Consecration Series: clean, cleansed, holy (Exodus 19:10 and 14)
Hello guys, this is the third part of the consecration series. This part focuses on appearing clean before God and ready for honourable use. This is a major theme of the concept of consecration hence, I hope you learn a lot from what I have shared. Happy reading. - Eli Sabblah
We certainly cannot talk about consecration without making a single reference to cleansing. Consecration involves the purification and cleansing of an individual, a group of people, artefacts etc. at the Lord’s command or request. The cleansing process could be a ritual or an actual washing of the person in question to make them fit for the Lord’s presence or an assignment.
When we say an individual is being consecrated, we are saying the person is undergoing a purification process which will produce holiness. Holiness is a command therefore we must subject ourselves to the process that allows us to carry out this command. God commanded the Israelites through Moses in Leviticus 19:2 saying “you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy”. Apostle Peter echoes this command in 1 Peter 1:16. Holiness connotes sacredness, uncommonness, and being set apart or distant from that which is mundane and profane. To be holy is to be like God in character, conduct and deed. It requires putting off the old nature and its demands and putting on the new man which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Colossians 3:10). Believers all over the world are undergoing this same process of being made perfect and holy. This is what consecration is all about.
When it comes to cleansing during consecration, the bible often talks about it in two ways: physical cleanliness and cleanliness of the heart. There is an emphasis on the former in the old testament and an emphasis on the latter in the new.
In the anchor bible passage for this article, God commands Moses to consecrate the children of Israel in preparation for his meeting with them. The terms of this consecration required the Israelites to wash their garments (Exodus 19:10). This indicates the necessity of a clean appearance before the LORD which is similar to the purity laws outlined in the book of Leviticus. Therefore, the LORD’s command to the Israelites to wash their garments before meeting with him is very consistent with his character. He is holy hence anybody who wants to draw near him must cleanse themselves from filth. Without holiness, it is impossible to see God (Hebrews 12:14). When God manifests physically in a place, your physical appearance and the cleanliness of the environment are very crucial. This idea is evident in the verse below:
“You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you. Deuteronomy 23:12-14
The above passage builds a bridge between the cleanliness of the environment and holiness. Prior to this command, it seems the Israelites eased themselves within their camp. This is an environmental problem that could have led to outbreaks of diseases and whatnot. However, the LORD addresses this problem as a spiritual one that has implications on the holiness of the people and his closeness to them. God says, because he walked in the midst of their camp to deliver them and give up their enemies before them, they must be holy. In this case, their environment must be clean.
Wherever you intend to host God must be clean and devoid of filth. That includes physical locations like temples and prayer rooms. However, in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:19), we are told that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are expected to keep the temple (our bodies) as sacred as possible and homely for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This leads me to the next point…
Cleanliness of the heart
God is very much concerned about the state of the human heart: how sinful it is or how hungry it is for righteousness. God who is Spirit outlined several purity and hygiene laws in the Old Testament because he walked in the camp of the Israelites and in some cases he manifested himself physically to them. In whatever space God chooses to appear, it is our responsibility to make that space clean and habitable for him. Be it a physical space or in the heart.
God is concerned about purity at all levels and in all aspects of a person’s life. Be it in their thoughts, actions, appearance etc. God commands all of us to be holy as he is holy: without spot, without blemish. God wants us to be pure, without any impurities existing in us. In 2 Timothy 2:20-22, Paul makes an illustration that puts the responsibility of becoming an honourable vessel in the LORD’s house on the believer. He put it this way:
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
There are many vessels in the master’s house; some are honourable, others are dishonourable. If anybody would put in the work to cleanse themselves from dishonourable activities, the master will set them apart as holy and use them for every good work. When the Apostle speaks about being cleansed from that which is dishonourable, he isn’t referring to physical appearance here. He is referring to sin and in some cases mundane activities. That which is common among men is usually unholy or unlike God. In the New Testament, appearing physically clean and honourable is good, however, being clean in your heart should be the top priority to us all. Jesus made this clear when he rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 in what is popularly known as “the 7 woes”. Between verses 25 and 28 Jesus rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees in this manner:
- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence
- You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
- So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The Scribes and Pharisees appeared most righteous among all men. They put in a lot of work to appear clean (kindly read Matthew 23). They put a lot of effort into physically distinguishing themselves from the average person. But they paid very little attention to the cleanliness of their heart. There was greed, self-indulgence, hypocrisy, lawlessness and all manner of uncleanness in their heart but they focused on their appearance before men. They cared very little about their appearance before God. This was the reason why Jesus rebuked them sharply. There are lessons here for all of us: we need to put a lot more effort into cleansing ourselves from that which is dishonourable and indulge in that which is honourable. It is only then that we will become vessels set apart for honourable use.
How do we cleanse ourselves from that which is dishonourable as New Testament believers? The answer is in what Jesus told the Pharisees: First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, so that the outside also may be clean. Although, physical cleanliness is important the priority should be the cleanliness of the heart. Once we start from the heart, it will be projected on the outside. The Scribes and Pharisees had it in reverse; they thought being physically clean would make them more acceptable to God.
To be consecrated is to be conformed to the image of God. Conformity is a proximity issue. You are more likely to conform to the image of the closest person to you. Therefore, in all our pursuits, we need to be deliberate about pursuing God and drawing close to him on a minute-to-minute basis. Jesus made a statement in Matthew 23:17 that captures this thought perfectly. He said the gold in the temple is made sacred because it is in the temple. Gold is valuable in and out of the temple. But gold is only regarded as sacred or holy when it is within the 4 walls of a temple. Where you are and who you are close to determines whether you will be successful at living a consecrated life or not. Choose to draw close to the Holy one and he will expose the uncleanness of your heart and grant you grace to cleanse yourself from that which is dishonourable.
Feature image: @frankfmx on IG