Jehovah-Mekadesh first appears in the book of Leviticus, and it means God Our Holiness. Holiness is not a popular word for most Americans. Holiness is perfect goodness, perfect justice, perfect love, perfect beauty, and it’s where we get the English word “wholeness.” In Leviticus God teaches His people how to live before they get to the promised land. They are not to live like the pagans that God was driving out. God makes a distinction between good and evil, light and darkness, right and wrong. In it we read, “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy” (Lev. 20:7-8). The last part of this verse, “I am the Lord, who makes you holy,” is Jehovah-Mekadesh. So, what exactly does that mean?
God is Holy
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees the Lord. Above Him were seraphim and they were calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (v. 3). John Piper wrote:
Every effort to define the holiness of God ultimately winds up by saying: God is holy, means God is God. Let me illustrate. The root meaning of holy is probably to cut or separate. A holy thing is cut off from and separated from common (we would say secular) use. Earthly things and persons are holy as they are distinct from the world and devoted to God. Almost anything can become holy if it is separated from the common and devoted to God. But notice what happens when this definition is applied to God himself. From what can you separate God to make him holy? The very god-ness of God means that he is separate from all that is not God. God is one of a kind. In a class by himself. In that sense, he is utterly holy. But then you have said no more than that he is God.
God is called the Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the Holy One of Israel. His reign is a Holy Kingdom. His people are a Holy Nation. His house is called a Holy Temple. His Word is called the Holy Bible. His presence makes a place Holy Ground. I could go on. The angels could have cried, “Eternal” or “Faithful” or “Mighty” because He is all of those things. But they said, “Holy,” because it is God’s foremost foundational attribute. Holy speaks of God’s uniqueness, separateness, and difference. There is no one like our God. None can compare, none can measure up. He is immutably Holy. He was holy yesterday, He is holy today, and will still be holy forever!
We are Unholy
When Isaiah saw the holiness of God, he became aware of his own unholiness. “Woe to me” was his response (v. 5). The holiness of God makes us aware of the sin in us and the sinful world around us. Paul said in Romans 7 that in our flesh there is no good thing (v. 18). Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because God is holy, He cannot overlook sin. If God ever excused, justified, or ignored one sin it would violate His holiness. Getting close to God does not make you proud and holier than thou. It is like the sunlight shining through a window exposing what you thought was clean! It makes you realize how much you need Jesus. You will never be smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, athletic enough, popular enough, rich enough, or good enough on your own. Only Holy God can make you whole and complete.
Jesus Makes Us Holy
The One Isaiah saw on the throne high and exalted came to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He never had an evil thought or did an evil deed. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He who had no sin became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). The one and only distinct and unique, loving, holy God sent Jesus to pay our debt. He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay.
The bad news is we stand guilty before holy God. The worse news is there nothing we can do about it. The good news is that Jesus put all our sins to His account and all His righteousness to our account. The best news is, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). When a person repents of their sins and puts their trust in Jesus, the account is marked Paid in Full! In Isaiah 6, one of the seraphim flew to Isaiah, touched him with a live coal, and told him, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (v. 7). This is the difference between Christianity and other world religions. Every other world religion says, “I obey, therefore God might accept me.” The gospel is the total opposite. Grace says, “God accepted me, therefore I want to obey.” Religion is about human achievement. Christianity is about divine accomplishment. Jesus lived the perfect life we can never live. He died for our sins, rose from the grave, and offers us new life! By grace through faith God saves us, sanctifies us, and sets us apart to serve Him.