Isaiah 44:6-8 (6th Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 11)
“No Other God”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 20, 2014
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Isaiah 44:
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”
“Idol” is not a word we use very much today unless someone is referencing “American Idol,” which I understand is coming back for yet another season in January. People in the Old Testament had idols. But since we’re sophisticated 21st century people, we’ve moved well beyond the idea of idolatry, haven’t we? Let’s face it—none of you have a statue of Baal in your homes, do you? Do any of you make sacrifices to the sun god or the river god or the tree god? I hope not! In the world of the Old Testament people of Israel, these types of false gods, or idols, were very much a part of the cultures that lived around them. It was very easy for the Israelites to slip into the habit of worshiping other gods who were not the one, true God. Believe it or not, the same is true for Christians today. It’s very easy for us also to slip into the habit of idolatry.
Idolatry is a sin against the First Commandment. God said, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This means that we should fear, love, and trust in the one true God above all things. To fear, love, or trust in something or someone other than God is idolatry, worshiping a false god. This was one of Old Testament Israel’s sins. They worshiped many gods other than the one true God.
The words of our Old Testament reading today are actually God’s taunts to these fake gods. He challenges them, and those who worship them, to find His equal. God declared, “I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me.” Notice that there was no answer. There is no God besides the Lord, the King of Israel, the Lord of hosts. Every other so-called “god” is nothing. It doesn’t exist. God alone is God. There is no other. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 8, “We know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
Since there is no God other than the Triune God, why do people, including you and me as Christians, fall into idolatry? Why do we desire to worship what is not real? Why do we place our trust and love in gods that do not exist and cannot help us?
If we really pause to think about it, having an idol is just stupid. Aren’t we more enlightened than the people of old? They worshiped the sun which is not a god; it’s a star. The statue of Baal or the carving of whatever is not a god. We don’t worship those things, yet we are not all that enlightened because we make other things into gods. Our idols are different from theirs, yet they are idols, fake gods to which we give our devotion and worship.
Think about some of the things that we place our love and trust in over and above to only real God. Tops on the list might be pleasure. Advertising is all geared toward getting us to buy the things we want to make us feel good. Today, people are all concerned about how they feel. “If it feels good, do it.” (It doesn’t matter if it’s moral or correct.) Those objects or activities that give us pleasure become first and foremost in our lives. If it makes us feel good to walk over somebody else in the office, we go for it. If it’s pornography or having sex outside of marriage that makes us feel good, that’s where our time is spent. It doesn’t even have to be blatantly obvious either. Maybe it’s overindulgence in food because food is your source of pleasure when you’re upset or nervous. Perhaps your god is spending money. May it is your cell phone and social networks that you are connected to 24-7. Perhaps what brings you pleasure most is success or self-reliance or popularity. Easily the most popular idol is ourselves. After all, pleasure is what’s all about me: what makes me happy; what makes me fulfilled; what makes me satisfied; what receives my love and attention. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what your idol is—object or person or self. What matters is that you have one. What matters is that we reject the only true God who alone can redeem and save us from things and people who cannot.
The result of idolatry is ultimately fear. Idols give us no real and lasting comfort and hope. If we place our trust in ourselves, if we love sexual pleasure or worldly gratification more than anything else, if we give our devotion to porn, phones or tablets, other objects or other people, including other systems of belief, we are left with nothing but uncertainty. How can we be confident about salvation when we are in the hands of a god that is no god at all? How can we have the hope of eternal life when we place our trust in someone or something that cannot give us that life? How can we get through each day of life in this world of pain and heartache and worry if the god we worship, trust in, and give our love to doesn’t really exist, except in our foolishness?
We can’t and we won’t. We will have no hope of eternal life. There can be no confidence about salvation. Idols are full of empty promises. The so-called gods that we place first in our lives offer us nothing. The result is that we are left alone and afraid, without hope, without assurance, without help. We are left with fear—the fear of our own helplessness, the fear of condemnation, the fear of sin, the fear of death.
Yet, the only true God who taunts every idol and brings them to shame doesn’t taunt us. He challenges us to identify any god who is like Him. Finding none, we are then brought to the realization that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the Lord, the King of Israel, the Lord of hosts—is the only God. We come to know that we have sinned by giving our love and trust to all kinds of idols. We’ve sinned by making ourselves into the god we worship and seek to please over and above all things. We know that we deserve God’s punishment for not fearing, trusting, and loving Him above all things. But in our fear, the only God comes and raises us up to confidence and hope. In our sorrow, the one and only Lord of lords and King of kings lifts us up to joy. “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”
That’s the message of the Gospel for you and me. Fear not! God told us from of old and declared at the beginning that He would send us a Savior, One who would redeem and save us from our sins of idolatry. He would be the Seed of the woman who would crush the head of that ancient serpent, the devil. He would forever defeat sin and the power of death and buy us back from idolatry to the true fear, love, and worship of the only true God. But in order to win this salvation for us, our great Redeemer, Jesus Christ, God the Son, would give up His life on the cross. Jesus died to redeem us, to buy us back, from sin, death, and the devil’s power. With His shed blood, Jesus purchased and won for you and me the complete forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
It is through the person and work of Jesus that we come to know the only true God as our Lord, King, and Redeemer. Jesus tells us that as true God and true Man, He alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” No one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6) Through faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we know the Father who loved us so much, even though we often ignore Him and go after false gods. God gave us His one-of-a-kind Son to be our Savior and Redeemer.
And so we have now become witnesses of the only true God. We declare in faith that there is no other Rock; there is no other God besides Him who is able to save and who has saved us! In the power of Jesus’ forgiveness we proclaim joyfully that the Lord is our rock and our fortress and our deliverer! We have the sure confidence that God is with us each and every moment in this life. We are blessed with the absolute certainty that in Christ we have eternal life. There is no doubt or fear! God has redeemed and saved us through His Son. There is no other God like Him. There is no God besides Him who loves us unconditionally and welcomes us as His children through the merits of Jesus Christ.
Because there is no other God besides the Triune God, we are confident, hopeful, and forgiven people. In the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to reject idols and call them what they are—nothing! We are witnesses of the Lord God, our Savior and Redeemer. So with David in Psalm 40, we declare with faith, hope, and love, “The LORD . . . drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” (Psalms 40:1-5) Amen.