Read your Bible: Isaiah 44:6–22
Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?Isaiah 44:10 ESV
“Our premier human problem is idolatry and its consequences.” — David A. Hubbard
A lot of Christians seem more pagan than Christian: We get many, if not most, of our ideas about God from Greek, Roman, and Northern European mythology.
Really, when we think of an old man in heaven with a white beard throwing down lightning bolts, we’re thinking of Zeus, not Jehovah.
Compare that to what God reveals about Himself.
Here are a few of the biblical attributes of God we’ll look at in this book:
Omnipotence, meaning God is all-powerful.
No matter what I face, it’s never too much for God.
Omnipresence, meaning God is everywhere.
I don’t have to go to a special temple or other sacred place in order to meet God.
Sovereignty, meaning God is in control.
Nothing that happens can possibly ruin God’s plans.
Immutability, meaning God is unchanging.
He always keeps His promises, He is always faithful.
And one of my favorite attributes, just because it’s so mind-blowing:
Aseity, meaning God is not dependent on anything for His existence. The Hebrew name God gives Himself in the Bible, Yahweh, is derived from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be.” This means God simply is.
Everything else in the universe is contingent, or dependent on something for its existence. Except God. He is dependent on nothing.
These attributes are so unlike the god I create when left to my own devices.
Just go through some attributes on that list.
The pagan gods were not believed to be omnipotent.
And when I live with the unspoken fear that some things are just too big for God to work out for good, I prove I really have more of a pagan picture of God than a biblical one.
They were not sovereign. Other gods and even people conspired to thwart their plans.
When I get the idea that God might have His plan for my life spoiled by a seeming disaster — or my own stupid moves — I’m thinking of something like an old pagan god.
They were not believed to be immutable. They changed their minds all the time.
And when I get insecure that God has changed (“Does God still love me?”) I betray the true origins of my theology.
I might not think I have much in common with an ancient craftsman who carved an idol. But when I worry, when I get insecure, when I feel shame, it’s often because deep down, in the core of my being, it’s that I have forgotten what the Bible has to say about God.
I like the way some older translations put it: People fashion idols. That phrase nails it. I often make a false god that fits my fashion, or society’s fashions and trends. A fashion-god.
This is especially so in our current pop culture, where, in a genuine desire for tolerance and unity, everything that sounds vaguely religious is thrown together and cooked into one big spiritual soup that blurs legitimate distinctions between theological systems. The resulting concoction often is so bland, and has so little “bite,” that it’s unappetizing and ineffective.
We look down at the creations of our own meager imaginations while the God beyond imagining is right there next to us, ready to love and empower us.
In Acts 17, Paul is explaining this to the Greek philosophers in Athens. He says:
…we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. Acts 17:24–25, 29
Paul explains further that, although God is totally different from the images we make of Him, He still preserves us and reaches out to us:
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:27–28
God is all around you, waiting for you to reach out and do exactly the kind of thing we’re doing in this study. He will help you. He wants you to linger and learn and love Him.
Meet the One Who Loves You
It’s intriguing to me that of all the attributes God wants the people to remember in Isaiah 44, He reminds them most often to remember this:
He is their Redeemer.
That’s because the most damaging thing about idols is that they can’t save you. They’re powerless, not only to bring rain or fertility, but far more importantly, to bring redemption.
So God is calling you to turn away from your fashioned god to the God who Is, not just to find truth, but to find life. When you delve into the mystery of God you are exhilarated, and not just from the joy of unraveling a mystery.
You are meeting the Other who loves you.
God is… not an idol.
Questions For Reflection
Which of the attributes of God discussed in today’s chapter do you see yourself struggling the most to believe? How does this affect your life?
Which of the attributes do you most long to learn more about?