Holy, Holy, Holy

Psalm 99

Actor Jimmy Stewart plays lead in the film Harvey, the character Elwood P. Dowd. He roams the town with Harvey, a six-foot three and a half inch tall invisible rabbit. When a doctor inquires about the rabbit-friend, Elwood explains that mostly he and Harvey sit in bars and listen to stories:

[People] tell us about the big terrible things they’ve done… And the big wonderful things they’ll do… And their hopes, their regrets, their loves, and their hates – all very large – because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar… And then I introduce them to Harvey. And he’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed.

Probably wonder what a 6-foot tall imaginary rabbit has to do with text this evening. It’s not only in a bar that people will tell their story. Often all it takes is friendly face and willingness to listen, really listen. On a bus, in a restaurant, at a library, an airport waiting area, grocery store aisle – anywhere two people are together is possible scenario. But here’s the question – let’s say someone tells you their big story and then…who do you introduce them to? Who are they impressed by?

Psalms 96-99: enthronement psalms; grow in intensity, enthusiasm, greater focus on worship. Theme of psalm – 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!”

A. He who is thrice-holy v.3,5,9

there’s even a word for it – trisagion!

God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor. This definition contains both a relational quality and a moral quality: separation from sin or evil, and devotion to the good of God’s own honor or glory. …The word holy is used to describe both parts of the tabernacle, for example. The tabernacle itself was a place separate from the evil and sin of the world, and the first room in it was called the “holy place.” It was dedicated to God’s service. But then God commanded that there be a veil, “and the veil shall separate for you the holy place from the most holy” (Ex. 26:33). The most holy place, where the ark of the covenant was kept, was the place most separated from evil and sin and most fully devoted to God’s service.” Grudem, Systematic

are other attributes of God, some communicable (ones that have resemblance in us), some incommunicable (like immensity, self-existence)

but…this one, holiness, the one that is emphasized in Bible – in passage already read and in Isa. 6:3

not sure if holiness is the most important, the umbrella over all the rest of attributes, but ranks right up there

not only repeated, is the one God enjoins on his people – “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44, 45; 1 Pet. 1:16)

was because of God’s holiness that Joshua, Daniel, Apostle John responded as they did; made explicit to Joshua: Josh. 5:15the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.”

here in this psalm, reminded that when we come into God’s presence in worship or prayer, “the place where you are standing is holy”

God is our Heavenly Father, our King, our Redeemer; not our buddy, not our peer; there is both closeness between God and his children as well as infinite distance

only way we can overcome that distance is through Lord Jesus, the God-Man who stands between God and us with his hand on both

B. He who is to come v.1-3

the one “who is to come” is awesome in his splendor and majesty

“The Holy Spirit delights to proclaim Jesus seated supreme upon His throne. This thought is an overflowing cup of joy. It presents strong consolation. Oh! that He might reign in us, and make our hearts His chosen home.” William Law

psalmist quick to set worshipers’ minds at ease – those who are opposed to God’s rule should tremble and shake, God’s people a different story

pay close attention to God’s throne – where he is seated: “He dwells between the cherubim” NKJV; “He sits enthroned upon the cherubim” ESV

remember where the cherubim are – in the “most holy place” – forming part of the cover for ark of covenant

two significant things: place of meeting, place of atonement and reconciliation

Exod. 25:22 “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony”

“But great and awful though He be, we fear Him not, for “He sitteth on the cherubim,” a phrase which always recalls the blood-besprinkled mercy-seat–God in Christ, reconciling the world.” Meyer

God rules and God is great and God is awesome

he rules from the throne of grace over all his creation with wisdom and power that far surpasses our comprehension

nothing escapes his notice, eludes his wisdom, or exceeds his power to address anywhere at anytime

presently, he is invisible to our eyes, exercising his authority in ways often hidden from our understanding; day is coming when “loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Rev. 11:15

the proper response – praise and worship… now, on that day, forever after in Lord Jesus’ eternal kingdom

C. He who is v.4-5

the one “who is” loves justice and is righteous

probably have known someone who came up with wonderful plan, worked out all details, made everything happen ’cause they knew was exactly right and what they wanted; short time later, given up on the new thing, back to same-old, same-old

what happened? were in love with the idea but not in the real-life implementing of it

not that way with God: he isn’t in love with the idea of justice, the theoretical law school scenarios that always turn out right

God loves justice…in principle and in practice…applied to real people in real situations; focus has narrowed down from his universal rule over all things to issues of justice among people

important note: injustices perpetrated in world are not the King’s fault – King is strong, has the power to bring about justice however, wherever and whenever he chooses

second important note: man’s justice carried out by civil government is important; that’s why God instituted government; even though civil gov’t fails, God will not fail to bring the cosmic scale of justice back in balance

third important note: God’s just example is model for us to follow…in all our dealings – it’s #1 in God’s list of expectations; Mic. 6:8He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

now you’ve added that understanding to previous picture of God, what is proper response?

exalt God – lift him up – and worship; lift him up with both praise and proclamation

praise God as expression of love – all our heart, soul, mind, strength – in our thoughts, words, deeds both private and public; in private devotion and public corporate worship

lift God up, hold him up for others to see; matters not whether saved or lost, “people need the Lord”

think, then speak and act in such a way that people’s attention is drawn to God, directed to God, not self

D. He who was v.6-9

the one “who was” is tenderly and graciously faithful

look closely at who is named here: Moses, Aaron, Samuel – Moses, sin kept him out of Canaan; Aaron, sin encouraged Hebrew children back to idol-worship; Samuel, had couple sons who weren’t so good for family name

all three commended by God for their devotion to him; they prayed, God answered, in spite of their human frailty; Moses & Samuel had a special blessing, heard the voice of God directly

important note: God didn’t say to any of the three (or anyone else) “you really need to clean up first; get your act together a little, show you’re willing to try, then we can talk”

God reached all the way down to where each of these men were, drew them from there up to himself; does the same with each individual he brings into his family

uncommon name for God given in v.8, one that must be understood and proclaimed: El Nasa, God-Who-Forgives

“There’s a powerful picture of God’s forgiveness in this small and unassuming Hebrew word, nasa (8). It essentially combines three different thoughts: to lift something up, to carry something along, and to take something away.” (http://mmatevich.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/el-nasa/)

when God forgives he lifts us up by lifting up the burden of our sin; God the Son comes along side and carries our sin for us; the guilt of our sin is taken away, no longer credited to us

God doesn’t just write off sin (8c), he deals with it justly; for the believer, God took vengeance on our sinful deeds at Calvary

accomplishing true forgiveness while at the same time maintaining justice is something only our holy God can do

if was any question what source of holiness is – v.9 makes it explicit: God is holy, source of holiness; only hope sinners have is to seek holiness from God at his throne of grace

Second stanza ends with exhortation to “exalt the Lord our God“, 1x. Third stanza draws attention to “the Lord our God” 3x. Personal name of God – YHWH (Ex. 34:5-6) coupled with personal pronoun “our”. Yes, God is holy, like no other being; he is great and powerful and awesome and just and faithful and relational. Not distant, not using his awesomeness to intimidate or overpower his children; God expects us to respond with awe and wonder, drawing us closer to him.

Awe, unlike fear, does not make us shrink from the awe-inspiring object, but, on the contrary, draws us near to it.” Abraham Heschel

It’s when we are close to our awesome God that we experience his love and mercy and forgiveness.

So, when someone tells you their story, do you introduce them to Harvey? or to someone who is real and powerful and impressive beyond our wildest imagination? If you have been Christian for more than 5 minutes, should have plenty to share with them about the Lord who rules his creation with justice and righteousness. When you do, if they leave un-impressed, problem is with them, not the one you introduced them to. And,…you will have given them a priceless introduction to the thrice-holy King of Kings and Lord of Lords to whom be glory and honor and praise.


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