You spoke into nothing, “Let there be light!”
You separated it, and called it good,
Split heaven from earth by ethereal hood,
And gathered dry land from waters just right,
Set stars above to guide and give earth sight,
Made holy the Sabbath to rest, and would.1
You created a nation by Your might
To be a holy priesthood, Your delight2
And set them above all; Mount Zion stood.3
So this day You speak light into my heart4
Where there was nothing but darkness and death
And call me out from sin to be holy,
By persecution or my will depart
Their midst rejoicing with my breath
That I counted to suffer as worthy.5
- Genesis 1:3-2:3
- Exodus 19:5-6
- Deuteronomy 26:19, Joel 3:17
- 1 Peter 2:9
- Acts 5:41
What does it mean to be holy? What do you think of when you hear the words holy and holiness? The Hebrew word for holy is qâdâsh (קׇדַשׁ), which means to be, make, pronounce, or observe as clean; to appoint, to bid, to consecrate, to dedicate, to hallow, to be holy or to keep holy, to keep, to prepare, to proclaim, to purify, to sanctify (Strong’s Concordance).
If you will bear with me, I will try to translate in a layman’s way. To be holy is to be made clean and declared as clean, to be appointed, to be consecrated, to be dedicated, to be prepared, to be purified, and to be sanctified. And who makes us these things? It is God (), not ourselves. And to what are we made clean, to what are we appointed, to what are we consecrated, and dedicated? For what are we prepared, and purified and sanctified? God. So He is the means and the ends. To be made holy involves being separated from the unholy. From the creation of the world and how God separated everything, especially time (Genesis 2:3) into an order, to the ritual law of the tabernacle in how to keep things and space and people and days clean, to the New Testament where Jesus separates the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3:12), the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), namely believers from non-believers. To make something holy requires separating it from the common. Isaiah 52:11 says,
Depart, depart, go out from there,
touch no unclean thing;
go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves,
you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
and 2 Corinthians 6:17 says,
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you.
If you are a believer, God has made you holy by the sacrifice of His Son. Let us behave as such. Sometimes I think connotatively of holy as stuck up or prideful, but Biblical holiness is the exact opposite. It is humble. It enters the darkness yet remains distinct (John 1:5). To be stuck up or proud is self-righteousness, and the Bible says God hates that (Amos 6:8, James 4:6), but the righteousness that comes from holiness is God-imbued.
Sometimes people will separate us by excluding us, but Jesus says we are blessed (Matthew 5:11-12). I can tell you that when I’ve been even mildly persecuted, I never walked away thinking how blessed I was, nor was I rejoicing about it! But maybe that says something about me that needs to change. The faithful in China, North Korea, India, Nigeria, Gaza, and other such places are the ones facing the most brutal persecution today. Did you ever think persecution could be a way God is making you holy? When man separates us because of God, we turn the other cheek, we bless, we go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42; Luke 6:28), and God purposes that for holiness. As man separates us from him so God separates us from sin. God takes what people mean for evil and He makes it for our good (Romans 8:28), just as he separated creation and called it good.
What is God calling you out of today? Is He setting you apart and making you distinct? Holiness in the Bible is associated with mountaintops, particularly Mount Zion. God will always be calling you out and calling you up higher to Him as long as we are in this present age, because we haven’t reached the mountain peak yet, when Jesus returns in glory. Do you hear His call? Do you follow?
The Bible. English Standard Version, Crossway, 2001.
“qâdâsh.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. No. 6942. Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Photo from cosmichrome.com.