When we think of God’s holiness, the first thought that usually comes to mind is moral purity. This is certainly an important aspect of it, as we shall see. But when the seraphs called out, “Holy, holy, holy,” they meant something far more profound and fundamental. The Hebrew word for holy is qadosh, which generally means, “cut off,” or “separate.” When used of God, the word expresses the idea of separateness or “otherness.” God is wholly “other” from all His creation, from angels, from men, and especially from sinful man. He is absolutely distinct from all his creatures and is infinitely exalted above them in incomprehensible glory and majesty. R. C. Sproul uses the word transcendence to describe this holiness: “When we speak of the transcendence of God we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. It tries to get at His supreme and altogether greatness…Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature…” — Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. 66-67
This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden…But if I climbed some great mountain and looked out…you know very well what I would see; brigands on the high road, pirates on the seas, in the amphitheaters men murdered to please the applauding crowds…Yet in the midst of it, I have found a quiet and holy people…they are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians. –St. Cyprian writing to his friend, Donatus, in the 3rd century
We were not able to purchase tickets ahead of time to tour the Ten Boom “Hiding Place,” so arrived plenty early to stand in line. It’s really surreal to find yourself standing right next to the shop.
Casper ten Boom taught his daughter, Corrie, the intricacies of watch repair. She said:
Father eagerly took on the job of teaching me. I eventually learned the moving and stationary parts, the chemistry of oils and solutions, tool and grindwhuel and magnifying techniques. But Father’s patience, his almost mystic rapport with the harmonies of watchworks, these were not things that could be taught. Wristwatches had become fashionable and I enrolled in a school that specialized in this kind of work. Three years after Mama’s death, I became the first licensed woman watchmaker in Holland. And so was established the pattern our lives were to follow for over twenty years. When Father had put the Bible back on its shelf after breakfast, he and I would go down the stairs to the shop while Betsie stirred the soup pot…There was a constant procession through this little back room. Sometimes it was a customer; most often it was simply a visitor–from a laborer with wooden klompen on his feet to a fleet owner–all bringing their problems to Father. Quite unabashedly, in the sight of customers in the front room and the employees working with us, he would bow his head and pray for an answer. He prayed over the work, too…I would hear him say: “Lord, You turn the wheels of the galaxies. You know what makes the planets spin and You know what makes this watch run…” Through the years he took his stopped watches to “the One who set the atoms dancing,” or “who keeps the great currents circling through the sea.” –Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 69-70
When Holland was invaded by the Nazis, the shop was busier than ever:
For five days Holland held out against the invader. We kept the shop open, not because anyone was interested in watches, but because people wanted to see Father. Some wanted him to pray for husbands and sons stationed at the borders of the country. Others, it seemed to me, came just to see him sitting there behind his workbench as he had for sixty years and to hear in the ticking clocks a world of order and reason. –Ibid, pg. 80
In this group of photos in the house you can see Casper ten Boom, beloved father of Corrie, Betsie, Nollie and Willem (their mother, Cornelia, had passed away in 1921). He was a devout and generous Christian who opened his heart and home to all who passed his way. They took in dozens of foster children through the years. In addition, Willem, Casper’s father, had started a weekly prayer group here in 1844 to pray for Jews and for the peace of Jerusalem; this prayer group continues to this day. 100 years later their home would become a hiding place for Jews. When the Nazis began requiring all Jews to wear the yellow Star of David, Casper voluntarily wore one, too. Corrie held worship services for disabled children for twenty years. They strongly believed that all people were equal before God.
It was not long for the home to become a place of refuge for Jews during the holocaust; in fact, over 800 people came through this home, as a way station to other points, and for others it was a long-term home of refuge. The small “Alpina” advertisement sign was placed in the widow to tell underground workers when it was safe to enter.
Here we were, about to enter the same door in the alleyway. Amazing.
Corrie described what it was like in those early days of occupation:
The true horror of occupation came over us only slowly. During the first year of German rule, there were only minor attacks on Jews in Holland. A rock through the window of a Jewish-owned store. An ugly word scrawled on the wall of a synagogue. It was as though they were trying us, testing the temper of the country. How many Dutchmen would go along with them? And the answer, to our shame, was many…One day as Father and I were returning from our walk we found the Grote Markt cordoned off by a double ring of police and soldiers. A truck was parked in front of the fish mart; into the back were climbing men, women, and children, all wearing the yellow star. There was no reason we could see why this particular place at this particular time had been chosen. “Father! Those poor people!” I cried. The police line opened, the truck moved through. We watched till it turned the corner. “Those poor people,” Father echoed. But to my surprise I saw that he was looking at the soldiers now forming into ranks to march away. “I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God’s eye.” We talked often, Father, Betsie, and I, about what we could do if a chance should come to help some of our Jewish friends. –Ibid, pg. 84-85
While in Amsterdam in 2015 Chris and I were eager to see Corrie ten Boom’s world in Haarlem. It was a short train ride and we took our rented bikes with us. It truly was amazing day, seeing this area and reliving the emotions I felt went I first read her book, The Hiding Place, years ago. Her family helped many Jewish and Dutch underground people escape from the holocaust through an elaborate system of messengers, a hidden space, alarms and underground support for ration cards, relay stations and other supplies. It’s truly remarkable. Corrie often said, “You can’t love Jesus without loving the Jewish people.”
Here are some of the photos we took on our bike ride to the ten Boom watch shop.
This bakery was fantastic! We stopped here after spending the morning at the ten Boom house.
This is the Grote Markt, which is very close to the ten Boom house and watch shop.
While Holland was being invaded by the Nazis, Corrie had a dream that was, sadly, fulfilled in real life later. This is how she described the moment, which happened with her sister, Betsie, nearby:
Betsie began to pray for the Germans, up there in the planes, caught in the fist of the giant evil loose in Germany. I looked at my sister kneeling beside me in the light of burning Holland. “Oh Lord,” I whispered, “listen to Betsie, not me, because I cannot pray for those men at all.”
And it was then that I had the dream. It couldn’t have been a real dream because I was not asleep. But a scene was suddenly and unreasonably in my mind. I saw the Grote Markt, half a block away, as clearly as though I were standing there, saw the town hall and St. Bavo’s and the fish mart with its stair-stepped facade.
Then as I watched, a kind of odd, old farm wagon–old fashioned and out of place in the middle of a city–came lumbering across the square pulled by four enormous black horses. To my surprise I saw that I myself was sitting in the wagon. And Father too! And Betsie! There were may others, some strangers, some friends. I recognized Pickwick and Toos, Willem and young Peter. All together we were slowly being drawn across the square behind those horses. We couldn’t get off the wagon, that was the terrible thing. It was taking us away–far away, I felt–but we didn’t want to go…
“Betsie!” I cried, jumping up, pressing my hands to my eyes. “Betsie, I’ve had such an awful dream!”
I felt her arm around my shoulder. “We’ll go down to the kitchen where the light won’t show, and we’ll make a pot of coffee.”
The booming of the bombs was less frequent and farther away as Betsie put on the water. Closer by was the wail of fire alarms and the beep of the hose trucks. Over coffee, standing at the stove, I told Betsie what I had seen.
“Am I imagining things because I’m frightened? But it wasn’t like that! It was real. Oh Betsie, was it a kind of vision?”
Betsie’s finger traced a pattern on the wooden sink worn smooth by generations of us ten Booms. “I don’t know,” she said softly. “But if God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know–to tell us that this too is in His hands.” –Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 79-80
Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? –Luke 24:26
Michael Card, a Christian musician and author, has some amazing thoughts about the crucifixion. This very articulate writer has 37 albums, 27 books, and over 19 #1 hits. And yet his goal in life has always been to “simply and quietly teach the Bible.” I love his writing; it’s powerful in his unique, close relationship with our Lord. He wrote the delightful book, Joy in the Journey, from which the following quotes came as he explained his song-writing process for one piece in particular. These words are profound, in my opinion.
The trappings of the crucifixion had always puzzled me. Why was it necessary that a close friend betray Jesus? Why the crown of thorns, that grim tribute to humor? Why the cross–wasn’t there some other way for him to die? I had been playing with those three questions, trying to make them sound lyrical, in other words trying to make them sound pretty. But they aren’t pretty questions.
I had finished three verses of a song incorporating the questions. I had planned to write one chorus which would answer all three. That proved to be as impossible as the questions themselves. So I did the only thing a committed seeker of the Truth could do: I gave up and put them away in a drawer!
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2
Weeks after I gave up and put away my three song verses, I was awakened in the night with three separate choruses going through my mind, something that had never happened before and has never happened since. To my trilogy of vain, cynical questions the Lord gave three unexpected answers:
Why did it have to be a friend? Because only a friend comes close enough to cause such pain.
Why the thorny crown? Because in this life, the only kind of crown the world would give such a Lover is a crown of thorns.
Why did it have to be a cross? Because the cross is the place for a thief. And Jesus had come to steal the world’s heart away.
Now each time I listen to the song, I hear two separate voices: my own pessimistic voice asking the meaningless why questions, and another gentler Voice speaking the wonderful answers. –Michael Card
There’s a word in the Hebrew Bible that is unknown. Nobody knows what it means or really how it should be pronounced. It occurs usually at the end of a verse, but not always. In some places it comes in the middle of a sentence or verse. See Psalms 55:19 and 57:3; and Habakkuk 3:3, 9, and 13. There are many speculations about what it might mean. Since the Psalms were set to music, it may be a musical or literary term. Here are some of the ideas about its meaning:
- “stop and listen”
- “pause and think”
- a break in the song
- a change in rhythm, melody or instrumentation
- “hang” (as in measuring an item’s weight)
- a change of thought or theme
- “lift up,” “exalt,” “cast up”
- “loud,” “fortissimo” (cymbals please!)
- voices hushed; musical interlude
It’s been used in modern applications, too, from Rastafarian to U2. I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, but I know what it means to me.
Selah. Stop. Think. Listen.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week as I’ve come across special verses and quotes (in any book) that are meaningful to me. Usually I grab my notebook and write them down quickly and move on. But God is saying “Selah” — stop and think about what you just read. Listen to Me. Wait. Hang with Me a few more minutes. Rest. Selah.
Let’s do that this Easter week. Let’s stop and think; wait and listen, be quiet, be still, and exalt Him.
Someone suggested this very useful idea: spend a few moments each day just being still and quiet before God. No thoughts (she said, when they come just flick them away like little boats down a river). No prayers. No reading. Just be still.
“Be still and know that I am God.” “Here I am Lord.”
When He speaks it may be in the form of an invitation. If you are thinking, “I should be doing this,” or “I shouldn’t have said that,” just flick those thoughts away. God’s voice will come in the way of an invitation — “Come away with Me and relax,” or “Don’t be afraid,” or perhaps a friend’s face will appear in your mind and you’ll know how to join God in loving them in some way. We don’t initiate these invitations; God does. And sometimes we hear nothing from Him at all; that’s OK too. But it’s worth it to stop and sit quietly before Him, especially if you’re trying to make a decision or stressed about something.
Selah. Stop. Rest. Relax. Wait. Be still. Exalt. Listen. Pause. Think. Selah!
I have found a Christian author that seems to articulate so much that I have been thinking about lately. He’s really focused on God as our sovereign ruler and King, ever present and powerful. Here is an excerpt, including two scriptures and a quote from another author, followed by a prayer:
Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed Him as His counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge or showed Him the path of understanding? — Isaiah 40:13-14 (NIV)
Who instructed God? Whom did He consult? think of what we’ve learned about the design of the human body–the amazing intricacy and efficiency of a single cell, the sheer magnitude of the connecting fibers between nerve cells in the brain. Who could have served as the Lord’s consultant on a design task like that? Could you or I?
It’s an absurd question, isn’t it? Yet we continually want to be God’s adviser in His providential workings. We continually want to tell Him how certain circumstances should be changed. Or worse, we question God’s wisdom when we can’t understand what He’s doing.
How fathomless the depths of God’s resources, wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable His decisions, and how mysterious His methods! For who has ever understood the thoughts of the Lord, or has ever been His adviser? Glory to Him forever! — Romans 11:33-36 (Charles B. Williams Translation)
To this end may the following words from J. L. Dagg encourage us:
It should fill us with joy that infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world. Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign. Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures that He has made. Our own path through life is dark and devious, and beset with difficulties and dangers. How full of consolation is the doctrine that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings…light out of darkness, and, to those who love God, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good. — Dagg, Manual of Theology, pg. 91.
So with joy and consolation let us stand in awe of the infinite wisdom of God manifested in creation, providence, and redemption. But let’s do more. One of the marks of a God-fearing person is to trust in the Lord: “The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11). To hope in His unfailing love is to trust Him. As we stand in awe, let us trust Him, even when we don’t understand what He is doing.
O infinite God! Who has understood Your mind or instructed You as Your counselor? Before the universe was created it existed in all its intricate complexity in Your vast mind. Even the tiny cells in our bodies testify to the sheer brilliance of Your creative genius. But while we marvel at Your creation, we confess that we often wonder at Your providence. Help us to learn that You ways truly are higher than our ways, and that You are always working for our good despite the many things we don’t understand. May we fear You by trusting You. And may we ever praise You through Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen –Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. 94-95
Are any of you struggling with life events right now? Do you wonder how things could go so “wrong?” If you are trusting Jesus for salvation, you need not fear. God is sovereign and working all things together for good (Romans 8:28-29). We don’t have to try to control, manipulate, worry, be anxious or force anything to happen. It all comes together in His time and way, completely beyond our understanding, or weak efforts to control. Wait and trust; watch and see what God will do! Listen for His voice of calm, wisdom, instruction and assurance; trust Him, rather than trusting yourself.