Hebrews, who says with simple directness, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

 

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