“The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways.”
Deuteronomy 28: 9
King James Version
“There is no single definition of holiness; there are dozens, hundreds. But there is one I am particularly fond of: being holy means getting up immediately every time you fall, with humility and joy. It doesn’t mean never falling into sin. It means being able to say, ‘Yes, Lord, I have fallen a thousand times. But thanks to you, I have gotten up again, a thousand and one times.’ That’s all I like thinking about.”
What does it mean to me, personally, to be a “holy daughter” of God?
“How little people know who think holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing; it is irresistible.”
“The perfume of holiness travels even against the wind.”
In the old-fashioned movie Pollyanna, an orphaned girl is forced to move to the town of Beldingsville to live with her very strict and very wealthy aunt. As one can easily observe, the “ruling” figures in this town, including the local church pastor, seem to think that “holiness” comes into each life by strict obedience to a set of defined rules dictated by a demanding God. With the threat of eternal damnation hanging over their heads, the people of this quaint town become gloomy and depressed. A spirit of unhappiness totally permeates the lives of nearly everyone.
As a young girl, I also had the idea that “holy” people either never smiled or did penance or wore long white robes. Holiness, in my mind, was defined by an outward demeanor which gave off an air of serious piety.
I remember going to Wednesday night prayer meetings with my parents where it appeared to me the individuals who prayed the longest prayers or gave the most emotional testimonies, were the ones everyone seemed to think were the closest to “holy people.” But then, when later I saw one of these sanctified individuals come unglued at another member in church, berating them and gossiping about them, I began to re-evaluate my opinion. I wondered whether I really knew and understood what it meant to be “holy.”
As I have studied the lives of spiritual individuals down through history, I’ve come to realize I have not been alone in my search and longing for what is really involved when one chooses to live a “holy life.” And I ask you, “Does holiness mean seriousness? Does holiness mean solemnness? What does it really mean to be “holy?”
Part of our answer comes, believe it or not, from the book of Deuteronomy. As we continue to study the “Blessings and Cursing” Moses shared with the children of Israel, we are given a clear picture as to the desire God has for everyone who longs to live a holy life.
In Deuteronomy 28: 9,(K.J.V.) there are three key words that give us a focused understanding on the kind of life God calls “holy.”
The first word is “establish.” “The Lord shall establish thee an holy people.” The word “establish” defined in the Hebrew means “abide.” People who are holy “abide” in God, and God abides in them. David paints a beautiful picture of the “abiding” that brings holiness into our lives when he wrote in Psalm 91: 1,(K.J.V.) (“She) that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” To better understand this text, I checked the Hebrew meaning of the word “dwell,” and it means to “keep house” and to “remain with.” It’s as though those who abide choose to move in with God. He becomes a permanent resident in our lives.
The second word I want to look at in Deuteronomy 29: 9 is the word “keep.” “If thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God.” In the Hebrew the word “keep” is used in several ways. Here are a few: “a hedge, a guard, to preserve and observe, and to give heed and regard for.” If we apply the meaning of these words to the phrase: “Keep the commandments,” I’d like to share with you the idea that God wants us to recognize that rather than His commandments being a set of arbitrary rules designed to turn us into robots with a checklist we keep as we try to make certain we don’t do anything wrong or worse yet, anything that will make God mad, His commandments are a protecting “hedge” which wall us in when we “observe and have regard for what God says. His commands, when “kept,” preserve us, just as a life-preserver protects someone who can’t swim or who is left in the water too long and becomes too tired to swim and save himself.
The third word in Deuteronomy 28: 9 is the word “walk.” This word means “to grow.”
So let’s take our text for today and paraphrase it with the meaning of the Hebrew words: “And the Lord shall abide and move in with thee as holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt hedge thyself with His commandments and observe and have regard for what He says, you will grow in His way.”
When I say to God, “come live with me,” I am giving regard to all He teaches me. In turn, God promises I will grow in His way. I will become holy. And we won’t be sour old prunes with sad, gloomy faces as we try to prove that God’s holiness has infused our lives. Instead, by time spent abiding with our heavenly Father, we’ll have the result Thomas Brooks describes when he penned these words: “It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet.”
As the townspeople of Beldingsville found out, a smiling, happy face was by far a better reflection of holiness than a fire-breathing, angry or grumpy face – any day!
“Holiness consists of doing the will of God with a smile.”
“I would be, dear Savior, wholly Thine;
Teach me how, teach me how;
I would do thy will, O Lord, not mine;
Help me, help me now.
What is worldly pleasures, wealth or fame,
Without Thee, without thee:
I will leave them all for Thy dear name,
This my wealth shall be.
As I cast earth’s transient joys behind,
Come Thou near, come Thou near;
In Thy presence all in all I find,
‘Tis my comfort here.”
F. E. Belden
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Available May 2009