Set Apart

Psalm 4:3, But know that YHWH has set apart the godly for Himself; YHWH hears my calling to Him. (Own Hebrew translation.)

The Lord God has set us apart for Himself. What does this mean? One proficient in Hebrew would expect the verb for “set apart” to be קדשׁ (qadash)—to make holy, set apart. Instead, it is the hiphil of the word פּלה (palah). A verb in the hiphil becomes causative—the subject of the verb causes the direct object to do or be something. With this verb in the hiphil, something is caused to be separated or made distinct—it is set apart, treated differently (BDB, 811). Thus, the type of set apart here is not the sanctification (making holy) we’d expect, but one of being treated differently by God. Our distinction from the rest of the world is His own doing.

God not only set apart Israel as a holy nation—which we are now a part of—but He had also set them apart in how He treated Israel. They were treated differently than the rest of the nations. God gave them His Law, so they were judged more harshly than other nations since they knew better. God also treated Israel differently in that He spoke promises to Israel alone and that it was through Israel that the nations would be blessed. It is because of this distinction from the rest of the world that David could write, “YHWH hears my calling to Him.” God hears the cries of His selected people, not those who do not know Him.

We, too, have been set apart, and not just in the holy way. God also treats us differently than the rest of the world. Jesus is the true Israel, and it is in Him in which God has set us apart. In Christ the true Israel, God no longer treats us as His enemies but as His reconciled people (Romans 5:10). He has adopted us into His family; therefore, He treats us as dear children (Ephesians 1:5). God hears our prayers and not those who don’t believe in Him (John 9:31). (Sinners in biblical times were not merely people who commit sin—as we think of it today—but unbelievers.)

We can see, then, how God treats us quite differently from the rest of the world. Most importantly, God no longer sees our sins. Our sins are covered in the redeeming blood of Christ. Our guilt is covered—it is pardoned. The rest of the world, however, will have to answer for their guilt.

Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

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