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When the captives returned to their land, Ezra 6:21 tells us the first requirement for joining the feasts unto the Lord, “And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat.” Ezra 9:1 shows, “Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations.” The people had watched those around them instead of being separated. The Israelites began to practice what they saw. Their leaders realized that God could not bless them until they were separated from the actions and lifestyles of those around them who talked them into serving other gods.
Ezra 10:10-11 shows that Ezra knew the importance of separation, “And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.  Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.” Nehemiah 13:3 is a story about Israel hearing the law read to them after a long time without it. Here is recorded their response: “Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.”  What was their first response after hearing God’s laws - separation from sin and from those among them who were not in agreement with the law. 

God Separates Us
God has separated us from others by saving us and preparing us for what His will is for our lives. Paul said in Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” In Galatians 1:15 he explains, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace.” Paul was separated from his mother’s womb to fulfill the job that God had for him. This separation was done by God to him as God chose him to fulfill His plan for Paul’s life. Jesus also explained being separated by God as He prayed in John 17:17-19, “Sanctify them (set them apart) through thy truth: thy word is truth (the truth will teach the disciples to deny their own desires, plans, and will). As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world (just as Jesus was separated to do a job on this earth by denying himself and taking up His cross, Jesus wanted his disciples to be separated from anything that would slow them down or stop them from doing His Father’s will).

 

                               

And for their sakes I (Jesus) sanctify myself (set apart, denied himself), that they also might be sanctified (through this sanctification they would be useable vessels through the truth).” Jesus prayed that the disciples would see His separation or self denial and would follow His example. But He prayed first that God the Father would separate them from the crowd to be used in His service.
1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love him, because he first loved us.” He showed us that He loved us by separating Himself from His loving Father as He became sin for us. He loved us even more by sanctifying or setting us apart for His service. This is mercy that He has shown upon us, because we could have wandered around for the time that we are here on this earth and then died in our sins, accomplishing nothing for the Lord. He tells us that because He has sanctified or set us apart from the world, we should love and obey Him by keeping His commandments.

We Separate Ourselves
The second form of separation is done by those who have been separated by God upon conversion. Leviticus 20:7-8 tells us: “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.”   This Christian (Christ-like) obeys God’s command in God’s Word to separate himself from anything or anyone that will hinder, dissuade, or slow him from fulfilling God’s perfect will for his life. Proverbs 18:1 tells us, “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” He desires to serve the Lord and puts the Lord and His will first in his life. John 15:19 tells us, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 17:14 states, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” It should be very easy for a Christian to separate himself from the world, because, as this verse states, the world will hate your stand for the Lord’s Word every time they are around. Unfortunately, most professing “Christians” are so soft and weak that they are ashamed to take a stand on the “Word.” Luke 6:22 quotes Jesus as explaining this further, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”