Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.
Psalm 99 says three times God is holy.
In ancient Israel, to be holy was to be set apart. When we think of God as set apart, we imagine a great and remote king on a throne somewhere in the universe. We see his righteousness and wrath like a consuming fire. He is incomparable, different, distant.
But Psalm 99, doesn’t emphasize the distance and difference between God and the world. Instead, it emphasises that relationship and communication are the distinctives that set God apart.
In verses 1-3, God’s “set apart” relationship is that of an awesome and divine king. The world and Israel are right to fear his power and submit to his decrees and praise his great name, because he actively rules the earth and the nations.
In verses 4-5, God’s “set apart” or holy relationship is his love of justice. Unlike other kings, human or divine, God is not a self-promoting, self-enriching, self-protecting despot. He cares about his people, he establishes righteous laws that apply to everyone. No king or president is given a pass to commit murder, adultery, and slander. No peasant is given a pass to complain and denounce and rebel. When a community embraces God as king, and enters into the relationship he offers, it becomes a society of order and wholeness.
Verses 6-9, describe God’s “set apart” relationship with the prophets and priests of the religion he established. When the Israelites worshipped a golden calf in the desert, God threatened to wipe them out. Moses interceded until God changed his mind. When God in his wrath sent a plague among the Israelite wanderers, Aaron interceded and God stayed the plague (Numbers 6). When the Philistines attacked the Israelites at Mizpah, Samuel interceded for the people until God gave them victory (1 Sam 7). These three intercessors illustrate God’s “set apart” relationship with his people: he hears their prayers and responds by granting their requests. He saves them from their enemies–and from themselves.
Our father, thank you that you are holy. You are set apart from other gods and kings. Thank you that your “set apartness” is not just distance, but also difference. You are different from others because you desire relationship. You initiated a relationship with Moses, inviting him to lead your people to freedom. You initiated a relationship with Aaron, inviting him to be your priest. You initiated a relationship with Samuel, speaking to him when he was a boy, sharing with him your pain when Israel rejected you as king, when they insisted on a human king like the nations around them.
O Lord, we fear that if you come near to us, your greatness will overwhelm us. Your world-embracing love will expose our narrow and provincial loves. Your ceaseless activity for justice will expose the sloth and laziness of our service. Your freedom from sin and evil will expose our slavery to anxiety and lust.
O Lord, forgive us for our fears that avoid you and resist your approach. Come near to us as we come near to you. Be the love that conquers our selfishness, the king that inspires our loyalty, the God who hears our prayers.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.