Every Thought Captive

Approaching Holiness

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.  

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 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. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When 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.” Then He said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And 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.

Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Exodus 2:23-3:15

Walking with a group of friends after our church’s high school meeting, I remember one boy who, while telling some funny incident, laid his Bible on the concrete steps to free up his gesturing hands. A girl exclaimed, “Don’t put your Bible on the ground!” This young man was from a family of preachers and would later become one himself; the girl who spoke had only recently come to believe in Jesus—but her senses were heightened about what was holy.  She didn’t think the Holy Bible should be on the ground. We may differ about the treatment of printed Bibles—but what are our thoughts, our approach, and our behavior towards holiness, the holiness of God?

God is completely other than all that exists. He is unique, whole, and perfect. He is full of radiant glory. He is absolutely morally pure and all of this comes together in God’s holiness.    

On a mountain, Moses encountered God in a flaming bush. He heard God’s voice call his name, but as he approached, God said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) God’s presence required a warning to Moses and an active response. And when God identified Himself: “I am the God of your father; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Moses covered his face, “for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6)

Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am lost,” when he experienced a vision of the holy LORD. (Isaiah 6:5) Peter, after Jesus’ miraculous catch of fish, fell down before Him and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8) Saul of Tarsus fell to the ground as the glorified Jesus appeared to him. (Acts 9:3-5) A genuine encounter with God’s holiness brings awe and rightful fear in sinful human beings. And by His grace, the holy God ultimately calls His people to repentance.

Moses heard God’s promise of liberation, which He said would culminate in service or worship (NIV) of Him as Israel left oppressive Egypt. God’s holiness calls for worship. Revelation 15:4 records the song of Moses and the Lamb: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You...”

As God’s people worship, we must also love and pursue holiness. God says, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” Holiness is not our nature, and our world disdains it. But this is possible because of Christ’s death “in order to present you holy and blameless…before Him.” (Colossians 1:22) 2 Corinthians 7:1 challenges us to be “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

God is still the radiant, redemptive God who met Moses on the mountain. Let us reverently repent, fervently worship, and love Him in His holiness. And let us pursue holy life in His grace and power.

About the Author

Photograph of Neatice Warner

Neatice Warner

Neatice grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from the University of New Mexico. She is married to Terry and has 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, and 3 grandsons. Neatice is privileged to teach the PCPC Women's Early Morning Bible Study; her passion, along with her family, is God's Word and the joy of seeing God's people transformed by His Spirit through that Word.