The book of books or Bible is a special literary work. The writers of it did not write it in their own name, but let their pen be used by the Most High God their Maker. Forty different writers were used to bring the Words of God unto mankind — some were kings, prophets, priests, leaders, doctors, fishermen or shepherds. They wrote over a period of 1,600 years.
The Bible is unique because it does not contain just man’s words. It is also no ordinary boo because it does not contain man’s ideas. It is God speaking to us. By reading the Holy Scriptures man can find out what God is like. then man can learn from and about His character and see His Superiority or His Greatness and the reason why He must be set apart or be called qodesh or Holy.
The Character of God
But this one God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, worthy of all reverent worship, is not just an impersonal Power. He is a Personality, with a character of His own. He has eternal moral principles, which He has made known to mankind through His commandments and precepts.
The first explicit description of the character of God occurs in a revelation to Moses about 1400 B.C. Moses had received many communications from God during the events of the Exodus, but he evidently felt that he did not yet know God as a Personality, so he makes a request:
“if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee …”
When God agreed to his request, Moses enlarges on it:
“Show me thy glory”.
“I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee …” (Exodus 33:13-19).
“Jehovah, The LORD, the LORD Jehovah God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty . . . ” (Exodus 34:6,7).
So emerges the great portrait of the God of the Bible given by Himself. He has a definite moral character, in which mercy, longsuffering (slow to anger, R.V.), goodness and forgiveness play a great part, but always consistent with His “truth”. Echoes of this description are frequently found in the subsequent books of the Old Testament, especially the Psalms (see Psalm 103, for example) and the prophets.
“God is Spirit” (not “a Spirit” which misleads) (John 4:24).
“the spirit of the flesh … of the world … of error”.
The Holiness of God
It follows from what we have just considered that God in His nature and character is quite different from man. He dwells in “light unapproachable”, unseen by mortal eyes, says Paul. But His “thoughts” (a term which always includes His purposes) are greater than man’s, as he said:
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
So God is “holy“: that means He is “set apart” from mankind. Man cannot blunder heedlessly into His presence as if God were just another man. On account of their sins they cannot approach Him at all, except in the way He indicates. Israel were taught in the Law that approach in worship and sacrifice could only be through the priests, the sons of Aaron, whom God had Himself appointed. The aim of the Law was to develop in the people of Israel that mind and character which were like His. So He commanded them:
“Be ye holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44);
“But as he which called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of living” (1 Peter 1:15).
Jesus had already said as much to the woman of Samaria —
“The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23,24).
The “holiness” which God requires from true believers is not that ascetic spirit shown in time past by hermits; nor is it to profess to worship God and to “go through all the motions”, and yet to manifest a spirit of mind which owes more to human self-indulgence, covetousness and pride than it does to the Spirit of God. God was not tolerant of such an attitude in Israel. Nor will Jesus be at the Judgement. There are some to whom he will say,
“I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23).
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