Reading: Exodus 19, Mark 9
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured people. Exodus 19:5
This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him. Mark 9:7
The Lord is very very gracious. He made a promise to the children of Israel, “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will indeed be my treasured possession among all the people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Ex 19:5 & 6.
“All the people answered together, ‘whatever the Lord has spoken we will do’” Ex 19:8.
The Lord knows what we are made of. “He knows our frame. He remembers we are but dust.” Psalm 103: 14. But we should be, we could be much better than we are. When He tells us to do something, the things He tells us to do are doable. But, we all need help. If something is not made dramatically real, we’re quick to forget its reality and thus its consequences.
So, out of great kindness, the Lord gave the Israelites a small display of His holiness. Thunders and lightnings and a very loud trumpet blast terrified the people. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke as the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.” Ex 19: 18.
After this manifestation, the Lord gave His ten commandments which are the specifics of what was required of the Israelites to keep their end of the bargain with God.
Holiness is hard to define. It can only be understood through experiencing it. But a few aspects of holiness are cleanness, separateness, soberness, preciseness and consecration.
One of the primary reason we Believers meet as a church is to experience God in His holiness. Our communion service seems a particularly holy service. We prepare ourselves for the meeting by confessing and thus cleansing ourselves. It is a very separate meeting from any of our other life events. (Outsiders find it particularly odd.) It tends to be a patterned and a sober meeting.
Jesus gave three of his disciples a display of His holiness on the Mount of Transfiguration. “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.” With Jesus were Elijah and Moses. The disciples were very pleased. “It is good that we are here,” said Peter. He suggested they memorialize the event with three tents for the three holy men. But the Father would have nothing of it and a voice came out of heaven. “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!” Instantly the whole scene was gone.
When I was in college, with some friends I attended a high Episcopal Church for a short while. I loved the seeming holiness of the meeting. Every aspect of their church meeting was precise and sober. The Scriptures were read with the majesty of their meaning. The personality of the officiating priest was hidden as he recited from the ancient Common Book of Prayer. His sermons were intentionally not original but were from the Anglican masters. Each person in the congregation knew when to stand and kneel and what words to use when called to respond.
Everyone took the same pew each week. Sharing our pew were always three men in black suits with black hair slicked back. These three men always slipped away the moment the service was over, but we imagined them to be Chicagoland gangsters. Regardless, no one in the congregation was interested in communicating with us college kids, and the pastor smiled at us aloofly as we told him know how much we enjoyed the services. From our youthful perspectives, it was a holy church but without any fellowship.
Holiness is all about God. God is holy. He cannot be other than holy. As believers, our great desire is to one day be in glory and see the Lord in the beauty of His holiness.
But I think the reason God shows His holiness to us here on this earth is to help us to be His special covenant people—the ones who are careful to listen to His voice so as to be obedient. Experiencing His holiness is to aid us to be obedient. And obedience is all about being in relationship with a loving and Holy God, and being in relationship with His covenant people.
Question: What do you think?