Observe This first section (1-5) describes the high holiness of God. The Lord reigns, enthroned upon the cherubim (1), and the proper response to His display of majesty is for His creation to tremble … to quake. The refrain “Holy is He!” (3b,5b) recalls Moses’ covering his face when in God’s presence; His radiant holiness too overwhelming for mere humans to gaze on (Ex.34:29-35).
But His people recognize His justice and His righteousness among them. In Him, absolute might and absolute right combine, causing His people to exalt Him, worship Him at His footstool (5) – His earth, His creation.
Verses 6-9 examine the privilege of being God’s people. His chosen leaders, Moses, Aaron and Samuel, used their priestly function: They called to the Lord and He answered them (6c), because they kept His law. The people witness God’s love and justice: You were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. (8b).
Hebrew poetry uses repetition for emphasis (here, God’s quality of holiness), we end with the people exalting God, worshipping at His holy mountain – because the Lord our God is holy (9).
Interpret This is one of a series of Psalms exalting God’s kingship over His creation. “Holy” means “set apart”, and His people’s separateness derives only from His choosing them to be holy. This has preserved His people, despite their wrongdoing. His forgiveness lodges in His holiness (Ex.34:7). The three men named were God’s gifts to His people, but they relied on His holy forgiveness, not their moral excellence which wobbled at times. Worship befits Him, and His people exalt Him for this very quality.
Apply “Holy”. We use this word so casually as an expletive– Holy smoke! Holy xxxx! Is this what holiness has been reduced to in this so casual, careless, increasingly crude culture? Haven’t we used this word hundreds of times without thinking – this word that properly belongs to things of God and is God -- with such carelessness?
How many times in the Psalms do we find the word “holy”? Here’s a challenge: search all 150 of these songs, where and how the word is used, about whom. And then, having done this, we examine ourselves in the light of God’s searching grace, wondering if we are willing to be set apart, different, courageous, godly – if we are willing to be ‘holy’. And then, live this quality, asking for the Spirit’s help.
Ask Will You transform my heart and will and life to shine with Your radiant love until sharing in Your holiness becomes my greatest good?
Pray Lord God, You are holy and I am not, save by Your immense and generous grace. Jesus’ awesome sacrifice on the Cross freed me from what bound me for so long, by His boundless forgiveness. And so, I can only say Thank you, again and again, for Who you are and for what You are doing to make me like You -- holy.
Sing Ps 99 Sons of Korah
Holy is He - Jason Silver
The Lord is King - Guildford Cathedral Choir
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.