Holiness

What is holiness?

In Isaiah chapter 6, the angels declare that the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the LORD of hosts, is "Holy, Holy, Holy". This is a poetic way of saying He is most Holy.

 

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So what is holiness and how is G-d most Holy?

At its essence, holiness is the "specialness" or "uniqueness" of something.

To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is G-d; there is no other besides Him. (Deuteronomy 4:35)

Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is G-d in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:39)

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our G-d, the LORD is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no G-d.  (Isaiah 45:5)

These verses testify to the uniqueness of G-d. He is a singularly unique individual and "there is no other" like Him.  It is in this singular uniqueness that G-d is not just Holy but most Holy.  He is intrinsically Holy because of who He is.

 

What about everyone and everything else?

The opposite of "holy" is not "bad" or "immoral".  The true opposite of "holy" is "common".  A spoon in your kitchen is "common": it is used for every-day purposes.  It isn't evil or wicked; it's just ordinary.  A spoon that is only used for Thanksgiving dinner, however, could be considered holy [special] for Thanksgiving.  It has been taken out of its ordinary status and made to be special.

People or things that are holy [special] in G-d's eyes are often described as "holy to the LORD" (e.g. Exodus 28:36, Numbers 6:8, 2 Chronicles 35:3, Nehemiah 8:9, Luke 2:23, etc).

Everything (except G-d) starts out as "common" until G-d (or someone else at His instruction) makes it "holy". The act of changing something from "common" to "holy to the LORD" is called sanctification.  Here's the very first example of sanctification found in the Bible:

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3)

G-d took the seventh day of the week and changed it from common to holy.  Sometimes this is called being "set apart" (e.g. Deuteronomy 10:8, Nehemiah 12:47, Romans 1:1) "consecrated", or "sanctified"... but it essentially just means "made holy".

 

So whenever you see "holy" think "this is something or someone special, unique, or set apart from the ordinary."

 

Holy Ones

Who are the holy ones?

The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning for them. (Deuteronomy 33:2)

The heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. (Psalm 89:5)

You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! (Zechariah 14:5)

 

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Who are these "holy ones"?

In some verses "holy ones" refers to angels and in other places it refers to people who are "set apart" to the LORD.

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  The Hebrew word for "holy" is קָדוֹשׁ [qadosh] and the Hebrew word translated into English as "holy ones" is קְדֹשִֽׁים [qedoshim].

Scripture tells us:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."  (1 Peter 1:14-16)

We are exhorted to "be holy" [special or set apart to G-d] in "all your behavior". 

Why?

Peter says we should be holy because "it is written, YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY".  He isn't shouting at us.  All capital letters like that tell us this is a quote from elsewhere in the Bible. 

So where is that written?

These words are only found in three places in the entire Bible: Exodus chapter 22, Leviticus chapter 11, and Leviticus chapter 19. 

Peter is connecting "being holy" in "all our behavior" with these passages from Scripture!

 

Exodus chapter 22

Here G-d provides examples of how to render proper judgement in civil and criminal court cases.  For example:

If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.  (Exodus 22:2)

He also provides instructions for proper behavior to those in authority:

You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.  (Exodus 22:28)

The chapter concludes with this:

 "You shall be holy men to Me, there you shall not eat any flesh torn to pieces in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs."  (Exodus 22:31)

Peter says we can "be holy" in "all our behavior" by following G-d's instruction found in these passages of Scripture.

 

Leviticus chapter 11

Here G-d delivers instruction regarding things that are and are not suitable for food.  For example:

Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you.  (Leviticus 11:3-4)

and  

Now every swarming thing that swarms on the earth is detestable, not to be eaten. Whatever crawls on its belly, and whatever walks on all fours, whatever has many feet, in respect to every swarming thing that swarms on the earth, you shall not eat them, for they are detestable.  (Leviticus 11:41-42)

The chapter concludes with this:

For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.  For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy. This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.  (Leviticus 11:44-47)

 

Peter says we can "be holy" in "all our behavior" by following G-d's instruction found in these passages of Scripture.

 

Leviticus chapter 19

Here G-d tells us more about living in a manner that is "set apart" to Him.  The chapter begins:

Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.'  (Leviticus 19:2)

Some examples of holy living from the chapter:

Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God.  (Leviticus 19:3)

Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.  (Leviticus 19:4)

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.  (Leviticus 19:18)

The chapter ends with this:

You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah [measure for grain], and a just hin [measure for liquids]; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the LORD.  (Leviticus 19:35-37)

Peter says we can "be holy" in "all our behavior" by following G-d's instruction found in these passages of Scripture.

 

If we are to be the "holy ones", the qedoshim, in our generation then we should begin by seeking the ways of the One Who has called us to "be holy in all our behavior".

The Psalm 119 Foundation stands ready to assist anyone who seeks such a life.

 

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