I must confess, I have struggled for years with understanding the concept of holiness. Be holy. Show holiness. You are holy. The Lord is holy. These phrases all sound powerful and wonderful, but I honestly didn't understand what it meant to be holy. Last year, I read the entire Bible, and noticed how often God proclaimed His holiness and demanded holiness from us. Yet it still didn't click. But today, I think something is finally making sense.
I'm currently studying the book of Daniel (using Beth Moore's study as a guide), and today the discussion was all about holiness. It's not just Daniel, though. In my NIV bible, according to the concordance, there are no less than 150 separate occurrences of the word "holy" or "holiness." Obviously, God want us to get the idea of holiness.
The first instance of the idea of holiness comes in Genesis 2, verse 3. The principle of first instance states that the first time something occurs in scripture, there is something important to gleam from it. This verse is:
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The Hebrew word is is "qadash," meaning "to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate" (according to the KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.
In this instance, the idea of holiness, applied to the seventh day, implied a separation apart from the other 6 days. It was to be a day of rest from work, and (later in the OT) a day dedicated to the worship of God Almighty. After this first mention, over 150 times, God proclaims His holiness, demands that we be holy, or consecrates things, days, or feasts as holy to Him. They belong to Him. They are for Him alone.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states that,
"In primitive Semitic usage "holiness" seems to have expressed nothing more than that ceremonial separation of an object from common use which the modern study of savage religions has rendered familiar under the name of taboo (W.R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, Lect iv). But within the Biblical sphere, with which alone we are immediately concerned, holiness attaches itself first of all, not to visible objects, but to the invisible Yahweh, and to places, seasons, things and human beings only in so far as they are associated with Him. And while the idea of ceremonial holiness runs through the Old Testament, the ethical significance which Christianity attributes to the term is never wholly absent, and gradually rises in the course of the revelation into more emphatic prominence."
In Daniel 5, Belshazzar desecrated the holy items taken from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and used them as part of a drunken orgy, toasting his false gods with them. That very night, God broke the great Babylonian Empire. Beth talked about the idea that the enemy wants nothing less than to make holy things unholy.
Followers of Christ are made holy through Christ. God says over and over again that we have been set apart from this world - "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds" (Romans 12:2). We are the vessels that He inhabits on this earth - no longer the temple or the ark, but in us, His children. (See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.")
We are to act in ways that honor Him. We should never be used to honor anything other than God. Selfishness - honoring ourselves - is wrong. Sexual Immorality - honoring pleasure and immediacy - is wrong. Pride - honoring ourselves above all - is wrong. Any time that we act in a way that honors any one or thing other than God, we are acting unholy. We are not acting like those picked up and stamped by the Living God.
Holiness turns out to be in some ways a fairly simple concept. Act, think, speak in such a way that God is honored, and no other. In this, you show yourself to be His, not part of this society or this world, but a citizen of His realm. You are anointed as His when the Spirit lives within you and fills you up with Himself. You are reserved for Him for eternity.
Be holy. Stop acting like a fool of this world. Stop honoring yourself and your desires. Start bowing before your LORD, the God Almighty who never lies, never changes, and demands total righteousness. Start honoring Him with your choices - what you watch, what you read, what you say, where you go.
It's an easy concept, but so hard to do. Lord, help your children to learn how to be holy. Let us honor you in ALL things!