Give thanks for God’s holiness! Two passages refer to the thrice holy God. Isaiah 6:1-3 reads, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’” Revelation 4:6-8 reads, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Emphasis mine) May we sing in the words of the beloved hymn by Reginald Heber, “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!”[i]
Isaiah 65:5 reads, “Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.” (Emphasis mine) Luke 18:9-14 reads, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Emphasis mine)
Paul writes in Philippians 3:4-9, “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Emphasis mine)
Rev. James Smellie (1830-1875) preached a sermon on Psalm 97:12b titled, “Giving Thanks at the Remembrance of God’s Holiness.”[ii] I am indebted to him for this adaptation of his interpretation and ideas.
Psalm 97:1-12 reads, “The Lord reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples see His glory. Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, Who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods. Zion hears and is glad, And the daughters of Judah rejoice Because of Your judgments, O Lord. For You, Lord, are most high above all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, And gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.”
Psalm 97:12b reads, “. . . give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.” Interestingly, we find these words in Psalm 30:4b as in our text.
Note three things worthy of thanksgiving.
I. Give thanks for God’s holiness; because He delivers the righteous ones from the penalty of sin. That’s justification!
Rev. James Smellie explains, “. . . the righteous may well give thanks at the remembrance of God’s holiness, because the display and vindication of it in the work of their redemption pacify their conscience, and secure their everlasting safety.”[iii] Dr. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) explains, “Christ is never fully valued, until sin is clearly seen.”[iv] Dr. Leon Morris (1914-2006), wrote: “Redemption is substitutionary, for it means that Christ paid that price that we could not pay, paid it in our stead and we go free. Justification interprets our salvation judicially, and as the New Testament sees it, Christ took our legal liability, took it in our stead.”[v]
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) writes, “If the Saviour has not sanctified you, renewed you, given you a hatred of sin and a love of holiness, He has done nothing for you of a saving character. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not in their sins, but from their sins. ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ ‘Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’ If not saved from sin, how shall we hope to be counted among His people. Lord, save me even now from all evil, and enable me to honor my Saviour.”[vi] Rev. Spurgeon also writes, “Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, not the apologist of sin.”[vii]
Philippians 3:7-9 reads, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
Habakkuk 2:2-4 reads, “Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. ‘Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Romans 1:17 reads, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Galatians 3:11 reads, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’” Hebrews 10:38 reads, “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (Emphasis mine) Rev. Dr. Martin Luther took up this watchword!
Part Two Coming Soon!
[i]Reginald Heber, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (1826).
[ii]Modern Scottish Pulpit: Sermons by Ministers of Various Denominations, First Series, Rev. James Smellie, “Giving Thanks at the Remembrance of God’s Holiness” (Psalm 97:12b) (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1880), 62-75.
[iii]Pulpit, Smellie, 70.
[iv]John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, St. Luke (London: Wertheim, Macintosh, & Hunt, 1859), 2: 326.
[v]Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999), 405.
[vi]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Evening by Evening: or Readings at Eventide (New York, NY: Sheldon and Company, 1869), 39.
[vii]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, January 25, Evening (Romans 3:31), Database © 2015 WORDsearch.