Focal Passages: Exodus 19:1-6, 10-14, 16-19
Several years ago at a retreat a man asked me what I thought was my greatest attribute. As I thought for a moment words like, friendly, generous and caring came to mind. Then the man made a statement that I will never forget. He said, “If your greatest attribute is not holiness, it may be possible you are trying to live the Christian life in your own strength.”
As I thought about his words they have continued to remind me of at least two truths.
First, God expects His people to be holy. This truth is clearly taught in our focal passage. When Israel came into the wilderness of Sinai God told Moses that if they obeyed His voice and kept His covenant that they would be His treasured possession, a kingdom of priest and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). The same expectation is true for the church today. Speaking for God, the Apostle Peter wrote, “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, ESV). Indeed, throughout the entirety of scripture we see God challenging His people to live and reflect, what many would describe as God’s greatest attribute, namely, His holiness.
Second, not only does God expect holiness, He also provides the means by which holiness is attained. In Exodus 19:10-11, God tells Israel to consecrate themselves and wash their garments. Certainly, this preparation included the whole person. Following Exodus 19, we see God give Israel numerous commandments that would teach them how to live a life that was holy and pleasing to Him (Exodus 20-23). Looking back now from a New Testament perspective, we see how God’s law was not only an act of grace for Israel, but also a tool He uses to help people see their need for a Savior. Ultimately, Israel could not fulfill the law and neither can we. The only holiness we can achieve only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, any person not fully dependent on the finished work of Christ and His holiness is living in their own strength.