From everlasting to everlasting there is one true and living God who is the Holy One of Heaven (Ps 90:2). This God is the eternal King who reigns in majesty supreme as the Great I AM, the Sovereign Creator of the universe, and the Gracious Redeemer of depraved sinners through the precious royal blood of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Is 1:18; Rom 3:25). It is this God, otherwise known as Yahweh, who called Isaiah ben Amoz into the prophetic ministry of speaking forth the word of the LORD to the kingdom of Judah under period of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Is 1:1).
In the book which bears Isaiah’s name, the term “The Holy One of Israel” is used 25 times out of the 31 occurrences in the entire Old Testament (Beyer, 2007, p.33). This term is distinctly Isaiaic but Goldingay seems to make concession for otherwise, “Perhaps Isaiah ben Amoz devised it, or perhaps he adopted an expression already in occasional use” (Goldingay, 2014, p.97). The special revelation of this God Himself in the pages of Holy Scripture affirms that this name is overwhelmingly a distinct characteristic of the prophet Isaiah. There really is no compelling reason to cast a shadow of doubt on this reality. It is refreshing to see that Dr. Ed Hindson of Liberty University affirms this as well as the unity of the Isaiah’s authorship, “This title is undoubtedly Isaiah’s favorite reference for God. The Holy One (Heb qadosh) is the transcendent God Himself. It should be noted that the title Holy One of Israel appears twelve times in the first half of the book and fourteen times in the last half of the book, providing excellent internal evidence for the unity of authorship of the entire book” (Hindson, 1999, p.772-3). One of the founding fathers of the modern day Grace Movement, Pastor Harry Bultema poetically described the same, “This name [Holy One of Israel] runs like a golden thread through his entire prophecy, proving thereby the unity of the book, in the first part as well as in the second” (Bultema, 1981, p.20). The Holy One of Israel is indeed a distinctly Isaiaic term for this prophet was called into the ministry in a very striking fashion (Is 6:1-8).
The historic record of this watershed in the prophet’s life was divinely inspired by God the Holy Spirit in the pages of Holy Scripture (II Tim 3:16-17; II Pet 1:21). This experience made an indelible impact on the heart and mind of Isaiah for his entire life. In the midst of a tremendous time of uncertainty in the nation, the LORD of hosts gave his man a glimpse of the all-glorious majesty and eternal holiness of the Almighty. Dr. Beyer poignantly said that “The words of the seraphim, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty…’ (Is.6:3), profoundly affected Isaiah’s thinking and theology” (Beyer, 2007, p.33). Interestingly enough, Goldingay writes, “The experience described in Isaiah 6:1-3 may lie behind his use of the title [Holy One of Israel” (Goldingay, 2014, p.96). It appears as if the author of our text is rather uncertain about the origin of Isaiah’s favorite name for the God whom he served. On the other hand, Bultema does not mince words, “Moreover, many exegetes have correctly noted that in this name [Holy One of Israel] we find the echo of the song of the seraphim, which the prophet as a young man had heard at his consecration to his office. That was a doxology on the threefold holiness and glory of God. At that time he saw Christ, sitting on the throne of His glory, as one day He will fill the whole earth with His glory…Christ is to be found in every chapter of Isaiah” (Bultema, 1981, p.21). In fact Pastor Bultema even wrote that “After a careful study of this name [Holy One of Israel] in all these places we have not the slightest doubt but that our Lord Jesus is meant by it” (Bultema, p.20). This thrice Holy One of Heaven was indeed separate from His creation as the High King of Glory but also the absolute standard of moral purity, perfection, and righteousness who called Isaiah into prophetic ministry for His eternal glory. “For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev 11:44a NKJV).
God’s heart has always been to redeem the nations unto Himself (Gen 12:1-3; Is 60:1-3; Jn 3:16; I Tim 2:4). Under the prophetic program revealed from the foundation of the world, His plan was to channel the light of knowledge of the one true and living God through the instrumentality of the nation of Israel (Gen 12:1-3; Acts 3:21; Rom 15:8-12). It is important to understand that Isaiah’s favorite term for God, the Holy One of Israel, does not mean that He was not all the God of the nations who demands obedience from all people worldwide. Lutheran scholar, Paul Raabe describes this as follows, “The Creator of all things made Himself the God of Israel. But we must stress the other side as well. The God of Israel is the Creator of all. Yahweh is the God of Jacob, whom Isaiah likes to call ‘the Holy One of Israel.’ This Holy One of Israel is no tribal deity” (Raabe, 2004). When the armies of Sennacherib, king of Assryia, threatened them with utter destruction, they did so on the basis that the gods of the nations whom they had already destroyed where unable to deliver them. “Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered its land from the hand of king of Assyria” (Is 36:18ff)? Israel’s enemies taunted them out of arrogant pride because they misunderstood that the God of Israel was not just another god on the a la carte menu of some religious smorgasboard. Goldingay rightly said that “To say that Yahweh is the ultimate supernatural, extraordinary, uncreated, sovereign, heavenly being is in effect to say that Yahweh is the only God” (Goldingay, p.99). In this same vein, Raabe affirms that “Yahweh is the living God who made the heavens and earth. And He intends that all the kingdoms of the earth stop looking toward their idols and instead look to Him” (Raabe, 2004). This is the heart of our Holy God. “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).
Every era of history has its own peculiar challenges which demand a response. Isaiah encountered these in his day and it was the Lord Himself who provided exactly what this man needed and through him the entire nation. A fresh glimpse of the all-glorious majesty and eternal holiness of the High King of Heaven is exactly what he needed as well as us today. “The fact that Yahweh alone is God is reason why Israel has no business having recourse to any traditional supernatural and spiritual resources” (Goldingay, p.100). It is so very easy to be disheartened, discouraged, and be in despair over the state of the affairs in our culture. What we need today it just what Isaiah received: a vision of who God is which exposes the depravity of our own hearts, the ungodliness of our culture before God’s holiness, and a challenge from God to be a catalyst toward positive change in our generation. Do we really have a God big enough to believe in? “This Holy One of Israel is to Isaiah the absolute sovereign God who, as the living God, is contrasted with the dead (8:19), who rules Israel and all the nations, and exalts the one and humbles the other” (Bultema, 1981, p.21). It has always been those people who have been courageous enough to have faith in God and His Word that have made a difference. The writer of Hebrews aptly stated that, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We ought to learn all that we possibly can from the life testimony of this “prince of prophets” who was faithful to do what Almighty God had called him to do in his generation. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (I Timothy 1:17).
Beyer, B (2007) Encountering the Book of Isaiah. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic
Bultema, H (1981) Commentary on Isaiah. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal
Goldingay, J (2014) The Theology of the Book of Isaiah. Downers Grace, IL: InterVarsity Press
Hindson, E (1999) King James Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson
Long, P (2017) Class Lectures. Grand Rapids, MI: Grace Bible College
Raabe, P (2004) Look to the Holy One of Israel, All You Nations: The Oracles about the Nations Still Speak Today. ATLA Religion Database
*Written 1/14/17 for BIB 540 in Grace Bible College’s Online Graduate Studies Program