Monday, August 15, 2022

For God Is Holy (Psalm 99)

"Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool—He is holy" (Ps. 99:5).

On Psalm 99 Calvin noted that God’s holiness should strike an awe in us as it does in the angels themselves. When Isaiah stood before the heavenly throne, the angels circled above, singing, “holy, holy, holy” to the Lord of heaven and earth. The holiness of God so manifest to the angels of glory should captivate our souls as we contemplate our sovereign Lord.

Psalm 99:1 The King’s holiness is the threefold cord that runs through this Psalm (vv. 3, 5, 9). The psalmist sees the Messiah as already having established His kingdom. He sits enthroned “above the cherubim,“ which probably means that His throne is supported by symbolical cherubs. These are angelic beings with a human body and also with wings. They are assigned to vindicate the holiness of God against the sin of man. The sight of the enthroned Monarch is so moving that the nations might well tremble and the earth quake with fear.

Psalm 99:2-3 The LORD is great in power and magnificence as He rules from His throne in Zion. He is the exalted Ruler over all the peoples on earth. They should honor His great and awesome name in acknowledgment of the fact that He is unimpeachably holy.

Psalm 99:4-5 This King of power is also a lover of justice, a rare combination among earth’s rulers and great men. “Might and right are wedded at last.” In His kingdom, graft and corruption are unknown. Equity, … justice, and righteousness are the rule rather than the exception. How His people should extol Him, prostrating themselves at His footstool. In other Scriptures God’s footstool is variously defined as the ark of the covenant (1 Chron. 28:2), the sanctuary (Ps. 132:7), Zion (Lam. 2:1), the earth (Isa. 66:1), or even God’s enemies (Ps. 110:1). The reference here is probably to the sanctuary in Zion.

Psalm 99:6-7 This is the same King who faithfully guided His people in the past. Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel was one of His great intercessors. (Technically neither Moses nor Samuel was a priest, but both performed priestly functions under divine permission.) The point is that when they cried to the Lord, He answered them. He communicated with Moses and Aaron in the pillar of cloud, delivering the law to them at Mt. Sinai. They obeyed His voice, though imperfectly, and kept the law, though only partially.

Psalm 99:8 But God … answered their prayers then, and the implied assurance is that He will continue to do so now. He was the God-Who-Forgives, though He didn’t overlook their evil deeds. Though the penalty was forgiven, the consequences in this life remained. God’s grace, for instance, forgave Moses for his sin at the waters of Meribah, but God’s government kept him out of the Promised Land.

It is not improbable that these three heroes represent the believing portion of the nation of Israel, and that what was true of them was true of all God’s faithful covenant people. They called upon the Name of the Lord and were saved, and whoever will call upon Him now will also be saved.

Psalm 99:9 The threefold reference to the holiness of God reminds us of Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8. Also it brings to mind the stately lines of Heber:

    Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!

    Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;

    Holy, Holy, Holy, Merciful and mighty!

    God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.

God commands you to be holy as He is holy. List some sins in your life that you know keep you from reflecting God’s holiness. Through the week, focus on one sin, pray for victory over it, and take practical steps to remove all temptations leading to this sin.