Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! (Isaiah 6:3)
We Christians can talk a lot about the holiness and glory of God. These are very much church words for us, well-worn fragments of our regular religious speech. And they should be.
His holiness and his glory are essential realities related to the God who made us and made our world. We can’t read the Scriptures for long without being confronted with God’s holiness and God’s glory again and again. If we are to grow in understanding God truly, we must begin to know something of his holiness and glory, even as difficult as these realities are to pin down and define.
There is a great simplicity to Christian worship, even as we find ourselves butting up against truths that are far too great for us and complexities way beyond our grasp. Often our instincts are better on these things than our heads. Our minds lag beyond, but the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts, helping us to respond in worship to God in his holiness and glory, even when defining what his holiness and glory are can elude us.
In Isaiah 6, we come up against these great realities. Here the prophet Isaiah finds himself caught up into a vision of God on his heavenly throne. The scene is beyond full description, the details are elusive, but the precise words of the angels in God’s presence are given for us. They say in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Here we have both holiness and glory.
When the angels repeat three times that God is “holy, holy, holy,” they are speaking to God’s utter uniqueness. There is none like God. He is absolutely incomparable. He is a class unto himself. It speaks to the infinite value of his person. When you catch a vision of who he is, and words fail you in describing the perfection and permanence and infinite value of God, the one last word we have into which we can pour our otherwise inexpressible admiration and worship is this word holy.
When we’re too in awe to know what to say, but we feel we must say something in expressing our adoration and declaring his infinite worth, we say, “holy, holy, holy.”
But what about glory? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” the angels say, “The whole earth is full of his glory.” If God’s holiness is his infinite value and his intrinsic worth, then his glory is the display of that value and worth. He is holy, and as his holiness goes out, as it were, to be seen and admired throughout the world, what we see is his beauty, or his glory. As author and theologian John Piper says, his holiness is his glory concealed; his glory is his holiness revealed.
God’s promise in Habbakuk 2:14 is that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” One way to think about the whole of history is the growing and expanding of the glory of God. We sing, “It’s rising up all around. It’s the anthem of the Lord’s renown.”
The mission of God’s glory—his purpose to make his holiness known in every part of his creation—is unstoppable, and a great call to worship him in all his global majesty and splendor.