(This is Pt.2 of the “Rich towards God” series of posts)
They (the priests) are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23 NIV)
This perhaps more than any other area of wealth in God’s Kingdom, has been so neglected and abused, that at best God’s people are poverty stricken in our grasp of the difference between the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean, the sacred and the profane.
Ezekiel 22:23-31 also relates an experience in Israel which shows their poverty in this area. God was rebuking Israel, specifically Jerusalem, for their failure to distinguish between the holy and the common. The priests were not upholding the laws of God regarding who could enter the Holy Place, who could minister before the Lord, which foods were clean and unclean, etc.
Throughout the Old Testament, God insisted that a distinction should be made and taught, so that His people would know what is set aside (made holy) for His purposes. There was supposed to be holy food, holy oil, a holy place, a holy people, a holy nation, a holy tribe, holy priests, and holy tithes. When something or someone was set aside for special purposes, they were considered holy. Once something was set aside for holy service of some sort, it would be considered a sacrilege to use that for common purposes. That which was sacred was not to be profaned (“profane” means to pollute or to make common).
You must distinguished between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them though Moses. Leviticus 10:10-11
In a New Testament sense, Christians are said to be holy, set apart to be salt and light, set apart to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Our worship is holy, not to be treated as common, not to be polluted in any way. Our children are even considered as being holy. They are children of promise, set apart for God’s use.
Whenever Israel failed to distinguish between the sacred and the profane, their lives became tumultuous. They were even exiled to other nations and oppressed on every level of their society.
THE HOLY AND THE COMMON OF TODAY
When there is no clear distinction between the holy and the common, strange things begin to occur in our lives as well. For example, if we fail to see any sanctity in what we say, we abuse our ability to speak, we make false statements and promises, we lose our security and ability to trust or to be trusted. A vow or a promise may lose all meaning if we do not see the sacred character of our words.
If we who are parents lose sight of what is holy and what is common, our children will also be unable to make that distinction. Then, within a matter of years, our values are lost and we become a rootless, groundless society.
When parents fail to see their children as a gift from God, meant to be set apart for the worship and service of God, the sense of the holy is lost. Soon, there may be no reverence or respect for life itself. Only when this loss of reverence has occurred will there be a society which constantly argues over issues such as abortion or euthanasia. Where there is a distinguishing between what is holy and what is profane, we recognize the holy purpose of our lives, we have a sense of calling, a sense of destiny. We then recognize the holy quality of our children’s lives, and even the holy quality of those children yet unborn.
In our society we need a fresh revelation and grasp of the holy character of our sexuality. If we fail to recognize and teach the sacred nature of sexuality within the marriage of one man to one woman, many doors are opened to take something intended as holy, and to make it common, polluted.
One of the clearest examples of distinguishing between the holy and the common is seen in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Wine and bread are common elements, but this particular wine and bread are set apart for holy use. They are no longer to be seen or understood as common. They represent something holy: the Body and the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For this reason, a warning must be issued: Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” (I Corinthians 11:27-30)
We are participating in profanity if we do not discern the Lord’s body in communion. It is a participation in something holy, something sacred. Those who take part unworthily in the sense of not recognizing the holiness of this sacrifice, end up judged and disciplined by the Lord.
God’s desire for His people is that we would know the difference between what is holy and what is common. We are to be those who live and teach this difference. May God help us to see this as an area of potential wealth, an area that must be explored, re-learned and proclaimed for the blessing of future generations.
Bob serves as the lead pastor on Lifegate’s pastoral team and is the primary preaching pastor. He received his BA from Asbury College and MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.