Friday, May 24, 2013

Set Apart—What Are We Making Common?

Profane: 1. to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt
Common: 4.
characterized by a lack of privilege or special status  
(both from

God is holy. In fact, lest we subconsciously think there is an Old Testament God and a New Testament God and that they are different, both the Old and New Testaments give us pictures of the cry, "Holy, holy, holy!" around the throne. It is the attribute of God by which His other attributes are defined. His love, His power, His Name, His justice—they are all holy because He is holy. It has at its core set apart and separated, and we find the concept of it in the Bible in so many places and ways.

Read through the Bible looking for not just the word "holy" but for words and ideas of separate, set apart, consecrated, sanctified, saints, etc., and we find that this concept is woven through, and essential to, the entire Bible. Israel was His set apart nation and people. The ark was in the Holy of Holies, set apart from the people by a veil. The priests and temple artifacts were consecrated and set apart. Jesus is light and in Him is NO darkness—He is completely set apart from darkness. Even the concept of purity, often taught as this series of commands as what not to do or be, takes on a beautiful new freshness when thought of in the terms of holiness—pure, set apart, not mixed.

In contrast to this concept we see the continual theme in the Bible of the people making common or profane God's holy name, and the worship of Him, and that which He calls to be set apart. They Israelites didn't wipe from the land all the remnants of the people and they were tarnished by their influence. The concept of the little leaven corrupting the whole. The worship in high places and not in the way and place God ordained. They did, according to Judges, what was right in their own minds.

Last night at youth group we looked at King David bringing the ark to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6 (also 1 Chronicles 13–15). On the surface it all seems good! He wants the ark at the center of his rule and town. He sets out with a mighty honoring group of men. He puts it on a new cart. He worships and celebrates before it. The ox stumble and Uzzah reaches out to steady it. Bam! Uzzah is struck dead by God and the celebration screeches to a halt.

What happened? David had all these good intentions of doing wonderful things for God and God kills one of his people for simply trying to keep the ark from falling! That's harsh . . . if we insist on seeing things through our eyes and viewpoint and framework and not through the eyes and viewpoint and framework and holiness of our Creator.

God is holy. He is set apart, separate. His ways and His words are what matter, not ours. History is riddled with people who have profaned, or made common, God's holiness and tried to do things their own way and assumed God would be OK with that or like it because they are OK with it or like it. Even things done for Him! God had been very specific earlier to Moses about how the ark would be moved and who would be allowed to care for it. David didn't follow it. He got casual with God's holiness. He made profane or common God, assuming God would be OK with what David thought was a good idea (it was for God, after all!).

God was not. God is holy. And to approach God our way and not His, or to try and make God conform to the world or its wisdom instead of conforming everything to Him and His wisdom is to profane or make common His holiness. He is not like us. He is separate. We can't apply us over Him, we must apply Him over us.

David learned his lesson. Sadly, it cost a man his life. After a few months David tries again to bring the ark back. This time he has the priests carrying the ark and performing sacrifices the way God decreed it and the ark comes to Jerusalem and God's presence blesses God's people. How many people out there are (and how many times are we in our own lives?) profaning or making common God's holiness by thinking they can approach God their own way, on their own good works or merit or ideas about Him and who He is? How many are profaning His Holiness by making His Word match "science" and trying to find ways to explain away Genesis or miracles instead of studying science and everything else from His framework and eyes? How many are making common His holiness by making decisions on right and wrong and values and priorities on their own "good" ideas instead of based on His Word?

God is holy. It is His very nature. By His nature He is holy, set apart, separate. He can't be otherwise. But He calls us to be holy. To be set apart. Yes we are set apart by our nature as Christians, His own special people, sealed in His love for eternity, but He also calls us to be holy as well—set apart in our relationships, lifestyles, values, choices, etc. May we not profane His holy name, or His HOLY Spirit, or make common our holy God, by letting the world transform and conform us. May He and His Word be set apart in our hearts as the source of all our wisdom, values, choices, priorities, etc. May the world see us and note we are a people set apart, different, conforming to and being led by something not of this world . . . and may it lead them to see and glorify the One who sets us apart and who we choose to be set apart for.
1 Peter 1:14-16   As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (ESV)

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