In the ancient worldview, the name referred to the character of the person. The prayer in this case is that God will be seen as holy. That’s a topic we don’t really talk about much these days. Holiness. In fact, we don’t like the sound of holiness. When the word “holy” is said, one can get filled with pictures that rarely strike us as positive.
Holiness is not seen as something enjoyable. Holiness reminds us of monks that can seem to spend long hours poring over a text or in medication. Holiness seems to imply to us a “hands-off” way of looking at something. It makes us think we must necessarily be quiet and somber. Now is not the place for joy but for pure seriousness.
I’m skeptical that’s the way it is.
Nevertheless, the Bible does make it clear that holiness is to be taken seriously. Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Think about that. If you want to see God, then you have to be holy. There is no other way around it. If only we could get this into our minds and hearts. How much less we’d trifle with sin saying that such and such is only a small sin. We’d beg for it to be taken away from us and that we’d realize the holiness of God.
The book of Hebrews is largely about this holiness as it’s about presenting Christ as the great high priest who comes to take away our unholiness. He is the one who acts on our behalf before the Father to be sure that we are holy. In Levitical times, the price of a sin was a sacrifice. Consider what that would mean. What if you had to take a bull? You lost a strong animal that could mate and produce more cattle for your herd as well as a good source of food when the time came for the bull to die.
If you lost a sheep, you not only lost reproducing that sheep but so much more. You lost the wool that would be used to make clothes. You lost the mutton that could be had from the cooking of the sheep. Sheepskins were also used for writing and if you were in the industry of making writing available, you could not do that.
The emphasis was clear. Sin costs something.
If only we saw that today.
What does it mean to be holy though? I see three aspects. Purity. Separation. Completeness. This is why the codes of Leviticus said to avoid clothes of mixed fabrics and to avoid hybrid animals. Perfect purity was to be the standard. Every aspect of the lives of the Israelites was to remind them that they were the priests of a holy God.
When done properly, holiness is what draws one close to God. How is it that we see holiness as a burden then and something to be avoided? Could it be because we have a low view of God? I saw one today asking who wouldn’t want to be loved by God? The answer is many of us. We often wish God would love us less. When he loves us the way he does, he seeks our betterment which often means getting rid of our sin. We often wish God would just overlook that sin so we could “better enjoy ourselves” as we think.
Part of us is fearful to draw close to God and that is certainly understandable. If we have no fear of God, we need to question if we’re talking about the right God. Our idea of God needs to be reconstructed in our area that focuses on physical realities entirely and lets that which is eternal take a backseat to the temporal.
Holiness needs to be a drive in our lives and that should be in our prayers. We are to pray that God be seen as holy not for his sake but for our sake. When we see him as holy and learn to respect his name as holy, then we are more in line to serve him. It is noteworthy that the attribute to be seen of God in the prayer is holiness. This is the very attribute the angels in Isaiah’s vision spoke of.
If our world is to be revolutionized today, if Christianity is to be a driving force in our lives, if we are to make a difference for now and for eternity, we must recover holiness. It is not an optional in the Christian walk. It is an essential.