Holiness; March 1, 2018


Ezekiel 20:12 “Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.”

This is a slightly different slant on the whole issue of a Sabbath than I am used to thinking about. In the 10 Commandments it says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) However, here the Lord turns it around to say that Sabbaths are a reminder that it is God who makes people holy. I think part of the problem is that we don’t understand “make holy.” In Japanese it is written with characters that are literally, “set apart as holy,” just as many English translations render it. The concept isn’t any more familiar to Japanese than to Americans, though. If you type it into a computer phonetically, the only characters it will come up with say “biological gender,” since “holy” has the same sound as “gender.” I think the best analogy would be something like your best dishes, that you take out to use only when you have guests. Even that idea is disappearing from society, both because we are so affluent that “best” has less meaning now, and because people are so selfish they want the best for themselves anyway, rather than saving it for guests. God is saying that by setting one day a week apart as different from all the rest we are reminding ourselves that He sets us aside as different from all the rest. That idea doesn’t sound very “politically correct,” because we are quick to insist that “everyone is the same,” when simple observation tells us that isn’t true. On one level we are all totally equal before God, but on another level, how we respond to Him makes immediate and drastic differences, not only in our eternal destination but also in our daily lives here and now. Honoring one day a week as special helps us remember that it is possible to be in God’s “special group,” devoted to Him and useful for His purposes. We can’t make ourselves holy, but we can choose to receive and walk in the holiness God offers us. It is sad indeed that so few people make that choice.

This is certainly as much an issue for me as it is for anyone else. I too tend to go with the flow of society, feeling that if other people do it, it’s fine for me, not really considering what God might say about it. Growing up in a missionary home, life in general was far more “holy” than what I now understand most people experience. That said, Sundays were indeed different from other days, but were often even more busy than other days. As a pastor now I experience the same thing, and so try to set aside Mondays as days of rest. (That doesn’t always work!) The important thing for me to remember is that it is God who sets me apart as special, not because I am inherently more valuable than anyone else but because I have responded to Him in repentance and faith. I need to help the believers here accept that as God’s special people, they aren’t to be just like all their neighbors, or even like all their relatives. With the strong Japanese emphasis on the group, that can be quite a stretch for some of them. Another problem in teaching them that is that they already see me as different because of my genetic makeup, so my distinctives are seen as American rather than Christian. Maybe I should tell them to look at some of the other Americans in town! I certainly need God’s wisdom to be able to get this truth across, but nothing is impossible for Him, so I’ve got to be at peace with that.

Father, thank You for this Word this morning. It’s not something I have tried very much to teach on. I ask for clear guidance in when and how to share what You show me, so that the believers may be built up and not torn down, or even distracted from Your intended focus for them. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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