Leviticus 11:45 (ESV) – 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
Holiness. If you haven’t guessed by now, that is theme of pretty much every reading during this Lenten series, and it’s kind of a tough concept. The first time I remembering hearing the word “holy,” I will shamefully admit, was during the 1970s Batman TV series… it was common during this series for Robin to make a “Holy Smokes!” exclamation when coming to some special realization… in fact, there is an entire website devoted to cataloguing these exclamations. Not super-spiritual, but that was the first time I remember hearing the word, and it didn’t mean a lot to me except that it indicated an “aha!” moment in the episode.
In a strange way that makes sense even in the biblical usage. Yes, that may border on blaspheme, but hear me out. In Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God is consistently calling the Israelites to holiness – to be fundamentally different and set apart from the surrounding nations. Often they failed and desired to be just like everyone else, and yet God still called them to this role. But he didn’t call them to that without reason… he gave them a constant reminder of their historical “aha” moment. It was the moment he rescued them from slavery. The idea was that God had already set them apart from the nations by choosing them to be his people. He had demonstrated his saving grace and care and strengthened them for each task along the way. It was as though God was calling them to live into the identity he had already given them. “Be holy, because I have already made you holy by rescuing you.”
“Holy Saving God, Batman! We have a divine purpose!”
When Peter takes up this phraseology in the New Testament, it is with a similar “aha” moment in mind. In the last post, I talked about 1 Peter 1:13-16, but here the singular important event is not the Exodus but the cross. We are forgiven and made holy, because of what Jesus did at Calvary, so Peter is calling us to live into that reality.
So often we do the same thing as the Israelites though… instead of being grateful for the way God has saved us and living like it, we want to be like everyone else. But, think about this… if someone saved your life, wouldn’t that fundamentally change you? Wouldn’t you want to live differently? I think we don’t want to live like we are saved, because maybe we don’t believe we are… or at least we haven’t wrestled with the weight of that knowledge.
The focus on holiness during Lent forces us to do that, and for myself, I have been. I pray you have too.