"An ineffably holy God, who has the utmost abhorrence of sin, was never invented by any of Adam's descendants." A.W. Pink
One of my questions in this journey of knowing God as holy and seeking to become holy like Him is – Why if Genesis is such a foundational book for the people of God is there not one occurrence of the word holy or holiness? I suppose part of the reason is it is not a didactic book, but rather a narrative book, which means the style or format of the writing of Genesis was that of telling stories, not teaching doctrine, or proclaiming wisdom as in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.
So does that mean other attributes of God are not stated in Genesis as well? Well many aren’t such as: good or goodness, mercy or merciful, just, powerful, wise or wisdom, holy or holiness. But all of these wonderful attributes of God can be seen in action in Genesis. For instance:
- His power is seen in His creation of the Universe with mere words.
- His mercy is seen when He clothes Adam and Eve, and gives them children, even though they disobeyed God and brought sin into the world.
- His goodness is seen in providing such an amazing earth for humans to enjoy and by initiating relationship with them
- His wisdom is seen in how He designed the universe so perfectly and precisely
But there are no statements that He is powerful, merciful, good or wise (using those specific words).
So how then is God’s holiness demonstrated or revealed? How would we detect or discover that God is holy by reading the book of Genesis?
I would like to suggest that the main way we see God as holy is in the way He deals with sin. Let’s start with Adam and Eve, whom God created in His image without sin in a perfect environment, wherein He pursued relationship with them, and gave them purpose and meaning. God blessed Adam and Eve with everything imaginable. But He gave them one prohibition as seen in Genesis 2:18. They were not to eat from the tree of knowledge and evil.
Sadly they both disobeyed, and God brings their sin up in discussion seemingly immediately after their transgression starting in Genesis 3:9.
Several things in this discussion stand out to me. First, God showed no wrath. He was totally in control with His emotions even though He clearly saw the far reaching consequences of their sin; and we know from the rest of scripture He hates all sin. Second, He sought to help them face what they had done and take full responsibility for what they had done. Sadly they both played the blame game – Adam blaming God for giving him Eve, and Eve blaming the serpent (vs. 9-13). Third He helped them see the consequences of what they had done by describing those in great detail in vs. 16-19. Finally, God extended mercy and goodness to them even after their disobedience by clothing them (vs. 21), and later giving them the ability to have children (see 4:1f).
A similar pattern can be seen with Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve. Cain and his brother Abel must have learned that God was to be worshipped with offerings from the example of their parents. So they worshipped Him (or in Cain’s case – went through the motions). But God was not pleased with Cain’s offering, and Cain knew it and greatly resented it. Gen. 4:5 tells us how Cain responded, “Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” God of course knew of Cain’s inner attitude so in His mercy and goodness He initiated trying to help Cain handle His disappointment in a more righteous way (vs. 6,7). Cain ignored God’s reasoning with him, found his brother and killed him (out of spite and envy it appears) (vs. 8). The Lord again initiated a conversation with Cain – seeking to help him face up to his sin and righteously deal with it. As in God’s conversation with Adam and Eve He was never out of control or spewing threats (vs. 9,10). But He made clear to Cain the consequences of his evil deed (vs.11,12). Cain then begged not for forgiveness, but protection, and amazingly God granted that protection to him (vs. 13-15).
Now if Moses, the presumed writer of Genesis spoke of God’s dealings with every individual mentioned, Genesis would be the size of the Old Testament. But these dealings with Adam and Eve and then Cain are given to us so that we can know God sees and knows and hears of every sin against Him and against our fellow man, and He always out of His holiness deals with them without any minimizing or sweeping things under the rug. He seeks to help us see the seriousness of our sin, He seeks to help us take ownership of our sins, and He seeks to help us see the necessary consequences of our sins, and He seeks to help us resist sin and to turn from sins and temptation.
Well from here society further degenerates to the point where in chapter 6 we learn that “…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (vs. 5). This evoked great sadness in God’s heart, but we know from the rest of scripture that God knew all along that mankind would self destruct (vs. 6). And because God is holy He must righteously deal with sin and evil, and thus He determines to destroy all of humanity except for Noah and his family because “….Noah was a righteous man” (vs. 7-9).
That God was willing to destroy all of humanity, which He had intentionally created in His image (Gen. 1:27) speaks of both the extent of the wickedness of man (see vs. 11-13), and the inability of a holy God to ignore or minimize the abomination that sin and wickedness is to Him.
Thankfully, after the great flood that destroyed all of humanity except for Noah’s family, God, in response to Noah’s worship, promised to never again destroy all of humanity like He did with the flood (8:20-22).
But He continued to deal with everyone’s sin, Ham being the next written example of such as can be seen in Gen. 9:22-25.
From here if time and space allowed, we could talk about God’s dealings with the people who sought to build the city and tower of Babel (Gen. 11), God’s dealings with Sarah when she lied about laughing at God’s pronouncement re: her getting pregnant in her old age and bearing a son (Gen. 18:9-15). And what can we say about God’s total destruction of the two neighboring cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, whose sin was “…exceedingly grave” (Gen. 18:16-19:29)? In none of these situations does God ever deal rashly or impulsively. But He in every case must deal with the said sin in a righteous and thorough and impartial way.
Thanks for wanting to know God as the holy God that He is. May He continue to open your eyes and mine to see Him and know Him as holy.