Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain,
for the Lord our God is holy.
Power and Authority
All too often, we have experienced the damage that can be done when too much power and authority is in the wrong hands. It’s true in church life and in politics…it’s true of businessmen and entertainers. As Lord Acton famously put it in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But while there is an inherent danger that comes with power, it’s also true that power and authority in the right hands can produce truly beautiful results.
Psalm 99 is a song about power and authority in the right hands; specifically, the hands of the Almighty God. Three times in this song, the psalmist celebrates that the Lord our God is holy (vs. 3, 5, 9). What does it mean that God is holy?
According to R.C. Sproul The Holiness of God suggests three things. First of all, it means that God is absolutely unique, one-of-a-kind, completely separate and distinct above all human authorities or spiritual powers. Second, holiness suggests that God is pure and right in all that He is and all that He does. And third, it follows that God’s holiness demands a response from everyone and everything He has created.
The writer of Psalm 99 acknowledges all three of these aspects of holiness in his song. In the first stanza, God is described as the absolute ruler of all creation, surrounded by angel hosts (vs. 1-3). In the second stanza God’s power is displayed in His love of justice and equality (vs. 4-5). In the third and final stanza, we see God’s holiness revealed in relationship to his servant representatives—Moses, Aaron and Samuel (vs. 6-9). Each aspect of God’s divine holiness demands a different response—first fear, then worship, then humble service.
When Jesus came to earth, God’s holiness came with him and made a home among the people. As God’s “one and only” son (John 1:14-18) he was absolutely unique; as one who was completely without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) he was pure and right in all he did and said; and as the “exact representation” of God (Hebrews 1:3-4) and the creator of all things (Colossians 1:15-17) he was worthy of our fear, our worship and our humble service.
And yet, the One who is to be feared told his followers not to be afraid; the One who was sinless became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21); the One who requires us to be servants now calls us friends (John 15:15). In Jesus—God the Son—it has become possible to partake and to participate in the holiness of God!
What can we do in response to God’s holiness—to His power and authority in the world? It’s simple. We are called to “be holy, just as God is holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16) We can worship and make his name known among the nations. We can love justice and equity, and work to do what is good and right in the world. We can be his humble servants and his faithful friends. In short, we can experience God’s holiness in our own lives, and offer that same holiness to the world we live in. We are not helpless bystanders in this life—we are children of King of kings and Lord of lords. Worship Him, follow Him, and always stay thirsty for Him!