Archive for October 26th, 2022

Being Holy


Written by Mark D. Roberts, contemporary author and speaker.

In the opening chapters of Isaiah, God condemns Israel for its immorality and godlessness, predicting a day of painful judgment. The “sinful nation,” a “brood of evildoers,” “have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their back on him” (Isaiah 1:4). This unholy people will suffer the painful judgment of God. Yet, that is not the whole story. In those same opening chapters of Isaiah, the Lord also looks forward to a time of restoration, when the people and land will be blessed. In that time, those who have survived the judgment “will be called holy.” What does it mean to be holy? We don’t hear the word “holy” very often in contemporary English, except perhaps in the critical phrase “holier than thou.” Holy people are thought to be self-righteous at best and quite strange at worst. You probably don’t want people in your workplace calling you holy. Yet the biblical notion of holiness doesn’t have this negative connotation. To be holy is to be special—special to the Lord. Holy things are not for ordinary use because they are dedicated to God—say, for use in the temple. Holy people, by analogy, are set apart by God for relationship with God and for God’s own purposes. Holiness isn’t simply a matter of being separate from the world. It is being distinct from the world to be fully devoted to and invested in God’s kingdom. If we jump ahead several centuries, we learn in the New Testament that all who receive God’s grace through Christ are holy people. We have been set apart by God for an intimate relationship with him and for participation in God’s cosmic work. If we are holy in this sense, we aren’t cut off from the world. In fact, like Jesus, we are intimately involved with this world and its people. But we are different, in heart and in action, in commitment and calling, because of our relationship to a holy God. The point, of course, is not to be called holy, whether this is meant positively or negatively. Rather, the point is to be holy, to be people set apart by God for God’s work in the world. As holy people, we give ourselves to God and to others in God’s name. We are holy servants, holy healers, and holy restorers.


Written by Mark D. Roberts, the author of today’s meditation.

Gracious God, even as you once called Israel to be holy, so you have called us. Those of us who know you through Christ have been set apart from this world. Yet we remain in this world to bear witness to you through our words and deeds. Help us, dear Lord, to be a holy people. Teach us how we are to be different from the world and its values. Yet, teach us also how to reach this world, how to extend your love and grace to the people around us. May our holiness be like your holiness: separate in crucial ways from the world, yet profoundly engaged with the world and its people. Amen.

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