What does it mean to be holy? We as Christians are called to be holy, but as I understand this word, it is an impossible task.
Holy – to be consecrated, set apart, devout, pure, dedicated to the service of the Lord.
As a church we are reading through Exodus through Lent. Lent is a practice that asks you to give something up for a set period of time, so that you can use that craving to remember to turn to God for the satisfaction that whatever you gave up caused. As a church we have not done this before. We are also cooperately reading a chapter of Exodus daily. It has been an interesting few weeks so far. Exodus is the story of the journey of the Israelites from slaves to freedom. God shows His incredible power in the rescuing of His chosen people. He is undeniable. He shows up in incredible, fear inspiring ways. God proves His love and the lengths that He will go to rescue them. From the plagues, to parting the Red Sea. God destroys the people who enslaved them. God brings them through the waters of the Red Sea to freedom. It is like He passes them through the water to wash the grime of slavery off of them consecrating them, setting them apart for Himself. He calls them to be a holy people.
Many times the people of Israel disappoint God. I wonder why? Didn’t they just see God, His power, and His great love? Early on they felt the need to build themselves an idol out of gold to worship. What?? Didn’t they already have The One who is worthy of all worship and devotion? How were they so easily fooled that they needed something else? Moses, God’s appointed leader was in communion with God up on a mountain, and was unaware of what was going on at the foot of the mountain. God wanted to destroy them, but heeded Moses’ pleas to save the people of Isreal. God had mercy. As I have read through these chapters, I have had a few revelations that might explain the people’s actions. In Egypt they didn’t worship only one god, they has many god’s, depending on the season, or the desire or need that they had. The Israelites had been slaves for 400 years, they had many generations of God’s silence. So as will happen, the people got used to the Egyptian’s polytheism practices. There are over 2000 names of Egyptian gods, each with rituals, altars and idols. This is what the Israelites knew. The ones who had been in intimate relationship with God had died long ago, and even though they had been told all the stories of God and they kept a belief that He was real, they watched what the Egyptians did. I am sure it made their lives easier to just go along with the “status quo”. So when we look at the folly of the people of God, we need to keep this in mind. Building an idol was normal, it is what you did to worship a god in their experience. It wasn’t an excuse though. God was bigger than anything that the Eygyptians worshipped. The plagues were meant to show that to His people. It was meant to show them that there was nothing that could even come close to His greatness, His holiness. And yet it seemed that without Moses they forgot that. Maybe they just didn’t understand, the one who spoke to them for God had been away for a long time, and they needed to reassure themselves that they had followed The God of everything. Maybe they thought that God would like the sacrifices and rituals that they would do for Him. They were dead wrong. God did not want to be treated as the other “gods” were treated. That would be too casual a worship for Him. He was worthy of all worship and so much more. He deserved their lives, all of it. Moses knew this and it often infuriated him to see God’s people so callous, so indifferent, so winey.
Are we any different? Don’t we set up other things as our “god’s”? Don’t we have other things that take our attention away from the only one that our heart should be set on. This is what Lent is all about. It is about discovering what we hold above God and giving that up. This causes us to remember God in our need and in our desires. It is hard to do. I have given up “free time” “”alone time”, I haven’t been very good at it though. I often find myself distracted by the things I am trying to give up, games on my phone, books that are just fluff, fun to read, but not much more, useless tv shows, social media. I don’t even notice sometimes that I am doing what I wanted to give up. I kick myself often. As I am reading Exodus while doing Lent, I can understand a bit more of what the Israelites are going through. They are just acting “normal”, they are doing what they had always done.
God came to rescue His people from their “normal”. He knew that their lives were meaningless without Him. God knew the absolute truth, He saw their brokeness, He saw the callous that had grown over their hearts, He saw their empty lives and set out to make them whole and holy again. His intent was to heal His people.
God still does this, He still wades in and rescues us from our “normal” no matter how messed up that “normal” is. Each of us has our own “normal”, a place that feels hard to change. God is in the business of rescue and healing. He is set on making you whole and holy, He is set on making you His. How great is that? He knows you and wants to set you apart for Himself. He wants you to be His child, He wants to care for you like only He can.
Later on in Exodus, God gives instructions for holy days and festivals that they were meant to celebrate, these were all about remembering who God is and what He did for them. He also asks Moses to build His house, His tabernacle, a place where His people could come together and worship Him. The instructions that God gives Moses on the details of structure of the tent, the altar, the implements, the robes of the priests are incredibly detailed and precise. Everything is grandeous. The craftsmanship that is required is so overwhelming. I think that is the point, it is so wonderful because God is even more wonderful. God wanted to show His people in a way that they understood, just how Great, Awesome, Powerful and Worthy of their lives and their worship He was. With so much precision and luxury they couldn’t deny the Greatness of God. In their minds if He demanded so much He deserved that much.
As I read these chapters this time, it made me awestruck. I didn’t see it as some chapters with useless details. God is showing us through this just how holy and set apart He is. He is showing us that there is no one greater or worthy of more worship. He is reminding us of who He is. He is the Great I Am, The Creator, The Alpha and Omega, and so much more than words can describe. Through Jesus He has rescued us from ritual, Jesus became the sacrifice that met all of God’s requirements. Through Jesus we become holy. There is no other way that it is possible. It is not humanly possible. We can not make ourselves holy. We are not holy on our own. Our humanity and selfishness prevents that. We need Jesus’ atoning blood and sacrifice to gain holiness. Without it we are broken, bewildered and lost.
God wants His children to be set apart, He desires our holiness, this is why He sent Jesus to pay for our humanness, our selfish and sinful ways. He needs us to be holy to be able to have a relationship with us. God knows that this is not possible on our own. He knew the sacrifice that was required and in His grace and mercy provided it through His Son. Thankfully Jesus agreed and was willing and paid the price to give us the ability to gain holiness through Him. Jesus gives us His holiness, through the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus makes us right with God. Jesus is the only way, He is the only truth, and the only life that leads to God, His Father. When we believe in Jesus we gain the title, Child of God. Jesus gives us His holiness and His wholeness. Both are free for the taking. Belief is the cost. If you do not believe why would you want it? how would you know about them? Without belief you will not gain holiness and you will remain broken. There is no other way, believe me I have tried, everything else is empty, hollow, bitterness, pain, and meaningless. It may feel good and right for a while, but eventually it lets you down. If you are really honest with yourself you know this.
Jesus offers wholeness and holiness, will you take it?