And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. – Leviticus 19:1-2
While the Hebrews were encamped around Mount Sinai, the LORD spoke to Moses and gave him a vast array of rules and regulations by which the Hebrews were to govern their lives and live in covenant relationship with their God, as missionaries to the pagan world around them. Among those laws, the LORD told Moses that the people must be holy because their God, the LORD, is holy. It wasn’t a request or suggestion. It’s an imperative statement. Be holy because I…am holy.
Four times in the accounts of the Hebrews’ wilderness experience we are told that it is the LORD their God, who makes them holy (Ex. 31:13, Lev. 11:44, 20:8, and 21:8). Generally, as we read the Bible, we should take things into greater consideration when it is repeated. We should give greater attention to the message, especially when it is God, Himself, speaking and re-iterating the matter. Thus, when God tells us to be holy because He is holy, we had better perk up our spiritual ears and hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
So, why would the LORD, our God, tell the Hebrews, and by extension all His children, to be holy, as He is holy? The answer comes to us from the book of Hebrews, where it states, without holiness no one will see the Lord. God is holy! He has no part with or in sin. If sin enters His presence, it must be judged immediately, at which time the perpetrator of the sin would be condemned to eternity in hell.
God knew that people would naturally stray away from worshiping Him and bow their knees to other gods. He wanted to establish a nation of people, who would set themselves apart from the ways of wickedness in the earth and truly serve Him out of love and faith. Thus, He chose Abraham from among all peoples of the earth and promised to establish a great nation from his progeny, who worship the living God and be an example to the world of what is to live in covenant relationship with God.
The only way for mankind to be able to live in covenant relationship (like a marriage) with God was for their sins to be forgiven through the shedding of blood. For two millennia that forgiveness came through the sacrifice of animal blood, as a foreshadowing of the blood God, Himself, would shed on a cross for the sins of many. As we read further in the book of Hebrews, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Thus, there are two reasons why we must be holy, as God is holy. (1) Without His holiness in our lives, we would not be adopted into His family and be able to spend eternity with Him. We would be judged for our sins, found guilty, and sentenced to eternal torment in hell. (2) By being holy (set apart for God’s uses0, we demonstrate to the world that God’s love for humanity is real while also showcasing the fact that there is an alternative to the wicked lifestyle the world offers, which only leads to death. The alternative to the world’s ways is walking in holiness before the LORD through salvation that comes by grace through faith in Jesus. He gives us eternal life as a result of our trusting in Him and obeying Him.
Are you living a holy life before God? Or, are you filled with light that is darkness? Jesus tells us to examine the light within us. Are you being salt and light to this dark world? Do evil men see your goods and glorify the Father? Check yourself. If we look inside ourselves, we can judge ourselves and be cleansed rather than eat and drink the judgment of the cross upon ourselves.
Father, It is You, who sets apart and makes us holy. Holiness goes against the very human nature that exists within us. Therefore, we know that only You can make us holy. We remember the words of the prophet Zechariah; it’s not by might or power but by Your Spirit. Only through the blood of Jesus can we be washed and made holy. Ancient Israel failed to demonstrate to the world how to live in covenant relationship with You, so You sent Your only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins and make it possible for us to be redeemed and adopted by You. The church has become the new example by which You demonstrate living in covenant relationship with You, but the church is and has gone the way of the Hebrews. Help us, dear LORD, to be in this world as missionaries to the lost but not a part of the this world. Rather, please, set apart us from the world, so they may see our good deeds and light and glorify You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.