Isaiah – Restoring Holiness
Readings – Isaiah 1, 5, 6, 40, 42, 53, 61
Holiness is separation to God. We are either separated to God or separated from Him. Sin in the Garden brought death, i.e. separation from God. Any reminder of that separation is unholy in the Law of Moses.
Holiness is un-represent-ability. This is the fallacy of idolatry – -the attempt to represent God in a figure made by human hands. In the Law of Moses, there is no physical representation of God, even on the mercy seat.
Holiness is designation by God. “Holiness” is a term of selection, not merit.
Holiness is distinguishable from the unholy. In Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16, the argument is that all the people were holy, so Moses and Aaron were nothing special. God’s response is that what makes Moses and Aaron holy is Him pronouncing them as such., but likewise that there can be no distinction if everyone is the same.
Human Attitudes Toward God’s Holiness
The holiness of God must be protected from the profane.
One must not take holy things and use them for unholy purposes. The very first thing God ever declared holy was the Sabbath. That day was not to be used for what was done every other day. In Numbers 22, a man gathered sticks on the Sabbath and was stoned. The sin was not gathering the sticks, but defiling the Sabbath.
Likewise, one must use things for the purpose God intends. Nadab and Abihu were killed because they used “everyday” incense on the altar. It may have been the same formula, but unless it was “set aside” incense it was unacceptable.
All that said, in the New Testament much of God’s instruction about what is and is not clean has changed. The principle, however, remains. Consider Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians regarding the Lord’s Supper. They were taking something special and using it for unholy purposes.
The holiness of God must be unique among the people.
“It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary;” (Isaiah 8:13-14)
The holiness of God is essential to the covenant
30 times in Isaiah alone, God is called “the Holy One of Israel.” This is how God’s people must think of Him. The covenant is what it is because of God’s holiness.
A sacrifice is that which is pronounced “holy to God.” The word comes from the same root that gives us “sanctified.” Something is not a sacrifice simply because we give it up. It becomes “holy to God” when used for His purpose.
New Testament Examples of Sacrifice
Romans 12:1-2 – “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Paul instructs Christian to see themselves as a tool for bringing glory to God. Notice that this is done “by the mercies of God,” not by our own initiative. This also has practical consequences.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21 – “I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” The food “sacrificed to idols” was not given to idols to eat, but rather eaten in their honor. It was thus dedicated to the idols’ glory and service. The person who ate such food pledged such consecration. Paul’s point is that Christians are already dedicated to God, and even though there is nothing to the idols or their ceremonies, Christians ought not lead anyone to believe there is.
1 Peter 2:9-10 – “A people of God’s own possession.” We are “chosen,” a “priesthood,” so that we might “proclaim the excellencies.” In the Old Testament, that was the role of Aaron’s descendants. Now, all Christians share in that function.
Practical Results of Holiness
What does Isaiah say about how God’s holiness affects our relationship with Him?
• Our sin makes us intolerable.
• We cannot make ourselves holy enough.
• God will make us holy.
• God will punish His enemies.
• We are unworthy to come into His presence.
• We cannot advise Him.
How does Isaiah call upon the “holy people of God” to live up to that label?
• God expects more of us.
• We are blessed in special ways.
• We are aware of our sin.
• God completely cleanses us.
• Our identity is not a source of pride.
• We have a mission.
• Our suffering parallels that of Jesus.
• Our reward parallels that of Jesus.
How can we restore holiness in our lives, congregation, and/or community?
• Recognize our place as sons of God.
• Pay attention when God tries to get it.
• Identify sins specifically.