Does It Align with God’s Character?
God is Holy. He desires His people to be holy. Holiness has the connotation of separateness. Believers are to live in a countercultural way. “Be holy for I am holy” is a constant refrain and command in the Bible. Leviticus 11:44 sets forth the basic emphasis: “For I am the Lord your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy for I am holy.” Our focal passage sets forth the proper response of believers to God’s holiness.
God is holy and establishes a covenant relationship with His children. (1–5)
The concept of covenant is an important biblical theme. God had given tablets of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. Exodus 32:15–16 describes the original covenant tablets: “They were inscribed on both sides — inscribed front and back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was God’s writing, engraved on the tablets.” When Moses came down from the mountain and witnessed the behavior and evil worship of the Hebrews, he destroyed the tablets.
Exodus 34 describes God’s renewal of a covenant relationship with His people. Notice the detailed description of Moses’ responsibility in the renewal process. God commanded Moses to be ready by morning to stand before a God of holiness. God shrouded Himself in a cloud, perhaps to protect Moses from His holiness, and proclaimed His name. English translations translate God’s name as Lord or Yahweh. The Hebrews regarded Yahweh as the sacred name of God and did not pronounce the name.
God is holy. Yet, He desires a relationship with unholy people. As the Holy One, God sets the terms of the covenant relationship with people.
God’s character is perfect and unchanging. (6–7)
A common doctrinal statement is “By God alone can God be known.” God revealed His gracious character and nature to Moses by describing seven of His attributes or characteristics. First, He is compassionate. Second, He is gracious to those in need. The Hebrew term translated “gracious” is only used to describe God in the Old Testament. Third, God is slow to anger. The Hebrew language is a picturesque language. The Hebrew literally means “long of nostril.” God is the opposite of humans whose nostrils become enlarged and exhale in frustration.
Fourth, God abounds with a loyal, faithful, true love. Fifth, God’s love and devotion abounds to a thousand generations. His grace is inexhaustible. Sixth, God is a God of forgiveness. The completeness of God’s forgiveness is shown in the three major terms for sin in the Old Testament. God forgives iniquities, a descriptive term for perversions resulting in a corruption, twisting or distortion of human beings. Sin pays. Forgiveness may not mean escape from the consequences of our actions. Seventh, God is a just God. He does not allow the wicked to go unpunished. Human sin against God affects future generations.
Our response to God’s holy character is to repent and worship Him. (8–9)
Moses immediately responded to God’s revelation of His character with worship. Throughout the Bible and Christian history, a greater understanding of the holiness of God has produced worship, humility and repentance in that order.
Unfortunately, it seems humility and repentance are missing among all generations in 21st century worship.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida