What does it mean to be holy? Is only God holy? What about the Holy Land? And church sanctuaries?
Recently I read an interesting article about temples, how God’s presence filled the wilderness tabernacle and later Solomon’s temple (see Ex. 40:34-38 and 1 Kings 8:10, 11). These holy places of the children of Israel became icons of national pride. When the first temple was destroyed and later a second built, there is no mention of God’s glory filling it (Ezra 6:15, 16). The suggestion was made that perhaps the lack of God’s filling presence was somewhat of an embarrassment to the Jewish people and might have contributed to the Pharisees being so zealous for rules and rituals in an attempt to appease and invite God to again fill the temple.
This, of course, was the temple where God Incarnate worshipped. In a very real and tangible way, God’s presence through Christ filled this second temple in Jerusalem, even as most of the church hierarchy was unaware and often antagonistic of that very ubiety.
After Christ’s ascension God’s presence came again, this time falling and filling, not a temple, but human beings (Acts 2:1-4). The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost ushered in a new era of God’s presence in the lives of individuals, a temple set up in every location where a Spirit-filled life walks or resides. Paul asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19).
Obviously, God is holy (Ps. 99:5 and many other references). But from Genesis (2:3) to Revelation (4:8), God is in the process of making things holy – by His presence or by setting apart. The Sabbath is holy, the Israelites were holy (Ex. 19:6), Aaron’s garments were holy (Ex. 28:2), there was holy fruit (Lev. 19:24), holy meetings (Lev. 23:36), holy animals (Lev. 27:9).
We were created in the image of Almighty God…in His very image! He is holy and holiness is in our DNA. We are not holy because we try really hard or because we don’t do this or that. We are holy because of Who fathered us, Who thought about and knew us before forming us in the womb (Jer. 1:5). Our holiness is because of God’s presence in our life and body through the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Savior. Our holiness is in our very genetics because He chose us from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
We have a hard time embracing our holiness. We judge this action or that thought and it doesn’t measure up to some standard we were handed so we doubt the intrinsic value and wholeness of our creation. Or we grasp onto pride, which is just another form of self-judgment, and believe we are something greater than who we were created (Is. 14:14).
In David’s wilderness story (1 Sam. 24) “we see a young man hated and hunted like an animal, his very humanity profaned, forced to decide between a life of blasphemy and a life of prayer – and choosing prayer. In choosing prayer he entered into the practice of holiness. A very earthy holiness it was, but holiness all the same.
“I’m nervous about using the words holy and holiness – nervous because the words have picked up some bad associations and I don’t want to be misunderstood. Holy in our common usage often means ‘too good for this world’ or ‘too nice to associate with someone like me.’ But those understandings are far off the mark. Still, there’s no other word strong enough to mark what emerges in David in the wilderness years. What happens is that no matter what else David is doing, he’s basically dealing with God; and the more he deals with God, the more human he becomes – the more he becomes ‘David.’ Holy is our best word to describe that life – the human aliveness that comes from dealing with God-Alive. We’re most human when we deal with God. Any other way of life leaves us less human, less ourselves.”
(Leap Over A Wall, Eugene Peterson)
I can’t imagine what it would look like if we believed in our holiness, if we claimed our heritage and inheritance. Sometimes holiness looks kind of messy, like the children of Israel or David, sometimes it’s lofty and spine-tingling like Mount Sinai. But holiness permeates our existence – from food and clothing, to church sanctuaries and desert hideouts.
I pray for healed eyes and ears to see and hear Him, to experience holiness – both in myself and in what surrounds me.
I’m praying the same for you.
Ann Halim, editor
Reprinted with permission from College View Church eWeekend