(Exo 19:5 NKJV) 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and
keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all
people; for all the earth is Mine.
The word "Holy" or Kadesh means a separation, a setting apart for God's use. It is to be different from the rest, apart from the majority. The use of the word Holiness brings us back to the nation of Israel, to God's commandments that if they obey God's voice and to keep the Covenant with God, namely the Ten commanments, to become God's special people. Set in a religious settings with many gods and fervent religious beliefs, God was declaring a separation from the religious practices of the other faiths and to reserve themselves to be God's people.
Any study of Holiness would be amiss if it did not reflect on how Holiness has been misused in Christianity. We have taken this literally as to avoid communion with people of other religious faiths and to execute and reject people of same sex orientation whom we deemed as the vilest sinners.
We have applied the teaching on Holiness out of the biblical context which sets the religious faith as a matter of life and death. For example, if the harvest was poor, the people would perish. Therefore, they took their worship of Baal/Ashteroth very seriously until they had anal sex with the temple priests so as to join themselves with the deities. They were not gays, for it was a religious rite rather than a sexual orientation.
The people were as one with the deities they worshipped, their bodies being posessed by it through the joining of the anal sex. It was therefore not surprising the call to be set apart from their religious faith because one can probably see the deities through their eyes staring back at you. They were owned by the gods and one with them in a physical and spiritual sense. Such religions seldom exist in modern times for us to insist on a separation.
Holiness is divided into three parts.
a. Separation unto God - a set apart for the exclusive communion and worship with God, to belong to God.
The first two commandments demand an exclusiveness with the God of Israel. God specifically did not present Himself in any man made image unlike other gods. It was a voice heard by Moses, in the midst of an awesome display of ground shaking and lighting. Yet, God came in a small quiet voice.
The glory of God was not to be mistaken with other gods. When others see the blessings of God upon Israel, they would not have mistaken it as the blessings from other gods and deities.
The first two commandments were set in a context where mankind was worshipping created beings represented by carved images. It was the created worshipping other created beings and imagery rather than the creator. We can't "see" God and so we put idols that we can understand and explain such as the Saints, Mary, and the Pope, financial prosperity and blessings to replace Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The basic call to God is not of action of good works and social justice, it is of the right standing before God. We are holy not because of what we are doing or how good we are, but because we made the choice to belong to and worship the God of Israel. Exo 19:5,6 is a declaration that Israel would be God's sepcial people when they do decide to put their faith and destiny in God rather than the other religious faiths and practices.
The God of Israel does not demand that we have sex with the priests as was the case with the other ancient religious faith, but that we re-enact the sacrifice of the innocent lambs for our sins. It was a shadow of Christ death and resurrection to come signifying that the basis of relationship between God and the people was ultimately bounded in Christ who is, and was and is to come.
The Law includes the priestly religious observances and sacrifices. The Old Testament Patriach, Abraham, look forward to the coming of the Messiah (Gal 3:8), and that was accounted to him as righteousness. The priestly religious sacrifices of the Jews, even though an imagery of Christ death and resurrection, gave them atonement for the year, but not permanent reconciliation with God. Jesus is our everlasting priests (Heb 7:24). The Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant, resides the mercy seat covering and concealing the judgement of the law (Ex 25:21,22). The mercy seat represents Christ who was and is to come (Heb 9:1-15).
The Christian Right has taken the name of God in vain. The "name" potrays nature and destinity. God has a nature, destinity and purpose He wants to implement. "Vain" means empty and useless. We are not to take any part of God's character and purpose and empty it of meaning to ourselfs and others. When we try to use God to support our anti-gay agenda, we take God's character and purposes to redeem humanity and empty it of meaning.
b. Separation as a Community of priests to showcase God though following the laws of the bible.
Once, we have a established a separation and exclusive belonging to God, we enter into our next role that our obedience to God as a Christian community in terms of love, social justice, grace and mercy would lead to such blessings as to cause others to wonder about the nature God we worship as compared to their own religious faiths whose deities were mostly very demanding and with no relationship. They were by generally sex based and demanded human sacrifices. The gods provided blessings not out of love or grace, but because we bow down to worship and appease them.
The purpose of the law is to set us apart to represent God to the world. The Law reveals God's love and character. The intention of the law is to draw the nations to the God of Israel, and it does so by revealing God's nature and love for humanity.The result of the law is that when nations reflect how fair is the justice system of Israel, and how prosperous the economic policies they would ask "what kind of a God does that".
c. Separation of our lives, to enter into a unique purpose that God has for our lives.
Lastly, is a separation unto God's purpose for our lives. It was not the law or the covenant that was the highest level of worship, but obeying the voice of God. The law is static, fixed and often its intention and purpose lost in the context, but the voice of God is living and ever evolving based on the changing circumstances to guide us to our purpose and ministry on earth to continue on the ministry of Christ.
In the other ancient faiths, the gods came in through the anal sex with the priests, but in the Christian Faith, our joining comes through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All of us become priests one way or another reflecting Christ to the nations.
Holiness traditionally evokes an idea of purity, without spot or blemish, or a separation from the morally impure. This notion is limited as it concentrate on the "Dont's" rather than "the do's" of life. We have spent too much time separating ourselves. If we had spent more time on what we are called to do, we will naturally avoid sin.
We go to such an extent, that we begin to fabricate sin, eg gays cannot have same sex relationships etc. We are not separated from something, we are separated into something. We have been set apart for God's use, for royal service. It is a dynamic idea, and not a static idea of doing nothing much in a monastry. It is an adventure of a lifetime. Holiness is a "missionary" term, to set apart as light to the nations. The churches holiness is intricately linked to its mission to represents Jesus Christ to the whole world (George Carey - tale of two churches).
The voice of God is here today, the Word of God made flesh and the Spirit of God remaining that we may have communion with God through a relationship with the Holy Spirit just as the disciples have had a close relationship with Jesus. The mountain of God at Mt Sinai, has been replaced by the mountain of Sacrifice at the Mt of Olives, where the Spirit of God is no longer in a closet in the Holy of Holies but free to come into our lives to have an abode and communion with us if we chose to do so.
Holiness demands a decision to be in communion with the Holy Spirit of God, just as Jesus had, a decision so contrary to our experience, intellect, reason, and religious tradition. It is a daily decision of communion with the Holy Spirit. We cant go to Christ without the Holy Spirit just as we can't reach God without going through Jesus.