Consecration Series: Desist from and indulge in… (Exodus 19:14-15)

Hello guys, this is the fourth part of the Consecration Series. In this post, we are going to explore two ideas that form the basis of the terms of consecration for an individual or a group of people. 1. To desist from doing certain things. 2. To indulge in certain things. I trust that this post will be a blessing to you. Happy reading.  - Eli Sabblah

Consecration demands that you ‘desist from…’ and/or ‘indulge in…’ something. In the scriptures, God sometimes instructed his servants to either desist from things that were not necessarily sinful or to indulge in things that may appear to have no implications on holiness. Consecration goes beyond sinlessness. Instructions that God gives often form the basis of the individual’s consecration or what I have loosely called the ‘terms of their consecration’.

Let’s take for example the mighty judge, Samson. There was some mystery surrounding his birth indicating that he was going to be an extraordinary person. The Bible states that Samson’s parents had been without a child because his mother was barren. An angel appeared to Samson’s mother before his birth to instruct her to desist from eating anything unclean and drinking wine during the pregnancy. In Judges 13:14, the angel appeared a second time and met with Manoah, Samson’s father, and his wife to give an even stricter instruction. The angel instructed the woman not to eat or drink anything from the vine. The fact that she had to be instructed this way implies a few things, but here are 2 of them I noted:

  1. Although it was a sin to eat anything unclean in Israel, it appears some people flouted this law, including pregnant women. Hence, Samson’s mother had to be warned strictly not to do it. 
  2. It wasn’t a sin to eat anything produced by the vine or to drink wine in Israel, yet Samson’s mother was instructed to desist from indulging in these two activities. 

The angel gave these commands because of the special seed the woman was carrying. An uncommon seed requires an unusual pregnancy. This basically sums up the truth about consecration: anything set apart for God should be treated as special. 

Samson’s mother was not the only one given instructions to follow to ensure that Samson remained a consecrated individual to God. The angel told his mother that the boy would be a Nazarite to God from birth, which means that no razor should touch his head. Samson was expected to keep dreadlocks on his head not because getting a haircut was sinful but because Nazarites kept the locks of their hair to honour the covenant they had with God (Nazarite vow in Numbers 6:5). 

In our walk with God, he may instruct us to desist from doing certain things that are generally not sinful and instruct us to indulge in things that may appear to have no implications on holiness. These activities will form the basis of our consecration and distinguish us from all other men. It is important to note that we don’t become consecrated by following specific and personal instructions God gives to others. Doing this may help us in our general Christian walk or actually prove futile and even detrimental to us. This is why a personal relationship with God is essential in everything we do. Once we develop a close walk with God, he sets us apart from all other men by giving us personal instructions to follow: things to desist from and others to indulge in. 

Nobody should institutionalise the terms of their personal consecration as a doctrine in the church for others to practice. In establishing what is doctrinally good for the Christian walk, the bible recommends the word of God and the word of God alone. To this effect, Paul advises Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, correction, etc. Hence, nobody should expect what they deem as the terms of their personal consecration to become common Christian practice. Take, for example, a Pastor who has been instructed by God to desist from watching movies. Once this man of God heeds to this instruction, he is consecrated. However, if he makes it a doctrine in his church, it is very likely the entire church is slipping into sheer religiosity or legalism.  Or if Samson gathered men in Israel and forced them to take the Nazarite vow of never cutting their hair. These men would have never been as strong as Samson because the Nazarite vow he took was the terms of his personal consecration. Therefore, his power was not in the locks of his hair but in the obedience to the personal instructions God had given him. 

In Deuteronomy 14, the Lord makes a list of clean and unclean animals; clean animals being the ones that the Israelites were allowed to eat and the unclean ones being the ones they were to desist from eating. The list was made across various kinds of animals: 4-legged animals, birds, and fishes. I am not going to highlight the details of the lists but rather focus on a statement the LORD made twice in the same chapter (in verses 8 and 10). In the two verses, after God listed unclean animals he ended the instruction like this ‘…is unclean for you’. This statement implies that this instruction was not for everybody on earth but specifically for the children of Israel. People from other nations could very much eat ‘unclean’ animals and it wouldn’t necessarily be a sin in the eyes of God because he did not give them this same instruction. This statement affirms the point I have been making so far: certain things could be clean for everybody’s consumption but unclean for you. While reading Deuteronomy 14, I wondered why God expected his people to eat some animals and not others. The answer is in verse 21 when the LORD instructed his children not to eat any animal that had died naturally. He said, “for you are a people holy to the LORD your God”. As a consecrated group of people, the LORD expected the Israelites to eat specific animals, desist from eating others and abstain from eating animals that died naturally.

In Exodus 19, we see God issue some instructions to the children of Israel through Moses. The first of these can be found in verse 5:

Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Exodus 19:5 ESV

For the Israelites to become God’s treasured possession, set apart from all other tribes and nations of the earth, the LORD expected them to obey his voice and keep his covenant. This is similar to the instructions Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:20-22 indicating that if anyone desires to become a vessel of honour in the master’s house, he must cleanse himself from that which is dishonourable.

To conclude, I would like to take us back to Exodus 19, to the story of the consecration of Israel before the LORD descended on Mount Sinai to deliver the law to Moses. In verses 10,14 and 15 the LORD gave the following instructions to the people through Moses:

  • Wash your garments 
  • Stay away from sex for 2 days
  • Stay ready 

God expected them to wash their garments, desist from having sex and stay ready or remain in earnest anticipation of the meeting with him. The Israelites were expected to follow these instructions for 2 days before meeting with God on the third; God called it consecration.

Feature image: @frankfmx on IG

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