Have you ever heard or sung a song and wondered about how it came to be? What burned inside the songwriter’s soul so intensely that it just had to be written down on paper? I know I have — often, too.
Maybe it’s just my curious nature, mixed with my own musical bent, that causes me to think along these lines. Then again, music does move, manipulate, and touch people; no matter our background, education, status in society, or talents. Especially the music that represents our faith; music that calls us to worship the one true, living God.
Recently, I looked into the life of hymnodist Reginald Heber (1783-1826), who was the second Bishop to represent the Church of England in Calcutta (a.k.a. Kolkata). Reginald was born the son of an Anglican rector, and it has been said that he was an incredibly gifted child. Some accounts of Reginald’s childhood even state that, by the age of 5, he had read the entire Bible and comprehended its meaning. Consider that for a moment.
Later in life, while attending Brasenose College, Mr. Heber proved to be a scholar of theology, Latin, Greek, and an exceptional poet. In 1807, Reginald was ordained and began his quest to improve the congregational singing taking place in the Church of England. His dream was to write and collect a group of hymns that would follow the liturgical calendar, thus moving the Anglican’s away from simply singing the Psalms. Of the known 14 hymns still in circulation today, none have crossed denominational lines like the timeless hymn Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.
Written in India, in the year of Bishop Heber’s death at age 43, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty was heralded by Alfred Lord Tennyson as the finest hymn ever written. What moved Reginald to write it? No one knows the whole story behind this hymn, but its obvious reference to Scriptures found in both Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 are certainly the hymn’s foundation. In these verses of Scripture, as in the Bishop’s hymn, we read of a call to worship that is so overwhelming that the two author’s, Isaiah and John, can’t help but absorb the moment — like a dry, brittle, thin sponge that can’t get enough water and, once it does, just continues to expand and expand until it can hold no more and overflowing begins. Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD (Adonai) God, almighty (El Shaddai)! Let’s look at the word “holy” a bit more deeply to understand why the Creator, Elohim, is called by this title.
The word “holy,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as:
(adjective) dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; divine, sacred: the Holy Bible.
• (of a person) devoted to the service of God: saints and holy men.
• morally and spiritually excellent.
I want to point out the last statement in the above definition, “morally and spiritually excellent.” In other words, morally and spiritually perfect! When God is called “holy,” or “kaddosh” in the original Hebrew, He is being called perfect, flawless, pure. God is without blemish, without anything that is considered wrong, both morally and spiritually. You and I can’t even begin to fathom the depth of what this word “holy” means because we are a fallen race, so far from perfection. Yes, it is true that through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ we, as believers, are made holy (a.k.a. set apart, consecrated, sacred, purified, etc.), but to truly know holiness as God is holy — until we are truly in the presence of Elohim we will always fall short of just what “holy” is.
I’m amazed every time I read an article, blog, or book, or hear a song, or some statement where people pass judgment on God because of something they misread, or misunderstood in the Bible, or because of some tragedy that occurred in their life, or in history. As if somehow humanity affords enough holiness or self-righteousness to do so. It’s ridiculous enough that there are people in this world who believe they can somehow attain enough holiness, enough perfection, on their own merit to somehow achieve a place in heaven with God or even achieve godlike status, themselves, in the here after. But seriously, people — judgement of God!? Really!? What is it that makes humanity think we have the authority to judge the Creator of all things physical and spiritual? That is one of the greatest lies Lucifer ever passed off on mankind. Such foolishness!
Read these lyrics, penned by Bishop Reginald Heber, with me and let’s ponder them together; verses one and two are as follows:
Holy, holy, holy, LORD God, almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty; God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee; casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.
Cherubim and Seraphim, falling down before Thee, which were, and art, and evermore shalt be.
In these first two verses we see Bishop Heber painting a word picture, direct from Scripture, that depicts what should happen daily when physical creation acknowledges the holiness of its Creator. Depicting, plainly, what does happen and what will always happen when spiritual creation enters into the presence of the Masters, three-in-one — true worship!
I defy anyone to come close to understanding the pure holiness of God and not worship Him! I defy anyone to begin to grasp the awesome perfection of God, and the depth of our fallen state, and still choose to pass judgement upon Him, who IS! Read with me the final two verses of Reginald’s hymn:
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee, though the eye of sinfulness Thy glory may not see.
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, perfect in power, in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy, LORD God, almighty! All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty; God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
Here in these final two verses we see truth laid out in “plain English.” God, in His triune perfection, cannot be seen by us, in our imperfection. Our sin nature blinds us, prevents us from seeing and knowing El Hakkadosh — the Holy God! Why? Because sin separated us from God. Not because God pushed us away, but because the natural cause and affect of perfection and imperfection is that they cannot coexist. It’s just like light cannot coexist with darkness. The moment light hits darkness, the darkness flees. You see? The moment God’s holiness hits sin, the sin must flee. Imperfection can’t remain in the presence of perfection without consequence of death (Romans 5:12-21; 6:1-23).
Were it not for God’s merciful sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, we would never have the hope of returning to Him as the true worshipers He created us to be. Only the covering of Christ’s holy blood can remove the imperfection from our souls and allow us to return to the presence of El Hakkadosh. So stop ignoring the fault inside yourself, and begin the process of allowing God to deal with that fault. Cease trying to foolishly “shop around” for a version of God that fits what you think a god should be. God (Elohim) is LORD (Adonai), because He IS — despite what humanity wants to think.
Modern day Judaism isn’t the answer, and neither is the destructive teachings of Islam! The Mormon’s and the Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings of Christ and the triune God are nothing more than perversions of the truth! Also, don’t allow yourself to remain in the lie that you can somehow achieve perfection on your own. Sitting on a mountain top, all of your life, meditating does nothing for you except remove you from reality. It’s time western culture and the rest of the world woke up to the false philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism! Lastly, evolution and atheism are probably the most ridiculous lie of all the lies spoken to humanity by Satan. The Creator, IS God, and always will be God whether you choose to believe in Him or not! What humanity thinks is not of importance, what God says IS — period! After all, when considering all the wonderful things God has created, what significance does mankind really hold? None, when separated from God.
Humanity’s significance, our glory and honor, comes only from achieving God’s original purpose; that purpose is to be true worshipers of the Holy God (El Hakkadosh). When we are able to see God as holy and ourselves as unholy, apart from Him, then we can begin to realize our significance and cease being foolish in believing we can pass judgment on God or “shop around” for a god of our own liking.
I’d like to leave you with this last reading from Psalm chapter 8. Meditate with me on verses 3-9, which states:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Ponder these verses. Reflect upon what is being said here, and begin to allow yourself to experience God as He really is — El Hakkadosh — The Holy One.
His Name Is . . . by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty lyrics by Bishop Reginald Heber and music written by John B. Dykes. Public Domain. Copyright contingent upon arrangement and publishing company rights.
If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason Ministries‘ Twitter account or Facebook page.