The Laodicean Project- What Will Cleanse the People?

Continuing our look at how our corporate actions can be used to reach “Christian” societies, there is another verse I would like to share with you. This time it comes out of the book of Haggai (really digging for these, huh?). Haggai was a prophet, alongside Zechariah, during the time of the rebuilding of the temple and the city gates of Jerusalem, the event whose history is given in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Haggai was focused directly on the rebuilding of the temple, and so along with this came the question of how the people are cleansed by the ceremonial law:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:11-14)

So, in this verse we see God asking the question through his prophet, “Are things made holy simply by being in the presence of something holy? Are things made defiled by being in the presence of something defiled?”

Working in reverse, the answer to the second question is “Yes.” If things or people or ideas are clean and holy, and then something unclean is introduced, then the defilement of the unclean thing ruins the whole bunch. This is the same as the principle being expressed by Paul in Galatians when he says “A little leaven leavens the whole lump (5:9).” This plays itself out in numerous ways in our life; through relationships, activities we engage in, the words we say, books we read. If we are not careful to protect the things which are holy from the things which aren’t then we stand to lose the holiness that we had to start with (see also 1 Corinthians 15:33).

As to the first question, “Are things made holy simply by being in the presence of something holy?”, the answer that comes is “No.” Yet do we believe this? Do we act this way? I don’t believe so. I think too often in our churches we think that just by being in church, just by being in Sunday School or a Bible Study or participating in “Guys Nights” that we are being made holy. I know in my own life I operated for a long time under the thought that a personal, daily time with God wasn’t necessary because I was at church twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday, and in Bible Study on Tuesday. Yet it isn’t enough, or should I say, it is not the right stuff. Yes, a good pastor (shepherd) should “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), but as John Stott says in his book The Living Church, “But how do shepherds feed their sheep? The answer is that they don’t. To be sure, if a lamb is sick, a shepherd may bottle feed it. But usually he leads his sheep into good pastures where they feed themselves.” Until we beat this mindset that we are cleansed by simply being IN the church we will have trouble being of any good to those OUTSIDE the church.

It is so wonderful how the Old Testament prophets can still speak volumes to us. The same problems which caused the Israelites to be scattered and destroyed back then are the same things which are causing us to fall apart today, so we would be careful to heed the word which God has already revealed and preserved for us to know.


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