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Pastor's Blog January 2, 2019

"What is holiness?"

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What is holiness? One of the first biblical uses of the word "holiness" occurs in Exodus 15:11. The passage states, "Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?" (NRSV). By itself, the intention of this verse might look like it's only trying to make a statement about what God is. It asks a rhetorical question ("Who is like you, O Lord?") and then lists some of God's attributes (majestic and awesome). So who is like the Lord? The answer is "no one." Why? Because the Lord simply is majestic, awesome, and "does wonders" -- and the implication is that we'll just have to trust that God is all these things without actually knowing what they look like.

But according to Exodus 15, God isn't majestic and awesome because he simply is; instead, Exodus 15 describes God as awesome and majestic, and his wonders as wondrous, because of what he has done. Exodus 15 is the Song of Moses, the song which Moses led the people of Israel to sing in praise of God after they crossed the Red Sea, escaping from Pharaoh and his army. Moses begins his song by stating that the Lord (not Moses) has triumphed gloriously over the pursuing Egyptians (v. 1); because of this, the Lord is Moses' strength and salvation (vv. 2-3). Then Moses shifts to describing what the Egyptians were doing: coming after Israel, intent on capturing and / or destroying God's people (vv. 4-10). But in these same verses, Moses also describes what God did: he overthrew the Egyptians with his "glorious power," with his own "right hand," and with "the breath of his nostrils" and the "surging waves of the sea." Such action on the part of God calls forth praise from Moses: there is no one like the Lord, who is majestic in holiness and awesome in splendor. Moses recognized that God was majestic in holiness; however, Moses also recognized that God showed his holiness by acting on their behalf to save them from their enemies.

This is the God we are worshiping today. God is truly majestic and awesome; God truly does wondrous things. But let us remember what Moses learned: God is majestic IN holiness and awesome IN splendor, and God's holy majesty and splendid awesomeness are shown to us in the fact that he saves us. God is doing wonders, but those wonders are his actions of salvation. God is a holy God, and he makes his holiness known by saving us. Let us, therefore, worship the God of our salvation, whose holiness is shown in him redeeming us and whose awesomeness is revealed in him rescuing us from our enemies.

Pastor Nathaniel Gamble

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