God is the God of Holiness, Justice and Righteousness!
King Uzziah had a vision of God in Isaiah 6:1-8.
King Uzziah reigned 767-742 BC, a long reign of 27 years — nearly a whole generation. In his later years he had leprosy. He headed an alliance that stood against the influence in Palestine of the Assyrian super power. When he died, it seemed like a great man had fallen.
That same year, about 742 BC, Isaiah had a vision of God in all his majesty seated on his throne in the Temple. The picture is one of unbelievable glory and exaltation.
“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 were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” (Isaiah 6:1-2)
Many ancient near eastern monarchs had images of winged creatures that guarded their thrones. But those surrounding God’s throne were living.
Their voices of worship resonated with great might—so much so that the temple shook and was filled with smoke
“And they were calling to one another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:3-4)
They address God as Yahweh of hosts, or Yahweh commander of the heavenly armies. But their word of worship is the thrice-repeated word, “Holy,” which is repeated again before God’s throne in Revelation 4:8.
“Holy” is qādōsh, “holy, Holy One, saint.” The root idea “connotes the state of that which belongs to the sphere of the sacred. Thus it is distinct from the common or profane.” The meaning seems to be something like “to separate.”1 When priests or articles for the temple, for example, are cleansed and consecrated to God, they become holy, distinct, and can no longer be touched by unclean people or be used for the profane. People consecrated to God are separated unto God exclusively for his service. They are holy, in that they belong to God and are dedicated to his service.
Holiness signifies separation from any kind of pollution, not just ceremonial, but especially moral pollution. God’s character is totally good and entirely without evil. He is pure, unadulterated moral purity.
In Isaiah 6:5-7
The appearance of God in his holiness and exaltation is too much for Isaiah. He sees his own sins and where he falls short of God’s standard, and he panics:
“‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.'” (Isaiah 6:5)
” While there were many kinds of ritual defilement, Isaiah is talking about uncleanness of his lips, probably referring to his words, the expression of a heart and mind that do not belong to God. “The prophets, in denouncing moral uncleanness, used ritual uncleanness as a metaphor for the wickedness which only God can cleanse.”3 Not only was Isaiah acutely conscious of his sins that displeased God, he was afraid that anyone who saw God would die. Isaiah’s repentance and unspoken request for atonement is immediately answered.
6Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
This deals with both Isaiah’s guilt4, which is taken away5 and sin,6 which is atoned for.7
God deals with sin, and Isaiah responds with his heart to God’s call:
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'” (Isaiah 6:8)
God, give each of us faith and readiness to answer your call!
Gods Holiness sets HIM apart from all others!
Is “Holy” or “Holy One” a name, a title, a metaphor, or a descriptor? Technically, it’s probably a descriptor, a noun or adjective that describes God’s person and character.
It was Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God and his absolute holiness that is behind the strong identification of God in the prophecy of Isaiah as the Holy One of Israel. The phrase occurs 26 times in Isaiah and six times in other parts of the Old Testament. For example:
“On that day people will regard their Maker, and their eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 17:7)
It is not occasional in Isaiah; the phrase is used continually, pounding into the consciousness of Israel that their God is holy and cannot be trifled with. If they are to follow the Holy One of Israel, they too must be holy in the way they live.
Sometimes Holy One is used by itself, without the modifier “of Israel”:
“O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment.” (Habakkuk 1:12)
“I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” (Isaiah 43:15)
Also Job 6:10; Psalm 22:3; Proverbs 9:10; 30:3; Isaiah 10:17; 40:25; 43:15; Ezekiel 39:7; Hosea 11:9, 12; Habakkuk 3:3; and Revelation 16:5.
But God’s holiness is nothing to take lightly. After the ark was captured by the Philistines and finally returned to Israelite territory, men from Bethshemesh looked into the ark — against the warnings of the Torah — and died. The others sent the ark away to another town in fear: “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God” (1 Samuel 6:20; NIV, NRSV; KJV “this holy LORD God“).
Holiness is awesome but it is also God’s glory.
“Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
The core idea of holiness is distinct, set apart But when applied to Yahweh, the concept of “holiness” takes on his own moral righteousness. While the idea of righteousness is present in the accounts of Noah and Abraham, God reveals this aspect of his character to Moses in a very memorable way on Mt. Sinai. God puts Moses in the cleft of a rock and covers him so Yahweh’s glory will not overwhelm him.
“Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'” (Exodus 34:5-7)
Notice the combination of mercy and righteous judgment? We humans have a very difficult time getting the right balance between love and judgment, but this balance is built into God’s own character.
God is called the Righteous One.
“The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he casts the wicked down to ruin.” (Proverbs 21:12, NRSV)
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…” (Isaiah 24:16a, NRSV, cf. NIV)
“Righteous” is the Hebrew tsaddîq, from the root tsādēq, “be just, be righteous,” which connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard.” The word “refers to an ethical, moral standard and, of course, in the Old Testament that standard is the nature and will of God.”8 In Yahweh, righteousness and holiness are united. “The LORD is righteous (tsaddîq) in all his ways and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). God declares what is right and keeps to that standard himself. Jesus prayed to him as “Righteous Father” (John 17:25) and “Holy Father” (John 17:11).
In Job 34:17 the NIV, at least, sees God as the Just and Mighty One:
“Can he who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the Just (tsaddîq) and Mighty10 One?” (Job 34:17)
It shouldn’t surprise us that our generation is 180° opposed to God’s righteousness. . America, especially, is infected with an idea that truth is relative and that each person should do what is right for him or her. But a denial of absolute truth is also a denial of the Righteous One and his ethical standards of uprightness. One who sets his own rules cannot follow One who is the Ethical Standard in and of himself.
The LORD is also the Upright One:
“The path of the righteous is level; O Upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.” (Isaiah 26:7)
“Upright One” (NIV) or “Just One” (NRSV) is a synonym, yāshār, “(up)-right.” The verb means literally, “to go straight or direct in the way.” It is used figuratively in the Old Testament of ethical behavior. “It is a quality of heart and mind which enables a man to keep loyally to any legally binding agreement.”9 For the people of the Covenant, that meant keeping God’s commands in the Torah. In Isaiah 26:7, “O Upright One,” God is the ultimate upright person whom all his subjects must emulate.
The Jerusalem Bible translates Jeremiah 50:7 naming Yahweh as “the home of justice,” following the KJV “habitation of righteousness.” However, the context of lost sheep led astray by their shepherds strongly suggests a translation of Yahweh as “the true pasture” (NIV, NRSV).
The LORD our Righteousness (Yahweh-Tsidkenu)
A couple of compound names of Yahweh are related to his righteousness.
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous (tsaddîq) Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.'” (Yahweh-Tsidkenu) (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
This phrase, sometimes rendered Jehovah-Tsidkenu, is from the noun tsedeq, “justice, rightness,” and the possessive pronoun suffix -nu (“our”). This is a Messianic passage where the Righteous Branch is one of the names of the expected Messiah (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). When he comes, he will be called Yahweh Our Righteousness. Indeed, the New Testament calls Jesus, “Our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and the Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 John 2:1).
The LORD Who Sanctifies You (Yahweh-M’Kaddesh)
Another compound name is found in Leviticus:
“You shall consecrate (qādōsh) yourselves therefore and be holy (qādōsh), for I am the LORD your God. And you shall keep my statutes and practice them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” (Yahweh-meqaddesh) (Leviticus 20:7-8)
The verb “sanctifies” (qādōsh) is from the same root as the word “holy” (qādōsh), which we considered above. In the Qal stem it means “to be holy.” In the Piel and Hiphil stems it adds the causative idea, “set apart as sacred, consecrate, dedicate,” here, “to consecrate by purification.”11 A similar phrase of God sanctifying his people is found a number of times in the Pentateuch (Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 21:8; 21:15, 23; 22:9, 16, 32; also Ezekiel 20:12; 37:28).
Isn’t it wonderful that God makes us holy, for though we can act in holy ways, there is no way we can cleanse and purify ourselves. It is the Lord who does this for us! Hallelujah!
Yahweh Our Lawgiver
“For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; it is he who will save us.” (Isaiah 33:22)
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:13)
It only stands to reason that if God is the standard of righteousness, that he is also the lawgiver,12 especially on Mount Sinai, where he gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law.
Yahweh Our Judge
In the Lord there is no separation of powers. Isaiah 33:22 above calls him Judge, Lawgiver, and King — that is, he combines the three branches of US government — judiciary, legislative, and executive, though the ancients made no such distinction. Let’s consider Yahweh as Judge. The root is shāpat, “to exercise the processes of government … govern, rule.” In the period of the Judges, the judges would settle cases, lead the army in battle, and whatever else was needed. Especially, shāpat means “to decide cases of controversy as judge in civil, domestic, and religious cases.” In such cases it was the judge’s duty specifically to judge with mishpāt (judgment, justice) and sedeqsedāqā (righteousness) (Psalm 72:2-4) and, in case of charges, “they shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked” (Deut. 25:1).13 In the New Testament the Greek noun is kritēs.
There are a number of times God is referred to as Judge, in addition to Isaiah 33:22 and James 4:12.
“I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.” (Judges 11:27)
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
“I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.” (Job 9:15)
“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve.” (Psalm 94:2)
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25)
“To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all….” (Hebrews 12:23)
“God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.” (Psalm 7:11)
“Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9)
Protector of Widows, Helper of the Fatherless
As Judge, God is the Protector of Widows, a legal role that protects the rights of the poor so that others do not exploit them.
“Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5, NRSV)
“Protector” (NRSV), “defender” (NIV), and “judge” (KJV) is dayyān, “judge.” As far as the small number of occurrences allows a test, the range of meanings is exactly the same shāphat to govern, in the whole range of activities of government: legislative, executive, judicial or otherwise.”14
“The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
A similar legal responsibility is as Helper of the fatherless. “Helper” (āzar) means, “to help,” most often referring to military assistance.15 Like widows, orphans sometimes had no one to help them, and were the target of unscrupulous people who would try to take their family land and exploit them. God stands for the helpless. When God enabled the Israelites to vanquish the attacking Philistines, Samuel erected a stone monument in commemoration and called it “Ebenezer” (“stone of help”), saying “Thus far has the LORD helped (āzar) us” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Vengeance and Justice
He is not only the judge, he is the one who brings vengeance. In our day, “vengeance” has a bad connotation. But the English meaning of vengeance is “punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense.” Perhaps we confuse it with revenge, “an act or instance of retaliating in order to get even.”16 Forgiveness is a better than revenge, we tell ourselves, and cite the Paul’s instruction to us:
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, quoting Deuteronomy 32:35)
This is important counsel, because it’s too easy for us to mix hurt and hatred with supposed justice, with the result that our revenge is selfish, harsh, and often excessive. However, God does not forgive the guilty and unrepentant. He holds them accountable and as judge, punishes them as they deserve.
It’s strange, but because of a misunderstanding of the Christian message of forgiveness, ideas of punishment, retribution, and just vengeance are rejected by liberal penologists. Instead of seeing prison justified by an action, they see it justified only as a way to protect society and/or to rehabilitate the offender.
The Scriptural guideline, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:24) is considered by these penologists as mean-spirited and excessive, though in context it was designed as a protection against excessive retribution by a family.
Let us be very clear: justice according to the Bible means giving someone what they deserve — no less, no more. It is the job of a righteous judge not to let criminals off with a slap on the wrist, but to give a fair and equitable sentence. This is not wrong, but right. “Let the punishment fit the crime.”
Justice vs. Mercy
Having clarified what justice is, we must equally clarify what mercy is. Forgiveness is not justice; it is mercy — not giving someone the punishment they deserve. But if God lets sinners off without assessing punishment appropriate for their crimes, then he is not just. That is what the cross is about. The Bible puts the matter very clearly:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:5, 12)
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
The just sentence due to us for our sin was carried out in full measure upon Jesus, who voluntarily took our sins upon him and was punished with death on our behalf.
Justice is vital to a fair and orderly society. But mercy is vital if we are to have the barrier of our sins taken away so we can know God.
God Our Avenger
Having clarified that vengeance is the fair execution of justice, we rejoice that God is our Avenger.
“O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an Avenger of their wrongdoings.” (Psalm 99:8, NRSV)
“The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.” (Nahum 1:2)
God the righteous Avenger is the answer to the prayers of the martyrs in Revelation, who call out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10). They call for justice from God, and God will answer in righteous justice, if the rest of the Book of Revelation is any indication!
The Awe-Inspiring God
We’ve considered the Holy God, the Holy One of Israel, in all his awesome and fearful holiness. It is God’s mercy that we are not destroyed before him. With that in mind, let’s consider a few miscellaneous titles and metaphors for God that inspire awe. Jacob (son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham) says to his father-in-law Laban, who seeks to do him harm:
“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.” (Genesis 31:42, cf. 53)
This should probably be understood as “the One of Isaac who inspires dread” rather than “the One whom Isaac dreads,” so perhaps the Dreaded One of Isaac17 or perhaps the Awesome One of Isaac18 is a better translation.
Along the same line is the Angel of the Lord who appears to Manoah, Sampson’s father, and gave instructions about Sampson’s dedication as a Nazirite after his birth. Manoah asks the Angel’s name:
“And the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is Wonderful (pil’î )?’ So Mano’ah took the kid with the cereal offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders (pālā’).” (Judges 13:18-19a, RSV)
Pil’î is translated “wonderful” by the RSV, NKJV, ASV, and NASB; “beyond understanding” (NIV), “secret” (KJV), and “too wonderful” (NRSV). The word is similar to pālā’, which in the Qal stem means “to be wonderful” and in the Hiphil “to cause a wonderful thing to happen.”19
God of Glory and Light
A couple more descriptors may fit in this category of the holy and awesome God:
“He who is the Glory20 of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” (1 Samuel 15:29, “Strength of Israel,” KJV)
But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory (kābôd), and the lifter up of mine head. (Psalm 3:3, KJV)
“The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers.” (Isaiah 10:17, compare Psalm 27:2)
Here the Light of Israel is illumination. But Isaiah sees the Holy One as a burning lamp, a flame. His light is also a fire that will burn and consume his enemies, which are counted as mere thorns and briars.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
We have glimpsed the awesomeness of our Holy and Righteous God. We have seen him as Sanctifier and the LORD our Righteousness. He is Judge and Avenger, Lawgiver and Protector of Widows and the Fatherless. The truly amazing thing is that he actually loves us and desires us to be his children — that he sent Jesus to die for our sins that we might be forgiven and brought close to his bosom. He is truly an Awesome God!
WOW Truly God is so much in our lives! Worship Him in Awesomeness!
Heavenly Father, thank you for your great mercy. Though you are Holy and Righteous, Judge, Avenger, and Protector, you have declared us righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. You have made us holy. Help us to live in holiness and righteousness before you all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
This study was taken from Names and Titles of God by Ralph Wilson