Friday, October 17, 2008


Talking with son Mike several times recently about his impressions of Israel and his time there got me thinking. He said that one of the things that he has come to understand is that there is really nothing special about the land or the places in Israel. As he's traveled about and seen so many Biblical places, he's observed that these are just mundane and unspectacular hills and valleys and cities. Just plain old rocks and trees and dirt and sand and rivers. Not the magnificent sites that we tend to have in our minds when we read and think of these locations in our Bibles, or in "Holy Land" tour literature.

But what is it, then, that makes these places special? What is that that makes the Holy Land, holy? As Mike noted, it's not the land in and of itself, but the One who chose that land and those places as the locale in which He would demonstrate His mighty works and His character for all to see and know. The land we now call Israel is just another chunk of land in the middle-east, undistinguished geographically from the area surrounding it. It is only holy because God chose, first a people to be His own, and then the land for them. It is the Lord God Yahweh who makes the people, the land, or anything else He chooses to be His, holy. Set apart for His possession, His purposes and His glory. As He told His people the Israelites long ago, "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you." (Exodus 31:13).

As I thought about this, I realized that this is exactly what He still does in the case of those whom He brings to faith in Jesus Christ. He first chooses those who will be His, according to His will, from eternity past. Not because they are or will be anything special or praiseworthy or deserving. But rather because He unconditionally purposes to do so. Just like the unremarkable land of Israel, every one who God chooses for faith in Christ is likewise unremarkable. It is only the fact that He chooses that makes them anything at all. His work is all of grace, undeserved favor. Hebrews 10:14 says this so well: For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

If we are in Christ, we are sanctified. We are declared to be holy. Not always in our practice, but eternally in our position. Not due to our "merit", but because of His sovereign grace. Chosen as His special possession, declared to be holy and set apart in Christ. Sanctified in our standing before Him, and growing in our practice of that sanctification by His Spirit for our entire lives. For His glory alone.

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