Friday, May 03, 2013

Sanctified In Spite of Me

As you've guessed from my recent posting, my Bible reading plan has had me in Leviticus recently (actually a few weeks ago, but I'm just blogging about it). I have to admit it was a struggle. God met me in the first couple of chapters and opened my eyes to see the gospel, but after that it was mostly plodding. One morning I opened my Bible purely out of duty, not hunger. To be honest my thoughts were, "I really should read now so I don't fall behind on my reading plan, but ugh, Leviticus. I'm tired of slogging through all these regulations about skin diseases and offering specifications." I arrogantly thought, "what is there to gain from reading all this? It's just the same point over and over: God is holy and we are not; costly sacrifices must be made. OK, OK, got it."

Isn't it just like God in His mercy and grace to meet me there in spite of my cynical attitude and my lack of expectation?? He once again opened my eyes as I was reading chapters 21-22. I kept noticing the phrase "I am the LORD who sanctifies." Don't do this, for I am the LORD who sanctifies you. The priest must not do that, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him. They shall not do such and such, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

I realized that in the midst of this litany of rules about holiness and purity, it is so easy for me to fall into the mindset that you make yourself clean. You follow the guidelines, you obey the laws, you perform the rituals, and that's how you make yourself acceptable to God. But He inserts over and over--it is *I* who sanctify You. Your rituals and your obedience are not making you holy; I make you holy.

This is so integral to who God is and what He does that it's actually a name for Him: "Jehovah Mekoddishkem" is parallel to names like "Jehovah Jireh" (the LORD who provides), "Jehovah Rapha" (the LORD who heals), "El Roi" (the God who sees)...He is "The LORD who sanctifies." He is absolutely committed to making us holy, so much so that it is part of His name. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase in Scripture, "for Your name's sake!"

It's not that we make ourselves holy and acceptable, not that we perform the sacrifices and avoid the taboos and then God declares us holy. No, exactly the opposite: God makes you holy, now act like it! He is the LORD who sanctifies you; because you are sanctified, start behaving in a way that reflects that reality. Still a shadowy, dim reality here in Leviticus under the Old Covenant...but now, in Christ, we *know* we have been declared righteous. Jesus' perfect record has been imputed to us; we are now holy! So--become what you are. Be holy in practice as you already are in standing.

So amazed that God condescends to meet me and speak to me even when I have such a crappy attitude about His Word. Truly He is the LORD who sanctifies me--not because of anything good in me, but because of His grace. He doesn't declare me holy after I fulfill His requirements; He declares me holy in spite of myself, and then sends His Spirit to dwell in me and make it so.

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