Psalm 19; Acts 7:30-40; Exodus 19:9-15 (read online ⧉)
When we talk about holiness or being holy, we have to start with God. We talk about each of us being unique, yet God is even more so. God was not created. God did the creating. All of us are created.
The Hebrew word for Holy can be interpreted as sanctify and consecrate. Ultimately, though, the pervading feeling of the word is separateness. This is not a bad separation. In the case of the separation between God and man, it is the natural separation between created and creator. In the case of the world and the Israelites (and later Christians), it is the separation from the world that does not know or follow God.
God, through Moses, is preparing the Israelites for the separation from the world, and even from their past (especially their time in Egypt). Symbolically, they are physically clean (bathing), their clothes are clean, abstaining from certain physical relations, and staying away from the mountain. This is all to set the stage for what is to come.
Similarly, in some wedding traditions on the day of their wedding, the bride and groom don’t see each other before the ceremony (or sometimes longer). They also dress differently than normal. It is a preparation for what is to come.
Holiness—or being set apart for God’s work—can happen slowly and subtly, or it can happen in a huge way. There are people whose experience is so quiet that it takes others to tell they have changed. Others have experiences that are amazingly (sometimes unbelievable) huge: instantly (and successfully) giving up alcohol or cigarettes; instant change in appropriate language or behavior.
God works on us differently, just as we are different people. The first step is to prepare ourselves. The second step is to be ready and willing.
1) Using our passage in Exodus and our reading above as a guide, have you ever had a spiritual experience where you felt “set aside” for something?
2) If you had such an experience, what was the thing that was different?
3) If you haven’t had such an experience, would you trust God to guide to it?