• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 1 focuses on Psalm 99:1-9.
As a young adult, I lived in East Asia two years. For the first time in my life, I met people who believed in a multitude of gods. They worshipped at many altars because one god was not sufficient to help in every circumstance of life.
My purpose in East Asia was to tell people about the God I love and serve. How does one describe a God who sometimes seems mysterious and beyond comprehension and yet is so personal and intimate? What set my God apart from the gods of my new friends? My God is holy.
God is like no other
God being holy means he is unlike any other. Words used to define “holy” include “set apart,” “sacred,” “magnificent,” “pure” and “transcendent.” He alone created the heavens and the earth and all contained therein. He exists apart from humanity and from the rest of his creation. He is the one who holds the universe together. You really cannot compare him to another god. He has no rivals.
The people of Israel sang these words: “Who among the gods is like you? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11). This is the same holy God we worship today.
Psalm 99:1-3 reveals several things about God’s holiness, that which sets him apart. The Lord reigns over all he has made. He is enthroned between spiritual beings called cherubims.
The psalmist says God is exalted over all the nations, not just one. The whole earth shakes and trembles before this magnificent God. All people are instructed to praise the great and awesome name of this God who is unlike any other.
My students in East Asia often told me Christianity was a Western religion, which, for them, was a polite way of saying, “What you are offering isn’t for us.” The psalmist would disagree vehemently.
Take time to reflect on the names of God. How would you describe this holy God to people who don’t know anything about him?
Holy God is involved with us
God is enthroned in heaven, but he is involved in the daily affairs of his people. The psalmist writes in Psalm 99:4 that the mighty King of Israel loves justice and established equity in Israel. God has done what is just and right for his people.
Psalm 96:10 speaks not only to God’s involvement with the nation of Israel but with all nations: “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Psalm 99:6-7 gives specific examples of men who had personal encounters God. Moses, Aaron and Samuel all called on God for direction, strength and help. God didn’t just hear; he answered.
The pillar of cloud mentioned in Psalm 99:7 refers to God leading his people out of captivity in Egypt. The nation lived as slaves in Egypt 400 years. Now they were entering a large wilderness headed toward a promised land. How did they know where to go?
Exodus 13:21-22 tells how God used a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night to go before his people. Never did the pillar leave its place in front of the people. The people in return kept the statutes and decrees set forth by their holy God.
Psalm 99:8 reminds us God was not blind to the sins of his people. Nor is he blind to ours. When we sin, we are doing more than breaking God’s laws; we are living in unbelief and disregard for God’s holiness.
The disobedience of Moses
Numbers 20 tells the story of Moses disobeying and disregarding holy God. We enter the Exodus story as the people argued with Moses and Aaron about being brought to the desert. They wished they had died or stayed in Egypt. They didn’t like the food and had no water to drink. It isn’t easy being a leader, is it?
Moses and Aaron went to God to ask for help. God told Moses to take his staff and speak to a rock. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses disregarded God’s instruction and struck it with the staff. Water poured out. What difference does it make if we use our own methods if we get the same results?
“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them’” (Numbers 20:12). Did you catch it? “‘You did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy.’”
God takes his holiness seriously and expects the same from us. Where are you ignoring God’s holiness by living life according to your own will? God will forgive (Psalm 99:8 and 1 John 1:9) if we will confess our sin and repent of it.
Worship is our response
What is the only appropriate response to holy God? Worship. We lift God up and acknowledge his worth. We say with the psalmist: “Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. … For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God” (Psalm 86:8, 10).