This awesome God whose name is ‘I AM’ is also called ‘the Holy One’. Frequently, particularly in Isaiah, the two names are linked ‘the LORD … the Holy One’. The LORD [I AM] is the Holy One. The Holy One is the LORD.

For example: To ‘forsake the LORD’ is to ‘spurn the Holy One’ [Isaiah 1:4]; to reject the law of the LORD is to spurn the word of the Holy One [5:24]. To ‘rejoice in the LORD’ is to ‘rejoice in the Holy One’ [29:19]. To not look to the Holy One is to not seek help from the LORD [31:1].

Isaiah identifies this essential link between these two names when he records his vision of the LORD. There the seraphs called to each other in thunderous voices:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty,
the whole earth is full of his glory” [Isaiah 6:3].

The LORD, the I AM, is holy. Thrice holy.

And we need to ask here: what does ‘holy’ mean. What does it mean that the LORD is ‘the Holy One’?

Our performance-focused minds almost automatically equate holiness with extreme goodness, with moral purity. But that is really only a facet of what is meant by this word. The concept of holiness, of ‘holy’, is at its root the concept of being unique, of being distinct, separate, not common, not a member of a category. Thus when the Bible calls God ‘holy’ it is telling us that God stands alone. He does not belong to a group of things called ‘gods’; he is not one god among a number of gods. He cannot be compared with anything or anyone, because there is no one else at that level, in that category, with whom to compare him. He the only God; he alone is God. This is the essential meaning of ‘holy’. That God is also good and pure is merely one aspect of his total otherness, his absolute uniqueness.

God himself challenges us with the question: 

‘”To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One"' [Isaiah 40:25].

And makes these bold and exclusive affirmations: 

‘Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no Savior.’ [Isaiah 43:10,11]
‘This is what the LORD says …
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God …
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock;
I know not one.’ [Isaiah 44:6,8]
‘I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God …
… there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other.’ [Isaiah 45:5,6]
‘And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.’ [Isaiah 45:21].

He who names himself the ‘I AM’ – the eternal, self-existing, all-sufficient One – the LORD, has also revealed himself as the Holy One: the one who alone is God: absolute, incomparable, unique.

To liken him to some other god, to categorize him along with other gods, or to exchange or swap him for some other god, is to reveal that one has not known or understood him at all.

Beside him all other gods are revealed as worthless; mere man-made and impotent substitutes for the LORD, the Holy One.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013