A people holy to the Lord


Sermon preached by Rev Rudi Schwartz on 1st July 2012

God’s treasured possession

Scripture Readings:

  • 1Peter 1:13-2:3
  • Deuteronomy 14:1-21


  • “Here I am to worship”
  • “In Christ alone”
  • “The Ancient of Days”
  • “Shine Jesus shine”


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The declaration of the Lord in verse 1 of Deut 14 is profound:  “You are the children of the Lord your God.” Moses addressed the Israelites as they are about to enter the Promised Land.  He did not ask them, “Are you children of God?”; he made a statement and then he provided the reason for what he had stated: “Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you be his treasured possession.”  And then right in the middle between these statements he states the position of God’s people and God’s purpose with his people in this world:  “You are a people holy to the Lord your God.

The rest of this paragraph of chapter 14:1-21 describes the way in which they had to display their relationship with the Lord as his holy people in the way they live in the land God would give them.

You are the children of God

Of course, in the immediate sense of the word, God addressed the Israelites by declaring “You are the children of God”.  In the immediate sense of the word they were chosen by God to be his treasured people.  They were living under the covenantal promises of Abraham.  They were the nation rescued from Egypt and they were the ones who would now enter into the Promised Land which God had promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Surrounding them were the heathen nations which God wanted Israel to dispossess:  Canaanites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Hittites, Perizzites; but there were also the surrounding nations like the Moabites and the Ammonites.

It was God’s purpose with his people to live differently from all these nations.  Because He called them and blessed them above all the nations on the face of the earth, made a covenant with them, gave them his Law of the Covenant, and gave them a land to live in, He wanted them to live lives holy unto Him.  This means that their lives and conduct would be determined by God’s standards; they were in no way to be trapped into the detestable religious practices of the any of the nations which they had to drive from the land.

They were God’s Old Testament Church. They had the calling to be priests of the Lord and witnesses of the holiness of God. As such they would be instruments in the hands of God to draw the heathen nations unto the Lord.

In her bosom Israel would carry the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, and in Him God would continue his church to become the universal church, a church not defined by national heritage or bloodline, but by faith in the Messiah who would become the Passover Lamb of God, the light of God to the nations and the Doorway to God. It was therefore not meant for Israel to forever be the chosen nation of God.  They would be the channel through which God build his universal church in and through Jesus Christ.

Those whom God calls to Himself from all eternity in Jesus Christ are members of this church.  The New Testament is a continuation of the church of the Old Testament.  Old Israel now became New Israel and both have the covenantal father Abraham and become children of God through Jesus Christ.

This means that what verse 2 of Deuteronomy says about Israel is now applicable to the church today, but then as understood through the salvation of Jesus Christ.  This verse reads:

“… you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 14:2)

1Peter 2:9 puts it this way:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

His treasured possession

The word used here in verse 2 means personal property and is also used to describe the transfer of ownership after a certain price is paid.  In Psalm 135:4 the Lord declares:

For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession. (Psalm 135:4)

When some of God’s people in the Old Testament in the time of Malachi doubted God’s faithfulness, other rested in the fact that God paid the price to make Israel his own.  Listen:

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. (Malachi 3:16-17)

To be God’s treasured possession is to enjoy the protection, grace and compassion of the Lord. The New Testament passage for tonight reads:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-19, 21)

The apostle Paul puts it this way:

“… we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:13-14)

God bought his church, both Old and New Testament, with the blood of his dear Son Jesus Christ.  He marked us to be his own with the blood of his Son and He poured out his Holy Spirit upon us.  Hear the Word of God:

“…those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if [because] we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

This is the gospel we preach.

A people holy to the Lord

In the beginning I remarked that Moses did not ask the people “Are you the children of God?”; he stated it.  The proof if they were children of God lies in the next statement:  “You are a people holy to the Lord”. This statement separates the sheep from the goats.  It is one thing to say you are a child of God; it is another to live like one. We see it also in our day.  Many so-called Christians show their true colours the moment the Bible talks about walking the walk and talking the talk.

Measure of holiness

The measure against which we are holy, is God’s holiness: “Be holy because I am holy.”  To be holy is not be perfect or sinless.  Holiness does not refer to a passed-away person of spiritual importance now declared to be a saint.  The meaning of holiness in the Scriptures is being set apart for a purpose.  It describes something which is different.

In this sense God is utterly unique and in a class by Himself—that’s his set-apartness—none compares with Him. There is no other Creator, no other sustainer, no other final measure of good and evil.

“This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6, NIV)

“Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44:8, NIV)

God’s people is different and set apart for unique service

God regarded his people as something special among the nations; therefore they have to conduct themselves as something special among the nations. They are called by God out of this world to now belong to Him, and now live in a covenant relationship with Him.  They are his children, and therefore they display the characteristics of their Father.  They look at the world differently, and they respond to the demands of this world differently. Before He called us we considered Him wrongly, we had deceitful desires. But now Peter calls them “former” desires. They are fading into the past. As much as we might have to fight them back with truth, they are not the defining power in our lives anymore.

Now we are aware of, submitted to, trusting in, guided by,  and hoping in God.  He determines our morning, our midday, our afternoon, our evening, our work, our thinking, our singing, our art, our sport, our culture.  He is our moral standard, our truth, our joy and our hope.  That changes everything: we now desire to live to glorify Him and to display something of his holiness in our holiness by living differently from those who do not know Him and understand his holiness.

In short, like old Israel, the new Israel acts differently, talks differently, dresses differently, spend their money differently, spend their time differently, have different hopes, and have different desires.  There are things others do not think about, which now to God’s people are important: they do their work differently, they treat others differently, and they look at earthly possessions differently.  They don’t see time as belonging to them, but something God has made them stewards of.  They use their talents differently, and serve others with their gifts.  They even eat differently!  Let’s just look at Israel’s’ diet.

It was important to bleed animals before eating them, because the blood represented the life principle of the animal, and the life principle belonged to God and God alone.
Only certain mammals were allowed to be eaten. Predators could not be eaten, because they live off animals which died without the blood being drained. Any water creature having both fins and scales was kosher and could be eaten. This excluded catfish and shellfish which were considered scavengers of the sea. Vultures and the like because were the scavengers of the air, they live off animals which died without the blood being drained.

Do these prohibitions on certain foods still apply to the church today? No! But  the principle behind these dietary laws remains:  Christians are different and holy, a people of God, and therefore in whatever they do they should display a lifestyle pleasing to God.

There were other statements of separation from the nations, and prevented Israel from having easy fellowship (sitting down at a common meal) with Gentiles.

Listen to 1 Peter 1: “… live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (1 Peter 1:14-17). This verse talks about our heavenly citizenship, but it also has implications for our living now on earth:  we are strangers, and here we cannot conform to worldliness.

Paul in Titus 2 says,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:11-13)

Can you see the connection between this verse and Deuteronomy 14:1-3?


Someone said:

“Worldliness is what any particular culture does to make sin look normal and righteousness look strange.”

When the apostle Paul wrote to Philippians Christians saying “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20) he was calling Christians to be citizens of a heavenly commonwealth and to strife against the human tendency to make a home on foreign soil by imitating the customs of the homeland.

The difference is simply that no matter how courageous and inventive our efforts, us Christians must never forget that this world is not our home. There is a sense of alienation that must be taken into the heart of all experiences. Adaptation may be second nature, but it can also be the death of our first nature—that created in the image of God and then re-created by the grace of God in Christ.



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