I wonder what your concept of holiness is. As a little girl, going to Sunday School with my friend, I was greatly impressed by an elderly couple who always went to church early so they could sit in the church and pray. My friend and I concluded that they must be very ‘holy’ people. I remember that there was a stone archway at the front of that church with these words painted on it, ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’. But I left the Sunday school at the age of ten and didn’t go to church at all until the age of thirty, when Jesus came into my life. So, I didn’t think much about holiness in those twenty years.
I’ve just been reading in the book of Exodus about the construction of the tabernacle, which God chose to be the place for meeting with His people. After all the master craftsmen had finished the work, the time came to anoint the tabernacle for its purpose. ‘Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy’ (Exodus 40:9).
The next step was to anoint Aaron. ‘Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest’ (Exodus 40:12-13). Both Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated to be able to serve the Lord as priests.
Moses obediently carried out all the instructions God gave him and finished the work. Moses did what he was told to do, and God came in a powerful way. ‘Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’ (Exodus 40:34). It was now a holy place. God was there. The people saw a visible sign of God’s presence. It was seen as a cloud on the tabernacle by day and a fire by night. If the cloud or the fire moved, they were to break camp and move on to another place.
At the same as reading about the tabernacle in Exodus, I was reading the second letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 6. Paul was reminding the new believers in Jesus about God’s promises to His people. ‘For we are the temple of the living God; as God has said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”’ (2 Corinthians 6:16). The context of this verse is that Paul is warning them not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, to have any partnership with lawlessness, any accord with Belial, share any portion with an unbeliever or have any agreement with idols. There had to be a separation between them and unbelievers as they made a decision to touch no unclean thing. God’s promise to them is that He would welcome them and be a father to them. They would be sons and daughters to Him.
The promise God gives is that He will draw near to His people, but there is always the problem of any uncleanness in us. This will directly conflict with the holiness of God’s presence. The people of God must cleanse themselves from anything that is wrong in God’s eyes. Paul exhorts them, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
I believe being holy is wanting to draw near to God and wanting be conscious of the presence of His Holy Spirit. We do have to live in the world with all its uncleanness all around us, but we have the power of choosing to ‘worship the lord in the beauty of holiness’. It’s like a little taste of heaven whenever we join together in praise and worship, and God is wanting to meet with us in that place. When I lived in Japan, the new believers there said that the anointed praise and worship songs that we sang together on Sunday strengthened them throughout the entire week as they lived in a world that was spiritually dark and oppressive, full of idolatry and worship of gods of wood and stone.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, we thank You for Your promises to be with us and that Your Son, Jesus, said He would never leave us or forsake us. Help us to remember to consciously and intentionally set ourselves apart for You. May we deal with anything that gets in the way of close fellowship with You. May we be open to hear Your voice speaking to us and to be ready to obey Your instructions to us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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