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009 Utterly Devoted

I'm going to encourage personal holiness today, by introducing you to a Hebrew word that you probably don't know.

It starts with that nasty, throat-clearing sound that doesn't occur in English. Most English writers represent that sound as "ch," but I prefer "kh," since "ch" actually means a different sound (say "cheese!") You make the sound by -- pardon my crudeness -- bringing up a loogie. Only, please don't. Just make the sound. (Sorry about that.)

The word is kherem. The accent is on the second syllable: kher EM. It gets translated "devoted," "consecrated," "set apart," or sometimes, seeming like a reversal, "utterly destroyed." It's what the Hebrews did to things that they used as sacrifices.

Look at Leviticus 27:28: "Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart ("kherem") to the LORD out of all that he has... shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted to destruction ("kherem") is most holy to the LORD."

Notice: MOST HOLY. Set apart for God. Then killed and burned.

The word kherem was also used of all those people, animals, and cities that God commanded be destroyed in the land of Canaan. Go read Joshua 6-8, the story of Joshua destroying Jericho, then Achan keeping for himself some silver that was kherem, and God punishing Israel for the blasphemy of keeping something kherem for themselves. It cost 35 men their lives--36, counting Achan.

I want you to see how seriously God took the act of keeping something that was set aside for Him, something kherem.

It is relevant to us Christians in the modern day, because it explains why Jesus had to die... and why we do, too. The sin of Mankind was kherem, and had to be destroyed. That is why Jesus chose to let evil men torture Him to death. He became kherem on our behalf.

And that is why, when we make our commitment to Him, we allow ourselves to be buried and then raised with Him by being baptized. See Romans 6:3-4. Our flesh, our Old Person, is kherem.

We humans spend a lot of time and effort training our flesh to behave. We lay laws on ourselves to make ourselves better. But that's not God's idea. In Christianity, we are not to train our flesh to do better. We are to kill it and burn it. The flesh goes into the grave, and stays there. What remains is a new and different person, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

So Paul instructs us, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Romans 6:11

The Hebrews' ruthless conquest of Canaan illustrates the ruthlessness with which you and I are to discard our old selves and pursue our new life in Christ. The old patterns are kherem; they are designated for sacrifice, and belong to God. We can't have them anymore. And efforts we put into keeping this or that pet sin alive because we can't imagine ourselves without it... those will produce disasters for us, and prevent us from inheriting what God intends for us to have in Him.

Go have fun leaving your flesh on the altar (!) and I'll see you in two weeks.

Phil Weingart

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