A holy nation : Israel's call to holiness in a canonical perspective
In Ex. 19: 6 God calls Israel to be `a priestly kingdom and a holy nation' (Ex. 19: 6).
This thesis addressesth e meaninga nd significanceo f this call, as it is interpreted through the
canon of Scripture.
I arguet hat in this call to holinessli es the essenceo f God's purposei n choosing
Israelf or himself.T he Torah addressetsh e subjecto f holinessa t its most fundamentalle vel:
holiness concerns living faithfully in covenant relationship with YHWH. The priest
representsa speciael xampleo f holiness.
In Isaiaha nd Ezekiel holinessis developedp articularlyi n relation to Israel's place
among the nations. Israel's holiness is to be a focus for the nations. Even so, the focus
remainsp rimarilyo n Israeli tself, ast he dwelling-placeo f God's holy name.
The covenant with Moses stands, in the Hebrew canon, in the context of the
covenant with Abraham. The call to be a holy nation fulfils God's promise to bless Abram.
He will become a great nation with a great name, and be a blessing to others.
The covenant with Moses stands, in the Christian canon, in the light of Christ - the
supreme priestly, holy figure. The notion of holiness is reappropriated and recast. lPet. 2: 9
explicitly cites Ex. 19: 6. God's call to be `a priestly kingdom and a holy nation' is opened to
all peoples by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Thus Gen. 12: 3 is fuflilled anew.
Within the Christian canon there are different voices concerning holiness and its
implications for the life of faith. There are shifts and tensions, not least regarding the place of
other nations in relation to God's chosen people. Heard together, however, the voices yield
a harmony which provides a depth to the Church's self-understanding, and especially to the
significance of Ex. 19: 6.