Burly Holiness

Confession time – this thought is not ABOUT Sabbath, and it’s not the FRUIT of a Sabbath moment.  It actually came out of my regular Bible reading, so technically it doesn’t belong on the blog.  But hey, my blog, my rules… and my exceptions.  🙂

Forty years into my study of the Bible, I’m still coming across new ideas.  I discovered one recently in Exodus, and later came across the same idea in Leviticus.  It took a while to make sure that I wasn’t confused, but further research confirmed it – there were objects used in temple worship in Israel whose holiness was so powerful that it was contagious.  You could become holy by touching them!  Sounds strange, I know, but stay with me here.

In Exodus, God makes that statement about the altar (29:37) and later about the rest of the temple furniture and utensils (30:29).  In Leviticus, it’s the grain offerings (6:18) and the sin offering (6:27).  In each case, the object is labeled “most holy,” and it had a sanctifying or consecrating influence on whatever or whoever would touch it (see amplification in the Comments section below).

Wait a minute.  Isn’t this backwards?  We usually assume that the unclean negatively impacts the clean, whether we’re talking about mud on our shoes, bacteria on our hands, or the meat that falls to the ground off the BBQ.  And in most cases, that’s true – Israel was warned to avoid “unclean” things and people, and the Pharisees in Christ’s day made a living out of fleeing (and condemning others for failure to flee) the contamination that came from interaction with sinners.  It drove them nuts that Jesus so carelessly hung out with “unholy people.”  They thought less of Him for it, assuming that He came away diminished by the contact.

But could it be that purity can trump impurity?  Can something, or someone, be so holy that their holiness, rather than being fragile and easily corrupted, flows outward and overwhelms the unholiness around it?  That was obviously true of Jesus.  Holiness flowed outward from Him, not simply surviving contact with the world, but changing the world through that contact.

Could this be true of me?  Is it possible for me to be “most holy,” like the temple offerings? Could that be part of what it means to be a “living sacrifice?”  Can it be that those who come into contact with me walk away changed for the better, in some way set apart by my own “set apartness?”

I’ve been chewing on this idea for the past month, and in fact it was part of my Sabbath hike yesterday (so I guess I’m off the hook on the rules).  If that kind of holiness exists, I want it! I aspire to a life that God would call “most holy,” with a burly holiness that rubs off in a positive way on the people around me.

Who wants a wimpy version of holiness?

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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11 Responses to Burly Holiness

  1. Bill McNeil says:

    Whoa pilgrim. Are you saying there’s something good about kissing the hand that where’s a “relic” ring ? Or is it because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet? The passage in Exodus talks about anointing oil and temple protocol “set apart” and not to be used on ordinary people. Please help me out here.

    • Glad to help, Bill. The Exodus passage says “whatever touches them shall be holy” in the NASB, which could either refer to a warning to not touch them with unholy things, or to a kind of transfer of holiness. The ESV more clearly indicates the contagious quality with the translation “shall become holy.” The language in Leviticus is clear: “whoever touches them will BECOME consecrated (NASB, emphasis mine).” As D.A. Carson says in the New Bible Commentary on the Leviticus passages, “Holiness had a ‘contagious’ quality. Anything or anyone that came in contact with what was holy was affected by it, and needed to be treated accordingly.” That idea caught me by surprise, and led to my reflections about contagious holiness. No, it’s not a matter of kissing relics, but of aspiring to a holy lifestyle that positively impacts those around me.

  2. Ashley says:

    Mike, thank you for the challenge. I’ll be processing this in the days to come!

    • Yeah, Ash, this is one that needs to be chewed on for a while – that’s why I didn’t write about if for a few weeks. I hope it’s helpful – I sure have been motivated by it.

  3. Jessica says:

    I have walked away better for having known you, absolutely. Thank you for this challenge (and the blog in general – it’s like getting mini sermons from you more often! I love it). And you’re right – it’s your blog, your rules. 😉

  4. Jess says:

    I have had holiness rubbed off onto me after sharing the same roof, The glint of holy from that experience definitely makes its way into how I treat Greg & what our home has become. I think the notion of contagious holiness has always impacted me on a level of reflection (In the same manner Christs’ loving-kindness is what leads us to repentance), but touching objects is new to me. But come to think about it, touch a way Jesus would heal, actively and passively. Thanks for getting my wheels turning yet again.
    p.s. is that a miniature smiley face at the bottom of your blog?

  5. Jess says:

    Clearly, I should not be allowed to call English my first language. I could have sworn I proof read that. Good luck deciphering!

    • No problem, Jess. Blame it on your phone. 🙂 Thanks for your encouraging words – we loved having you under our roof, too, and I’m glad to have had a hand in how you guys view your home. As for the object-touching, I see it as one of those rare things in Scripture, and don’t think we have the right to assume that things like relics carry the same power today. But I do like the spiritual application of it to the interpersonal power of a holy life. It’s had my gears turning, so I’m glad its done the same for you.

  6. Len Smith says:

    I Corinthians 7:12-14 seems it imply a sanctifying effect on those who live in close proximity to a believer whose life is committed to obeying and loving Him. ;^)

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