Other Key Concepts
"Here a little, there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept..."
Here we take a quick look - more than a glance - at other key concepts which have become distorted or misunderstood in recent times, sometimes even in ancient times.
Holy, Holiness & Sanctify
Over the years I have heard various people say, "God is a holy God and cannot look on sin."
The implication is that "holy" means or implies "the absence of sin." That is not what the adjective "holy" or its corresponding noun, "holiness" mean.
We only need to read Genesis 3 with our eyes open to realise that God is not affected by sin.
God didn't turn away while Adam and Eve were making their big mistake. God didn't cover Their eyes and say to Gabriel or Michael, "Tell me when it's all over so that We can go down and punish them in Our fierce anger."
No, God kept to the usual schedule, for the benefit of Adam and Eve ("in the cool of the day") and sought to draw them out for their own healing. See the full story on "The Love of God" page.
So what does "holy" really mean?
The original Hebrew (Old Testament) primarily uses two words, quadosh and qodesh, which are translated as "holy." In each case the word means to separate or set something apart, or it refers to something which has been separated or set apart.
In Classical Greek (New Testament) we see something similar: the words hagion and hagios mean "to set apart or to separate."
In both Hebrew and Greek, then, as used in Scripture "holy" does not refer to behaviour or character as we seem to think of the word, but to intention or position.
To understand what "holy" really means let's look at a well-known but generally misunderstood usage of the word "holy" while remembering its meaning as "set apart."
In Exodus 3 Moses is looking after his father-in-law's sheep in a wilderness area on Mt Horeb. As he goes along he notices off to the side a bush on fire, but which was not being consumed. He decides to turn off to see this great sight and as he does so, God calls to him by name from the bush and after Moses responds, God then says (verse 5):
"Do not come near;" that's a command for Moses' own safety and protection.
"Put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy."
Because we are conditioned to think of "holy" as "something special to do with character or behaviour" we can easily miss the real point here.
Was this ground free of sin in some way? No, it wasn't.
Was it God's presence which made this place "holy?" No, it wasn't.
Is there something "unholy or unclean" about wearing shoes in God's presence? No, again.
Was this a sign that Moses had to cleanse or purify himself or his ways before he could approach God, or before God could use him? No, absolutely no!
Let's substitute the real or basic meaning for qodesh as used here, instead of using the religious term "holy."
"Put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you stand is set apart."
Set apart for what? Where was Moses standing?
Mt Horeb is also known to us by a more familiar name, Mount Sinai. Moses was standing on Mt Sinai. Although he did not know this just yet in a few months' time he was meant to bring several million Israelites back to the same place. This place, this ground was set apart for Moses to return with the beginnings of a new nation under God.
Set apart. Something special would happen in this same spot at a later time.
To ensure that Moses would return to this same place he removed his shoes, on God's instruction. With his bare feet on the soil of that place he was making a spiritual connection to show that he would come back again.
How do we know this is true?
Several thousand years later Jesus used the same principle of "holiness" or setting something apart for special or later use when He was teaching about visiting ministry in Luke 9 and 10.
"And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them." Luke 9:5; Luke 10:10,11
Was this some sort of ancient curse? No, of course not. It was just a graphic way of saying, "Because you have not received the message that we brought we will not be returning; we break the connection with you by shaking off even the dust of this place from our feet."
Dust on feet? This place is set apart (holy) for me to return. I have a spiritual and physical connection with this place to come again.
Dust off feet? This place is no longer set apart (holy) for me to return. I no longer have a spiritual or physical connection with this place.