Prompted by my son’s thoughtful question, and turning to God’s Word as the ultimate authority for my life, I began to explore God’s will, that is “sanctification”. Where did the word sanctify first appear in the scriptures? And what was the context?
The first occurrence of the word sanctify is found in the Old Testament, in the book of Exodus after the children of Israel had been freed from their slavery in Egypt. You know the story. The children of Israel had been oppressed and enslaved for 400 long years. The hope of ever being the nation that God has promised their forefather Abraham had become a distant memory clouded by their harsh oppression.
The people cried out and after 400 years, in the fullness of His timing, the Lord moved. He raised up a deliverer. As the story goes, the Lord delivered His people through Moses, who had as a baby escaped Pharaoh’s earlier death decree for first born male in every Hebrew home. The Lord brought mighty acts of judgment against Israel’s oppressors through Moses.
The last of the ten judgments, or plagues came – the death of the first born. The Lord had not forgotten His people. He had seen the Pharaoh’s harshness and cruelty, even his earlier order to kill the first born Jewish male. In His judgment, the Lord provided salvation for His people and their first born. This time they need not fear, their first born would find salvation. The blood of a lamb on the doorpost would cause the angel of death to passover the house; the first born male of the house would be saved.
It was on the heels of this miraculous liberation, the Lord commands the Israelites to remember His great and powerful hand that saved them out of Egypt, by instituting the ordinance of an annual Passover feast for the people to celebrate in community annually. Unleavened bread would remind the people of the haste in which the left Egypt. Bitter herbs would remind them of the bitter oppression. Lamb would remind them of the Lord’s provision amid judgment.
Interestingly, this context is also the first use of the word sanctify, which means a setting apart. What or who was to be “set apart"”? The first born was to be part of this memorial and was to be followed within the family. A reminder how the Lord provided salvation for His people and their first born. While we are called to remember in community, we are also called to remember within our own family.
Certain days, special meals, and distinct celebrations are part of our sanctification, of our being set apart. Such times call upon us to reflect and behold what God has done and what God has promised. Fixing our mind and heart on these truths is part of our sanctification. Drawing our thoughts backward, upward, and onward. Reordering our affections, so that any maligned appetite or desire may once again be rightly ordered according to His kingdom.
I share with my son these truths. We each carry a vision of what our life and purpose are, and we become what we behold.
Here’s the struggle: What/Who are we beholding? Practically, how do we as a family develop and faithfully carry a vision, His vision, in our modern, rapid-paced times?