“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.’ When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God [Exodus 3].
Yet if we are to learn to pray, we have to learn to approach God.
As we see in Exodus 3 and so many other places, this is a problem because God seems so unapproachable. He is too holy. God is so holy that He is light; there is no darkness in Him at all [1 John 1:5]. God the blessed and only Ruler lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see [1 Timothy 6:15-16]. Over and over, God is a blinding light, an undiminished dazzling light.
It is no wonder that comprehending holiness is difficult. An unapproachable God asks that we approach. What happens to us when we consider approaching God in prayer?
Many Christians don’t seriously consider the idea of really approaching God. They keep God at a comfortable distance as they ask Him for what they want.
What do you think when you consider the word holy? What comes to mind? Maybe it is total absence of wrongdoing and sin. Maybe you envision a “holier than thou” person who does not smoke, drink, dance or chew and they make you feel bad because you do one of more of those things. The holy person likes to use words like “no”, “don’t do that” or “avoid this”. Often, people think words like that are very “uncool” and this type of person is too negative and no fun to be around. I can visualize a pastor from the American west, the black suit, the high white collar and the thin face with the pursed lips, a condescending face, a face that communicates a lack of approval.
This is the earthly version of the holy God. Why is this relevant? Well if this person meets God’s muster, what must God be like? W. Bingham Hunter says “[God] is testy and touchy to the uttermost, He scans the world, ever hopeful of spotting a creature at whom He can screech, ‘You, you there with your hand in the cookie jar…you look like you’re thinking about having fun. Cut it out. Right now. And don’t you think about it again. EVER!’”
When you stop and think about holiness, it is supposed to hurt, it is no fun. If you make an effort to be holy, you are different from most folks and your holiness may even make you unattractive.
Why would anyone want to be holy?
God says “Be holy because I am holy” in 1 Peter 1:16. Why would anyone want to do that?
Let’s go back to the original idea. To learn how to pray, we have to learn to approach God, AND GOD IS HOLY!
It is all so confusing. Approach God and yet God is unapproachable. Unholiness is so easy, yet holiness is so hard. Hunter even jokes around with the famous hymn “Take Time to Be Holy”. That hymn makes little sense. Why does it take time to not do something?
Maybe it all boils down to the idea that it is super easy to understand the negative aspects of being holy but we can’t comprehend the positive aspects.
In my next post, we will explore the idea of holiness as a positive thing.
Harder to understand?
Worthy of serious consideration?
God says “Be holy because I am holy” in 1 Peter 1:16.
I think so…