Let’s start with a question. Do you think being Holy is good news or bad news? Why? Can you come up with a definition of what being holy is?

Another theme that comes out in Isaiah is God’s holiness and mercy and how they are linked together.

Read Isaiah 5:8-16. What is the state of God’s people as described here? Why is verse 16 significant? Is it good news of bad news for God to be holy in this instance?

Read Isaiah 1:16-20. What should God’s people be doing?

In God’s economy being great and honoured lies not in buying house after house (Isaiah 5:8) but in righteousness, justice and mercy (Isaiah 1:16-17). God’s holiness is both positive and negative. Positive, in that He takes action on behalf of people who are abused. But, devastating for those that do the abusing! What should an appropriate response be to God’s display of holiness?

Read Isaiah 1:21 and Isaiah 2:6-10 and Isaiah 5:1-7. Is Israel acting the right way towards God? What will be the result of their actions be?

God’s holiness should inspire awe and trust – Does God holiness have this effect on you?

Once we land in Isaiah 40-66, God’s holiness becomes encouraging. Read Isaiah 41:14 and Isaiah 43:3. What does God call His people to do? Why can they have this confidence? (Notice the first person pronouns).

God’s people were once being punished, but now God is acting as the Holy One and restoring and relating to this rebellions mob of people as if they were His family.

Read Isaiah 1:2. How does God describe His relationship with Israel?

There is a saying that says you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. You can’t choose to belong to your family, you are born into it and while relationship may be strained and separated at times, you are still family. When we start to see that God relates to His people as if they are His family, it helps explains the blessing and cursing element that we so often see in the Old Testament. God is holy and sin and injustice must be punished. But there is another side to it too. Pause here and read Isaiah 54:6-8, taking note of the family imagery again. What has God done in these verses?

Go back and think thought the question at the start of this study. At this point has your understanding of what it means to be holy change or developed? In what ways?

Read the following and discuss God’s relationship to Israel:

  • Isaiah 43:15
  • Isaiah 45:11
  • Isaiah 49:7

So it can be a very good thing and a very and a very bad thing that God is holy. It could mean His holiness is acting toward you or against you. Read Isaiah 28:21-22. What is the strange thing God is going to do? Now consider the following from John Goldingay:

Yahweh gets angry, confronts, withdraws and hits, but does not stay angry – He heals, confronts and brings wellbeing.

It does not come naturally for god to act in judgment. Yes, He has the power to call a nation to decimate His people if they rebel, but faithfulness, mercy and protection are more natural to Him.

Bringing It Home

Read Luke 15:25-32. What is the Father’s response to the older son?

The older son has been doing all the right things, but from the wrong motives. He’s only been serving His father to get something. Whereas the younger son took what was his by rebelling, the older son tries hard to be very good to earn his father’s favour. It’s only when he’s confronted by the Father’s overflowing mercy and compassion that he explodes and reveals his true intent.

The Father went out to both sons to welcome them back into his family when they went astray. The young came in, but we have no record of the older one doing so. Entering into God’s family is not by being very good, it’s by realizing that we aren’t good and that we need our Father’s Mercy. Which brother do you think you relate to more naturally?

Read Isaiah 55:7 and Isaiah 63:7 and spend some time in prayer, thanking God that He has been merciful to us though Jesus Christ.


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Bible Study HolyIsaiah