God’s Word for You
Acts 7:30-34 God is holy
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, December 18, 2019
30 “After forty years had passed, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flames of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight. As he went closer to look, the voice of the Lord spoke: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Shaking with fear, Moses could not bring himself to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take the sandals off your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 Know that I have seen the oppression of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning. I have come down to rescue them. Now come, I will send you to Egypt.’
Stephen presents the account of the burning bush with all its most important points (see Exodus 3:1-22). The bush burned, but through a miracle, it was not consumed. This might have served to assure Moses that although we are as dry and as dead as a bush in the desert, God chooses not to consume us in his holy fire, but Moses simply marveled at it.
Jesus used the words that were spoken here by God (by Christ himself, before he was incarnate as Jesus!) to show that the doctrine of the resurrection to eternal life was shown even here, since he said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus’ point was that God didn’t say that he “was” the God of Abraham, but that he “is” the God of Abraham, and: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27). We use the same power of God’s spoken word to show that in the words, “This is my body… this is my blood,” Jesus is proclaiming that he is really and truly present in the Lord’s Supper, and not merely represented in some way (Mark 14:22-24)
Moses was terrified by God, but he accepted God’s commission to be the one who would ransom captive Israel. Pastor Werner Franzmann asks the Sanhedrin: “Do you show a reverence like that of Moses for the covenant of God? Do you tremble at his word? Do you believe it implicitly, though it defies your comprehension? Or do you reshape his revelation by imagining that you have satisfied all the demands of his law, and that you have no need of covenant grace?” (Bible History Commentary, New Testament Volume II, p. 1216).
Before we leave this passage, it’s time to define the word “holy,” since God calls the place where he spoke to Moses, “holy ground.”
1, There is no other true holiness than God’s holiness.
2, God’s holiness is that characteristic of God according to which he loves what is morally good and hates what is morally evil.
This definition of holiness gets its beginning in the Levitical cleanliness laws: “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45). It is proclaimed throughout the Scriptures:
Joshua 24:19. “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”
2 Corinthians 7:1. “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Galatians 5:17. “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
1 Thessalonians 4:7. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
1 Peter 1:15. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”
God is the Holy One. “Holy” means to be absolutely separate from sin. My wife’s definition is simple and exact: “What is holiness except to be perfect?” What man does might be considered to be good because he lives according to what is good and he is subject to God. But with God, the reverse is true: What God does is considered to be good because he is God. God is outside the law (Deus est exlex). Luther said: “Do not dare to apply a law or a standard to God, for he is not a creature; he is immeasurable. Man must live according to a norm…. Since God has no law, standard or limit, he cannot transgress them.” Proverbs 16:4 teaches: “The LORD works out everything for his own ends.”
The place where Moses saw the burning bush was not holy because of the bush, but because God was there. There is no place in the created world which is holy by virtue of its own existence; not one church nor even the cap of Golgotha where Christ’s cross stood is holy by its own virtue. A place is holy because of God’s presence there; not because the soil or stone is sacred. Our worship spaces are sacred because the name of Christ sanctifies them and the word of God sanctifies us. It is not wrong to be reverent when visiting the location of the crucifixion (if one can find it), but places like this one in Scripture are sacred by God’s doing and use, not by the virtue of the place.
It is precisely because of God’s holiness, that he is separate from sin and in opposition to all of man’s sin, that we need a Savior from sin to live forever with God. There is something like this that is involved in my wife’s cancer treatment. Some of her medications make her extremely susceptible to cold; it makes her extremities go numb and has other side effects. This means that she needs to wear oven mitts or use a hand towel to reach for things in the refrigerator or especially the freezer, and she uses rubber gloves to handle wet laundry. Just as my wife cannot approach cold things without specific precautions, so also man cannot approach God with one specific precaution: He must be made righteous and sinless by Christ.
Without Jesus, we would be consumed by God’s holiness like any ordinary dry bush in the desert. But with Jesus, we are not consumed; we remain, forever safe, forever God’s dear children, because of the grace and the love of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Timothy Smith