President Calvin Coolidge invited some people from his hometown to dinner at the White House. Since they did not know how to behave at such an occasion, they thought the best policy would be just to do what the President did. The time came for serving coffee. The President poured his coffee into a saucer. As soon as the home folk saw it, they did the same. The next step for the President was to pour some milk and add a little sugar to the coffee in the saucer. The home folks did the same. They thought for sure that the next step would be for the President to take the saucer with the coffee and begin sipping it. But the President didn’t do so. He leaned over, placed the saucer on the floor and called the cat. This is mindless imitation!
Do you know that God calls us to imitate him? We are called to imitate God in his holiness. I Peter 1: 15. How Holy is our God? In the OT, in his relationship with the chosen people, God demonstrated his holiness in several ways. I want to highlight on three – Revelations, Regulations, and Reactions.
God’s Revelations: Several people in the Scripture had visions from God – four of them were unique, especially those who saw God in his heavenly majesty. They saw a glimpse of God’s holy presence in his heavenly abode.
1)Isaiah 6: 1-5
2)Ezekiel 1:1-5, 28-2:1.
3)Daniel 10: 1-9
Look at their individual responses. They were not able to face the beauty of His holiness. They trembled and fell flat before Him.
God’s Regulations: God gave his people (OT) hundreds of rules and regulations to live by – for day to day life, for social life, family life, economic life, sexual life, for relationships, individual worship, corporate worship. The basis of all these was God’s holiness. Lev.11:44, 19:2, 20:26, 21: 8. God expected them to be separated from those who were around them.
Mt. Sinai: Exo.19:9-25 Ark of the Covenant in the Tent: Exo.25: 22 (A place where God meets with his people) Num.4:4-5, 15, 20 (Those who serve Levites and Kohathites, the Kohathites can only carry) Temple:Holy of holies – Heb. 9:7
God’s Reactions: Whenever God’s people trespassed God’s demands to be holy and committed sin (broke laws), his reactions were severe.
Uzzah – 2 Sam.6: 3-8
Uzziah – II Chr. 26: 16-20
Moses – Deut. 32:51
No one who trespassed God’s laws was left unpunished. Sometimes the punishment was immediate, sometimes God was gracious and merciful for a time but punishment was inevitable.
Once, as an experiment, the great scientist Isaac Newton stared at the image of the sun reflected in a mirror. The brightness burned into his retina, and he suffered temporary blindness. Even after he hid for three days behind closed shutters, still the bright spot would not fade from his vision. “I used all means to divert my imagination from the sun,” he writes, “But if I thought upon it I presently saw its picture though I was in the dark.” If he had stared a few minutes longer, Newton might have permanently lost all vision. The chemical receptors that govern eyesight cannot withstand the full force of unfiltered sunlight. There is a parable in Isaac Newton’s experiment, and it helps illustrate what the Israelites ultimately learned from the wilderness wanderings. They had attempted to live with the Lord of the Universe visibly present in their midst; but, in the end, out of all the thousands who had so gladly fled Egypt, only two survived God’s Presence.
What does God’s Holiness mean to us?
NT Christians seem to be let off by God when they commit evil and sinful things. Has God lowered his holiness standards? The answer is No. Our God is the same. I Pet. 1: 15 is for the NT church. The vision that God gave to a NT saint reflects the same intent – Rev. 4:1-8. His holiness standards are still the same but we are no more under law…we are under grace becoz of what Christ did for us on the cross (Heb.10:19-22). Does that mean we can live whichever way we want? Rom.6:1-2. God desires us to live a holy life. He does not want to threaten us to lead us into holiness. He wants us to submit to him out of love for him. He in fact has already called us ‘holy ones’ or saints. Now, he expects us to live holy lives.
Where all does God expects holiness?
J. I. Packer in Rediscovering Holiness cites four aspects (i) Holiness in my heart (A holy person’s motivating aim, passion, desire, longing, aspiration, goal, and drive is to please God, both by what one does and by what one avoids doing). (ii) Holiness in my temperaments (One needs to raise above the weaknesses and form habits that would please God. (iii) Holiness in my relationships.-(iv) Holiness in my humanness (where carnality rules). Our holiness unlike the OT believers is not guided by rules and regulations but in and through the person of Jesus Christ. He is our standard. All our desires should be to become like Jesus (Christ-likeness). When the wife of missionary Adoniram Judson told him that a newspaper article likened him to some of the apostles, Judson replied, “I do not want to be like a Paul…or any mere man. I want to be like Christ…I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, and place my feet in His footprints…Oh, to be more like Christ!” We may not succeed instantly. It is a life-long process but we need to be at it.
A woman who went to a diet center to lose weight. The director took her to a full-length mirror. On it he outlined a figure and told her, “This is what I want you to be like at the end of the program.” Days of intense dieting and exercise followed, and every week the woman would stand in front of the mirror, discouraged because her bulging outline didn’t fit the director’s ideal. But she kept at it, and finally one day she conformed to the longed-for image.
The world will not get a chance to see Jesus in action today as the first century Jews. We are the ones who can imitate him and show his love to the needy world around us. On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: “James Butler Bonham–no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.” No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of His true followers. Let Christlikeness become our watchword!
By Sam K John