Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary [in holiness, away from sin and guilt]. Who is a great God like our God?
Psalm 77:13 (Amplified Bible)
The sanctuary of God, the holy place, is the place of the sacrifice of Christ. The newer English translations tend to phrase this, “Your way is holy,” but the older English translations use “sanctuary,” believing that this was more the original intent. Asaph used similar words in Psalm 73:17, and the word “sanctuary” makes this more than just a doctrinal statement and brings into our focus the earthly witnesses of the holiness of God. God does not communicate with us merely in terms of ideals and concepts, rather His witness is through historical events, real things taking place in this world – the Exodus, the temple, the prophets, and ultimately the Word made flesh.
To say that the path of God is the sanctuary conjures in our minds the images of God’s love and patience, the typology of the temple, and the meaning of the cross. Holiness is not some staid, cold aspect of God, but alive and active. Holiness is not separated from love in God’s heart, nor is love separated from holiness. They dwell within Him from eternity as integral attributes of His personality. We may mistakenly have too low an estimate of the meaning of the holiness of God; we may think only that holiness repels and that grace invites, that holiness condemns and that love forgives; this divided view of God’s heart and of our redemption can skew our perspective of God. God is holy and His love and grace come from His holy heart. The only God who died for us is a holy God and the holy God is a loving God.
This psalm informs us that we can be open and honest with God in our prayer. The psalmist presented his complaints to God, emptied out his heart before the Almighty. In the “day of [his] trouble” he sought the Lord. In our honesty, however, let us not forget that to despair utterly in the face of difficulty is unbelief in God and, therefore, sin – one from which we should repent and confess. We have spoiled ourselves lately and made too many excuses for sin. We may think that our doubts are understandable and justifiable when we are in the midst of difficulty, but though God takes into consideration all our circumstances in evaluating our sin, any unbelief in God is simply sin. We may say that it is not as great a sin to doubt amid trouble as to doubt amid blessings, but it is still unbelief. It is there in the crucible of difficulty that God has given us the cross to look upon and find comfort in the holiness of God.
Matthew Henry wrote:
When we cannot solve the particular difficulties that may arise in our constructions of the divine providence, this we are sure of, in general, that God is holy in all his works, that they are all worthy of himself and consonant to the eternal purity and rectitude of his nature. He has holy ends in all he does, and will be sanctified in every dispensation of his providence. His way is according to his promise, which he has spoken in his holiness and made known in the sanctuary. What he has done is according to what he has said and may be interpreted by it; and from what he has said we may easily gather that he will not cast off his people for ever. God’s way is for the sanctuary, and for the benefit of it. All he does is intended for the good of his church.
Therefore, the doctrines of the holiness of God are sources of great comfort to the believer, especially the doctrine of the cross. The stresses of life will compel believers to the sanctuary of God, to the cross of Christ and to the Christ of the cross. God does not delight in the hardships of His children, but He does delight in the well-disciplined believer, so He often allows us sorrow and difficulty in regard to the relationships and things of this world that we might learn to depend on Him. The eternal reality that is to be our dwelling place forever is the love of holy God. To paraphrase the author of Hebrews, God sometimes allows us to be shaken so that only that which is unshakeable may remain.
Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us thus offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
So we enter through Christ into the inner sanctuary of God, and there, through the ordinances of grace, we see the heart of God. We are assured of His good intentions toward us, of His steadfastness and reliability, of His faithfulness and of His love. His righteousness is as high as the heavens – even higher still – and His commitment to the fulfillment of His promises is complete. In the sanctuary of God we see the forgiveness and cleansing of believers, as well as our sanctification and purification. The deceptions of life, of sorrow and difficulty, are seen as just that – deceptions, untruths, lies. We stand upon the promises of God and upon His eternal love. Our shame is removed and our hearts are lifted up and we are brought into the knowledge of God.
All the ways of God are holy, they are through the sanctuary of the holy redemption of our God. God metes out our challenges in life, allowing us enough strength to face them each one by one, but amid the difficulty we also become stronger in Him, in our faith, and in our walk. If we think, Let us first become great and then we will climb this mountain, we will have misunderstood the method of God. Though He does make us lie down in green pastures, feeding us with His truth, before He leads us in paths of righteousness, though we need the nourishment of grace before we can take single step, we must also learn to face our challenges that God calls us toward and to expect that God will provide the strength we need as we keep our eyes on Christ. Men become great by climbing the mountains before them in the power of God, and learning to trust and to follow. There is some strength that God provides that we only will gain as we accept the challenges before us.
Lord, comfort us in Your sanctuary. Draw us closer to You, to Your cross, to Your love, to Your heart. Strengthen us, lead us, and strengthen us more. Amen.