Holiness (part II)…For what?

“I remember…how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown” Jeremiah 2:2

Jumping off the last post, in the Old Testament, where God called His people out of Egypt to worship, we see God make a covenant offer to His people. This blessing of “setting apart” for a special purpose (kadosh קדוש) would be repeated in MARRIAGE covenants as husbands gave their rings to their wives (in the kiddushin or ring ceremony-notice the same root word?). Here’s what this offer was:

“…you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Leviticus 20:26

I want to focus on the beauty of that last bit. We were set apart for one thing.

To be His.

Wow.

Holiness, or being “set apart” is the work of God. It is made possible only by His presence in us. The result of God’s Holiness in us is pure joy in His presence and rest in His love.

I want to zoom in on this last point from the previous post. We were made to worship. Yes. But that worship is NOT supposed to be obligatory. In fact, I think if our relationship with God feels like that, we probably do not walk in the reality of His love. Sometimes I wonder if I really live in the reality of experiencing His love that leads to rest and an overflow of worship in my life? Or is it this manufactured, law-like thing that feels like pressure, striving, disappointment, and frustration. God wants more for us than that.

Many people experience Christianity as this mandated submission and obedience. But submission and obedience by force or obligation–that would be the perfect description of slavery and an insult to the type of relationship holiness (our being “set apart”) entitles us to as heirs with Christ. Holiness entitles us to be a BRIDE. Look again at this scripture.

…I remember the devotion of your youth,
    how as a bride you loved me and followed me
through the wilderness,
    through a land not sown.
 Israel was holy to the Lord,
    the firstfruits of his harvest…
Jeremiah 2:2-3

Israel was devoted as a bride in her youth, a newlywed whose desire is for her husband as much as His desire was for her. To be set apart by God as “holy” is to be chosen as a bride. And look at the response God remembered as the purest response to His setting Israel apart as holy…they loved Him and followed Him–out of newlywed devotion, not obligation. If I was just following Him in mandated submission and obedience?–that’s not marriage…that’s slavery.

In all the ways I’ve read God described as jealous and of us being His possession, images of unhealthy human jealousy and possessiveness come to mind, but that’s not what God is saying. That’s not who he is. He does not want to own us in order to be able to control us. He has no need for our validation so His love is never selfish or rude or demanding. He just patiently pursues. He wants to “own us” because we have yielded to Him because we choose Him back–that’s worship. He wants to be able to love us intimately and to be loved intimately by us.

I’ve been asking myself lately, what would it look like to live my life from that place of being His.

Just be His.

I think the picture that best captures it for me would be from my marriage. I think it’s how my husband comes up to me after 15 years of marriage and four kids, grabs me around the waist and pulls me into his chest, buries his head in my neck, breathes in and sighs, “You’re all mine.” (Yep. He actually does that…pretty regularly). It melts me every time. My response. Worship. Ascribing worth to Him. Simply put–I love Him back. Why do I respond in love? Because “being His” and being loved so well is one of the sweetest things in my life.

Being set apart as the possession of God is the most freeing thing because His love is devoid of fear. He pulls us to intimacy. He says “You are ‘set apart’ for ME!”

This is the kind of worship God wants from us…obedience fueled by passion and love that come from the knowledge that you are chosen as a bride. And by the blood of Christ, this offer is extended beyond Israel to everyone on earth. He chose you. He set you apart to be loved and to be able to love Him the way He desires.

So our response of being set apart (being made holy) is love–being loved and loving God back.

It’s an actual relationship, which is what everyone always said your walk with God should be but maybe you don’t actually experience that all the time.

What has your response been to the love of God?

I have pushed it away by my fear of intimacy and being fully known, somehow thinking if he really knew me He would realize what a mistake He made.

I have ignored it, spending time doing things “more urgent” than spending time with Him.

I have cheapened it by returning to other means of help that I can see, touch, taste, feel.

I’ve even sometimes resented His love and hated its persistence when I just want to be alone in my darkness or pain.

I have used it for my own benefit, abusing it by repeatedly knowing His faithful character means He will never leave me.

I have tried to earn it as if I did not already have it.

BUT…I have also thirsted for this kind of love. And I am thirsty enough to ask for this Living Water of the Holy Spirit in me flowing constantly, His lifeblood in me. And I have decided to choose God like a bride accepts a husband. Because, as with a marriage proposal, He asks us to choose Him back. We get to say yes to holiness, to covenant, to set-apartness, to love.

When I say yes to His proposal, religion rots away. Returning and rest is my healing. Quietness and trust is my strength and stability (Isaiah 30:15). Being firmly established in that healing, rebar-like love is what will now motivate my worship. Just that. Being loved by Him evokes my worship. My heart that the laws once were written on like stone tablets turns to flesh beating wildly for the one I love (Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33). My whole life at His feet. My whole joy is His presence. My worship is a life lived in wide-eyed response to His captivating love.

And since there is NO END to His love, there will be NO END to my worship.

Following Him is supposed to be a response to His choosing us for His possession. (And you can be sure He wants you. (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23)). It’s like when you are young and have a crush, only to find out they like you back. Except that person is God! This is not irreverent or weird to think of God this way. In fact, if we are going to understand the intimacy He is calling us to, we have to try to get this picture. He is so taken with you that He likens it to a man choosing a bride. He wants you to experience His love. It is His delight to pour it out on you. It is His desire to make you feel loved. So it becomes our delight to follow Him! Why would we want to be anywhere else except as close as possible, all the time, to the King who chose us for Himself this way.

Look at how he claims you as His bride! This is the reason He has set us apart as Holy.

For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. Isaiah 54:5

You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman…and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you,” declares the Lord God, “and you became mine.” Ezekiel 16:8

“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. Hosea 2: 16-23

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready….Revelation 19:7

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