In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood seraphim, each having six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they called out to one another:
Holy, holy, holy
is the LORD of Hosts;
His glory fills all the earth.
The doorposts and thresholds shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
Last week, Ken and I listened to a sermon by a dear friend, Jameson Sofge.
Jameson was one of the founding members of our church 11 years ago. For over five years we were on the leadership team of the church together with him and his wife, Danielle. We have some wonderful memories of being in the trenches together and of fighting battles for our beloved church, and celebrating victories.
Jameson started his sermon by talking about the Lord’s prayer. He told us how it can be a model for our prayers, and that the first line, “Our Father in heaven, holy is your name,” teaches us that an important part of prayer is praising God. Jameson said that he wonders sometimes why he should praise God, because when he does, he often says the same as the last time he prayed. But then he realized that our God is so awesome that we can never praise him enough.
It’s like a line from one of my favorite songs, “If we had 10,000 tongues. We would praise you with every one.” And that is the picture we get in Isaiah — constant praise of the Lord, over and over again, because he is holy in an epic way. There’s a similar picture in Revelations 4: “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, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:8)
So the fact that God is holy makes it even more amazing that God answers prayers. Jameson went on to read verses 5-13, ending with, “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” He marveled that the glorious, all-powerful God actually cares, and responds to us when we petition him.
But the reason God cares and responds is actually because of his holiness. Love and faithfulness are a part of God’s holiness. In Exodus 34, the Lord was with Moses in a the form of a cloud, and it says, “the LORD passed in front of Moses and called out: ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations.'” (Ex 34:6, 7a)
God’s very character is to have our back. Although we may not be able to trust in the love of our fellow-man, God’s love is completely trustworthy. That’s why we have verses like Romans 8:38-9 which say that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
This staunch devotion is like a family tie. And I have to point out that, as God’s “family,” we are expected to be holy as well. God proclaimed to the Israelites, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” The parallel passage for us today is, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)
But getting back to the sermon, Jameson concluded by sharing three immensely moving stories of how God showed staunch devotion to him. He told how, when he was in college, he and some friends prayed a very intentional prayer for great wives and their prayers were answered. He shared with tears how he and his wife prayed fervently for a long time for a baby, and God gave them a their son, Mason. He related the summer he and interns here at Auburn prayed like they had never prayed before, and the Lord blessed the church with new members as never before.
And now, as I reflect on all of this, I see how much these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. All of us have our tales of the ways God has answered our prayers. Some of these answers are massive, and some are small day-to-day matters, But if we enumerate them, our hearts want to lift up and praise the Lord over and over again.
And then, if we look around at the world God has made, praise bursts out even more. And if we think of his character of compassion, righteousness, love and faithfulness, still more praises overflow from our lips.
God pours his glorious essence into the world, and into our lives, and our praise of acknowledgement becomes like constant breathing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord. His glory fills the whole earth.”
And maybe breathing is an apt metaphor. God gives to us. We give to God. He blesses us. We bless his name. He is holy. So we are holy.
Like respiration, it’s an ongoing cycle that sustains life.