31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured upon the bodies of ordinary men, and you shall make no other like it in composition; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. — Exodus 30:31-32, RSVCE
It seems odd to pick such a reading from Exodus. It is filled with such wonderful (and terrifying) stories about God’s activities among the Israelite nation as they sought liberation from the oppressive Egyptians. Burning bushes, various plagues, water from stone, bread from heaven, and a mountain on fire are all examples of the dramatic and powerful imagery found in the pages of this book, yet here I am talking about God’s seemingly legalistic instructions about anointing oil.
What gives? I am glad you asked.
If you take a moment to look over Exodus 30, you will find instructions regarding the altar and it’s holiness (verse 10), an atonement offering (verse 16), bronze washing equipment (verses 17-19), and anointing oil/incense and the holiness thereof (verses 31-32 and 37). It all seems like the kind of instruction Christians prefer not to worry about. We are, after all, supposed to worship God “in spirit and truth,” not through seemingly empty rituals and the particular implements involved (John 4:24). However, this attitude often blinds us to important things that can be learned by looking at the reasoning behind what God is asking of the people of Israel and their representatives.
If you notice, the various items from this passage are considered perpetually holy. This holiness come not from the items themselves, but from their dedication and proximity to God in the tent of meeting. Likewise, our holiness is not determined by whatever club, political party, career, or family we do or don’t belong to. It is not enhanced by our nationality, citizenship, or race. As indicated in the text, even the priests need to be made clean! Holiness comes to us only through our proximity to and relationship with God. It comes through acknowledging our need to “wash” ourselves in the loving sacrifice of God Jesus Christ, being made humble before the One, and reflecting the love shown at the cross to the rest of His creation through our words and deeds.
We are part of a world that, as a whole, needs a lot of help to heal. We turn to our politics, our weapons, our protests, our families, and our various heroes to make the difference, but we keep finding that these only provide temporary relief, if any. For real change, we must start by allowing God’s love to make us holy. This requires humility, repentance, and the willingness to change. Once this journey begins, our worldview starts to change. When that happens, we are free to live in light of the love and victory of God, bearing kindness, compassion, and justice to the world in a way that is ultimately transforming in nature. So let’s get to it!
Peace be with you!
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