Holy to the Lord

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.                                                                                                                       Ephesians 1:4 NLT

What is God’s goal for human life? It is holiness and completion. That is what Ephesians 1:4 tells us, and that is in confirmation of Genesis 17:1, where God says to Abram, “Walk before me and be complete.”* But it is interesting to see how that thought is developed in the Bible.

It really starts with the revelation to Moses that God is so holy that the very dirt where he appears is holy (Exodus 3:5; confirmed again to Joshua in Joshua 5:15). It then is fleshed out in Exodus 19:5-6, where God says Israel will be a holy nation.  The point here is that whatever belongs to God takes on his exclusive character. That is emphasized by the gold medallion on the front of the High Priest’s turban on which was inscribed “Holy to the Lord” (Ex 28:36).

This is a key point. Holy does not mean “set apart,” with no ethical implications, as you sometimes hear said. Holy means partaking of the character of what you have been dedicated to. And for Yahweh that character is good, true, right, just, pure, and unfailing love. That is God’s goal for all of us, not just the priests. You get the clue to that at the end of the Old Testament. Zechariah tells us that in the last day, even the cooking pots will be holy, and the horses’ harness bells will be inscribed with “Holy to the Lord.” Joel 3:17 says that “my holy mountain Jerusalem will be holy forever.” Yahweh means for everything and and especially everybody to be his alone, sharing his character.

This thought is sealed by the very last words in the Bible, Revelation 22:21: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the holy people.” (See NLT and NRSV). That’s the goal. God wants us to be like him; he wants us to share his character. He began in the most general and representative ways and brought it down to all people through his gracious provision in Jesus.

*The typical modern translation of the Greek and Hebrew words for “wholeness” or “completion” is “blameless.” But this might give the impression that while something is quite defective it is still considered to be without blame. That impression is quite false.

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