Readers of the OT are already familiar with this title. It was one of Isaiah’s frequent designations of deity. Twenty five times in that prophecy he refers to God as the ‘holy One of Israel’. The experience in the temple when he heard the seraphim with their antiphonal call, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory’, Isa. 6. 3, seemed to leave an indelible impression on his mind.
Habakkuk had already referred to God as ‘mine Holy One’ and explained that this God was of ‘purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity’, 1.13. Here, ‘the Holy One’ is seen as coming from Teman and mount Paran, 3. 3. These are desert locations in the Sinai peninsula and Habakkuk envisions the God of Sinai moving for the destruction of His enemies and the deliverance of His people, moving to assert His rights and vindicate His claims. Men have long since forgotten the code of Sinai in their lifestyles and in their legislation. However, the standards of the Holy One are still unchanged.
Experts have advocated two possibilities for the root meaning of the Hebrew word for ‘holy’. One suggestion relates the word to a root meaning ‘to cut or separate’ and refers God’s holiness to His apartness from humans and all other beings. He is completely ‘other’ and unique. The second suggestion links this word group to a root denoting ‘to shine or radiate’ and refers to the splendour of His shining purity. Putting both together we are being informed of a God altogether apart from human sin and brilliant in the blaze of His purity.
Perhaps there is no feature of the character of God so much overlooked or disregarded by our post-modern society as His holiness. We are told the day of moral absolutes is over. Everything is relative and must be judged by its own or our own standards. Gone are the days when the holiness of God was the measure of all things. Now we find ourselves in a morally anaemic society where anything goes. As we proceed into another day and breathe the polluted atmosphere of a godless society around us, may we remember the words of the wise king, ‘the knowledge of the holy is understanding’, Prov. 9.10.