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Holy, Holy, Holy

May 24, 2021

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filed the temple.  Above him were seraphs, . . . And they were calling to one another:  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6: 1-3

On Sunday, May 30th, churches all over Christendom will be resounding with Reginald Heber’s classic Trinity Sunday hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy”: “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.”[1]   

The seraphim that Isaiah saw in his vision sang out “holy” three times. There is no other attribute of God referenced in sacred Scripture that is repeated three times—God is not called love, love, love, or just, just, just.  But their description of God as holy, holy, holy was elevated to the superlative degree.  This tells us that the holiness of God is an attribute that exceeds all other attributes.  Above all, we worship a holy God.

And unlike the God of the other major religions of the world, we worship a Trinitarian God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– which is emphasized in Heber’s hymn based on Isaiah 6:[2] “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filed the temple.  Above him were seraphs, . . . And they were calling to one another:  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6: 1-3

You can get a headache trying to figure out the Trinity.  Our human minds cannot totally grasp the meaning of the Trinity, but because we are made in God’s image, we can at least accept its Scripture-based truth.  For more information on the Trinity, see, “The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,”

A few weeks ago we discussed the fact that God loves us so much that he calls us his children (see “The Author of Life”).  This week’s gospel reaffirms God’s great love for us: “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).   Don Kistler points out that the three divine persons of the Godhead work in perfect unity out of love for each other and for us: “The whole process of saving sinners begins with the love of the Father.  He thought up the plan.  He put the plan in motion . . . the Son steps forward to carry out the Father’s will [Hebrews 10:7] . . . The Holy Spirit takes what the Son has done and applies it to sinners, making us righteous in God’s sight.  And all of this is to praise the glory of His grace.”[3]

When Scripture refers to God, or Lord (without reference to a specific person of the Trinity), the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are included.  David’s song of praise to the Lord in Sunday’s text referring to the Lord and to God– includes the whole Godhead: “The voice of the lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic” (Psalm 29: 3-4).  There are three persons, but one God.  

Tozer explains, “So when I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—not confusing the persons, for there are three persons.  But everything that is true of the Father is true of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  And everything that is true of the Son and the Holy Spirit is true of the Father.”[4]

Peter refers to the three persons of the Godhead in his Pentecost sermon to the crowd.  Peter, who had denied that he knew Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested, was emboldened by the Holy Spirit and became a dynamic speaker of truth: “God has raised this Jesus to life, an we are all witnesses of it.  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear . . . Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2: 32-34, 36).

God knows that we cannot completely understand the Trinity—but it is a key difference between Christianity and other faiths.  We worship three separate persons of the Godhead–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—as one God.  While we cannot completely understand it, we can rely on sacred Scripture for the truth.  In addition to multiple references to the plurality of the Godhead in Scripture, all three persons of the Trinity were present at Jesus’ baptism, which was witnessed and recorded.  

We can rely on and rejoice in all three persons of the Godhead, who help us on a daily basis.  We are grateful for the Father, who is always there for us.  We are grateful for the Son, who sacrificed his life to save us from our sinful selves, and is our advocate.  And we are grateful for the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, who brings us gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, gentleness, and joy, so that we may enjoy and appreciate each other and work toward greater obedience to God throughout our lives.

Prayer: “God, we praise you: Father all-powerful, Christ Lord and Savior, and Spirit of love.  You reveal yourself in the depths of our being, drawing us to share in your life and your love.  One God, three Persons, be near to the people formed in your image, close to the world your love brings to life.  We ask you this, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, true and living, forever and ever. Amen.” (For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and by the Church, Vol. II, p. 43)

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] “Holy, Holy, Holy” was written by Anglican priest Reginald Heber (1783-1826).

[2] The Scripture texts for Holy Trinity Sunday are Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Acts 2: 14a, 22-36; John 3: 1-17.  A substantially similar blog relating to this text was published on this website in May 2018.

[3] Don Kistler, “Divine Architect”, Tabletalk, April 2006, p. 18.

[4] A.W. Tozer, Meditations on the Trinity (2017) Moody Publishers, pp. 256-257

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