We Expect Purity
We enjoy eating meals that are flavorful and nutritious but when it comes to our food, we expect purity. So, we set up an exclusive department of the federal government known as the Food and Drug Administration. They are responsible for monitoring and regulating the purity of what we eat.
Unfortunately, their standards of purity are not always what we might hope. Here are a few of the federal guidelines of purity for some familiar food products. I have to warn you that you may never eat again.
- Coffee Beans: The federal guidelines are that coffee beans will get withdrawn from the market if an average of 10 percent or more are insect-infested or if there is one live insect in each of 2 or more “immediate containers.”
- Mushrooms: The federal guidelines say mushrooms cannot be sold if there is an average of 20 or more maggots of any size per 15 grams of dried mushrooms.
- Fig Paste: The federal guidelines say fig paste must be taken off the market if there are more than 13 insect heads per 100 grams of fig paste in each of 2 or more subsamples.
- Hot Dogs: We’ll just stop here. You really don’t want to know.
We expect purity but we recognize that impurities are a problem. Impure things are often toxic and dangerous. We want impurities removed. But what if what’s impure is us?
Holy, Holy, Holy
We see angelic beings in both the Old and New Testaments surrounding God and praising Him by singing, “Holy, holy, holy.” I think they couldn’t help it. To see God is to see His moral purity. To know God is to praise Him for His holiness.
If angels were to surround humans and sing songs about us, I wonder if the lyrics might go, “Unholy, unholy, unholy”? I think they couldn’t help it. To really see a person is to see his moral impurity. To know a person is to become aware of his sin.
God is holy, and in the Bible when people like Isaiah and Moses get too close to God we see them cry out in despair and hide their faces. They couldn’t help it. They fear being in God’s presence because of His holiness.
In the Bible, when people like Isaiah and Moses get too close to God we see them cry out in despair and hide their faces. They couldn’t help it. They fear being in God’s presence because of His holiness.
In our previous post we dared to take a peek at God’s holiness. We learned that holy means “to cut” or “to separate.” God being holy means that He does not sin and that He is separate from sin. The Bible makes it clear that our sin separates us from God; that He won’t even look at sin (see Psalm 5:4, Isaiah 59:2, Habbakuk 1:13).
The original word “holy” in Hebrew and Greek means “separate.” Our English word “holy” is taken from the Anglo-Saxon word “halig” which means “well,” or “whole” or “healthy.” God is morally well, whole, healthy, and God designed His universe and all of His creation to be holy, to be morally well, whole, healthy.
Unholy, Unholy, Unholy
So that’s holiness, what is sin? Sin is a moral sickness that goes against God and His design and must ultimately end in death.
In Genesis, God spoke to Adam and Eve, essentially saying, “Live holy lives, for my way is the right way, the healthy way. If you rebel against me and my way, that’s sin, which is moral sickness, and always leads to death.”
Since God’s foremost concern for His universe is its moral health (its holiness) whatever goes against that falls under His eternal displeasure. To preserve His universe, God must destroy anything that might destroy it. When God rises up against sin to save the world from moral collapse, the Bible calls it His anger or wrath.
We could compare it to a loving parent of a newborn walking in to find a poisonous snake slithering into a crib right next to the baby. The parent loves the baby way too much to tolerate the presence of the venomous snake. The snake has to go. That parent would rise up out of anger or wrath to save the baby from a deadly attack.
Every wrathful judgment by God is an act of preservation for the health of God’s universe. God’s anger is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys those he loves. A theologian named Stephen Charnock put it this way, “God cannot look on sin without loathing it.” Why does God hate sin? Part of it is that God loves us.
So, why did Isaiah respond to seeing God by screaming, “Woe to me! I am ruined!” Why did Moses hide his face from God?
Because there’s something about being close to God that makes you aware of how pure God is, and how impure you are. You realize that holiness is essential to God, and that unholiness is our essential problem. This realization should make us cry out in despair and hide our faces. We shouldn’t be able to help it.
God is a holy God. We are unholy people. We cannot be in His presence and we need a solution for that tension. It’s such a big problem I think we need to hold off dealing with it till next time.
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