Katie is back for this week’s Word Nerd Wednesday with this powerful look at what it means for us that God is El Hakkadosh, or holy.
Holy. Set apart.
The root word of Hakkodosh is qadash or qadosh. It means to be set apart or different. It is regularly used to describe God, his temple and later his people. Christians believe God is Holy because he is altogether perfect. He is flawless and different from man.
He cannot lie, he cannot do wrong, he cannot be evil.
He is Holy and we are not.
We are fallen, full of flaws and naturally evil. So how does a Holy God show himself to be Holy in a way that people can get a small glimpse of his majesty and perfection? Even to this day, I grapple with the understanding of holiness and what that means about God. However, as I searched through the Bible, I found hope and awe in the way God showed his holiness throughout the Old Testament to his people by defeating the gods of the people surrounding them.
El Hakkadosh Defeats Pharoah
In Exodus, God drew his people out of slavery from the land of Egypt. He did this by sending ten plagues that displayed his power so that Pharaoh would let His people go. Growing up, I always thought the ninth plague was a bit of a letdown. The plagues had been building from annoying to damaging in a crescendo and then suddenly, darkness covered the land. I have always found that less impressive than the other plagues. However, as I looked at it from another angle and considered it from the perspective of the Egyptians, my understanding changed. The main god of the Egyptians was Ra, the god of the sun. In this way, God showed his Holiness. He showed he is set apart from even the most powerful of the Egyptian gods by flexing his power and blotting out the sun.
He is greater.
He is mightier.
He is Holy.
El Hakkadosh Defeats Baal
Then look at Elijah and Baal, a fairly well known story. Elijah confronted King Ahab and his 450 prophets of Baal along with 400 prophets of Asherah claiming that only Yahweh is the true God. He then challenged the Baal prophets to a sacrifice duel. The prophets gathered and offered their sacrifices to Baal, throwing themselves into a frenzy while Elijah taunted. Nothing happened. Then Elijah built an altar, dug a channel around it, poured water over it three times and called on God. God consumed the sacrifice with a mighty blaze and showed again how he is set apart from any false god that could ever hope to take his place.
He is supreme.
He is matchless.
He is Holy.
El Hakkadosh Defeats Dagon
Finally, look to Dagon in one of my favorite Bible stories from childhood. The Philistines defeated the Israelites in battle and stole the Ark of the Covenant, bringing it to Ashdod. They placed the Ark in the temple of their god Dagon and celebrated their victory. Yet, in the morning, they awoke to find Dagon their idol facedown before the Ark of the Covenant. They fixed up their temple, putting everything in its rightful place but the next day the idol fell prostrate once more, this time with his head and arms broken off. The story goes on that the Philistines begged to have the Ark of the Covenant removed because the hand of the Israelites’ God was heavy on them and Dagon. Yahweh is above all.
He stands alone.
He is Holy.
This same holiness we see in God, we are called to emulate. He says, “Be Holy for I am Holy.” In the Old Testament, this was a command. The other nations were supposed to look upon Israel and see a difference. The land of Canaan was home to two of the major trade routes—the Via Maris and the King’s Highway—from Egypt to Mesopotamia and therefore people would regularly pass through Israel. It was the command and design of God that these people would see a different society.
They would see widows cared for.
They would see neighbors treating one another with fairness and honesty.
They would see respect and honor.
They would see a people holy, different and set apart from other nations.
El Hakkadosh Leads Us
In the same way that this was expected from the Israelites in the Old Testament, it is expected of us as Christ followers in this present day. Though we should have no contact with such a Holy and supreme God, by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, we are granted access to the Father. The Temple curtain was torn when Jesus died on the cross, removing our separation from the Holy of Holies. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Do you revel in that? The Holy Spirit of our Holy God is sent to live in us as a seal of the promise to come.
We are to be Holy.
We are to be a people set apart.
We are to look so radically different from the world that people look at us and wonder why we live the way we live.
They should wonder why we don’t gossip.
Why we don’t lie.
Why we don’t cheat or steal or commit adultery.
They should wonder why we don’t watch pornography or even the sleazy shows on television.
They should wonder why we work with such joy.
They should wonder why we are content with what we have.
Why we pray, why we encourage, why we smile, laugh and help one another.
Why we parent the way we do.
Why we look after the least of these.
El Hakkadosh Sets Us Apart
They should wonder what makes us set apart and different from the rest of the world. Not different with pride and self-righteousness—the world has plenty of that. But different in humility and service in the same way Jesus took on the role of a servant and became obedient to death on a cross. And when they see this in us—when they start to wonder these things about us—we can point them to our Holy God and the gracious sacrifice of his only Son that burns the desire into our hearts to be like Him.Does the way you live make people wonder? #holy #hakkadosh #setapart #wordnerdwednesday #namesofgod Click To Tweet
Katie is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three preschoolers. Most of her time is spent outside or in imaginary worlds. In rare moments of free time, she loves to read, paint and write.