Holiness & the Law, Pt. 15
Yesterday I addressed the essence of holiness. We saw how Moses was transformed from a lawbreaker into a lawgiver after encountering God. God's holiness brought about a recognition of sinfulness that resulted in repentance, and finally, a transformation of character. Change is the only acceptable proof of a contrite heart; otherwise, it's just lip service.
God first issued His command regarding holiness in Leviticus 11:44-45, which states:
"For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy."
Holiness begins with God, and yet God tells us to consecrate ourselves. Admittedly, this is impossible in and of ourselves, but Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to empower our lives. While the command to be holy wasn't issued until Leviticus, God began preparing their hearts toward it from the moment they left Egypt. We find that when Pharaoh pursued them, and they were between an army and the sea, what did God do? He divided the waters. His division created a place for His people to walk into freedom on dry ground, no less (Ex. 14:21). And learning to divide correctly is something He wanted for His people. At Sinai, they were given the law to define what holy parameters looked like, and if we search, we can discover that they all have to do with a separation of time, space, and matter to God and others.
Many of us who grew up in the church memorized the Ten Commandments, but did we understand the significance of the first thing He said before detailing them out? Verse one states, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." The very first thing that God makes clear is that He has delivered from bondage. He is not trying to bring us back into it by a long set of rules and regulations. We're free, and He's the One who not only desired it but facilitated it. So this is not about subjugating a people under a heavenly thumb; this was about creating a holy people, separated from the world and to Him through their willingness to consecrate themselves.
This is seen clearly in the first four of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1-11, all of which have to do with separating our time, space, and matter for the Lord.
1. Have no other gods before Him. While that may seem like a no-brainer, we tend to ignore it altogether. Whether it is work, family, state, or church, it's easy to do. The command, however, is clear: "No other," besides God. God brought us out, and He alone is worthy of our worship.
2. We're not to carve out niches for other gods, either. Now, if God is first, why would He care if there are others? But holiness demands that we consecrate the time, space, and matter we're given, and it is not to be consumed in worshipping the worthless. God not only wants to be invited back into our time, space, and matter, He wants to redeem what is left, as well.
3. Don't take His Name in vain. In other words, don't connect His Name and renown with anything false or empty. While we know it, seldom do we act on it. It's not just using His Name irreverently. It also means to use His Name in spreading falsehood and that which is not of Him. He will not hold anyone guiltless who participates in this. When it is not according to Scripture, saying something is approved by God is taking His Name in vain. It is associating His holiness with what is not valid or holy. It includes all manner of thought or action.
4. Remembering to rest on the Sabbath is another command by which we have failed to live. I am old enough to remember when grocery stores were closed on Sunday, and schools planned not one function. Now we spend worship time glancing at our watches, hoping to hurry out of service for everything we've planned on a day the Lord asked us to remember as holy. It is a day when we are to cease from business and occupation to rest our minds, settle down, and remain quiet. When was your last Sabbath rest?
And these are just the first four. If we reflect on the following six commands, we will discover that they are about honoring the time, space, and matter of those around us, whether their relationships, reputations, possessions, or bodies.
God gave the Ten Commandments to define holy parameters for the nation of Israel and teach them how to rightly divide everything in their lives that would vie for their attention. While they present actionable steps, they address character – people's willingness to make room for God, first and foremost, and then secondly, others. Though the basis for all of our interactions with God and man, the law could only teach us to act holy. God desires that we be holy, and Christ would ensure we could do so by sending us the Holy Spirit.
Father, I have failed to invite You back into my life in so many ways. I've proclaimed You as Lord, yet seldom have I honored You by giving back the time, space, and matter that You so graciously bestow upon Me, not to mention the way I haven't always honored those around me. Today, I want to rectify that. Holy Spirit, please teach me to honor You and others the in spirit and truth; word and action. In Jesus' Name, amen.