“Nothing is sacred.” It’s a phrase often used to convey horror at the lack of respect bestowed upon a subject that had previously been designated off limits. These things range from religious symbols and objects of moral value (think, sanctity of human life) to even the more general things that, if violated, would cause a great amount of discomfort (“Boss cancelled Taco Tuesdays…is nothing sacred anymore?”).
The idea of sacredness, reverence, and holiness has been the subject of my thoughts for several months, if not years, now. The drastic conclusion I have come to is that I do not understand it, and I’m not sure I ever will.
If something is sacred or holy, by its nature, it is entitled to our reverence. It deserves to be set apart and treated with respect, veneration, and awe. It should basically inconvenience us. Why? Because it is worthy of it. However, American culture is built upon equality. I’m not better than you, and you’re not better than me. Anyone can do anything. Everyone deserves the best. Do what makes you happy because you’re worth it. This causes much friction between the attitudes surrounding us and the one demanded by God.
It’s a tired perpetuation to say that the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) are the hardest to digest. Oh, you’re in Leviticus? Good luck, buddy. But why is it so rough? I, myself, have been reading through the Old Testament and finding myself preaching the above to my heart. This is so silly! What am I getting out of this anyway? Why is this even in the Bible? It’s not even relevant anymore because of Jesus. Old Testament God is the worst! (as if OT God and NT God are even different, but I digress…) The Pentateuch is chock-full of everything the Israelites were required to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, decadely, generationally basis. It was involved and inconveniencing and onerous.
I came across the story of the establishment of the priesthood through Aaron and the Levites. At one point, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered “unauthorized fire” to God and they immediately died. Not only that, but Aaron and his family were forbidden from mourning for them. Not only that, but the surviving priests were scolded because they also mishandled the post-death offering. This is all found in Leviticus 10.
Admittedly, I thought this was super harsh. Where’s the grace? Where is the mercy? It seems so trivial and it cost them their lives. “Unauthorized fire?” They were trying, right? I even thought to myself, “Who does God think He is?” Cue the lighting bolt, right? Well, God must not have thought it trivial because this story is referenced three more times in the Old Testament: Numbers 3:4, Numbers 26:61, and 1 Chronicles 24:2. God clearly thinks He is deserving of nothing short of perfect reverence. And He’s right.
My attitude is nothing short of rebellion, the worship of the god of self. I am putting myself on the same level as God, and criticising His claim to absolute veneration by applying my sense of “equality.” I am treating Him as one of His creations, not the Creator Himself. You’re not better than me, God. And I’m not better than You.
Reality check. Even Jesus didn’t have this attitude – and He was God: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:3-7, ESV, emphasis added)
My approach to God should be absolutely reverent. The sanctity of our Lord should move me. It should move me to worship, to speak out, and to love others. Nothing should be of an inconvenience because if there is Anyone in existence for Whom I should be “inconvenienced,” it’s Him! Because He is God. He is the Creator, the Savior, the Protector, Father, and Friend.
I struggle with it on a moment by moment basis, but I have a hope that is different from our Old Testament counterparts. Where’s the grace and mercy I was complaining about in the establishment of the priesthood? It’s found in Jesus, of course! The Israelites had to put their hope in a coming Savior and were limited by their humanity. We live with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I should be nothing but reverent, but when I am not, His grace is sufficient for me.
He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever. (Hebrews 7:26-28, NLT)
Friends, I want to challenge you to take some time to consider what holiness means to you. What does it look like to revere our Lord? What are practical, outward things you can do to show respect? Are there any baby steps you can take to shift the shoulds into the dos? Ask a friend to hold you accountable. Because He deserves it. He is the Holiest of Holies.
So what do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
So What do I know? What do I know of Holy?
excerpt from the song What do I know of Holy? By Addison Road