Day 30, Chapter 29: The Connection
Moses was dead (Joshua 1:2). It was bitter-sweet, for he was the last of a generation that had to die before the next generation was allowed to stop wandering in the desert and living in tents. Their inheritance awaited them – nice cities, homes, gardens, and more. After his death they could possess this inheritance. And yet Moses was the great leader that led them out of slavery with amazing signs and wonders. He knew God in ways no other mortal ever has. His staff parted waters, turned rocks into fountains, made the sky rain plagues and rivers turn to blood. He once spent so much time in God’s glory that his skin glowed. Certainly this was no ordinary man.
But he was gone and his spiritual son, Joshua, was about to take over for him. He would lead this chosen nation into the Promised Land. For over four hundred years this had all been in the works. It started with Abraham, whom God chose to help him redeem fallen humankind. Messiah would come through his offspring. As a thank-you, God promised him some land.
Abraham would have to wait for the land, however. Almighty God wouldn’t simply take it from its current occupants and give it to him. In His justice, He would wait until the sins of the inhabitants reached a level that justified it (Genesis 15:16).
It was time.
What should be done to prepare for the momentous fulfillment of this great four hundred year old promise? Four centuries is a long wait. Certainly something very special should be done over the next three days to celebrate and prepare. Should they fast for three days? Perhaps they should pray around the clock while they waited. Maybe they should worship nonstop for the next seventy-two hours. Should they offer hundreds, maybe thousands, of sacrifices? Or throw a three-day party? Whatever we do, it needs to be monumental, they probably thought.
When God’s instructions came, there were two of them. The first was humorously practical. “Pack,” He said. “Spend the next couple of days packing so you can cross the Jordan into your Promised Land” (Joshua 1:11, paraphrased).
Pack? Yep. Sometimes we want instructions that are profound, but God knows we need something profoundly simple. At times, the most spiritual thing we can do is the most natural and practical. Work is practical yet very spiritual; feeding hungry people is, as well; nurturing our children is practical, time consuming, tiring – and very spiritual. Keepin’ it simple is sometimes keepin’ it spiritual. Movement requires preparation.
There was, however, another important assignment given in order to prepare for this historical day. It, too, would be simple, but would be an internal, not external, preparation. And it would be profoundly powerful and important. “Qadash yourselves,” Joshua told them, “for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you,” (Joshua 3:5). This, you will recall, is where we started this 30 day series. Qadash is an important Hebrew word meaning “to set apart.” In biblical context, it usually meant “to be set apart unto God.” There is another Hebrew word for separation from, which we’ll look at momentarily, but this one is separation unto. Qadash is often translated using theological words such as sanctify or consecrate, but don’t let them confuse you. Keep it simple. The concept simply means “to separate or set apart a person or object unto God.”
Setting a person or thing apart and to God meant it was reserved for Him. For example, furniture and utensils in the temple were qadash-ed to God, meaning they were not to be used for any other purpose. The Israelites were to be qadash-ed to God – they couldn’t give themselves to the worship of other gods. I am qadash-ed to my wife, set apart to her alone.
On special occasions, the Israelites were often asked to qadash themselves to God in an extra special way. This would be like Ceci and I getting away for a day or two, perhaps even for vacation, in order to separate ourselves from other activities and spend extra, quality time connecting with one another. Occasionally, God asked Israel to qadash themselves to Him in this additional manner.
The key to truly understanding God’s heart in the use of qadash is the “unto Him” aspect. Though we have made sanctification and consecration religious and legalistic, they are actually relational concepts. A poor understanding of this has hindered our connection to Him. Consecration is for connection. In the same way that the wedding vow is relational, so is spiritual sanctification.
The Lord’s request to Joshua and the Israelites before this monumental occasion was simple: “Draw near to me today. Let’s celebrate this new era by celebrating the pleasure of one another’s company.” How refreshing is that!
Interestingly, the Old Testament word for “holy,” qodesh, comes from qadash. To be holy doesn’t mean being separate “from sin,” but rather “unto God.” BIG difference. Think about it. Inanimate objects were called “holy” in Scripture, as were places and days. Obviously, this was not because these objects or days hadn’t sinned. It was due to the fact that they were being set apart to God. Holiness isn’t sinlessness. Performing every good work imaginable would never make us qodesh - holy.
Please don’t misunderstand me. To live a holy (“separated unto God”) life will always result in purity, because connecting with God will make us like Him. His nature is imparted to us through the connection. Qadash, separation unto Him, is the cause; qodesh, holiness, is the effect.
There is another word in the Old Testament having to do with separation, but it involves separation from. This word is nazir. You can probably see the word Nazirite in nazir. A Nazirite vow was a promise to separate from certain things, usually temporarily, as an outward demonstration of devotion to the Lord (see numbers 1:2-21). It was a fast, of sorts.
Nazir, however, and Nazirite vows didn’t make anyone holy. Only qadash led to qodesh – holiness. Can you see from these words in their definitions how backward we have this truth? Typically, we try to become holy through nazir – separation from doing certain things. “If I can only refrain from or stop this activity I can be holy,” we tell ourselves. Then we make the effort to stay away from that sinful activity. When this approach alone is taken, however, there is no power flowing to us from His presence. If, on the other hand, our attempt at purity begins with qadesh – separation unto the Lord – this connection provides the power and willpower necessary to overcome sin.
Samson is a good example of one who didn’t get this right. He was supposed to be a Nazirite all his life: separated from the dead, from unclean or forbidden foods, from alcohol, and from the cutting of his hair. These, however, were to be outward signs of his inward relationship with God. Samson obeyed the outward Nazirite vow for part of his life, nazir-ing himself from those activities. But his Nazirite condition never made him holy. Try as you may, you’ll never derive the word qodesh from nazir, only from qadash.
Sadly, there was never any indication that Samson was ever separated unto God. His inward pursuit never matched the outward vow. His hair was separated from a razor but his heart was never separated unto God. Therefore, he yielded to selfishness, lust of the flesh, and compromise. Delilah and the cutting of his hair ultimately occurred because his heart connection had been cut off from God. Without power from this God connection, he was powerless against the temptation.
It is comforting to me that strength lies not in the perfection of my outward performance but the connection of my inward heart. I’d rather reach toward God than run from sin. I’ll take a God who wants me over my good works any day.
A religious, legalistic approach to God leads to pride if we think we succeed, or hopelessness and condemnation if we fail. God hates pride and also dislikes hopelessness, knowing it leads to spiritual heart failure (see Proverbs 13:12). He wants our heart to be healthy through a connection with Him, the source of its life. There’s a vast difference between performing for acceptance and performing from acceptance. God has already “accepted” us through Christ’s sacrifice (Ephesians 1:6). Connect, celebrate His love and acceptance, and allow the power of His purity to flow through you.
Never again be satisfied with a performance-based, works-oriented relationship with God. His love isn’t for sale – it cannot be earned. It is, however, available. Reach out to Him and receive it. Then, like Joshua and the Israelites, get ready to move into your glorious future, found in the pleasure of His company.
Pray with me:
Lord, help us to keep our Christianity simple; resting in Your grace and trusting in Your love. Keep us from striving toward perfection in our own strength and feigning consecration through works. You asked that we be set apart unto You.
We recognize that it’s only from the getaway place of relational exchange that we will receive the power to walk in holiness and consecration; living a life truly set apart. We want to live a life of victory over sin and compromise, but on our own we know we’ll quickly burn out.
Today we boldly draw near, Father, and respond to Your call to qadash ourselves unto You. We receive the power of purity that flows from Your presence; it’s the heart connection by which we are sustained.
Father, we have separated ourselves unto You this past month. It has, indeed been a pleasure. Now we are confident You will do as You have said and work great wonders through us. Bring forth the greatest revival in church history! We boldly decree this shall be so! In Jesus’ name we decree it! Amen.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 249-256.
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