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After dividing the sea and delivering the people from the Egyptian army, Moses bursts forth in spontaneous song in praise to the Lord. One verse of the song asks in Exodus 15:11: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

Moses did not intend for the people to debate or attempt to formulate an answer to this rhetorical question. None are like the Lord. None can compare to God. He has no peers or equal. The phrases “fearful in praises” and “doing wonders” are both deserving of study, and I encourage you to spend time researching and meditating on what both expressions convey as they relate to the majesty and power of God.

I want to use this article to explore the phrase “glorious in holiness.” The holiness of God is His glory. But what did Moses mean by using the term holiness? What do we mean when we say God is holy? The word holy and its cognates appear over 500 times in the Bible. The word first appears in Exodus 3:5 where Moses is informed that he was standing on holy ground. The soil was not unique because it contained some unusual composition of minerals, but it was hallowed, or holy, because God manifested Himself there in the form of a burning bush.

Holy describes the glorified perfection belonging to the nature of God. Hence, He is described as the Holy One. He is pure, unmixed, free from all blemish in His essence and operations. Holy connotes the sphere of the sacred and delineates from the ordinary and profane. The idea of separateness is suggested in the word and applies to how God is greater as Creator than are we, His creation. One scholar suggests that holy is the mysterium tremendum (the mystery of awe) and urges that we speak of God with a measure of awe when we use holy as a synonym for His deity.

The term holy is applied to men and even objects in Scripture when such are consecrated, or set apart, for or by God’s purposes. The Mosaic Law provided instructions and regulations concerning how the activities of worship led by the Levitical priesthood could be considered holy. The New Testament most often uses the term holy in connection with the Spirit of God. The work of Christ is also effective to those who obey and comply with His Gospel, to make sinners holy, as Colossians 1:21-23describes. Peter encourages: “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

The casual and flippant way the word holy is used today by many in the world is disgusting. When one understands the term and its unique application to God and the amazing reality that He allows us to be described in the same way when we are obedient to His Son, we will not use it to modify trivial, common, or ordinary things.

How grand to think of the honor and joy that will be ours as we join with the Heavenly Host and praise our God for eternity, as Revelation 4:8 previews: “They do not rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”