Apple Pies and Holy Nations: The Upward Calling

In order to prove that God was no longer required by humankind, a coalition of prominent scientists joined forces with the goal of discovering some advancement that would put them on equal footing with their Creator. It took decades of grueling research and backbreaking labor, but at long last, they made an earth-shaking breakthrough. Soon, reporters and news anchors everywhere were raving about the newly constructed “Genesis machine”—a machine, everyone said, that would free humanity from its dependence on God.

With great pomp and circumstance, the scientists brought their invention before the throne of God for its grand unveiling. He watched patiently as they assembled the machine, piece by intricate piece, until they stood proudly before a rather impressive-looking contraption, covered in flashing lights and a mind-boggling array of buttons.

After a moment or two of silence, God gestured to the machine and said, “Well? What does it do?”

The lead scientist grinned widely and said, “We’ve done it! We’ve finally done it! This new invention proves once and for all that You, God, are obsolete!”

“Oh?” said God. “How so?”

With a grand sweep of his arm and a nod of his head, the lead scientist gestured for his companions to begin prepping the machine. Buttons were pressed, pistons and gears sprang to life, and lights flashed wildly. “With the Genesis machine,” he said, “we can now create life from inanimate matter. All it needs to begin is a small handful of dirt—and from there, anything is possible.”

“Most impressive!” said God. “Let’s see!”

The scientist knelt to the ground to scoop up a pile of dirt and began walking toward the great contraption—but just as he reached the machine, God snapped His fingers and the dirt vanished. Irritated, the scientist turned to God and shouted, “What’s the big idea?”

“I thought you were going to prove to Me that I was obsolete,” said God.

“I will!” shouted the scientist.

“That I am completely, entirely unnecessary to humanity.”

“You are!”

“Well then,” said God, leaning in close to the scientist and placing His hand on the man’s shoulder, “get your own dirt.”

Making apple pies

Mankind prides itself on its creative abilities. After all, what haven’t we created? From masterful paintings to towering buildings to technological advancements so complex they require several degrees to fully comprehend, it’s evident that the human race has a definite affinity for creating.

But are we really creators? It was the late Carl Sagan who once observed, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” In the most literal sense, we can never claim to have made an apple pie from scratch because we didn’t make the ingredients. Even if you grew your own apples and milled your own wheat, can you claim to have made the apple tree? Where did the millstone come from—did you create the rock from which it was fashioned?

The universe and all its building blocks were established a long time ago, created from absolute nothing by the Word of God. As much ingenuity as we’ve shown in our time on earth, we haven’t technically created anything. We’ve just rearranged quite a bit of it.

The original Creator

The very first sentence of the very first book of the entire Bible establishes God as the only true Creator: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The introduction to the entire written word of God is a reminder that God made everything. The computer you’re reading this on, the chair you’re sitting in, even the very clothes you’re wearing—the atoms and molecules that compose all of these began their journey when God spoke the universe into existence at the dawn of time.

We might be creative, but God is the Creator. “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).

Qadash and qodesh

At the end of the creation week, God did something special with His brand new universe. He took the seventh day and He “blessed…and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:3).

The word “sanctified” is an interesting one. It is unfortunately one of those words that gets tossed around by religious communities without much attention to its actual meaning—a word that our minds might register as frivolous “religious speak” before reading right over it. But it’s an important word, so let’s take a minute to really look at it.

The word that was translated in Genesis 2:3 as “sanctified” is from the Hebrew word qadash, which means “to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate.” It’s also worth noting that qadash serves as the root of the Hebrew word translated “holy” (qodesh). So when we read that something has been sanctified or made holy, what this literally means is that it has been set apart in some way.

Apples and apples

Okay, so I have ten apples. I take three of them and set them some distance away from the others. Are they holy apples now? Is the action of being set apart enough to make something holy?

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More important question: Are they even my apples?

Even though they’re in my possession, I can’t really call them mine. After all, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). Because God created everything, He owns everything—making Him the only being in the Universe with the right to sanctify anything at all. For one of us to try and do so would be roughly the same as a child pointing to some belonging of his parents’ and declaring, “I’m making this one special!” It’s not up to the child to decide…and it’s not up to us, either.

But when God makes something holy, He tells us, “Out of all the vast riches of My universe; out of every single galaxy I have fashioned, this is special to Me. There may be others that look like it, but I am making this one different; I am giving this one a special purpose.”

Setting aside time and space

We’ve already looked at the very first sanctification recorded in the Bible—the Sabbath day. God made the seventh day holy by setting it apart from all the other days of the week for the special purpose of providing rest. Later, it appears as the first of several “holy convocations” (Leviticus 23:1-3) which God set apart from the normal flow of time as special observances to remind His people of His plan for all humanity. Throughout the Bible, we see references to “holy ground” (Exodus 3:5), the “holy things [of the tabernacle]” (Numbers 4:4), a “holy border” (Psalm 78:54), and many other things set apart by God for special purposes. Out of all of time and space, God chose these times, objects, and places to become something more than what they were.

But in addition to all of that, there’s one other thing that God makes holy:

You.

A holy nation

You didn’t belong, once. There was a time, whether you grew up in the Church or not, when you didn’t have a relationship with God. There was a time when you hadn’t internalized the guiding light that is His word. There was a time when you were a common, ordinary human being.

But God changed that. He made you holy. He sanctified you; He set you apart. For “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who were once not a people but now are the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have the obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Whoever you were before, whatever road you left behind you, wherever it is you’ve been, you now belong in a holy nation. You have been chosen by the Creator, set aside by Him from the rest of the world to become one of His people. He called you and offered you a path from darkness into light, and you accepted.

The antithesis of holy

Unfortunately, there’s a problem.

While it’s true that we cannot take something common and make it holy, we can do the opposite. We can take what God has set apart and treat it as common through a process called profaning. God warns repeatedly against profaning His name (Leviticus 18:21; Proverbs 30:9; Ezekiel 20:39) and His Sabbaths (Exodus 31:14; Ezekiel 22:8) by treating them as ordinary. Generally speaking, when Israel found itself oppressed by nearby nations, it was because they had stopped honoring both God and His Sabbaths.

When we stop treating God as holy, He stops setting us apart. We can’t profane the name of the One who sanctifies and expect to remain holy ourselves. In other words, when God sets something apart—when He makes something holy—we must be sure to treat it as such! When He sets rules and determines boundaries, we can’t treat them as suggestions or good ideas. If we’re given a commanded assembly, we need to make sure we’re there. If we’re shown a line and told not to cross it, we need to keep from skirting the edges. The high standard of holiness is not one we can meet by remaining stationary, but by constantly pressing on toward perfection.

Onward and upward

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

Brethren, we have been set apart by God to become part of His holy family. One day the whole world will have this invitation, but for right now it’s just us. The road there is a hard one and we have been called to walk it while living in a world that opposes us at every turn. The days will be hard, the battles will be difficult, but the crown of righteousness lies ahead.

We serve a holy God, and He has called us to be holy, too. Let’s strive to meet that standard.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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