We have such a mixture of ideas about being different from other people. It begins when we are children. Young teenagers often dislike being different. They can be quick to tell parents what “everybody else” has or does. Later those same teenagers often strive for uniqueness among their peers. And the pendulum continues to swing back and forth. Sometimes differences are good. Other times, we try to blend in with culture.
The first reference we have in the Bible where ”this one is not like the others” is in the story of creation. Not only did God rest on the seventh day, He blessed that day and made it holy (Genesis 2:2-3).
Put aside all ideas of what a holy day is “supposed to be” and you glean from the story that the seventh day is different from the other six days of creation. It’s distinctly special. It has no rivals. And God sets it apart from the other days for a unique purpose – rest.
Through this passage, we get our first glimpse of holiness. And the theme of holiness continues throughout the entire Bible.
I once heard a pastor say, “Holiness is not that hard to understand.” And all I could think is 1) I’m not very bright because I struggle to grasp the full meaning of holiness and being holy and 2) If it’s not that hard to understand why are there so many books written on this one topic alone? I was once asked to speak at a women’s conference about the topic of holiness as revealed in the Old Testament and I really, really struggled in the preparation. I never felt like I was capturing the grandeur of all holiness encompasses. So, expect little from this post. I’m simple so this will be simplified.
When the word “holy” first appears in the Bible, it is in the context of God making His seventh day holy. Perhaps we needed a visual picture before we could understand that God is holy and that because He is holy, He can make things (and people) holy.
God later commanded that the Sabbath day was to be remembered by keeping it holy. He told the Israelites to set aside one day of the week as different from the others (Exodus 20:8).
Fast forward to New Testament. Jesus said to the legalistic Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath was meant to be a delight, treated with honor and where joy could be found (Isaiah 58:13-14).
God’s people learned to praise God as holy. They sang, “Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). Hannah prayed, “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one beside you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2). And Psalms sing of God’s holiness.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3). God is distinct from all of His creation. He created us in His image but He is different from us. And His ways are not ours; they are different too.
God also told His people to be holy. “I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). Why did God set apart these people He formed into a nation? First, He loved them with an enduring, covenant keeping love but also, God intended for His nation to be a blessing. He told them, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). They were blessed to be a blessing.
Back to the New Testament…Jesus was holy, not just in His sinless behavior, but also because He was “set apart” for a distinct mission. He alone could “save the world” (John 3:16-17).
Followers of Jesus discover Sabbath rest is completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The moment we stepped into relationship with Him was the very moment we stepped into eternal rest. Spiritually, there is no striving, working for merit or trying to earn favor. Just peaceful rest.
How do we respond to such a radical gift? 2 Peter 2:9 explains we have a called to the role of “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” why? “that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” God has a plan for us. We belong. We have purpose. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Peter goes on in verse 12 to tell us to live such good lives that others may see our good deeds (even when they accuse us of doing wrong) and glorify God.
The accusations against the church (which includes every believer) are vehement. The list includes hypocrisy, arrogance, exclusivity and discrimination. And too often the accusations hit the mark. The confrontation should cause us to reflect, pray, repent when wrong and persist in following the example of our Jesus…towards holiness.
Yes, believers are holy. We are set apart for God’s perfect purposes. We just don’t always live it. We’ve all got a lot of maturing that needs to take place. But our God is overflowing with love and grace. And if anything, we can display that He is a God who gives second (and third) chances.
Question to ponder:
Does the world catch any glimpse of holiness in my life? How am I different?
Do I fulfill my purpose of praising God?