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Just a little more than three weeks ago, we set aside a week of our lives to obey the commandment of God by reenacting the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. With the spiritual metaphor of sin, the leaven we put out of our homes and out of our lives for seven days was a major adjustment. The vast majority of the world around us didn't go to the trouble of reorienting their lives; they just went on with normal daily routines. By willingly obeying God's instructions, we set ourselves apart from most of the world. We were different.

If you were to ask average people on the street what they thought the word "holy" means, they would probably respond by saying that "holy" has to do with things about God or things about the church or things about old time prophets who lived thousands of years ago. Most people's perceptions about holiness don't really have anything to do with day-to-day conduct in our modern lives; but is that really the way it should be?

We often use words and expressions without really knowing their meanings but we need to be accountable for the words we use and we need to be knowledgeable about the language we hear. Do you know what the word "holy" really means? We may hear it used a lot in common expressions but do you really know what it means? When the word "holy" is attached to another word, does it make it special or does it change its meaning? How does God look at holiness and what standards has God established for the term "holy"? What examples are set for us in scripture that can help us learn more about God's point of view on this subject?


The first occurrence in the Bible of the word "holy" is found in the third chapter of Exodus.

(Exo 3:5 NASB) Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

The word "holy" is translated from three Hebrew words. The first, as used in Exodus 3:5, is qodesh. It's Strong's #6944 and it's defined it as "a sacred place or thing." The New American Standard Concordance defines qodesh as "apartness, sacredness." Vine's Expository Dictionary defines qodesh as "holiness; holy thing; sanctuary." Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines qodesh as "apartness, holiness, sacredness, or separateness."

In Exodus 19:5-6, we find the second Hebrew word translated "holy."

(Exo 19:5-6 NASB) 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; {6} and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

It is the Hebrew word, qadosh. It's Strong's #6918, and it's defined as "sacred (ceremonially or morally)." The New American Standard Concordance defines qadosh as "sacred or holy." Vine's Expository Dictionary defines qadosh as "holy" and goes on to say "in the Old Testament qadosh has a strongly religious connotation. In one sense the word describes an object or place or day to be "holy" with the meaning of "devoted" or "dedicated" to a particular purpose." Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines qadosh as "sacred, holy, the Holy One, a saint or set apart."

In Exodus 20:8, we find the third Hebrew word translated "holy." Exodus 20:8 is the fourth commandment in the great law of God, commonly known as the ten commandments.

(Exo 20:8 NASB) "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

It is the Hebrew word, qadash, Strong's #6942. Strong's Hebrew Dictionary defines qadash as "to be clean (ceremonially or morally)." The New American Standard Concordance defines qadash as "to be set apart or consecrated." Vine's Expository Dictionary defines qadash as "to be holy; to sanctify." Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines qadash as "to consecrate, to sanctify, to prepare, to dedicate, to be hallowed, to be holy, to be sanctified, to be separate."

A little earlier in verse ten of Exodus 19, we can see how the word qadash was put into action.

(Exo 19:10-12 NASB) The LORD also said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; {11} and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. {12} "And you shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.

The word translated consecrate (it's sanctify in the King James version) is qadash. So, you can see that the people were to separate or set themselves apart and they were to make a distinction between themselves and the mountain that would be made holy by the presence of God on the day he delivered his great law to his people, Israel.

In the New Testament, we find that the word translated "holy" from the Greek more often than any other is Strong's #40, hagios. It is defined as "hagios from hagos (an awful thing) [hagios is] sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religiously consecrated)." In the New American Standard Concordance, it is defined as "hagios, from hagos (religious awe); [hagios is] sacred or holy.

In Vine's Expository Dictionary, it is defined as akin to hagiasmos (Strong's #38) which signifies separation to God and hagiosune (Strong's #42) which denotes the manifestation of the quality of "holiness" in personal conduct. Both words are from the same root (found in hazo, "to venerate"). They fundamentally signify "separated" and, hence, in Scripture, separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God."

Under the article "holiness" in the New Unger's Bible Dictionary, we find the following: "Holiness (Hebrew qodesh and Greek hagiosune; in both cases "separation," or "setting apart"). Holiness is a general term used to indicate sanctity or separation from all that is sinful, impure, or morally imperfect; i.e. it is moral wholeness. The term is used with reference to persons, places, and things. Holiness is one of the essential attributes of the divine nature. It is, on the one hand, entire freedom from moral evil and, on the other, absolute moral perfection."

The Source of Holiness

Since the Father is the source and author of all things (including holiness), let's first see what scripture has to say about holiness in relation to God. Exodus 15 relates the great Song of Moses which was sung as praise to God by Moses and the Israelites after God saved Israel from the pursuing army of Pharaoh.

(Exo 15:1 NASB) Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said, "I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.

Continue in verse 11.

(Exo 15:11-13 NASB) "Who is like Thee among the gods, O LORD? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? {12} "Thou didst stretch out Thy right hand, The earth swallowed them. {13} "In Thy lovingkindness Thou hast led the people whom Thou hast redeemed; In Thy strength Thou hast guided them to Thy holy habitation.

In verse 11, the word translated "holiness" and in verse 13, the word translated "holy" are both the same word, qodesh, which is "apartness or sacredness." We see here, in both cases, that both God and His habitation are referred to as something sacred or set apart.

In 1 Samuel 2, we read of Hannah's praise to God and description of God's majesty. To capture the whole background leading to Hannah's praise to God, we should begin in 1 Samuel 1:1.

(1 Sam 1:1 NASB) Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. {2} And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. {3} Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh [remember that Shiloh was where the tabernacle of God resided after the Israelites had arrived in the promised land and before David had it brought to Jerusalem centuries later]. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were priests to the LORD there. {4} And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; {5} but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had closed her womb. {6} Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. {7} And it happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she would provoke her, so she wept and would not eat. {8} Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?" {9} Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. {10} And she, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. {11} And she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thy maidservant and remember me, and not forget Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head." {12} Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth. {13} As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. {14} Then Eli said to her, "How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you." {15} But Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. {16} "Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman; for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." {17} Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him." {18} And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. {19} Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. {20} And it came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel [in Hebrew, it is Shemuw'el, which means heard of God], saying, "Because I have asked him of the LORD." {21} Then the man Elkanah went up with all his household to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. {22} But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, "I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD and stay there forever." {23} And Elkanah her husband said to her, "Do what seems best to you. Remain until you have weaned him; only may the LORD confirm His word." So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. {24} Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh, although the child was young. {25} Then they slaughtered the bull, and brought the boy to Eli. {26} And she said, "Oh, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the LORD. {27} "For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. {28} "So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD." And he worshiped the LORD there.

Continuing in the second chapter of 1 Samuel, we read of Hannah's thanks and praise to God.

(1 Sam 2:1-2 NASB) Then Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Thy salvation. {2} "There is no one holy like the LORD [that's qadosh — sacred], Indeed, there is no one besides Thee, nor is there any rock like our God.

Other examples of God's sacred eminence are shown by the word qadosh in the Psalms. The first is in Psalms 71:22.

(Psa 71:22 NASB) I will also praise Thee with a harp, Even Thy truth, O my God; To Thee I will sing praises with the lyre, O Thou Holy One of Israel.

Another example is in Pslams 99:9.

(Psa 99:9 NASB) Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His holy hill [that is qodesh — set apart]; For holy [that's qadosh — sacred] is the LORD our God.

Another example is in Psalms 111:9.

(Psa 111:9 NASB) He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy [that's qadosh, meaning sacred] and awesome is His name.

Earlier, we spoke of the Greek words hagios and hagiosune. We see another Greek word translated "holy" in Revelation 15:4. It is Strong's #3741, hosios. Strong's Greek Dictionary defines it as "properly right (by intrinsic or divine character), i.e. hallowed (pious, sacred, sure)." The New American Standard Concordance defines hosios as "righteous, pious, or holy." Vine's Expository Dictionary defines hosios as "signifying religiously right, or holy, as opposed to what is unrighteous or polluted. It is commonly associated with righteousness."

(Rev 15:4 NASB) "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE THEE, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed."

The New Unger's Bible Dictionary sums up the holiness of God by saying, "By the holiness of God, it is not implied that He is subject to some law or standard of moral excellence external to Himself, but that all moral law and perfection have their eternal and unchangeable basis in His own nature. He is the One in whom these eternal sanctities reside, who is Himself the root and ground of them all."

The Righteous Angels

Holiness can also refer to God's creation, such as the un-fallen angels as in Mark 8:38.

(Mark 8:38 NASB) "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

Again we see the angels referred to as "holy" in Revelation 14.

(Rev 14:9-10 NASB) And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, {10} he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Satan and the Demons

We find in Ezekiel 28 that even Satan, in his former state before his rebellion against God, was referred to as "perfect" and "blameless" and placed by God on the holy mountain of God.

(Ezek 28:12-19 NASB) "Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. {13} "You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared. {14} "You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. {15} "You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created, Until unrighteousness was found in you. {16} "By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire. {17} "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you. {18} "By the multitude of your iniquities, In the unrighteousness of your trade, You profaned your sanctuaries. Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; It has consumed you, And I have turned you to ashes on the earth In the eyes of all who see you. {19} "All who know you among the peoples Are appalled at you; You have become terrified, And you will be no more."'"

Jude 1:6 shows us that Satan wasn't the only one to have fallen from perfection. He took many of the angels with him.

(Jude 1:6 NASB) And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.

Those angels, now known as demons, followed Satan in his course of rebellion against God. They chose to develop the same character as Satan. In Ephesians 6:12, we read of that evil nature of Satan and his demons being the real unseen power of the universe against which we struggle every day.

(Eph 6:12 NASB) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

In John 8:44, Christ gives a firsthand report of Satan's characteristics.

(John 8:44 NASB) "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.

It's obvious when Christ is speaking of Satan being a murderer "from the beginning," he is not speaking of that beginning as the beginning of all time. We know from what we read in Ezekiel that Satan was a created being and that he was created by God in a state of perfection or blamelessness. Ezekiel said, "you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you." So, there was some period of time (perhaps millions or even billions of years from our perspective) from the time Satan was created by God until Satan was found to have developed unrighteousness. However long that process took, we heard directly from Christ that Satan "was a murderer from the beginning." So, at some time called "the beginning," Satan had already chosen unrighteousness and was deemed to be "a murderer."

We know from David's writings in Psalms 119 that unrighteousness is equated with the violation of God's commandments.

(Psa 119:172 NASB) Let my tongue sing of Thy word, For all Thy commandments are righteousness.

One of God's commandments is the sixth commandment, "you shall not murder." We just saw that Satan was deemed by Christ to have been "a murderer" from "the beginning." Even though Satan was created in a state of perfection or blamelessness, by the time of the creation of man, he had sinned against God in rebellion by breaking His commandments of righteousness. When man was created, Satan became a murderer by teaching man to likewise sin in rebellion against God by breaking His commandments of righteousness. The lessons learned from Satan resulted in man's death sentence.

Unacceptable Worldly Behavior

There are two types of behavior. One is holy and acceptable to God. The other, called the "ways of this world" is unacceptable to God. Romans 1:18 tells us how God regards worldly behavior.

(Rom 1:18-32 NASB) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, {19} because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. {20} For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. {21} For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. {22} Professing to be wise, they became fools, {23} and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. {24} Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. {25} For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. {26} For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, {27} and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. {28} And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, {29} being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, {30} slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, {31} without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; {32} and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

In Leviticus 18, when God brought the Israelites into the promised land, He made a distinction to them regarding unacceptable behavior. They were not to behave like the ungodly heathen in the lands from which they had come nor were they to behave like the ungodly heathen in the new lands in which they were settling.

(Lev 18:1 NASB) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, {2} "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'I am the LORD your God. {3} 'You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. {4} 'You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God. {5} 'So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD. {6} 'None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD. {7} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness. {8} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. {9} 'The nakedness of your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover. {10} 'The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours. {11} 'The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, born to your father, she is your sister, you shall not uncover her nakedness. {12} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's blood relative. {13} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's blood relative. {14} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother; you shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt. {15} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. {16} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness. {17} 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, nor shall you take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; they are blood relatives. It is lewdness. {18} 'And you shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness. {19} 'Also you shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness during her menstrual impurity. {20} 'And you shall not have intercourse with your neighbor's wife, to be defiled with her. {21} 'Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. {22} 'You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. {23} 'Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. {24} 'Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. {25} 'For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. {26} 'But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you {27} (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); {28} so that the land may not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. {29} 'For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. {30} 'Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.'"

Set-Apart Rest

God is our righteous, holy Creator. His conduct is to be our standard of conduct.

Do we venerate and hold as holy what God says is holy? Our lives are made up of time and we are to be judged by what we do with our time. Do we properly treat God's Sabbaths as "qodesh shabat" or "set-apart rest" or do we treat them as just another day of the week and scurry about our daily duties, even if not our daily jobs?

In Isaiah 58:1, notice what God has to say about treating His Sabbaths as common, ordinary days.

(Isa 58:1-14 NASB) "Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression, And to the house of Jacob their sins. {2} "Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness, And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. {3} 'Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou dost not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. {4} "Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. {5} "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed, And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? {6} "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? {7} "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? {8} "Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. {9} "Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, {10} And if you give yourself to the hungry, And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday. {11} "And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. {12} "And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. {13} "If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word, {14} Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

The Preparation Day

Do we properly use the Preparation Day? In Exodus 16:22, God instructed the Israelites in the wilderness about the manner of conduct pleasing to him. The Preparation Day is a tool made available to us to properly prepare for God's "set-apart rest."

(Exo 16:22-23 NASB) Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, {23} then he said to them, "This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning."

Do we follow what Nehemiah did on the Sabbath day in Nehemiah 13? God wrote down for our instruction the example set for us about proper conduct on the Sabbaths in Nehemiah 13:15.

(Neh 13:15-22 NASB) In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. {16} Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem. {17} Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? {18} "Did not your fathers do the same so that our God brought on us, and on this city, all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath." {19} And it came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates that no load should enter on the sabbath day. {20} Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem. {21} Then I warned them and said to them, "Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will use force against you." From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. {22} And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day. For this also remember me, O my God, and have compassion on me according to the greatness of Thy lovingkindness.

God is our righteous, holy Creator. In Leviticus 11:44, he sets himself apart as the standard of holy conduct to which we are to strive. His conduct is to be our standard of conduct.

(Lev 11:44-45 NASB) '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. {45} '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.'"

Again, we read of God setting himself as the standard of holiness in Leviticus 19:2. This time, however, he further defines that holiness by incorporating His commandments into the definition.

(Lev 19:2-18 NASB) "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. {3} 'Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father [that's the fifth commandment], and you shall keep My sabbaths [that's the fourth commandment]; I am the LORD your God. {4} 'Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods [that's the first and the second commandment]; I am the LORD your God.

Now continue in verse eleven:

(Lev 19:11 NASB) 'You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another [that's the eighth and the ninth commandment]. {12} 'And you shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God [that's the third commandment]; I am the LORD. {13} 'You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him [that's the eighth commandment again]. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. {14} 'You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. {15} 'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. {16} 'You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people [that's the ninth commandment again], and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor [that's the sixth commandment]; I am the LORD. {17} 'You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. {18} 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself [that's the second of the two great commandments cited by Christ]; I am the LORD.

In Leviticus 20:26, we see God link his own standard of holy, righteous behavior with the definition of the word holy we learned earlier.

(Lev 20:26 NASB) 'Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.

In Matt 5:48, Christ reiterates the concept.

(Mat 5:48 NASB) "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus didn't say, "be perfect as I am perfect." One of the reasons Christ came to earth was to honor and reveal the Father to humans. It's clear that the standard of holy, righteous conduct is God, the Father. We are commanded to strive for that same standard of conduct.

What did Jesus say was that sure standard of holy, righteous conduct? In Matt 19:17 we find Christ's answer to the man who asked him the question.

(Mat 19:17-19 NASB) And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." {18} He said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; {19} HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

Again, Christ was asked about the standard set forth in God's commandments in Mark 12:28.

(Mark 12:28-31 NASB) And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" {29} Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; {30} AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' {31} "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

What we just read was the great Shema. It was Christ's answer to the question of the foremost or greatest commandment. "Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ehad." In Deuteronomy 6:4, we can read the complete text from which Jesus quoted.

(Deu 6:4-9 NASB) "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! {5} "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. {6} "And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; {7} and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. {8} "And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. {9} "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

How often do we do that? Do we daily recite to each other what Christ called "the foremost of all commandments? Do we teach them to our children every day or are the commandments just something to be discussed on the Sabbath? We need to make more of an effort to obey this greatest of all commandments on a daily basis. God the Father is one God. God is not two persons or three or a dozen. God is one. He is not "three in one" (like 3-in-One oil). He is one God: our Father and God Most High. He is without equal.

Eternal Life

We have seen that Jesus gave a direct answer to a direct question about what conduct of behavior is required for eternal life. Is commandment keeping, though, an end in itself? Ephesians 2:8 shows us that it's not.

(Eph 2:8-10 NASB) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; {9} not as a result of works, that no one should boast. {10} For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are saved by the gift of God, which is grace or forgiveness of sins through faith. That does not, however, negate our commanded duty to continue to walk in good works as we can read in James 2:1.

(James 2:1-24 NASB) My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. {2} For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, {3} and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," {4} have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? {5} Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? {6} But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? {7} Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? {8} If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. {9} But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. {10} For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. {11} For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. {12} So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. {13} For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. {14} What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? {15} If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, {16} and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? {17} Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. {18} But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." {19} You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. {20} But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? {21} Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? {22} You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; {23} and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. {24} You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

1 Pet 1:14 sums up our duty to God.

(1 Pet 1:14-19 NASB) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, {15} but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; {16} because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." {17} And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; {18} knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, {19} but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

Now, that is true holiness.

Sermon by Philip Edwards
April 28, 2007
Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards

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