RESTING IN THE HOLINESS OF GOD
I want you to ponder and think about what I’m about to say as we approach this portion of Habakkuk’s letter! The ability to draw our next breath this morning is an act of divine mercy by a holy God, who owes us nothing other than justice for our behavior. God’s holiness is what separates and makes Him distinct from all of His creation. God’s holiness is more than just His perfection or sinless purity; it is the essence of His “other-ness,” His transcendence. God’s holiness exemplifies the mystery of His awesomeness and causes us to gaze in wonder at Him as we begin to understand just a little of His majesty. See we owe Him everything for our past, present and future state, as image bearers of God. What I’m trying to say and I’m going to be graphic! If God allowed the roof to cave in on us this morning we cannot claim injustice. R C Sproul said this “One of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. We live in a world where injustices happen. They happen among people. Every one of us at some time has been a victim of injustice at the hands of another person. Every one of us at some time has committed an injustice against another person. People treat each other unfairly. One thing is certain: NO matter how much injustice I have suffered from the hands of other people, I have never suffered the slightest injustice from the hand of God.” The injustices we suffer are the entire horizontal sort and we need to understand that that God is never obligated to be merciful. See! Mercy and grace must be voluntary or they are no longer mercy and grace. God never owes us grace as if we think we deserve it because we are special and above everyone else. Exodus 33:19 says “….And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” We see this truth in the closing of God’s answer to Habakkuk and his complaint of “It’s not fair”
What’s fair is that God allows anyone of us to breath. What do I mean by this? In Luke’s gospel something tragic has happened and people are coming to Jesus asking “It’s not fair”, or “What did they do that was so terrible?” Jesus gives an answer that looks beyond human injustice. Jesus gets to the heart of every issue of our own sin and rebellion against a holy God who displays and performs clemency to sinners like you and me. Luke 13:1-5 says “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Is there a link between suffering and sin? Yes! Were it not for the presence of sin in this world; there would be no suffering. Sin brought death, pain and suffering into this world and because the world is under the power of sin, suffering is a daily reality within it. But the fact that a person suffers, does not indicate a direct relationship to his or her particular sin. Jesus is telling these people and us that were asking a holy God the wrong questions. The question isn’t why did the tower fall on those eighteen innocent people, but, Why didn’t it fall on my head? Jonathan Edwards once asked his congregation to give him one reason why God hadn’t destroyed them since they got up that morning?
We are to ponder that same truth this morning! Every moment that we live, every luxury that we enjoy, every blessing that we receive, every blessing we participate in, is a matter of receiving grace from a holy God who seated on the throne is all His glory. We are not allowed to sin, because the penalty of sin is death. And yet we continue to sin, and yet we still become astonished and offended when God allows suffering. This is where Habakkuk is at this moment in God’s response to a man who is claiming “Woe always me or us status”
“This isn’t fair God” what isn’t fair, is that holy a perfect God, allows me to breathe another breath. Do we truly understand when we read passages that point to the holiness of God? He is holy and I’m not! He is worthy of my praise in every circumstance of my life.
“The Lord is in his holy temple” (v20)
Yahweh is in His temple, the place where He is to be worshipped; but there is no image. And this temple and its worship are holy; no abomination can be practiced there, and everything in it leads to holiness of heart and life.
“Let all the earth keep silence before Him”
(v20) As one commentator said “Let all be dumb. Let none of them dare to open their mouths in the presence of Jehovah.” He alone is Sovereign. He alone is the giver of life and death. Let all hear His commands with the deepest respect, obey them with the swiftest of diligence, and worship Him with the most profound reverence. For example: One commentator said “When an Asiatic sovereign goes to the mosque on any of the eastern festivals, such as the Bairham, the deepest silence reigns among all his attendants, viziers, foreign ambassadors, etc. They all bow respectfully before him; but no word is spoken, no sound uttered.”
What God is saying is every soul here this morning needs to bow before him, and submit to His authority and will over your life. In amidst of your chaos and confusion be silent before a sovereign God who knows what He is doing. And stop telling Him “What He can and cannot do!” Again understanding the holiness of God helps us to understand that as we go things in this life we rest here because He is on the throne. We rest knowing this biblical truth over my life, and over your life. God is holy and we are not!
Charles Hodge said “The holiness of God is not to be conceived of as one attribute among others. It is rather a general term representing the conception of God’s consummate perfection and total glory. It is His infinite moral perfection crowning His infinite intelligence and power.” He said it is infinite moral perfection as the crown of the God-head, holiness is God’s total glory crowned.” It was Thomas Watson who said, “Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of God’s crown, it is the name by which He is known.” R.L. Dabney wrote, “Holiness is to be regarded not as a distinct attribute, but as the result of all God’s moral perfection together.” Rest knowing this truth and your problems will not go away, but they will have less importance realizing God’s over everything from tragedy to calamity to a broken nail or blown motor in your truck. What these men recognized is what the prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
I want to leave you with some biblical truths that we rest in, as God sees you through your storm or in this case a nation who needs some spiritual spanking from a holy God. Why? What we go through is always a teaching moment and it’s for our good and His glory.
Knowing that God is holy and in His holy temple reminds me that God is satisfied through the means of the gospel.
Everything has been fulfilled through His Son, Jesus Christ. As the Hymn song “In Christ Alone” we are reminded of this truth “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”
“Satisfied” “God is satisfied, and our sin is removed for us in the perfect atonement of Jesus.” God sending His Son demonstrates to us that God is satisfied and anyone who rests in Christ is seen righteous (Justified) through the beauty of Christ in the gospel. Why? God is satisfied in the His sacrifice for sinful man and it’s because of this truth we are no longer under His wrath. Romans 8:1-4 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. He shows us mercy, clemency and the gospel satisfies His perfect justice at the same time, leading us to marvel at His forgiveness. We who are called by His grace have a true, if partial, understanding of God’s greatness, for we see Him as He is, a God of infinite mercy and infinite holiness. And He is completely satisfied through the completion of the gospel. We can trust the Lord because He is just and always fulfills His promises, even His promise to punish sinners with the fullness of His wrath. And we know He fulfills His promises because in Jesus He poured out His full wrath on the sin of His people and was completely satisfied. As Isaiah said “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,…” Isa 53:10 (ESV) Or as the (NKJV) says “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” Isa 53:10. Rest here! Truly, He is a great, trustworthy God who is worthy of our love and loyalty and He is completely satisfied in the gospel.
Knowing that God is holy and in His holy Temple reminds me though God is transcendent, He is personal close in my worship of Him.
When we worship this morning corporately and in our private lives, He is present. Knowing that truth should transform the way we approach worship here and in our private lives. Do we feel at times that God is a million miles away? Yes At those times when it seems as if God has turned His back, we must deliberately trust the fact that He loves us with an unfailing love, and that He will not forsake us, even though it may seem that way for a while. David’s cry in Psalm 13:1-6 remind of this truth “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” This is the confidence that David had, and we should have, because we have a holy God who is ever personally involved in my life through times of uncertainties and times of peace and rest. How do we know that God is personal and the object of our worship?
Answer! He came in the form of man and dwelt amoung sinful man, to redeem sinners who are lost forever, apart from His grace and mercy found in the gospel confession. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 All our worship corporately and personally is in one direction! Up (vertical) towards a holy God who sits on the throne in all His glory. Were the angels sing “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" Isa 6:3 Remember the opening verse of David’s time of worship “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2. Is God personal? He is so personal; He has made His presence known through His creation to remind us of His infinite glory, so that we in return praise Him.
Knowing that God is holy and in His holy temple should cause my heart to melt the seasons of doubt with adoration and thanksgiving for seeing me though my circumstance.
Many times we think we are alone and there is nowhere to find help for a burdensome soul. Life throws curveballs and we sometimes end up in bad situations. Our lives do not always look like how we projected them to be this side of Heaven. Maybe your family is falling apart, your health is declining, possible loss of employment and you are at the fork in the road and you don’t know what you want to do with your life. You find your heart and mind wandering during the retirement stage of life and so on. You feel distant in your relationships with family or friends and you cry out to God. But you feel God is somewhere else. Unfortunately that’s exactly what Satan wants you think. I’m here to remind you that God is here and He has always been here. Habakkuk needed to be reminded of this truth and that hurts our pride at times, but it must be done in order for you to realize God is over your life. Your trials are designed just for you and understand that God love you and desires you to always rest in His provision and care, because no cares more about you growing in His grace, then God. God is so personal in your times of doubt He is standing there waiting for you to recognize that He is the one on the throne, not you.
Why? Because He is holy (separate, otherness) and He desires that you live in His holiness. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." Don’t you think Peter rested here? After numerous times of living in doubt, until God sent Him out to tell others (you and me) to never doubt a holy God who knows exactly what he is doing in your life. God closes His answer to a weary prophet with this truth to remind Habakkuk that we are to walk by the faith in a holy God knowing that God is on the throne. And just because we cannot see what He is doing in the present or in our future, we can rest assured that God is still holy and that He is still God.
“One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the pastor called on one of his deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, “Lord, I hate buttermilk." The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, "Lord, I hate lard." Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, "Lord, I ain't too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix 'em all together and bake 'em in a hot oven, I just love biscuits." "Lord help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don't like, whenever we don't understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After you get through mixing and baking, it'll probably be something even better than biscuits. Amen.”
We need to wait as well and rest here knowing that God is holy and He is seated in all His glory in total control of your life and of my life. And what God choses to do with our lives are always, always, for our good and His glory. Why? This is where God gets our greatest worship. When we see or experience our lives spinning out of control, because it’s here were we think we have control and God is reminding us, who is in control. A sovereign God who is gloriously holy and who welcomes us into His grace as He withholds His justice for the glory of His purposes. We know this to be true! “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28
God is infinitely happy because he is infinitely glorious. And, the good news is that He invites us to enter into His happiness. Rest here by faith, through Christ, and live through days of plenty and days of drought. Rest here in days of peaceful rest, and chaotic times of unrest. Because! God is holy and He is in His holy temple, sovereign over the all.