Quick! What images pop up when you read the word “Holy?”
A classic image that people think of are angels or priests that are in a posture of prayer and that is not wrong per say but the word “holy” has a very simple definition that most people are able to be and are in Christ. The word “holy” is defined as, “set apart.” Another word to look at today is “saint.” A saint is not a person that has a glowing circle around their heads as they sit in a lotus position thinking the deep mysteries of the universe but is a person that is simply holy. If we put the definition of the word “holy” into play, then the outcome of the meaning of a saint is a person that has been set apart. Set apart for what? Set apart from the world and dedicated unto the Lord. Yes pastors and priests are holy people but so is the everyday Christian who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord! Therefore, to develop holiness in our lives is simply the development of being set apart for Christ by looking, acting, and being like Him. It doesn’t mean we have to meditate for twenty-three hours in the day but that we simply learn how to live like Christ in all that we do.
The Israelites are given some hard tasks to carry out as they go into the promised land and it would seem that at first glance that God is being mean. But God has a reason and a purpose for what He commands as He is setting apart a holy nation that will reflect heaven and Himself in this broken world.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
7 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.[a] You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.
This the command that will be hard to grasp if we just take it for face value. The command is for the Israelites to destroy the inhabitants of the land and not make any covenant or committed relationship with them. Here are some points in regards to this:
This is hard to swallow, yes it is not an easy thing to approach.
It seems that God is being harsh. The emphasis is on the word “seem.” The people that are in the land are outright against God in their pagan practices of worshipping idols and disrupting the order of creation through their sin. In other words, they were continually living in sin. When I approached this part of the text with the mentality of how God could order such a thing, this was another instance of the underestimation of God’s righteousness and the overestimation of our goodness. If we knew the effects of consistent sin and the power of destruction that it brings, we will know the reason behind the command.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN WE GO AROUND DEVOTING PEOPLE TO DESTRUCTION. Further explanations will be given later in the post.
To completely separate is to avoid the power of influence. This means that we are to be careful as to what can influence us. This does not mean that we do not associate with non-believers but if their influence is greater in our lives than God, than we better do whatever we can to break that influence even if it means separation. The Israelites are still young and do not know the ways of the Lord and thus these precautions are taken so that they can stand a chance of being the people of God and not let outside influences bring them back to a place of slavery that they were set free from.
3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.
The destruction of the places of worship is the physical act of breaking down the things that will potentially influence them away from God. How do we in the modern times apply this?
DO NOT GO DESTROYING PROPERTY
When Jesus came, He made it fundamentally harder to follow God. When He gave the sermon on the mount in Matthew Chapter five, He started addressing the idols of the heart rather than idols that we can see with our eyes. Jesus reveals that the real battle for purity actually begins at the heart of a person. Then why didn’t God start this way? My opinion is that, one cannot begin looking at the heart of the problem if there is an external source to blame and thus God is taking steps to remove obstacles in preparation for His people to look at the real issue with our sin, us! Sin is not an outside force that makes us do things but sin is something that we choose to do and is very much our desires gone wrong. Desire is not bad but how we obtain them can be.
Therefore, the Christian should primarily focus on identifying and destroying the idols of the heart as the real way of being set apart because it is these idols that tempt us to forfeit our relationship with God by choosing to live in unholy ways that must be dealt with. The bigger issue is ourselves! So don’t go destroying people or places but seek for your heart to be made new in the Lord.
To maintain holiness, separation is the key from the influences that take us away from the Lord.
True holiness begins when we look into the idols of our hearts and separating ourselves from them.