In 1 Samuel 2:2, you will find one of the clearest definitions of the word “holy.” Hannah is singing her song of praise because the Lord has heard her plea, and she says, “There is none holy as the Lord: For there is none beside thee.” The word “holy” is a religious term and it is often understood to reflect an upright behavior, however, this is only one sliver of the meaning. How does Hannah define “holy”? “There is none beside thee.” The Lord is unique, distinct, set apart.
This is crucial for us to understand because we are called to be “partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Peter quotes the Old Testament when he says, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 25:3-4).
Is our pursuit of holiness about behavior? Sometimes people search for a list of acceptable behavior, but such discussions usually degenerate quickly into self-imposed definitions of righteousness. Hophni and Phineas failed to pursue holiness because they were scoundrels. Did Eli fail to pursue holiness? After all, he was the high priest. He was daily administrating the responsibilities of the Tabernacle. He was noticeably anxious about the Ark of the Covenant going to the battlefront. When the messenger mentioned the ark of God, Eli “fell from off the seat backward…and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy” (1 Samuel 4:18). All the externals would indicate Eli pursued holiness. This would be true if holiness was only about behavior.
The man of God who challenged Eli with the word of the Lord said Eli honored his sons above God “to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people” (1 Samuel 2:30). Why are we told Eli was heavy when he died? It’s the indelible mark on his life. He did not participate in his sons’ acts of immorality, but he failed to honor God supremely. Therefore, he glutted his life on things contaminated by unholiness.
Christ taught his followers to avoid anything contaminated by unholiness when he spoke hyperbolically about cutting off your hand and foot or plucking out your eye (Mark 9:43-48). The pursuit of holiness is more than behavior. What you honor reveals whether you pursue holiness. There are parents who will honor their children above God. There are young people who honor their sports, entertainment, and attitude above God. There are many who honor their jobs above God. Are you glutted on the pleasantries of the common and profane things of this world? Protect your honor.