Advent 12: Inutterable Holiness

11  “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. 13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.” – Exodus 15:11-13 (ESV)

Imagine a name so awesome in holiness, so great and reverent, that you dare not speak it for fear of accidentally taking the Lord’s name in vain.  The name for God is spelled out in four Hebrew consonants:  יהוה, or YHWH (known as the Tetragrammaton, meaning “the four letters”).  Today we pronounce it Yahweh, or Jehovah.  But the true pronunciation of the word is lost since people basically stopped verbalizing it long ago.

In the King James Bible, we honor the holiness of the name by using all capital letters for the translated YHWH: LORD.  Personally I am quite fond of the habit of capitalizing references to our One True God, even using all caps for LORD.  I have even seen people who use no caps at all for their own names to further emphasize our relationship between God and us, humbling ourselves in fearful reverence to the LORD.

I believe we take God too lightly.  We fail to recognize Who God is, and who we are.  YHWH is the Jewish personal name for God.  It literally refers to The Self-Existent Eternal One.  Often, it appears with the word Elohim, the generic term for God.  Put them together (LORD God) and you get the message that God, the One and Only God, is our God.  Our God is holy – perfect in all His ways, powerful and reigning over all creation, pure in His every intention.

To be holy is to be worthy of all praise and glory and honor and devotion.  To be holy is to be righteous. And when we are talking about God, these terms are absolute.  God isn’t just righteous, He is righteousness.  He is truth.  He defines morality.

God isn’t just pure, He is purity.  He is absolutely without sin, which is why only the perfect sacrifice (Jesus Christ) would do.

God is to be feared.  For some reason, we seem to have a problem with that particular idea, as if the idea of fearing a loving God is too paradoxical.  The love of God is to be emphasized, for God is love.  But, in doing so, we must take care to not soften God in our eyes.  Through Jesus we have access to the LORD.  And Christ is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep.  But our Father is mighty in power, awesome in His very being.  This is the God to Whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess Him as Lord and Savior of all (Philippians 2:10-11).  You cannot tell me no man will fail to tremble in fear of the awesome holiness of God when we see Him.

Consider Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 33.  We are told “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11, ESV).  Not many people can honestly make that claim.

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” – Exodus 33:17-23 (ESV)

We cannot look God in the face and live.  His holiness is such that we cannot handle it.  But, in God’s great love, He makes a way that we can see Him and live, so that we may proclaim Him as YHWH, LORD.  And notice that God moved Moses and covered Him.  Moses didn’t do anything but ask to see YHWH’s glory.  God’s tender love and awesome holiness fearfully and wonderfully coexist.

This is why it is so important that we give God His due.  Because He asks so little, yet deserves so much.  Because He is God and we are not, and we possess no good thing without the grace of God.  Because we get so caught up in our little lives that eternally trivialities drive our days and pull our attention away from the reality of the LORD, the Great I AM, the One True God Who reigns over all creation with astounding power and might, the Righteous Judge Who chose to redeem His children because He – YHWH – loves us.

1  Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 2 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. 3  Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful. 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. 7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; 8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! 10  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!  – Psalms 111:1-10 (ESV)

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