Holiness of our awesome God
when you talk about the holiness of God, you have not only the problem of an intellectual grasp, but also a sense of personal vileness, which is almost too much to bear. Each one of us is born into a tainted world, and we learn impurity from our cradles. We nurse it in with our mother’s milk, we breathe it in the very air. Our education deepens it and our experience confirms it — evil impurities everywhere. Everything is dirty; even our whitest white is dingy gray… This kind of world gets into our pores, into our nerves, until we have lost the ability to conceive of the holy…
Holiness means purity, but “purity” doesn’t describe it well enough. Purity merely means that it is unmixed, with nothing else in it. But that isn’t enough. We talk of moral excellency, but that isn’t adequate. To be morally excellent is to exceed someone else in moral character. But when we say that God is morally excellent, who is it that He exceeds? The angels, the seraphim? Surely, He does — but that still isn’t enough.
We mean rectitude; we mean honour; we mean truth and righteousness; we mean these — uncreated and eternal. God is not now any holier than He ever was. For He,
being unchanging and unchangeable, can never become holier than He is. And He never was holier than He is, and He’ll never be any holier than now. His moral excellence implies self-existence, for He did not get His holiness from anyone nor from anywhere. He did not go off into some vast, infinitely distant realm and there absorb His holiness; He is Himself the Holiness. He is the All-Holy, the Holy One;
He is holiness itself, beyond the power of thought to grasp or of word to express, beyond the power of all praise. Language cannot express the holy, so God resorts to association and suggestion. He cannot say it outright because He would have to use words for which we know no meaning. He would have to translate it down into our ungodliness. If He were to tell us how white He is, we would understand it in terms of only dingy gray. God cannot tell us by language, so He uses association and suggestion and shows how holiness affects the unholy. He shows Moses at the burning
bush before the holy, fiery Presence, kneeling to take his shoes from his feet, hiding his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 19: 9- II) “All the trumpeting and the voice and the fire and smoke and shaking of the mount — this was God saying by suggestion and association what we couldn’t understand in words.”