May 21, 2013

I have set you apart to be Mine [says the Lord]. Leviticus 20:26

Let me catch you up on the newest members of the National Park Service (NPS).

First of all, we now have 59 national parks, with the re-designation of Pinnacles, which used to be a national monument (one of many titles for the 401 NPS units). Pinnacles is California’s ninth national park, after Yosemite, Redwood, Joshua Tree, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Death Valley, Lassen Volcanic and Channel Islands.

Pinnacles, located 80 miles south of San Francisco, sits atop the remnants of a volcano, adjacent to the San Andreas Fault, and is known for its distinctive rock spires, called—you guessed it—pinnacles. It’s also recognized for its bird life—the park conducts a recovery program for the endangered California condor—and for its caves and as a great place for rock climbing.

The last park unit set aside as a national park was Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, in 2004 by legislation signed by President George W. Bush (only Congress can designate a national park). During his terms in office, President Bush also designated five national monuments, using the power of the Antiquities Act.

The Antiquities Act is a 1906 law that allows presidents to use their executive authority to set aside important sites for permanent protection. It was first employed by Theodore Roosevelt, and has been invoked by 16 succeeding presidents as a way of bypassing the lengthy Congressional approval process.

And this is what President Obama has done as well. In his first four years, he created four monuments: Cesar E. Chavez, at the farm labor leader’s home and workplace in California; Fort Monroe, a Civil War site in Virginia; Fort Ord, along the coastline in California; and the archeological site Chimney Rock in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado.

Now, he has named five more: First State (Delaware finally has an NPS unit—except that it shares it with Pennsylvania!), Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers in Ohio (Young was the first African American U.S. Army Colonel, and led the Buffalo Soldiers in protecting the first national parks), Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad in Maryland,  Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, and the San Juan Islands in Oregon and Washington State.

Note: Some of these sites actually are managed by government entities, in conjunction with the NPS, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

The phrase “set apart” is used throughout Scripture to describe Christians, along with similar words like “consecrated,” “holy” and “sanctified” (which means “set apart”—it has the same root as “saint” and “holy”). Sanctification has three aspects. First, we’ve been “set apart” by our position in God’s family, which has been achieved for us not by anything we’ve done (Titus 3:5), but by Jesus’s death for our sins, for all the things we say, do and think that aren’t in line with God’s commands (1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:10,13:12). As we grow in our relationship with God, we’re progressively sanctified, that is, becoming more and more set apart for God’s use (1 Peter 1:14-16). Finally, we will be completely sanctified when we’re fully set apart for God in heaven (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Jude 24).

Having great lands and historic places set aside for our edification and enjoyment is a wonderful thing. Being set apart ourselves by the God who is “over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6) is even better.

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