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)
Holiness is something the entire congregation of God’s people are responsible for — all are to be holy because our God is holy. This is the recurring message given to us since the beginning. It was the message first relayed to Israel as they stood at the foot of Mount Sinai — “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). This statement — better still, this calling — is as prophetic as it is declarative. I say that because, when God spoke these words from the mountain, He knew that many would rebel against Him and turn their affection toward a golden calf. And even though He knew this, still, He called them to be holy.
To be holy (in Hebrew the word is kadosh) means to be separated from the normal, the common and the profane in our day to day lives. It is not enough to be “set apart” just for sake of being different — any one can do that — but to be recognized as “set apart” because we emulate the characteristics of a holy God. While we cannot imitate His omnipresence, His omniscience or omnipotence, we can strive to emulate to emulate His compassion, mercy and truthfulness. We demonstrate being set apart when we avoid those things that He has said defile us. So then, emulation of our God is the highest human ideal and the ultimate act of worship because it is evidence that we love the One we serve.
As I said, the call to be a holy nation was a prophetic statement as much as it was a challenge. I say that because, throughout history, God’s people have faltered in this calling. They have rebelled, sinned and turned to other “gods” — those things that seduce away from Him. Yet, even in the midst of bringing correction and, sometimes unfortunately, judgment, He still calls upon us to be a holy people. As long as there is breath within us, as an individual or as a body, there is the hope that we can be what He has ordained because He is for us and not against us. He is merciful, long suffering and patient. Thus it is written, “ For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Thank God for that!
Blessings and Shalom,