As is typical with the writing of Paul, as we are nearing the end of 1 Thessalonians, he begins talking about some general life advice that the people ought to follow in chapter 4. I really like the way that he summarizes his advice.
1Th 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
If we are followers of Christ, then we have been called by Him. However, when someone calls, then we are theoretically going to be moving somewhere else. After all, if I am in one room and you call me from another room, you are calling me to the other room. You want me to make a change in my location to come and talk to you.
Therefore, God is asking us to make a change. He is calling us to a holy place. He is calling us into a place where we conform to Jesus. We are not being called to a place of greed, envy, hatred or evil. Rather, we are being called to holiness.
Clearly, we don’t always listen to the call. Just as I don’t need to respond to you when you call me from the other room, we can ignore what God wants us to do. Think about Jonah. He got on the boat and went in the opposite direction. This is the problem of sin. We violate the law of God, and we do what we want rather than what God has explicitly said we need to do.
I guess that is a challenge for all of us. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we have been called. We need to respond to that call and go where the call is leading us. Paul tells us here that the destination is going to be holiness. Let’s keep working for that.
I had forgotten about the angelic encounter in Joshua chapter 5. Let me give you the verses right away, and then we can take a look at them.
Jos 5:13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
Jos 5:14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
Jos 5:15 And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
Joshua apparently did not realize this was an angel right away. The reason I say that is because he did not respond with the terror that most people exhibited when they met angels.
As soon as they began speaking, the angel explained who he was, and Joshua all of a sudden bowed down and asked what God wanted him to do.
He knew that the angel came to him for a reason. Angels don’t generally appear spontaneously. God has a purpose for sending them to talk to people.
This particular angel only had one thing to say. If you look ahead to the next chapter, the angel had gone away. All that he had to tell Joshua was that the ground was holy.
It is kind of funny that the message was so simple, but I think that the angel was preparing Joshua for what would happen next. As we all know, we are getting very close to the battle of Jericho which wasn’t very much of a battle.
Perhaps God just wanted to remind him that this land was not only given by God but also blessed by God. All of the success that the people of Israel were about to have was also directly from God. It is not that Joshua was arrogant whatsoever, but maybe God just wanted to emphasize without a shadow of a doubt that He was there and was powerful.
In Leviticus chapter 11, we finally get to the definitive list of dietary restrictions that God placed on the Israelites. Obviously, I’m not going to go into detail for all of them, but let’s take a passage from the end of the chapter to talk about a little bit more.
Lev 11:44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Lev 11:45 For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Verse 44 does talk about not eating anything that creeps on the earth, but that is not really the main point of these verses in my opinion. God is calling the Israelites to be holy because He is holy.
Perfection is of course an impossible standard for us to achieve because we are already imperfect people, but it is interesting that we are called to be holy here. What is the difference?
I think that the most relevant definition from The Free Dictionary explains that holy is “specified or set apart for a religious purpose.” That is how we are supposed to act in our lives. We are supposed to be set apart for the purposes of God rather than set aside for our own purposes.
In a way, this is exactly what Jesus was called to do while He was on earth. He always did the will of His Father because He was set aside for a specific purpose. He could have bailed out at any time, and Satan gave Him plenty of opportunities in the wilderness.
Just like Jesus, we need to do what we set aside to do. The Bible is essentially our handbook that helps us determine what we should do, and we need to use it for the glory of God.