Holiness is a concept that seems a lot more complicated than it really is. It is commonly taught as something that is related to our own personal goodness and quite honestly, that is not accurate. The Bible defines it as something that is set apart or unique. That's it. No, really, that's it. The First time the word holy is used is not until the book of Exodus when Moses has an encounter with The Living God. He is standing in front of the burning bush and God tells him to take off his shoes, because it's holy ground that he's standing on. God wasn't telling him to worship the ground. He was telling Moses that the ground where he was standing was special. It was ground that was set apart from other places that Moses had walked and Moses was to treat it differently by taking off his shoes.
The next place that we see the word holy is a couple chapters later in Exodus 12. God is giving instructions to Moses about holy days, in this case Passover, and Moses was supposed to relate this concept to all the congregation coming out of Egypt. The interesting thing is that not everyone who came out of Egypt with the Children of Israel, were originally Children of Israel. There was a mixed multitude who came out with them and they were also to observe and keep these holy days. God said in Exodus 12:48-49, "When a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.”
God eventually goes on to give instructions about other holy days, one of them being Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. It is mentioned in Leviticus 23:27-32 and in Numbers 29:7, it says simply, "On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work." God consistently gave the same instructions for how to treat holy days; customarily they were to do no regular work on these days. God established this concept from the beginning when He created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th day. Even though the word holy is not specifically used in Genesis 2:3, the Hebrew word for sanctified there is basically kadosh or holy, dedicated, consecrated, hallowed, appointed, sanctified, separated.
That's what holy means! It is not the same as everything else and it is not to be treated the same!
Now, there are some instructions according to this day that I believe have changed because Jesus came and made the ultimate atonement for my sin and nothing I can DO on this day will secure my salvation. The Bible is clear that it's not through works that I am saved. Ephesians 2:8-13 gives a perfect example of this, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you, who once were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ."
The reason I celebrate this day is because of what Jesus did for me. It is traditionally a fast day. I do believe that God grants us freedom on this day in our expressions of worship. Some choose to fast, some choose to let God search their hearts to see if there is something there that doesn't please Him, some choose to gather and pray - I really think it should be between you and God how you choose to observe this holy day. I also think that by observing this day in fasting, it's as if we are saying, we are in partnership with God. That just like a marriage, we pledge to be in this relationship with Him through the good times and the difficult times. It's recognizing that He laid down His life for us and that we choose to lay down our lives for Him. It's a picture of sacrificial love and that our good works are for Him. They don't make atonement for our sin, but they do show others that God is real and what He does in our lives is good! It shows that we aren't like everybody in the world just looking out for number one. We are different because of His love for us and in us and through us. I think it's a day of contemplating where we are not acting in love towards one another and asking God to give us the ability to, even when it's hard.
Jesus, thank You for making atonement for my sins by shedding Your blood. You were the offering on my behalf so I could be brought near to Father God and be counted as special and a part of Your family. Please help me treat others as You see them! Amen!