Holy Characteristics

God is holy
Isa 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”d ▤

d Or may his glory fill the whole earth

The threefold cry of “holy” (cf. Rev 4:8 ↓) emphasizes God’s perfect holiness.

Rev 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” ▤

Lev 19:2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. ▤

Ps 111:9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! ▤

Isa 43:15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. ▤

Similarly, in Habakkuk 1:12 the prophet calls God “my Holy One”.

John 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. ▤

Rev 6:10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” ▤

There is nothing bad in God – and he cannot tolerate evil
See also:

. . . and God only dwells with those who are holy
. . . God does no wrong
Sin is hated by God
God turns away from those who persist in sin . . .
. . . God rejects them and thrusts them from his presence
Ps 92:15 … to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. ▤

1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ▤

As is often the case in the Bible, “light” here is a metaphor for holiness and truth, while “darkness” represents evil and falseness.

Deut 32:4b A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. ▤

Ps 5:4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. ▤

Ps 94:20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? ▤

The fact that God will not allow the wicked to be associated with him illustrates that he cannot tolerate them.

Hab 1:13a You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong … ▤

Because God is holy he cannot do such things as stand evil and tolerate wrongdoing.

Josh 24:19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. ▤

God’s holiness means that he will not tolerate apostasy – “rebellion” (NIV®, NKJV, NLT; cf. CEV, NCV).

2Chr 19:7 Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes. ▤

God does no wrong and correspondingly he does not “tolerate” (NLT, GNT) such things as “injustice… or partiality or… bribes”.

God cannot be tempted by evil:
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. ▤

In addition to the fact that God cannot be tempted by evil, note that the last clause points out that neither does God tempt anyone to do evil.

There is no one holy like God
1Sam 2:2 There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. ▤

Rev 15:4a Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. ▤

Ex 15:11 Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? ▤

Rev 16:5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waterse say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. ▤

e Greek angel of the waters

This suggests that God is the “Holy One” – the only one who is perfectly holy.

There is no one good like God:
Mark 10:18b No one is good except God alone. ▤

Here “good” is a reference to perfection, including being sinless.

God shows himself to be holy by what he does
See also:

God’s judgment reveals his holiness
God’s saving of his people shows God’s holiness and righteousness . . .
Isa 5:15-16 Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughtyf are brought low. 16But the Lord of hosts is exaltedg in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. ▤

f Hebrew high

g Hebrew high

God would show himself to be holy (v. 16) by his righteous judgment on evil doers (v. 15).

Isa 29:23 [God:] For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. ▤

God’s holiness would be recognized in his restoration of his people, fulfilling his promises and proving his faithfulness and righteousness. Consequently the people would “sanctify” God, i.e. acknowledge his holiness and relate to him accordingly.

Ezek 36:22-26 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. ▤

God’s name had been disgraced when Israel, his people, had been conquered and dispersed throughout the nations. Israel’s rebellion – the reason for its exile – had also very much contributed to the dishonoring of God. So God would take action to demonstrate his holiness, by re-gathering and cleansing his people (vv. 24-26; cf. Ezek 39:25, 27 ↓).

Ezek 39:25-27 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. ▤

Luke 1:46-49 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. ▤

This may well be implying that God’s holiness was apparent in the great blessing he had bestowed upon his “humble… servant” (v. 48), Mary.

Ps 18:25-26 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. ▤

God’s way is holy:
Ps 77:13a Your way, O God, is holy. ▤

Places where God dwells are also holy . . .
See also:

Eph 2:21-22 ⇓
Places must be holy for God in his holiness to dwell in them. God is primarily spoken of as dwelling in: heaven; places containing the Ark of the Covenant (cf. comment on Ex 26:33 ↓); and his people (as reflected in the following subsection).

2Chr 30:27 Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven. ▤

Isa 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. ▤

Zec 2:13 Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. ▤

Ex 26:33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. ▤

The tabernacle, a tent-like structure, preceded the temple as the centre of worship of God. In the tabernacle and later in the temple was a section called “the Holy Place”, which had an inner section called “the Most Holy” or “the Most Holy Place”. In the latter was the Ark of the Covenant, which signified God’s very presence (cf. The Ark of the Covenant and God’s Presence). It was the reason why the places in which it was contained were deemed holy places. In fact, even places where the Ark had been were considered holy: “…the places to which the ark of the Lord has come are holy” (2Chr 8:11).

Ps 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! ▤

Joel 3:17 So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it. ▤

Just as the temple was holy because it contained the Ark of the Covenant which signified God’s presence, in turn Jerusalem was considered holy as within it was the temple and so God’s presence. Note that “Zion”, God’s “holy mountain”, originally denoted the mountain or hill in Jerusalem on which the temple was built. It was later used to refer to the whole of Jerusalem.

Rev 21:2-3 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling placeh of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,i and God himself will be with them as their God.j ▤

h Or tabernacle

i Some manuscripts peoples

j Some manuscripts omit as their God

The holy city known as the new Jerusalem (v. 2) is where God will dwell, with his people (v. 3) throughout eternity.

Ex 3:2-6 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. ▤

God’s presence in the burning bush meant that the ground before it was holy.

. . . and God only dwells with those who are holy
See also:

Because God is holy, his people must be holy – which included avoiding uncleanness
Uncleanness would defile God’s dwelling place amidst his people – and so required isolation and cleansing
God turns away from those who persist in sin . . .
. . . God rejects them and thrusts them from his presence
The godly, blameless and pure are accepted by God and Jesus Christ
Ezek 37:27-28 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore. ▤

The term “sanctify” basically means to make holy. This passage and Ephesians 2:21-22 below demonstrate that God dwells with those who are holy and it can be inferred from these passages that he only dwells with those who are holy.

Eph 2:21-22 … in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God byk the Spirit. ▤

k Or in

Here the church, God’s people, is described as “a holy temple” (v. 21) – “a dwelling place for God” (v. 22).

Ps 15:1-2 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 2He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; … ▤

Verse 2 effectively describes one who is holy (cf. Ps 24:4 ↓; Heb 10:22 ↓). As God only dwells with those who are holy, only those who are holy can dwell with or approach him (cf. Ps 24:3-4 ↓; Heb 10:19-22 ↓) – or see him (cf. Heb 12:14 ↓; Matt 5:8 ↓).

Ps 24:3-4 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. ▤

Heb 10:19-22 Therefore, brothers,l since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ▤

l Or brothers and sisters

Heb 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. ▤

Note that here “Lord” may be referring to God rather than to Jesus Christ. The implication here and in Matthew 5:8 immediately below is that only those who are holy will see God (and Jesus Christ) and dwell with him in the afterlife.

Matt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. ▤

The Israelite soldiers’ camps had to be kept holy so that God would not turn away from them:
Deut 23:14 Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you. ▤

Things of God are likewise holy
See also:

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God . . .
God’s word is holy, righteous and good
Being God’s, the church is holy
All things belong to God, but not all things are holy. However, things that are his in a more exclusive or dedicated sense are holy.

Luke 1:49 … for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. ▤

Isa 52:10 The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. ▤

God’s “holy arm” denotes his “holy power” (GNT, NCV, NLT).

Ps 5:7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. ▤

As shown earlier, heaven (cf. Ps 20:6 ↓) and God’s temple are holy due to his presence. They are holy also because they belong to him.

Ps 20:6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. ▤

Ps 47:8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. ▤

Ps 77:13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? ▤

Jer 23:9 Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words. ▤

Note that Jeremiah is speaking of being overcome by the Lord and his holy words against the false prophets.

Dan 9:16 O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. ▤

Deut 7:6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. ▤

The people of God – “his treasured possession” – are holy.

Lev 6:25 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord; it is most holy. ▤

Lev 27:9, 14-15, 28 If the vowm is an animal that may be offered as an offering to the Lord, all of it that he gives to the Lord is holy. ▤ … 14“When a man dedicates his house as a holy gift to the Lord, the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand. 15And if the donor wishes to redeem his house, he shall add a fifth to the valuation price, and it shall be his. ▤ … 28“But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. ▤

m Hebrew it

Things given to God become holy. In the OT this included things dedicated to him – which could be redeemed or bought back (vv. 14b-15) – and particularly things devoted to him (cf. text note) – which could not be redeemed, being deemed “most holy to the Lord” (v. 28).

God’s Holy Spirit:
Ps 51:11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. ▤

Note: God and his ways are perfect
See also:

Ps 77:13 ⇑
Matt 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ▤

In Leviticus 19:2b God says: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus’ statement here is based on this, with “perfect” being used in place of “holy”.

Ps 18:30 This God—his way is perfect;n the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. ▤

n Or blameless

Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world,o but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.p ▤

o Greek age

p Or what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God

Deut 32:4 The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. ▤

God’s works being perfect reflect that his ways are perfect. The same applies to his law being perfect, as stated in Psalms 19:7a below.

Job 37:16 Do you know the balancingsq of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge, … ▤

q Or hoverings

Ps 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect,r reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; … ▤

r Or blameless

Similarly, James refers to “the perfect law” (James 1:25).

Isa 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ▤

In keeping with his ways being perfect, God’s ways are infinitely better than our ways.

God has excellence:
2Pet 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us tos his own glory and excellence,t … ▤

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