So I have been thinking about this whole holiness thing. God tells us to, “….be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Lev. 20:26) So holiness…Most of us think of holiness as a state of perfection. We NEVER do ANYTHING wrong. We say the exact right thing at the right time and we look down on others who don’t. We are then holy. But that isn’t God’s holiness. Really holy means set apart. For instance, I take a plate that says “celebrate” on it and tell my family this is our special birthday plate. We only get to use it on our birthdays. The plate is just a plate, but I have made it holy by setting it apart for a special purpose. So God is telling Israel and through them us to be set apart because He is set apart.
So how do we set ourselves apart? I mean seriously…How am I different than those who don’t know Jesus as savior? How do I maintain that difference? What can I do to make myself holy? In Leviticus we see that God is setting out laws and rules for those Israelites to follow. Don’t eat this, don’t touch that, this is unclean, that is clean, celebrate this festival at this time, etc. All of these outward things certainly make the Israelites look different. Most cultures at this time were steeped in religion, but of many gods and these gods didn’t really give them rules to follow, they sort of made it up as they went along. So here the Israelites are given rules. Rules that set them apart. In some ways we have the same thing now. Our morals our choices set us apart from our culture. Waiting to have sex until marriage. Not being drunk on wine, but being filled with the spirit. Are just a few that can certainly set the Christians apart from others around them, but do these things make them holy? Can actions and choices make us holy?
We find the answer to this question in the very book that tells us to be holy…Lev. 20:8 says, “…I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” This phrase and others similar is repeated at least seven times in Leviticus. Ok, stop the presses…You mean to tell me that God gives His people all these rules only to tell them that the rules don’t make them holy? I mean seriously the sacrifices, the festivals, the clean and unclean things. Are you crazy God? Why? So here is the beauty of the why at least in my life.
First, I can never be holy apart from God. I can quit trying under my own power. This may not be a revelation to you, but to me it was so freeing. I will mess up and I know that, but I was trying to be holy on my own. I wanted to MAKE the fruit of the spirit appear in my life. As if I could will self-discipline in my life. Hello self, it is a fruit of the SPIRIT, not a fruit of the SELF! So fruit of the spirit grows from a connection to God, a relationship to Him…Holiness is the same. We can’t make ourselves holy, only God can!
So second, why all the rules? We answered part of that earlier, the rules set us apart outwardly. They also are a way of protecting us as I mentioned in my last post. God knows more about us than we could ever hope to imagine. Just as the one who designs my car knows WAY more about it than I do. I can turn the key and make it run. However I don’t understand why it works and I am often running to the owners manuel to see what a certain blinking light means. The Bible is our owners manuel. We don’t understand it all, but God does and His plans for our lives help our lives to go smoothly. Does that mean we will never hit adversity? NO…Check out Job, but it does mean we can live for God in a way that pleases Him. Just as certain sacrifices and special burnt offerings were a fragrant pleasing aroma to God, our lives can be the same if we are obedient to Him.
Thirdly, we are humans and we forget. God institutes these festivals as times to remember. Why? Well, beacause we humans forget so quickly. Don’t believe me? So let’s take a Biblical example. It was approximately 130 days since God had led the Israelites out of Egypt. God sent plagues and parted the Red Sea. You would think the Israelites would be fired up and excited about serving God. In fact God was having a face to face pow-wow with Moses right up on top of Mount Sinai. However Moses had been gone for an awful long time. It was right about 40 days. So what did the Israelites do? The created a golden calf and claimed it was the god who led them out of Egypt. Seriously, these people forgot in less than six months all that God had done for them…In fact God had been leading them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. However, it had been over 40 days since they had last moved. We can look at the Israelites and say it wouldn’t happen if I was there. However the truth is we do it just as often. We either pretend that the check that happened to come the day before the mortgage was due that was the exact amount we needed was just a lucky chance. Or that weird thing that happened when I had a flat tire and couldn’t get the lug nuts removed was just a kind person stopping to help, not that God sent him. The list goes on…
We are forgetful and we have to be reminded who we are and who God is…He is holy and He makes us holy. I think it was Max Lucado who wrote this…It was a quote given to me by a friend years ago and I only vaguely remember it so it won’t be exact, but it goes something like this…”God’s smile is NOT for the healthy hiker who boasts he made it all the way by himself. It is for the blind, lame man who begs for a back on which to ride.” What a ride God has in store for us, if only we will cling to Him!