Why Is Jesus Called “the Holy One of Israel?”

Jesus Christ,” (detail) by Harry Anderson

HO’LY, adjective
1. Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections… (Webster’s Dictionary, 1828).

Something that is holy is complete, unblemished, and spotless. To say that God is holy is to say that He is perfectly good. He only does what is right, never what is wrong. He is aware of evil but untainted by it. No unclean thing can dwell in His presence.

Jesus Christ came to earth and experienced our infirmities, including being “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  (See also Alma 7:11.)

The prophet Isaiah frequently referred to God as “the Holy One of Israel.” In the first chapter of his book, he draws a sharp contrast between the corruption of the Israelite people with the purity of their God:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment (Isaiah 1:2-4).

This title—”the Holy One of Israel”—also appears in the Book of Jeremiah and in Psalms. But the vast majority of appearances of the title in the Bible are in the Book of Isaiah.

When the title appears in the Book of Mormon, it is generally in a quotation from Isaiah or in a commentary on one of those quotations. For example, the prophet Jacob uses the title 14 times in one chapter—2 Nephi 9—which is part of a sermon based on Isaiah 50 and 51. In that chapter, he reminds us that “we must appear before the judgement-seat of the Holy One of Israel” and that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:15, 41).

Later, after quoting 13 chapters of Isaiah, Nephi identifies the Holy One of Israel as Christ, our Redeemer (2 Nephi 25:29). The holiness of Jesus makes Him the perfect judge, but it also empowers Him to purify us.

“Ye shall be holy,” God said to the ancient Israelites, “for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). We should seek to eliminate impurities from our lives in order to be more like Him. Sister Carol F. McConkie provided some practical guidance about how to keep this commandment:

If we would be holy, we must learn to sit at the feet of the Holy One of Israel and give time to holiness. Do we set aside the phone, the never-ending to-do list, and the cares of worldliness? Prayer, study, and heeding the word of God invite His cleansing and healing love into our souls. Let us take time to be holy, that we may be filled with His sacred and sanctifying Spirit. With the Holy Ghost as our guide, we will be prepared to receive the Savior in the beauty of holiness (“The Beauty of Holiness,” General Conference, April 2017).

Today, I will remember that Jesus Christ is “the Holy One of Israel.” I will be grateful that He sets the perfect example for me to follow. I will be grateful that He will be a perfect judge. And I will also be grateful that He has the power to make me holy. I will strive to follow His example of holiness by setting aside “the cares of worldliness” and giving time to sacred things, so that I can I can receive His sanctifying power in my life.

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