The Holiness of God: Being Holy in Purity and Service
Read Lev. 11:41-47
“Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.”
The book of Leviticus remains an enigma for the casual reader, filled with guidelines prescribing how the people were to conduct themselves in a variety of different scenarios. To the modern reader the book seems confusing and outdated. However, a closer reading reveals that the dietary laws and the clean/unclean laws were driven by several factors. First, many of the dietary laws were designed to protect the people in an age when cooking practices did not always provide proper protection from food-born pathogens. Second, many of the laws were a response to the pagan worship practices surrounding the people of Israel. Thus, regulations were established to keep Israel from embracing the idolatry of the various false religions. For example, the laws of motherhood in chapter 12, provided a safeguard for Israel from the fertility rites common in the pagan religions by separating childbirth from religious worship. But the most important key to understanding the book, and that which served to govern all the rules and regulations, is found in 11:45. At the center of all the Old Testament laws, regulations and ethical commands is the call to be holy even as God is holy.
But this is not just at the center of the Old Testament moral and ethical living but is at the heart of the New Testament as well. The standard that God’s calls us to is one of personal holiness. Just as God’s holiness means that he is completely separate from his creation, so he calls us to be separate in conduct and morality from the world in which we live. Paul points to this when he writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of the so that you may prove what the will of God is.” (Romans 12:2). To be holy means that our standard of moral conduct should not be determined by the world in which we live, but by the holiness and character of God.
The second element of holiness deals with our relationship with God. To be holy is to be set apart for God’s use and glory, it is to be devoted to serve God so that everything we do is governed by our relationship with him. In Leviticus we find that the utensils used in the temple were declared to be holy. A bowl was declared holy could only be used in the temple for the worship of God and was no longer to be used for any common purpose. When God declares that we are to be holy, he is not only calling us to ethical and moral holiness, he is calling us to be completely devoted to serve Him. This is the point that Paul is making in Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.”
This is what brings us clarity in a confusing world. As we are going through this upheaval of life, our first thought is “how can I get back to a normal life.” However, this misses the point of God’s calling. Instead the question should be, “how can I serve God effectively in the midst of this time of uncertainty?” This is the calling of the Christian. We are not called to a life of our own choosing and a life of ease. We are called to be devoted to God. Instead of getting caught up in all the turmoil of the day, focus on looking for opportunities to serve.