The God of the Old Testament was the Holy God. The word holy means separate, different, unlike anything else that exists.
The Holy God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to His chosen people who were able to behold His glory. The glory of the Lord was a special divine manifestation of the Person and Presence of God. It consisted in the vision of light, majesty and beauty and was accompanied by the voice of the Lord and His holy angels. It created in the persons who observed it overwhelming feelings of fear and fascination, as well as profound convictions of peace, well-being, and joy.
In this way did Moses experience the Holy God in His divine glory on Horeb, the mountain of God., before the passover, and in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and to, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And He said, “Here am I.” Then He said, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Ex 3.2–6).
Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.” And He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” He said, “you cannot see My face; for man shall not see Me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand upon the rock; and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by; then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” (Ex 33.18–23).
Other select persons of the Old Testament also experienced the presence of divine holiness and the glory of God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Elijah, and Ezekiel had such experiences, as did Isaiah whose classic vision has become a standard part of the Church’s liturgical prayer.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
and the whole earth is full of his glory.”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke, And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall 1 send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
The psalms also sing of the holiness of God and proclaim that all creation speaks of God’s glory (see Ps 8, 19, 93, 104, 148, et al.).
The main teaching of the Old Testament and the foundation of all of its life was that God’s people should share in His holiness. This was the purpose of the entire Law of Moses in its commandments of morality and worship.
For I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls upon the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy (Lev 11.44–45).
The people were to be holy and to gain the wisdom and righteousness of God through their service and worship of Him. All of the so-called Wisdom writings of the Old Testament, and all of the teachings of the prophets and psalms are centered around this same fundamental fact: God’s people should acquire and express the holiness, wisdom, glory, and righteousness of God Himself. This, and nothing else is the meaning and purpose of man’s life as created and guided by God.
The ultimate perfection of God’s purpose for man is fulfilled in Christ. He alone is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He alone is the “Holy One of God” (Mk 1.24, Lk 1.35, 4.34). He alone is perfectly righteous and wholly without sin. Thus, Saint Peter speaks of Jesus to the people after the event of Pentecost.
The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses (Acts 3.13–15).
The apostle Paul concurs with the teaching of Peter by referring to Christ not merely as holy, righteous and wise, but as Himself the very holiness, righteousness and wisdom of God Himself in human flesh.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Cor 1.22–24, 30–31).
The glory of God is revealed in the person of Christ. This is the consistent witness of the apostles who beheld the “Kingdom of God come with power” on the mountain of the Transfiguration (see Mt 17.1–6, Mk 9.2–7, Lk 9.28–36).
And the Word became flesh and dwell among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (Jn 1.14).
Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it. For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor 3.7, 18, 4.6).
In and through Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit, all men can share in the glory of God and become participants in God’s own holiness.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1.3–4).
The participation of men in the “nature of God” already begins in the Church of Christ, the final fruit of the salvation history of the Old Testament. In the Church, the Kingdom of God is present which is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14.17). In the Church of Christ already begins that perpetual praise of the Holy God which exists now in the heavens and will fill all creation when Christ comes in the glory of His Kingdom at the end of the ages.
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is to come! (Rev 4.8b).
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon.” Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book (Rev 22.6–7).
Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood. I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star (Rev 22.11–16).
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord be with all the saints. Amen (Rev 22.20–21).