Holy means, “set apart; sacred.”
In Eden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God face to face. He came to them in the appearance of a man, sometimes referred to as a theophany. We believe they were interacting with the pre-incarnate Jesus; God the Son. There was no division between them.
Sin changed all that. From the exact moment Adam and Eve sinned a cataclysmic separation occurred. What was sacred was now blemished. What was set apart became corrupted and dying.
“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.’” Genesis 3:17
At the same time, while man could have been left without any hope of redemption, God made an easily missed but all important promise in the passage, saying to Satan:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15
E.F. Hutton has nothing on God. When God speaks, his Word is ironclad. This is where God first revealed the plan he devised even before the creation of the world. (That’s how it is with the one who knows the beginning from the end.)
Adam and Eve left the garden. They could no longer be with God face to face. He was still sacred, set apart, holy, but now they were fallen. The progression of their sin corrupted the earth, just as God said it would. Cain killed Abel. Men did whatever suited them without regard for God or each other. Then God set his pre-planned plan in motion. Amidst the complete depravity of man, he began to call out a people to himself.
“The LORD had said to Abram [later renamed Abraham by God], ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’” Genesis 12:1-3
Abraham is the father of Israel. Over the course of the next several hundred years God forged his progeny into a nation of more than a million people. When it was time, he called them out of Egypt to begin a journey to the Promised Land.
This was not a nation of righteous men. They were people just like you and I; rebellious, lacking in faith, and generally going every direction except towards God. God sets out to change their direction. But how do you reach man when man is so blind and corrupt as to have no concept of God’s holiness?
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus God lays out The Law to Moses. If you’ve never read the Mosaic Law, let me tell you, it’s elaborate. In every detail God lays out explicit instructions for living for him, by his rules, and accounting for sin, saying to Aaron the high priest:
“You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses.” Leviticus 10:10
And oh yeah, there’s this little detail:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10
Pretty hard when you consider that not a single person was ever capable of keeping the law. So why did God give the law? One reason: Man needed a hard lesson on holiness. The Law communicates clearly to us how completely removed from God’s standard we are. It was nothing more than a shadow though. The true righteousness of God is beyond comprehension. Through The Law, we get a picture we can digest. It prepared the way for the full revelation of God’s love and righteousness when he fulfilled his promise in the garden and came into the world as Jesus.
Jesus fulfilled the standard we would never reach. He is the holiness of God. In him we who are unholy are made holy. In him, we are separated out and made sacred to God. He is the Savior of all who lived before he came, through faith in the promise, and all who put their faith in him from the moment of his appearing.
There is no corner of the earth God doesn’t see, no person alive he doesn’t have his eyes on. The blind may not see until God opens their eyes, but he does that daily. He calls out Abrams from every location. He makes a way where there is no way. He educates. He informs. He reaches. And that is how the good news is spread and the lost get found.