Root: קֹ֫דֶשׁ (qof, dalet, shin) [sounds like k’desh/k’dosh]
The root word kodesh actually means “to consecrate”. So the word Holy means consecrated, dedicated, set apart…
Holy in Triplicate
Perhaps the most famous passage regarding the Hebrew word Holy is found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. He has a vision where he comes face to face with YHWH:
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is YHWH of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
(“Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, YHWH Tsabaoth, melo kal ha’aretz ke-vodoh”)
In Scripture three words in a row is rare find. The other two instances in the Tenakh, that I’m aware of, come from the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel:
YHWH: EARTH, EARTH, EARTH, hear the word of YHWH! (Here, Jeremiah proceeds to tell King Jeconiah that God will no longer allow him or his descendants, to remain King of Judah. In fact, it was Jeconiah that was dethroned by the King of Babylon at the beginning of the Babylonian captivity.)
YHWH: A RUIN, A RUIN, A RUIN, I will make it! This also will be no more until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him. (Here, God is exceedingly angry at his people -three “ruins” makes that point- and YHWH speaks of a sword which He will no longer spare until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him!)
This use of grammatical emphasis occurs frequently in the Hebrew scriptures, usually with double words. To bolden your point repeating the same word is like an exclamation mark. Three in a row, however, is extra special. In a way, it’s like shouting from the roof-top.
John’s Revelation, found in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) also uses this grammatical emphatic tool. John experiences a vision similar to Isaiah’s:
And each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around and within. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!”
God is not just Holy… He is Holy, Holy, Holy! And what a wonder-filled image that is, with all the Seraphim calling out to each other. It wasn’t just one big chorus, it was back and forth counterpoint… with lyrics overlapping and the praise of YHWH being everywhere, unending and unyielding. A truly AWEsome sight and sound… no doubt, unlike anything you’ve ever heard!
Your are to be a reflection of God’s holiness!
Holy is not a word that you flippantly throw around, like the colloquial terms “Holy Cow” or “Holy Guacamole”. Holy is rich in meaning. It is one of the main descriptors of God. And to those who have a relationship with God, it is a descriptor of you too. God calls you to be Holy because you are a representation of His glory on earth. That’s a HUGE responsibility!
“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I YHWH your God am holy.’ Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am YHWH your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am YHWH your God.”
‘Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I YHWH am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.’
Yes, we are to be holy, but how do we live up to that? Are we worthy enough to be YHWH’s reflection on earth? Yeshua was! He was, and is, the perfect reflection of God.
Yeshua as The Holy One
Throughout the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) Yeshua is referred to as the Holy One of God:
The angel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. So the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”
“How can this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.
Later on Yeshua’s disciples recognize that He is the Holy One:
From that time on, many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?”
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”
The Tanakh talks frequently about this Holy One of God or Holy One of Israel, as well. Isaiah speaks to the notion that this Holy One will be rejected by God’s own people of Israel:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth, for YHWH speaks,
“Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.
An ox knows its owner and a donkey its master’s manger,
But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.
Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity,
Offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned YHWH,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.”
So many of the people of Israel do not recognize that Yeshua was, and is, the Holy One of God… but the Gospel of Mark notes that the spiritual realm, even the diabolical spirits, recognize Yeshua’s divinity:
Then Jesus and His companions went to Capernaum, and as soon as the Sabbath began, Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach. The people were astonished at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Suddenly a man with an unclean spirit cried out in the synagogue: “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
Yeshua is the Holy One of God, set apart and dedicated to be the sacrificial offering that sets us free. With His death we became redeemed and our soul, no longer separated from God, was prepared for the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20a
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh)
As we learned a few weeks back, everyone has a spirit… but it is worth little if it is not activated. The truth is, once that spirit is activated it becomes the Ruach HaKodesh, Holy Spirit, set apart and dedicated to God.
Paul best describes what being Holy looks like:
2 Corinthians 6:2b-11
Behold, now is the time of favour; now is the day of salvation!
We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no one can discredit our ministry. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and calamities; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in labor, sleepless nights, and hunger; in purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, slander and praise; viewed as imposters, yet genuine; as unknown, yet well-known; dying, and yet we live on; punished, yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians. Our hearts are open wide.
We are not to be Holy only when times are good, but always, with endurance, rejoicing in truthfulness and sincerity. It is such an awesome responsibility to be God’s reflection on earth… and only through the redemption of Yeshua can we be Holy. May your heart be open wide to all the inhabitants of this world, reflecting the Holiness of the All-Mighty and Ever-Loving God.
Next week: Glory