Holiness is a highway that is filled with gladness of singing and joy. It is a highway where sadness of sorrow and sighing cannot stay. Holiness is true happiness. We like to think that people who materially wealthy or live in expensive houses are the happiest. Far from the truth: the holy people are the happiest. Holiness is not some kind of drab and dreary religiosity. We can identify a holy people by the amount of joy and laughter present when they congregate. Religious people in contrast are critical and judgmental of others. When they gather, they have very little good things to say of others.
In the Isaiah passage we have today, we find that holiness is dependent on a few key factors:
- Glory of God: "They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God" (v.2c). The kind of happiness that causes believers to be filled with joy and singing is the fruit of God's presence. The psalmist says in Psalm 16:11, "in your presence, there is fullness of joy". So, this manifest presence of God (glory) is indispensable for true happiness, for it is independent of our circumstances. In fact, holy people radiates the glory of God in their happy faces--whether they are in prosperity or in adversity.
- Salvation of God: "Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you" (v.4). Beside God's presence, the happiest people experience God's salvation in their daily lives. This is not some kind of life after death, but deliverance from troubles of this life: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" (v.5-6). When John sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he was indeed the Christ, this is how He replied: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:4-5). Salvation as explained by Jesus is healing of the whole person and deliverance from life's challenges. A church that constantly experiences God's salvation will be delivered from fear and anxiety: "Say to those who have an anxious heart, 'Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you" (v.4). We can't be a holy nor happy people if we are constantly wrecked by fear and anxiety.
- Holiness of God: "And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it" (v.8). God's own holiness ensure that we are kept clean by the blood of Christ. We can only stay on this highway of holiness if we understand the holiness of God which is contrary to spiritual and moral uncleanness. We can only stay clean and cleansed through the blood of Christ and the only way to stay on this highway of holiness is to confess our sin and be cleansed every time we sin. We don't excuse our sin by insisting we are "just sinners" because we have been delivered from being "just sinners" to "justified saints". If we insist we are "still sinners", we will not be able to stay on the highway of holiness--and happiness will not characterize our lifestyle. We must not confuse levity with joy. Joy can only be the fruit of holiness because it is in sync with God's holy character.
Father, make us holy that we may be a happy people. Amen.