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A God Who is Not Like Us

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As children of God, we can take great comfort in the fact that God knows us personally, that he understands our struggles and cares for our needs. He is not some distant deity; he is a Heavenly Father who loves us deeply.

However, as we continue to encounter God in his Word and grow in our knowledge of him, we will be confronted again and again with a startling reality: this God who is so near to us and so intimately involved in our lives is not like us. He is unique, set apart from us in fundamental ways. This is another way of saying that God is holy. It’s what Hannah realized when God blessed her by giving her a long-awaited son:

"There is no one holy like the Lord" (1 Samuel 2:2).

Holiness is the first of God’s attributes we’ll look at over the next several weeks. Below we’ll highlight two different aspects of God’s holiness, and then we’ll see why this is good news for those who have the privilege of calling God Father. [1]

The Creator and The Creature

First, God’s holiness means that he is in a completely different class than us—he is the Creator and we are the creatures. He is infinitely greater than us in terms of his glory, majesty, and power. God existed before the mountains were formed (Psalm 90:2), but man was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Some people might worry that this profound difference between God and us makes us insignificant to him, as if God's holiness means that he is detached from his creation. However, Jesus teaches us that God even cares for the birds and lilies (Matthew 6:26, 28). How much more does this holy God care for those who are made in his image and redeemed by his Son?

Righteousness and Sin

Second, God’s holiness also refers to his moral perfection. He always does what is perfectly just and righteous and loving. In fact, he is the standard for all that is good. It’s no wonder that the prophet Habakkuk addressed God as, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil . . . ” (Habakkuk 1:13). A holy God can have nothing to do with sin.

Why This is Good News

So if God can’t tolerate evil, then how does his holiness work out to be good news for those who sin against him daily? Michael Horton reminds us,

"Because of God’s mercy, God’s holiness not only highlights his difference from us; it also includes his movement toward us, binding us to him in covenant love." [2]

We can look to the cross as the greatest display of God's holiness, for he is so just and righteous that it took the death of his Son to atone for sin. However, because God is also gracious and merciful, this same death also brought salvation for God's enemies (you and me). Now, as those who have been reconciled to God, we can take comfort in God's perfections. He is faithful, so he never fails to carry through on his promises. And he is never limited by a lack of knowledge, a lack of strength, or the inability to meet a need. He is sufficient in every way for his people.

In Christ we stand in a right relationship to the One whom the angels declare to be “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). This is the God who is to be feared, but who, at the same time, fulfills our longings for that which is truly glorious and beautiful. Now we can say with the psalmist,

"For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name" (Psalm 33:21).

— For more on the holiness of God and God's attributes, see Secret Church 4, “Who is God?”

[1] These two aspects of God's holiness are based on Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, 268-270.

[2] Horton, 268

David Burnette serves as the Chief Editor for Radical. He lives with his wife and three kids in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves as an elder at Philadelphia Baptist Church. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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