Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. (Psalm 18:8–12, NIV)
As David tells of God’s deliverance, he uses powerful images to show how Yahweh manifests himself to his people. We see God’s anger at evil and sin through the smoke, consuming fire, and burning coals. Fire, and especially consuming fire, is a common metaphor in the Bible. It purifies and cleanses all that is not holy as it dispels the darkness. Like the fiery sun, it is the source of life.
Though holy to the core, God in his graciousness hides himself in the dark clouds, for his presence would overwhelm us. We who are sinful cannot stand before him unaided. Even hidden, his brightness shines through.
God’s holiness is an attribute we modern people often dismiss, ignore, or dilute. For instance, we may fail to name sin when it pervades our lives. It may be systemic evil, such as racism or classism, that we disregard. It may be our “harmless gossip” at church, school, or work. It may be a root of bitterness to which we cling. We so easily compromise, rationalize, and liberalize.
But God calls us to be holy as he is holy. And through his Holy Spirit he enables us to live a life of righteousness, truth, and love. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). He will give us the resources we need to be holy, to stand up for truth with a spirit of grace. And out of this will flow his life-affirming gifts: ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
For prayer: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’ ” (Hebrews 12:28–29).