“Holy” is a word similar to “glory” in that we say it often in worship, perhaps with the idea of it having some exalted meaning, but in reality, are unsure exactly what that exalted meaning is. It doesn’t help that, from Batman to the President, we use “holy” to qualify everything from buckets to cows and cannoli.
As we turn our attention from Jesus’ humanity to His Divinity, we should revisit the meaning of the word holy. Webster defines it this way: to be set apart; to consecrate (make or declare sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose). In vernacular, if we take the meaning literally by qualifying objects with “holy” then these could be rephrased, “Wow! This [event, object, etc] is really different from all other [events, objects, etc].” This is why objects can be holy if used for a religious purpose (i.e. holy bread).
Embodied here is the idea that there is distance between one thing and another. When we come to Peter who, after catching loads of fish (Luke 5), fell on his knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” we can see that he was recognizing that set-apartness. In asking the Lord to depart, he was articulating the distance between himself and the Lord.
It is interesting to note that this Peter is the same one who later emphasized holiness in 1 Peter 1:16 by quoting, “Be holy, as I am holy,” as found in Leviticus 11:44. What our Father is NOT saying here is, “Be perfect, as I am perfect,” though He is, in fact, perfect. He is saying, “Be set apart, as I am set apart.”
In practical application, every time we observe His commandment to love Him, or love others, we are setting ourselves apart. Every time we read the Bible, or pray, we set apart time, which is holy. Even times of rest are holy. And in worship, as Pastor Harry encouraged us this past Sunday, no exalted feelings are required. Let us worship by simply participating in the act of recognition: He is holy!