"The Meat of the Word" Series
"Be Holy, For I Am Holy"
The Call to Make Righteous Separations
By David M Rogers
Published: October 2010
Table of Contents
The biblical word holy has been largely misunderstood by the community of faith. Though people of The Book are zealous to be holy, the way holiness has been taught in many Bible preaching institutions has left most of us still a little bewildered about what is actually means to be holy. This is in part due to the fact that the word holy is an abstract term. It is sometimes difficult to get our minds around the meaning of abstract terminology. So, we're left with this vague idea that holy means to be "like God."
The Scriptures talk much about holy things and holiness. We're told that God is holy; that we are called to be holy; that the Sabbath is holy; that the priests are to be holy; and a great many more things are said to be holy. But what exactly does this mean? In layman's terms, please! In practical terms that I can put my hands around.
The Hebrew concept of this word which is translated holy is not an abstract term. It is a concrete expression, easy to grasp and understand. It is our goal in this article to come to understand the meaning of the terms holy and holiness in the Scriptures and to then apply this practical understanding to every area where we are told to be holy.
The standard English dictionaries only perpetuate the vagueness of the meaning of the word holy. Dictionary.com, for example, lists the following definitions and "meanings" of the word holy:
Did you get all that? Does it makes sense now? Why, of course. To be holy means to be declared sacred by religious use or authority, or to be devoted to the work of God. Yea, but what does that mean?
I don't know about you, but I'm still left a little confused about the meaning of holy as described by the English dictionaries. Sacred and consecrated are more of those abstract, intangible terms that still leave us all foggy-headed and without a clear grasp of the meaning of holy. Telling us that its related to "religious use or authority" really doesn't help much either. We already know that holy is related to our religious walk of faith. But what exactly does it mean? Give it to me in terms I can get my mind around. The English dictionaries tap dance around the word but never really tell us the root meaning behind the word.
We must look back at the Hebrew language to bring the terminology in question to a place where we can get our minds around it. It is here that we find the root meaning of holy: Our word comes from the Hebrew root vdq (pronounced kădăsh), which the Brown, Driver, Briggs Lexicon (BDB) says comes from the "poss. orig. idea of separation, withdrawal." BDB goes on to further describe our word:
vd;Q'vb. denom. be set apart, consecrated
vd,qon. m. apartness, sacredness
vAdq'adj. sacred, holy; separate from human infirmity, impurity, and sin
Now we are getting somewhere. The word has the core meaning of "to be set apart, apartness, separate."
Let's check another reliable source. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says
vd,qo(qodesh) apartness, holiness, sacredness.
And TWOT goes on to describe our word this way:
The meaning "to separate" is favored by many scholars, but the fact that qdsh rarely, if ever, occurs in a secular sense makes any positive conclusion in this regard difficult because of the limited evidence on which to base philological comparison.
Separate is exactly what our word conveys. TWOT then goes on to say the following:
In the Qal the verb q¹dash is used most frequently to describe the state of consecration effected by Levitical ritual. In Exo 29:21, 37; Exo 30:29 certain articles used in the Levitical service were consecrated to God and were thus recognized as belonging to the realm of the sacred. Transmission of the state of holiness to anything that touched a person or object so consecrated (Exo 29:37; Exo 30:29; Lev 6:18 [H 11], 27 [H 20]) does not necessarily imply that a transferable divine energy exists in the "holy." Rather, it seems that the person or object entered the state of holiness in the sense of becoming subject to cultic restrictions, as were other holy persons or objects, in order to avoid diffusion of the sacred and the profane....
The "state of consecration" is further described as "in the sense of becoming subject to cultic restrictions...in order to avoid diffusion of the sacred and the profane." In other words, holy (Heb kadash) means to be separating oneself in some particular way to avoid mixing the things belonging to Elohim with that which is commonly done among men (profane). Holy means that we don't do the things that unbelievers do, and we don't talk, walk, dress or worship in the way that is common among people. We are to do everything according to the instruction which Elohim gives us in his Word.
According to Dictionary.com, consecrate means "to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity" or "to devote or dedicate to some purpose." This agrees with our new understanding of holy. Holy and consecrate have the same meaning: to set-apart, separate, devote.
To simplify and summarize: the noun holy should be understood as "something which is separate or set-apart (devoted) for a specific purpose." The verb to make holy or to be holy means "to separate something for a particular purpose," and the adjective holy is something that has been set apart or separated for a particular purpose. The practical, tangible concept of separation is at the core of the Hebrew word holy.
Now that we have a basic understanding that the core meaning of holy means to be separated, we can apply this meaning to the texts of the Tanak (Old Testament). Here, we are told of many things that are holy. And we can see from these Hebrew Scriptures that Elohim requires us to make separations in our living that please him. It would be wrong to remain in the sinful condition with all the sinful behaviors once we've had an encounter with our Elohim and our Messiah. We are to change course and separate ourselves from the things which are common to sinful humanity.
We are first introduced to the concept of holy very early in Genesis (Heb, Bereshith). Here, following the account of the creation of heaven and earth in six days, it says that Elohim rested on the seventh day:
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day Elohim had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And Elohim blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Bereshith 2:1-3)
The revelation of Scripture tells us that Elohim "made holy" or separated the seventh day of the week from the other six days. For the first six days of creation, Elohim was working. On the seventh day, Elohim stopped working and rested.
During the creative acts, we are told that Elohim separated a number of things. On the first day of creation we are told that "he separated the light from the darkness" (Bereshith [Genesis] 1:4). Then on the second day, it tells us that "Elohim made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it" (Bereshith 1:7). Next, on the fourth day Elohim said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night" (Bereshith 1:14). And on the seventh day, "Elohim blessed the seventh day and separated it" (Bereshith 2:3). The separation (sanctification) of the Sabbath day was one of the separations Elohim built into our world. Therefore, the holiness (separation) of the Sabbath day could no more be annulled than could be the separation of light from darkness!
Thus, Elohim, by his actions, separated the seventh day from the six days and made a distinction between the Sabbath and the six working days. His working on the six days and then resting on the seventh day initiated a separation of the seventh day from the first six days of the week. This action of Elohim in making this separation of the seventh day from the other six sets a precedent that the seventh day of the week is always to be separated from the other six. Are the other six days blessed? No, they are not. Only the seventh day is blessed and separated (made holy) by the Creator of heaven and earth.
Later, the commandment is made explicit that not only did Elohim make the Sabbath day holy, but we are to keep the Sabbath day holy:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahuwah blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Shemot 20:8-11)
Elohim blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. And we are commanded to keep the Sabbath day holy. Just how is it that we can keep the Sabbath holy? Again, we must remember that to make holy means to separate. And the commandment tells us exactly, in practical terms, how we can separate the Sabbath day from the other days of the week. We make holy the Sabbath the same way that Elohim made the Sabbath holy - by resting, not working, on that day: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim. On it you shall not do any work."
It's not rocket science what Elohim is commanding mankind to do. It's really quite easy to understand. Simply work for your own profit and benefit the first six days of the week, but then set apart the seventh day for Elohim's purposes by ceasing your labor. This is all Elohim is requiring of us. By his resting on the seventh day, he has set an example and precedent for the stoppage of work and rest he wants us to participate in. And that's how we keep the Sabbath day holy.
So, the first usage of the word holy in the creation account shows us in a practical way what the word holy means to us. But the term holy is used of many different things in Scripture. Let's take a look at another way holy is used. We are told in the account of the calling of Mosheh that the place of Elohim's presence is holy:
Now Mosheh was tending the flock of Yitro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of Elohim. There the angel of Yahuwah appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Mosheh saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Mosheh thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight-- why the bush does not burn up." When Yahuwah saw that he had gone over to look, Elohim called to him from within the bush, "Mosheh! Mosheh!" And Mosheh said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," Elohim said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." (Shemot 3:1-5)
Mosheh is told that the spot where Elohim was dwelling is holy ground. Now we know that holy means separate, set-apart. But how is the ground Elohim was standing on to be considered holy? Elohim tells us how we are to understand this: "Take off your sandals."
In other words, the ground where Yahuwah stands is not treated the same way all other ground is treated. Mosheh is to take off his sandals. Why? Because sandals are not only dirty from the sweat and stink of the feet, but the sandals come in contact with all manner of corruption when one walks on the ground. The ground is where the refuse of the earth is recycled. Thus, the sandals are, to some degree, contaminated by filth.
There is another instruction in the Torah regarding the need to bury in the ground all human excrement:
As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. For Yahuwah your Elohim moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you. (Devarim [Deuteronomy 23:13-14)
The reason for burying human waste is that Yahuwah must not see "anything indecent" in your midst. His dwelling place, and the place where he walks must be holy. There is no place for filth in his presence. Elohim separates himself from all corruption, whether it be the corruption of sin, or the corruption of the physical world. And we honor Elohim in his presence by not bringing any kind of corruption into his presence.
We are told many times in Scripture that the place of Elohim's presence is holy. When the sons of Yisrael were led to Mt Sinai in the Arabian desert, Yahuwah settled on the mountain top:
Yahuwah descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Mosheh to the top of the mountain. So Mosheh went up and Yahuwah said to him, "Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see Yahuwah and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach Yahuwah, must consecrate themselves, or Yahuwah will break out against them." Mosheh said to Yahuwah, "The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.'" (Shemot 19:20-23)
Here, Elohim's presence on the mountain required that not just anyone could approach his presence. Thus, Mosheh was told to put limits around the mountain, which is to say, to set apart the mountain. The presence of Yahuwah was to be kept holy in the sense that this ground was not a place where just anyone could wander into. This plot of ground was separated and limited in its access because Elohim was there. Violators would be destroyed.
Later, the miqdash (tent of meeting) in the wilderness and the place of Yahuwah's presence at the temple site in Yerushalayim were likewise holy places. They were set apart and separated from common use. Only the authorized priests could enter the holy place of the temple, and only the cohen hagadol (high priest) could enter the most holy place of the temple, and that only once a year. No one else was permitted to be in these holy places. To do so would result in death to the violators. The place of Elohim's presence was holy or separated from common use.
The reason that the place of Elohim's presence is holy, or set apart, is that Elohim himself is holy. He is separate from all others beings. He is unique. He is special. There is none that is his equal. Thus, his presence and the place of his presence are separated from common usage.
Yahuwah will roar from Zion and thunder from Yerushalayim; the earth and the sky will tremble. But Yahuwah will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Yisrael. 'Then you will know that I, Yahuwah your Elohim, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Yerushalayim will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. (Yoel 3:16-17)
When it speaks of Yerushalayim as being holy, it is speaking of that city where Yahuwah dwells.
Furthermore, everything in and around the sanctuary of Yahuwah was also to be holy. There are copious examples in the Torah which describe the furniture in the Tabernacle as needing to be holy. The priests who serve in the Tabernacle needed to be separated as well. And the offerings and sacrifices of the Tabernacle and of the temple were all holy offerings. Anything and everything that was connected with Yahuwah's presence needed to be separated from all other use to be used exclusively for service to the Almighty.
The Elohim of Yisrael was characterized by separateness. Thus, another designation for Elohim was "the Holy One of Yisrael." The Scriptures speak frequently of the holiness of Elohim. Elohim declares himself to be The Holy One:
For I am Yahuwah, your Elohim, the Holy One of Yisrael, your Savior. (Yeshayahu 43:3)
He is separate and distinct from all other beings. Because of his uniqueness, he is to be honored:
Mosheh then said to Aharon, "This is what Yahuwah spoke of when he said: 'Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'" Aharon remained silent. (Vayiqra 10:3)
The holiness or separateness of Elohim is to result in him being honored. When we regard Elohim as holy, we do not treat him like an old buddy we hang out with. We do not jest with him coarsely and have a few beers with him. The Creator Elohim requires honor and respect and dignity. We bow ourselves before him. We entreat him, not demand of him. We humble ourselves before him.
When Yahuwah had led the sons of Yisrael through the Reed Sea and had destroyed the Mitsrites in that same sea, they sang a song of praise to him and honored him:
Who among the gods is like you, Yahuwah? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Shemot 15:11)
This is the proper response to Elohim - showing respect and reverence, honor and glory to the Mighty One who performs acts of deliverance on our behalf. This quality of "holiness" is expressed by the question, "Who is like you?" It is this uniqueness of Elohim - the fact that he is different from all others - that holiness is a description of.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) the prophet had much to say about the holiness and uniqueness of Elohim.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw Yahuwah seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is Yahuwah Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." (Yeshayahu 6:1-3)
His majestic esteem is unlike anyone else. His glory is superior to that of any other. "The whole earth is full of his glory."
So because Elohim is holy, that is, separate from all others, the people of Elohim must themselves also be separated from filth of all sorts. There are a whole set of instructions in Vayiqra [Leviticus] 11-22 which outline and detail the manner in which all who belong to Yahuwah are to be holy. The refrain is repeated throughout these chapters which calls his people to be a separated people:
I am Yahuwah your Elohim; separate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am Yahuwah who brought you up out of Mitzrayim to be your Elohim; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Vayiqra 11:44-45)
The refrain "be holy because I am holy" is repeated in Vayiqra 19:2 and 20:7-8 and 20:26. Similar statements of the holiness of Yahuwah and of his people run throughout these chapters in Vayiqra.
Called the "Holiness Code" by some, Vayiqra 11-22 gives instructions for how we are to be a separated people. Yahuwah's people are to set themselves apart from a number of practices of common people. Vayiqra 11 gives instructions about separating from creatures which should not be eaten. These animals, birds and fish were created for another purpose, but not for human consumption. For example,
"Say to the sons of Yisrael: 'Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud. There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.'" (11:2-8)
Similarly, verses 9-12 give instructions about which sea creatures can and cannot be eaten. And verses 13-23 detail flying creatures which can and cannot be eaten. The sons of Yisrael are commanded to separate themselves from eating all those living creatures which are defined and declared to be unclean.
Next, Vayiqra 12 gives instructions about remaining separated from contact with the sanctuary after childbirth:
She must not touch anything set apart or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. (Vayiqra 12:4)
Then, in Vayiqra 13, instructions are given for people who have a rash, a swelling, an infection, a skin disease, a sore, an itch, white spots and mildew in clothing. Each of these situations has directions to follow. Some of these require a separation of the person or thing - an isolation. Vayiqra 14 continues with a discussion of "the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing" (vs. 2). Usually the cleansed person needs to bring offerings to present before Yahuwah, bathe and wash his clothes, and remain in isolation for a short trial period before he is permitted full access to the sanctuary.
Separations are also necessary in the event of a bodily discharge. Vayiqra 15 discusses these in detail. When men have discharges of semen, or when women have their monthly discharge, there are particular measures which must be taken to separate oneself from contact with others so that one does not contaminate others. "These are the regulations for a man with a discharge, for anyone made unclean by an emission of semen, for a woman in her monthly period, for a man or a woman with a discharge, and for a man who lies with a woman who is unclean." (15:32-33).
In the center of this section of Vayiqra known as the Holiness Code, in chapter 16, instructions are given regarding Yom HaKipparim - the day of atonements, when reconciliation is made on behalf of the nation of Yisrael. The sins of the people had separated them from their Elohim, but this ritual of cleansing of the sanctuary reunites the estranged parties (Elohim and his people). The kohen hagadol (high priest) performs a very specific ritual task of cleansing himself and his family and then the nation from their sin by offering a specific order of offerings and sprinklings of blood on the alter and upon the holy furniture of the sanctuary.
Chapter 17 resumes the commandments of separation (holiness). First, he teaches Yisrael to bring all the offerings of Yahuwah to the place of the Tent of Appointment, rather than just offering them anywhere as they had done in the past. Holiness in regard to eating blood is next given. No one is permitted to eat the blood of an animal. Such is an abomination, because the life of the animal is in the blood. Yahuwah does not permit anyone to eat the blood with the meat of a creature. The blood must be drained before cooking.
Sexual holiness is commanded in Vayiqra 18.
You must not do as they do in Mitzrayim, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am Yahuwah. No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am Yahuwah. (Vayiqra 18:3-6)
Then a long list of specifics about forbidden sexual relation is given. You cannot have sexual intimacy with your mother, your father's wife (stepmother), your sister, your niece, your stepsister, your aunt, your daughter-in-law or your brother's wife. Neither can you do so with a woman and her daughter, nor with that woman's granddaughters. Nor are you permitted to take your wife's sister as a rival wife.
Vayiqra 18 lists several other forbidden sexual contacts. During a woman's monthly flow, it is forbidden to have sexual contact with her. Also, homosexual relationships are forbidden because these are an abomination before Yahuwah. And sex with an animal is strictly forbidden because of its obvious hideousness. The reasons for these restrictions and separations is given to close out the chapter:
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. Everyone who does any of these detestable things-- such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. (Vayiqra 18:24-30)
The doing of these sexual perversions was the reason the land vomited out the people before Yisrael. And Yisrael would also be vomited out of the land if they should indulge themselves in these detestable abominations.
Yahuwah's instructions for holy living continue in Vayiqra 19 with miscellaneous laws of separation.
Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "Speak to the entire assembly of Yisrael and say to them: 'Be holy because I, Yahuwah your Elohim, am holy. (19:1-2)
This separation which Elohim has called all his people to is not just separation from eating unclean creatures and from illicit sexual contacts. The separation of holiness reaches to every area of our lives, from attitudes to worship practices, from how you regard your neighbor to when you should eat the fruit of newly planted trees, from grieving over the dead to how you treat the aliens and strangers.
Our attitude toward others begins with the proper respect for our parents and toward Elohim:
Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. (19:3-4)
Respect for mother and father is similar to showing respect toward Elohim by guarding his Sabbath day and by refraining from making "other gods" out of metal. Respect toward Elohim is shown by how you handle the sacrifice made to Yahuwah:
When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to Yahuwah, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until the third day must be burned up. If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted. Whoever eats it will be held responsible because he has desecrated what is holy to Yahuwah; that person must be cut off from his people. (19:5-8)
Being a set apart people also includes your habits at harvest. You are be considerate of others who are less fortunate and leave some behind for them, because they need food, too:
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. (19:9-10)
Keep in mind, Yahuwah has blessed your harvest, but not just for you. He is providing through you for others.
This consideration to your fellow human extends to every area of your life. While verse 18 contains the second greatest of all the commandments, "love your neighbor as yourself'" the instructions which precede it and follow it are an elaboration on how you are to love your neighbor as yourself.
Do not steal.
Do not lie.
Do not deceive one another.
Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your Elohim. I am Yahuwah.
Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him.
Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your Elohim. I am Yahuwah.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am Yahuwah.
Do not hate your brother in your heart.
Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahuwah. (19:11-18)
All of these instructions define just how it is that you should be loving your neighbor. To break any of these commandments is to break the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. These behaviors help us to understand and to clarify what it means to be a separated (holy) people.
To be separate (holy) as Elohim is separate extends to the way you handle your animals and fields, and to the clothing you wear:
Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (19:19)
And in the way you handle indiscretions:
If a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the Tent of Appointment for a guilt offering to Yahuwah. With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before Yahuwah for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven. (19:20-22)
Even the fruit on your trees is to be treated as holy (separated, not for your common use)
When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to Yahuwah. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am Yahuwah your Elohim. (19:23-25)
Being holy even reaches into your eating habits and worship practices:
Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or sorcery. Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am Yahuwah. (19:26-28)
The practice of the nations who worship and serve other gods, both in the ancient time and even in some cultures today, is to cut themselves, tattoo themselves and trim, shave and cut their hair in various strange configurations on behalf of their dead, to gain favor with their deities. But Yahuwah's people must separate themselves (be holy) from such despicable practices to serve the living Elohim.
Now again the writer returns to the topic of "loving your neighbor" as he gives additional instructions regarding how you treat your fellow:
Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.
Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am Yahuwah.
Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am Yahuwah your Elohim.
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your Elohim. I am Yahuwah.
When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Mitzrayim. I am Yahuwah your Elohim.
Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.
Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am Yahuwah your Elohim, who brought you out of Mitzrayim. (19:29-36)
Loving your neighbor includes the activities of not degrading your daughter, rising out of respect for the elderly, treating the alien right, and using honest scales and weights and measures so as to be fair in all your transactions
And finally, this section of the Holiness Code is summarized:
Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am Yahuwah. (19:37)
Because Yahuwah is the Holy One, he can require that we be separated from all wicked behaviors to be more like him.
Vayiqra 20 begins with separation instructions for the worship of Molech:
Any Yisraelite or any alien living in Yisrael who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him (20:2)
Mediums and spiritists are to be dealt with, too.
At this point, we are reminded again why it is that Yahuwah's people are to separate themselves in this way. It is because Elohim himself has nothing to do with those wicked practices - he is holy.
Separate yourselves and be holy, because I am Yahuwah your Elohim. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am Yahuwah, who makes you holy. (20:7-8)
Afterward, the bulk of Vayiqra 20 details the punishments prescribed for various acts of sexual misconduct - what to do with the person who violates the separation instructions of sexual relations:
If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife-- with the wife of his neighbor-- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.
If a man sleeps with his father's wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads.
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.
If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal.
If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They must be cut off before the eyes of their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.
If a man lies with a woman during her monthly period and has sexual relations with her, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them must be cut off from their people.
Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible.
If a man sleeps with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless.
If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless. (20:9-21)
Anybody with an ounce of common sense knows that it is wrong to have sexual relations with a relative. Even the unbelievers and atheists know this. And nature dictates against it through the physical anomalies and deformities that offspring from such unions exhibit.
How much more important is separation from forbidden sexual relationships for the community of faith - for the people who are called to be perfect and without blemish. To transgress these laws is to be deserving of death and separation from Elohim's people. No wonder Elohim has built into the creation disease and deformity for those who break his laws. It is vital for those who profess faith that all the laws of separation be kept and followed faithfully.
Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. (20:22-23)
Elohim will always reject those people who defy what is good and right, and will spew out all who reject and transgress the sensible laws of protection which comprise the Torah.
To close out the Holiness Code, Vayiqra 21-22 gives specific instructions for the priests in their dress, conduct and work as priests, along with some additional miscellaneous items of separation.
Walking an upright and separated life is not optional for those who embrace righteousness. The nations which preceded Yisrael in the promised land were vomited out of the land because they practiced all those behaviors which Yahuwah is commanding his people to be separated from. Those behaviors resulted in hatred, deformities, the uncleanness of diseases, and pain and death. To be holy, then, requires us to be able to make distinctions:
But I said to you, "You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey." I am Yahuwah your Elohim, who has set you apart from the nations. "'You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground-- those which I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, Yahuwah, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own. (Vayiqra 20:24-26)
It is not politically correct in our times and culture to "make distinctions." When we exercise discrimination in our tastes, speech, actions, choices and preferences, we are called bigots and homophobes and superstitious. And we are denigrated as ignorant or close-minded. We are regarded as standing in the way of the spread of the kind of love that accepts all and tolerates all kinds of choices and behaviors. But Yahuwah has called us away from all the disgusting habits of the pagans and idol worshippers and all who don't know the true and living Elohim. Yahuwah is setting his people apart (making holy) from the nations to be a people unto himself. For this reason, Yahuwah commands his people to steer clear of those things which defile the mind and body.
Furthermore, making distinctions between clean and unclean is a spiritual exercise, not merely physical, and is equal in importance to making distinctions between what is set-apart (holy) and what is common:
You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the sons of Yisrael all the decrees Yahuwah has given them through Mosheh." (Vayiqra 10:10-11)
That Elohim has commanded his people to be set-apart does not mean just in the things we eat. Being set-apart (holy) has very much to do with what we think, what we wear, what we do, what we approve of and what we accept. Being holy like Elohim is holy means that we separate ourselves from everything that contaminates soul and spirit - just as the New Testament teaches:
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for Elohim. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Living a holy life means making choices based upon Elohim's desire, not our own. We must discriminate between things that are appalling to our Elohim and those things that please him. Thus, holiness is very practical and easy to understand. It means more than just "being like Elohim." It means separating ourselves in all our living to do the things that he approves of.
Without repeating all the instructions and going into every detail already given in the Torah, the New Testament teaches the same things about holiness for the followers of Messiah Yahusha. The Law of Elohim was not and never will be done away with or annulled. Messiah said so plainly.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Since the Law was not done away with, then it stands to reason that Elohim's opinion about holiness hasn't changed either. All the laws and instructions about holiness which we read about in the Old Testament are still in place in the age of the New Testament. The things written by the authors of the New Testament reflect this. For the remainder of our study, we will review and detail some of those major statements of the New Testament made about holiness and being holy.
Without dispute, the word holy is most often used in the New Testament in connection with the Holy Spirit. While the phrase Holy Spirit is used only a handful of times in the Tanach, it is used nearly a hundred times in the New. The "Set Apart Spirit" is, of course, the Spirit of the living Elohim, who separates himself from everything that defiles body, soul and spirit. Because Elohim is holy, it is simple to see that his Spirit is also set apart.
Our focus here is in an examination of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We might first discover who the Holy Spirit is given to. Though it may seem elementary to some to look for Scripture which tells us the answer to this question - because its obvious that the Holy Spirit is given to those who love Elohim - it is nevertheless illuminating to some what the Bible has to say about to whom the Spirit is given.
Yes, those who attach to Messiah receive the Holy Spirit. But what criterion within these people determines their qualification to receive the Spirit? Peter pinpoints this condition for receiving the Spirit. Speaking of Messiah, Kepha notes that
Elohim exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Yisrael. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom Elohim has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:31-32)
Here, Peter explains that the Holy Spirit, which was poured out on many people with signs and wonders, is given to those who obey Elohim. This would suggest that the Holy Spirit is not given to those who don't or won't obey the Instructions of Elohim.
There is a connection, then, between those upon whom the Holy Spirit comes and their obedience to the commandments of Elohim. And isn't this exactly what the prophets revealed about the Holy Spirit? Yechezqel [Ezekiel] the Prophet speaks to the time when the Spirit of Yahuwah will be poured out on his people:
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Yechezqel 36:24-27)
Prophesy indicates that the Spirit of Elohim was to be indwelling people with the express purpose of moving them to obey the laws and right rulings of the Torah. Here, as in Acts 5, the Holy Spirit is connected with obedience to his commandments. The Holy Spirit is not only given to those who obey him, but the Holy Spirit prompts believers to obey the instructions of Scripture.
The story about Sha'ul, king of Israel, and his experience with the Holy Spirit agrees with this assessment. We know that initially, Sha'ul was listening to the instruction of Elohim. He received the Spirit and the people even made a saying out of the event:
When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, "What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Sha'ul also among the prophets?" A man who lived there answered, "And who is their father?" So it became a saying: "Is Sha'ul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:11-12)
But later in his life, Sha'ul began to question the authority of Elohim. This led to his disobedience to the command of Yahuwah:
"You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command Yahuwah your Elohim gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Yisrael for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; Yahuwah has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept Yahuwah's command." (1 Samuel 13:13-14)
Shortly after that time, Sha'ul again transgressed the direct order of Yahuwah. And Shemuel the prophet confronted him:
"For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of Yahuwah, he has rejected you as king." Then Sha'ul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated Yahuwah's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship Yahuwah." But Samuel said to him, "I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of Yahuwah, and Yahuwah has rejected you as king over Yisrael!" (1 Samuel 15:23-26)
This rejection of Sha'ul led to the anointing of David and the Spirit leaving Sha'ul:
Now the Spirit of Yahuwah had departed from Sha'ul, and an evil spirit from Yahuwah tormented him. (1 Samuel 16:14)
Just as we have been learning from the other Scriptures, Yahuwah gives his Spirit to those who are obedient, and he takes his Spirit from those who are disobedient.
The Master Yahusha said the same thing about the Spirit, whom he would send:
Yahusha replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (4th Gospel [Yochanan or "John"] 14:23-26)
The role of the Holy Spirit is to teach obedience to the decrees and laws of Yahuwah - according to Ezekiel, and to remind his disciples of all the things which Messiah taught them - according to the 4th Gospel. What did Messiah teach to his disciples? We already alluded to this above when we noted that Yahusha had not come to destroy the Torah or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. Thus, its easy to see that Messiah taught his disciples the true meaning and correct understanding of the Torah of Mosheh. And this is what the Holy Spirit was sent to teach and remind each one of us to obey.
It stands to reason, then, that the Holy Spirit is going to teach the disciples of Messiah how to "be holy as Elohim is holy." By teaching obedience to the commandments, Yah's people are brought into a knowledge of set apartness in all areas of our lives - in our eating, in our talking, in our worship, etc. The Holy Spirit works in us to set us apart to be acceptable to Elohim. This setting apart is defined and detailed in the Instructions of Vayiqra 12-22 about holiness. The Holy Spirit teaches us the meaning of the Torah so that we can walk in the commandments of the Torah to be holy.
In another place, Paul explains to his readers the role of the Holy Spirit in the upkeep of our bodies:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from Elohim? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor Elohim with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
The Instructions of the Holiness Code of Vayiqra explain to us how to "honor Elohim with your body." There, we learn about what to eat and what not to eat. And there, we learn which sexual relationships are forbidden. And there, we learn how to handle our bodies in the event of contaminations. In each of those areas we are taught how to honor Elohim in the care and protection of our bodies.
Since our physical body is the "temple of the Holy Spirit" - since Elohim dwells in each of us by his Spirit - then we must learn how to correctly keep this temple clean. Those instructions for keeping the body temple clean and "set apart" unto Elohim are those given in the Holiness Code of Vayiqra.
Paul has much to say about living a holy life. In Romans 12, Sha'ul again makes reference to the body as a vessel of holy living. Using the language of the temple service, Paul exhorts his readers to make their bodies ready to present to Elohim. It is our spiritual worship, he says, to separate our bodies unto obedience of the Holiness Code:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of Elohim's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Elohim-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Elohim's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Just as the Torah instructs on how and what to offer to Elohim as an appropriate offering and sacrifice, the Torah also instructs us on how to offer our bodies a living sacrifice to Elohim. It is Elohim's will that our bodies conform to the holiness standard of the Bible - as found written in Vayiqra. As disciples of Messiah, we are no longer to follow after the lifestyle of the world, but we are to be changed (transformed) by the Instructions of Torah which renew our minds, so that we understand and begin to do all the things that are pleasing to Elohim. This is how we are set apart as an offering acceptable to Elohim - we obey and conform ourselves to his instructions about holy living.
Sha'ul (the apostle Paul) again addresses this issue of offering our bodies to Elohim in the way that is "acceptable." Here, he describes his "priestly duty" of preparing the Gentiles to present before Elohim:
I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace Elohim gave me to be a minister of Messiah Yahusha to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of Elohim, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to Elohim, set apart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:15-16)
It is a work of the Holy Spirit in us to set us apart. Again, the Holy Spirit does this by reminding us of the things that Messiah taught us, and by moving us to obey the laws and statutes of the Torah.
Christians are fond of thinking and teaching that the Holy Spirit can come into an emptied vessel and lead believers into right living without any effort from the believer. While there is an element of truth to this, it is not entirely true. For the expressed method of the Spirit leading us is by reminding us of what Yahusha has taught. And the Spirit is also known to have been sent to move us to obey the laws and right rulings of the Torah. But if we don't know the Torah and don't know what Yahusha taught, how can the Holy Spirit remind us of what we don't have any knowledge?
It should be clear, then, that in order to become holy as Elohim is holy, we must put forth some effort to read, study and understand what holiness is. This information comes from the Torah and from the teachings of the Master Messiah. Holiness doesn't just drop down out of the sky. Holiness is acquired through the knowledge of the Scriptures and through the practice of obedience to the known commandments and sayings which proceed from the mouth of Elohim.
Yet again, using the language of the temple service, Paul writes about how we are to offer our bodies in holiness and righteousness to Elohim:
Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to Elohim, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:19-22)
This is our "reasonable service" to offer our bodies to Elohim. And the way we offer our bodies is by submitting to the laws of the Torah which instruct us on the proper way of separating from things that defile and contaminate.
Whereas, before we came to know Messiah, we gave over ourselves and our body parts to sinful practices and defilement, now that we are attached to Elohim through Messiah, we are to forsake all unrighteousness and obey the commandments of Elohim and conform ourselves to his will as expressed in his Torah. We have become voluntary slaves to Elohim, and as such, we are commanded to conform our lives and our behavior and our bodies to the standard as put forth in the laws of holiness. The laws of separation in the Holiness Code are not written just to fill space on the page. We are compelled by the Holy Spirit to learn those laws and obey those laws so that we might become pleasing to the Master in all things.
In still another New Testament passage, the apostle Paul explicitly invokes the Torah teaching about clean and unclean where he exhorts the followers of Messiah to separate themselves from that which is unclean:
What agreement is there between the temple of Elohim and idols? For we are the temple of the living Elohim. As Elohim has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their Elohim, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate," says Yahuwah. "Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters," says Yahuwah Almighty. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for Elohim. (2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1)
At the heart of the Torah's Holiness Code are the instructions about clean and unclean. There, we are told which animals, fish and birds are edible and which are not. The reason Elohim gave us those laws is to keep us from contracting the diseases that unclean creatures carry with them. He wants us to be free from sickness, disease and contamination.
The instructions about clean and unclean are essential to our health and our life. Eating animals contaminated with disease can kill us. Thus, in his kindness toward us, Elohim gave us rules about what is fit for human consumption and what is unfit and must be avoided. The unclean beasts were created for a purpose. And that purpose has to do with the ecological cycle. They are essentially part of the recycling process the Creator built into the creation. But the human body was not built to digest and process those animals which are part of the garbage disposal team. Our bodies can effectively dispose of small amounts of inadvertent debris that enters the body. But we are not able to effectively eliminate intentional infestations of contaminated flesh. For this reason, Elohim tells us what to eat and what not to eat.
Paul is not making up new rules about how to be holy. He is teaching and alluding to the clear instructions of Scripture when he calls all his readers to "come out from them and be separate." "Touch no unclean thing" is so clearly referencing the Holiness Code, that it is shear blindness and ignorance to see it any other way. When Paul writes, "let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness," what else can he be talking about but conformity to the laws of holiness as found in the Law of Mosheh?
Furthermore, Paul refers AGAIN to the Holiness Code when he instructs his readers on the importance of holiness in the area of sexual relations.
Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please Elohim, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Master Yahusha to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Master Yahusha. It is Elohim's will that you should be set apart: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know Elohim; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. Yahuwah will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For Elohim did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
Where Paul wrote, "we instructed you how to live in order to please Elohim" - what else could he be referring to but to the teachings of the Torah? The Torah gives us the specifics about how to live pleasing Elohim. And concerning those instructions, Elohim said,
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of Yahuwah your Elohim that I give you. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 4:2)
Thus, Paul's teaching about how to live must have consisted of the teachings of the Torah.
Next, Sha'ul notes that "it is Elohim's will that you should be set apart: that you should avoid sexual immorality." Elohim's will is clearly presented in Vayiqra where he repeats over and over, "Be holy, because Yahuwah your Elohim is holy." And nearly all of Vayiqra 18 and 20 list in detail all of the forbidden sexual relationships. It is Elohim's will that you avoid these types of relationships. Our bodies should be controlled in a way that is holy and honorable. We do this by separating ourselves from all the forbidden things.
Then, when Paul says that "in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him," he is likely referring to the sixth commandment (in the order of Devarim 5): "you shall not commit adultery." And he would also be referring to the ninth commandment as well, "You shall not lust after your neighbor's wife." Either to lust after your neighbor's wife, or to commit adultery with your neighbor's wife would be to wrong your brother in a sexual matter. These instructions pertaining to sexual immorality are all a part of the Torah given to Mosheh.
On another occasion, Paul addressed an incident in Corinth when a believing member of the assembly had openly transgressed an instruction of the Holiness Code pertaining to forbidden sexual relationships:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Master Yahusha and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Master Yahusha is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of Yahuwah. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
Of course, the law Paul is using to pass judgment is that found in Vayiqra 18:8: "Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father." This brother who had transgressed the Torah was in a position of judgment. And so Paul passes on him a righteous "right ruling." He was to be removed from the assembly.
Paul next explains his action of passing judgment:
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the assembly? Are you not to judge those inside? Elohim will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
The instructions of the Torah do not tell us to pass judgment on all the pagans who are outside the assembly. The Torah tells us to rightly rule those who are a part of the assembly of Elohim. In this way we are to keep the congregation of Elohim pure and blameless by expelling the wicked man from among you.
It is for this same reason that when the Pharisees brought an adulterous women to Yahusha for judgment that he responded to them, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone." The purpose of the stoning of the sinner is to keep the camp of Yisrael pure. But if everyone else in the camp is also guilty of sin, it serves no purpose to stone a single sinner. Thus, all those who stood around to stone the woman walked away - lest they also be subject to a stoning.
We should "be holy because I, Yahuwah your Elohim, am holy" (Vayiqra 19:2). In this way, we are being imitators of Elohim, which is what Paul encourages us to be. (Amazing isn't it! Paul again and again teaches Torah principles!):
Be imitators of Elohim, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Messiah loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to Elohim. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Elohim's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-- such a man is an idolater-- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Messiah and of Elohim. (Ephesians 5:1-5)
In this thing of being holy, we are instructed about how to conduct ourselves. We must avoid all appearance of evil such that there is not "even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity." As we imitate Elohim in the obedience to his commands, there will then never be even so much as a hint of unrighteous actions in us.
Living a holy life, for Paul, is about walking in all the Torah of Elohim - in all the instructions about the separated life. This is how we become like Elohim. This is how we are conformed to his image. The Torah is the set of righteous instructions which draw us near to our Elohim.
Peter echoes the call to be holy. Just as in Romans 6, Paul contrasted the former lifestyle of those who once living in ignorance but now are called to offer their bodies as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness, Peter makes the same contrasts.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Kepha 1:14-16)
Once a person turns his life over to the control of Messiah, it is incumbent upon the disciple to seek the holy life. The call to be holy which was issued in Vayiqra 11-22 is re-issued to the follower of Messiah.
The Spirit of Elohim who calls each one to relationship through Messiah is holy. Peter echoes the same call to conformity to Elohim's will as Paul did. We are no longer to conform to the former way of life, but we are to separate ourselves in our walk, talk, dress, eating habits, sexual behaviors, etc. to be like Elohim. In all you do, Peter says, be holy like the Elohim who called you is holy.
Peter goes on to give an example of the kind of holy life we have been called to by alluding to the second greatest command which is found in the heart of the Holiness Code of Vayiqra:
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of Elohim. (1 Kepha 1:22-23)
He is, of course, referring to Vayiqra 19:18
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahuwah.
This call to love your neighbor as yourself is at the core of living a separated life. To be like Elohim is to love your fellow human being.
Living a life separated from the way the world lives life is not always so easy. It is a learned discipline. Our father in heaven teaches and trains us in this discipline out of his love for us:
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but Elohim disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see Yahuwah. (Ivrim [Hebrews] 12:10-14)
The purpose of Elohim's discipline is stated to be so "that we may share in his holiness." His discipline is not just to knock us down or to keep us from having what we want. We need to exercise discipline and be disciplined in order to be like Elohim.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines discipline as "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character" or "a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity." This is the kind of discipline Hebrews is talking about. Elohim wants to train us to walk in his ways in order to perfect our character to be like him. He does this by giving us the Instruction of his Word. And the Instruction for holy living and training in holiness is that which we have been examining from Vayiqra 11-22.
When we fall off the path of this discipline Elohim calls us to walk in, Elohim must discipline us. This discipline takes on the form of hardship or difficulties or even pain. But Elohim knows what we need to move forward towards perfecting our characters. If we walk in the discipline of his Word through obedience to his commandments, we become more and more like him.
Therefore, the writer to the Hebrews encourages us to "make every effort" to be holy. This is from the Greek word diw,kw (pronounced di-ōkō) which means, "pursue, chase; seek after, strive for; drive out or away; practice; follow, run after." In other words, aggressively pursue after setting yourself apart in the things which Yahuwah has commanded. This does not happen passively. We cannot just wait on his Spirit to do this work in us, expecting him to magically insert his holiness in us. This can only be accomplished by actively and purposefully chasing after his will and studying and knowing his Word.
The serious follower of Messiah does not realistically expect to be like Elohim by sitting in the pew on Sunday and then going about his own ways for the rest of the week. Those who subject themselves to the will of Elohim must actively read, study and meditate on the Word of Elohim and chase after doing what we read there. We must find out what Elohim's will is from the Torah. We have to seek out the meaning and application of all the laws and rules of separation as it is given to us in the Holiness Code of Vayiqra.
We must pursue holiness - separation from unclean, separation from wrong sexual relationships, separation from all that contaminates body and spirit. We must have this holiness, because without holiness, no one will see Yahuwah. If we do not obey the laws and instructions for holy living and make distinctions between holy and unholy and between clean and unclean, we will not inherit the kingdom of Messiah.
Nobody is going to stand before the judge of all the earth with the smell of pork chops on his breath and expect to hear the "well done, good and faithful servant." Nobody is going to approach the throne of the king with the guilt of sexual misconduct with a relative or a beast and then hope to be accepted and smiled at by the king of kings. No one will be received into the inheritance of the faithful who has willingly and obstinately ignored and transgressed the law of separation which Yahuwah has revealed to us all in his Torah.
The Book of Revelation puts it this way:
Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." (Revelation 22:11)
The contrast is easy to spot. Those who do wrong and who are vile are to be rejected. Those who do right and are holy are those received into the kingdom of Messiah. Holiness is a prerequisite to entrance into the Messianic Age.
Revelation also describes those who will be tossed into the lake of fire this way:
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his Elohim and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:7-8)
The overcomer will inherit. Those who do not practice separation in their living will be burnt up. Its as simple as that. And this is also fair and righteous judgment. The judgment is based upon what people do. If you receive Elohim's instruction about making distinctions and separations and do these things, you will be received into a rich reward.
Holiness is a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of Messiah. To "be holy like Elohim is holy" means to make the distinctions and separations in your living to be like Elohim. But we don't have to guess about how to be holy. The Torah gives extensive instructions about the separations that Elohim wants us to make.
Holiness is to be like Elohim. But we are not left with a mere vague notion of what it means to be holy like Elohim is holy. The Bible is crystal clear to inform us of what Elohim's will is, and what he wants us to avoid in our eating, walking, talking, dressing, and in our sexuality. Those who love Elohim with all their heart, mind and strength will pursue after the knowledge of holiness and walk in all the ways that are right. May you be one of those faithful ones who repent of wrongdoing and seek after truth in the Word and do it. Be holy like Elohim is holy.