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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday message- what is 'holy'?

Have you ever hit a word that struck you as odd or unusual in a place, did a word study on it, pulled it out to this great and complicated thing- and then discovered the lesson from it was so simple?  I do that a lot.  And I did it this week at the beginning of Psalm 86:

Psa 86:1  A Prayer of David. Bow down Your ear, O Jehovah, hear me; for I am poor and needy. 
Psa 86:2  Preserve my soul; for I am holy; O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You. 

The word, in this case, was holy- what did David mean by it?  Well, I fell into a word study on 'holy' and found that there are 6 Hebrew words translated thus in the Old Testament, and four in the new.  I want to start with the lesser points before I get to the bigger picture.

The majority of these words stem from the Hebrew qadash- meaning to be or to make clean.  The prime example of this specific word comes in its very first use, in Exodus 30:8, saying that the sabbath shall be kept holy.  All but one of the Hebrew words are derived from this one in some way.  The most used version- in fact, the very first version used- is the word qodesh, referring to a place or more usually to an item that is sacred- for example, in that first use, Exodus 3:5, the Holy ground at the burning bush where Moses was told to remove his sandals.

A place that is more formally consecrated might be indicated by the word miqdash, which is first used in Psalms 68 describing "the holy places".  Examples given in my concordance include a chapel or a palace- or, perhaps, a temple.

Now the NT words are an interesting story.  All but 9 of the many places holy is used in the NT are from the word hagios, which the concordance notes carries the concept of being purified from defect.  Twice, the word hieros is used- in 1 Corinthians 9:13 and 2 Timothy 3:15- both times denoting items that have been formally consecrated- which makes it basically the same as the Hebrew qodesh. One word- hagiazo, which as you might guess comes from hagios, is used only once- in Revelations:

Rev 22:11  He acting unjustly, let him still act unjustly. And the filthy, let him be filthy still. And the righteous, let him be righteous still. And the holy, let him be holy still. 

This denotes someone who HAS been sanctified or purified.

But now that leaves us two more concepts- the most important ones- to look at.  One of them is the concept of a personal, like God holiness- captured by the Hebrew word qadowsh  and the Greek hosios- for which the description under the Greek nails it best:  to be right by divine character, as opposed to human means or formal consecration.  In other words Holiness that means you are walking in the character of God.

The other is encapsulated in the Hebrew word that David used in our opening verse, chaciyd.  This connotes being pious, kind, or godly.  In other words, being the kind of person that would make others say, "That feller's a real saint."  But take it one step farther.  Chaciyd derives from the word chacad, a word that had a very telling description:  to bow the neck, as a courtesy to an equal.  Get that?  That is the whole concept of considering others greater than oneself.

So, what is being holy?  When you look at these main two definitions- divine character and deference to others- you can see it was the same question that was asked of Jesus in Matthew 22:

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

And THAT is what it means to be holy.


  1. Chris:
    I have to say there's a LOT crammed in here, and the Hebrew meanings (to me) are those that I find very interesting.
    The "character" of God...(whew), wish I had a lot more of THAT every day.
    The word pious tends to be muddled in today's world, and often takes on a less than stellar connotation. It's rare that I hear it used in expression of someone akin to David.
    I have heard the phrase "there's a sainthood in it for you" and that (for me) means the person it's directed at has the patience of Job (and then some...heh)!
    I suppose what still baffles me is whether there are levels of "holiness" or if (indeed) "one size fits all", which I tend to not believe as much.
    Holiness is part of the Christian walk with God...definitely, a work in progress.
    Some days are more holy than others. Some days are not, and it's those times when we need to place our hand in HIS, for we can't go any of this alone (and thankfully, we never will).

    Good post.

    Stay safe up there, brother.

    1. After having spent time knowing people like frank Kalko, I KNOW there have to be differing levels of holiness- because some of us are a LOT closer to God's character than others...

      But you are right- we don't always MAINTAIN that level. We don't pay attention. That's why He calls us sheep, I am told.

  2. I never gave it any thought but now you have brought it up I found myself wondering about it and the whole post bloody interesting

    1. One thing I left out was one word in Hebrew- was the Chaldean version of another Hebrew word, and used only by Babylonian speakers in Daniel.

  3. I'm impressed. That's a great post, chief. Keep it up.