Holy People in Society
Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you. [Leviticus 20:7-8].
Social life highlights the need for divine worship. It is in living together, in producing an advanced level of culture, science, industry, and government that human existence faces its greatest challenges.
The centripetal forces that unite and direct a family, community and nation emanate from spiritual energies found deep within our psyche. Imbedded in our subconscious and encrypted into our chromosomes, this Divine consciousness is mined with faith and harnessed by worship.
Holiness is the strength of the soul. It comes by faith and through obedience to God’s laws and ordinances. God then purifies the heart by faith, and the heart becomes purged from that which is profane and unworthy. When holiness is achieved by conforming to God’s will, one knows intuitively that which is wrong and that which is right before the Lord. Holiness speaks when there is silence, encouraging that which is good or reproving that which is wrong. [James E. Faust].
As the social unit expands, as the group grows in number and in complexity, the need for spiritual energy to maintain its bonds increases. The propensity to divide, the inclination to separate, also increases, until a portion of the unit breaks off, relieving the pressure.
And hold fast, all together, unto the bond with God, and do not draw apart from one another. And remember the blessings which God has bestowed upon you: how, when you were enemies, He brought your hearts together, so that through His blessing you became brethren; and [how, when] you were on the brink of a fiery abyss. He saved you from it. In this way God makes clear His messages unto you, so that you might find guidance. [Quran 3:103].
The Bee Hive
A bee hive illustrates some of the conditions produced by social interaction in a confined environment. The properties of bees are so altered by congestion that they produce unique ingredients from which new queens are nourished.
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity. [Quran 3:104].
A queen honey bee develops more fully than sexually immature workers because she is fed royal jelly, exclusively, for an extended period. During the larval stage, worker bees (drones) are normally fed pollen and other substances. However, larvae that are to develop into queen bees are fed only royal jelly. [See Wikipedia on queen bee, royal jelly].
When a queen is needed by a hive, the hatchling receives, in large quantities, only royal jelly as its food source – for the first four days of its growth. This rapid, early feeding of royal jelly triggers the queen’s morphology, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.
Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what God wants us to be. [Thérèse de Lisieux].
While the royal jelly provides the physical ingredients to produce the morphology, it does not act in a vacuum. It is one component of a complex communal process on which survival of the entire hive depends.
Shortly before these new virgin queens hatch, the old queen leaves the hive, taking with her a swarm of 5,000 to 25,000 worker bees. After a few minutes flight from the hive, the queen stops on a branch or other feature . . . and the swarm settles in a tight ball around her. Scouts then search the surrounding area for a suitable place for the new hive. [Joel Loveridge, The Chemistry of Bees].
This shared instinctive sense for how and when to act is analogous to the religious experience in human society. At the proper time and place, prophets, messengers and spiritual leaders arise to guide the community during times of great challenges. Those who remain faithful and maintain their connection to God survive, as a remnant with whom the spiritual covenant continues.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. [Deuteronomy 18:18-19 (NIV)].
Religious communities similarly develop unique qualities and characteristic by differentiating themselves through belief systems and restrictive diets. The most noted example of such a community is Israel.
“Be ye holy, for I am holy.’ It is as if God said, Holiness is my blessedness and my glory: without this you cannot, in the very nature of things, see me or enjoy me. Holiness is my blessedness and my glory: there is nothing higher to be conceived … [Andrew Murray].
The Hebrew word kadusha literally means “to separate, to make distinct,” from kadosh. The root Q-D-Š appears more than 800 times in the Hebrew Bible, expressing holiness, separation from the profane, proximity to God, consecration and purification.
From this root comes Kiddush (sanctification of the Sabbath), Kaddish (sanctification prayer), and Kedushah (the third section of Amidah recitations). The sacred Hebrew language is called Leshon HaKodesh (holy tongue), the Temple in Jerusalem is Beit Hamikdash (holy house), and Ir Ha-Kodesh (city of the holy) is a name for Jerusalem. [See Q-D-S]
An action by a Jew that brings honor, respect, and glory to God is considered to be Kiddush ha-Shem (Sanctification of the Name of God). Jews who die rather than renounce their faith are called Kedoshim (holy ones).
How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing … it is irresistible. [C.S. Lewis, Letters To An American Lady].
Shabbat, the Sabbath, also symbolizes sacred separation. The day of rest is distinguished from the work week, again elevating the holy above the profane.
The one concept, the central idea I kept meeting in Scripture, was the idea that God is holy … Today, I am still absorbed with the question of the holiness of God. I am convinced that it is one of the most important ideas that a Christian can ever grapple with. It is basic to our whole understanding of God and of Christianity. [R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, p 12].
Holiness requires separation. Anything that is holy is isolated, removed from the common and elevated away from corruption.
But saints and angels behold that glory of God which consists in the beauty of His holiness; and it is this sight only that will melt and humble the hearts of men, wean them from the world, draw them to God, and effectually change them. [Jonathan Edwards].
The Children of Israel were to be God’s holy people, therefore, they had to be separated, made distinct from all the idolatrous nations surrounding them. To survive as God’s chosen people, they had to maintain their spiritual and ritual purity.
To the Jews, this sacred separation was closely dependent on abstention and restrictions. The 613 commandments regulating Jewish life defined, literally and symbolically, the meaning of being a Jew.
As royal jelly to the wandering exiles, the Torah represented a spiritual queen that propagated not only Jewish hives but also, from its swarming progeny, populated our world of Christians and Muslims
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [Quran 49:13].