The Bible does not speak of the gods of the nations as harmless statues or mere figments of the human imagination. That may seem a provocative statement, but the Bible often speaks of the other “gods” of this world, and one only has to pick through Psalms to verify it (e.g. Psalm 82, 86, 96, etc.). While it is true that God openly mocks the idle images which the people created as gods, it is also true that there is a real power which they possess. The power is not in the wooden carvings or metal figurines, but in the dark demonic powers which lay behind the images. Behind the varied masks of the gods was the “god of this age” – Satan himself (see 1 Cor.10:19-20). And so, God speaks of these “gods” as real powers possessing a real power to lead people astray. This may be surprising to our modern minds, specifically our scientific minds, which so easily dismiss the gods of other nations as totally empty of any existence, let alone power.
But if there are other “gods” with at least some powers, how do we know who the real God is? The ancient prophet Isaiah makes it abundantly clear.
In the prophecies of Isaiah, Yahweh (Almighty God who revealed himself to Israel) puts all the competing “gods” in their place and lets it be known who is really in power. That being said, He does not ignore the other “gods” altogether, but acknowledges their power to deceive and distort. At the same time, Yahweh pulls back the curtain on their attempt to “play god”. These “gods” would like their worshippers to think they have the power to create and control, to accept praise and give strength and wisdom. And many people believe them, including many Israelites. But Yahweh speaks at length about the foolishness and falseness of these god-frauds. The single greatest piece of evidence which He brings against the “gods” is His power to save. Consider the following verses:
“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 saviour. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed – I, and not some foreign god among you.”Isaiah 43:10-12
It was Yahweh who brought life from nothing. It was Yahweh who set the Israelites free from Egyptian bondage. It was Yahweh who carried His people through the harsh and barren desert. It was Yahweh who went before Joshua and defeated army after army. It was Yahweh who gave the lush and spacious Promised Land to Israel. It was Yahweh who subdued the surrounding nations and gave strength to the likes of Deborah, Samson, and David to defeat their enemy. It was Yahweh time and time again who saved His people from death. If God’s people were to read the story of their salvation there is no way they would come away from it thinking that they, the people, were the heroes. Nor would any other “god” appear as their Saviour. All evidence pointed to Yahweh.
Israel was supposed to be a witness to this all-important fact. They had experienced the salvation of Yahweh up close and personal and knew best His saving power. They did not have to try convince the surrounding nations of Yahweh’s sovereignty by way of abstract argument, but by the persuasion of a personal, first-hand account.
We also have the great task of being witnesses to the saving power of Yahweh. The difference is that we have even more evidence available to us. Which one of the gods of the age has sacrificed their life for their people? Which god has come down from his lofty throne to suffer among us and carry our burdens? Which god let himself be nailed to a cross in order to bear our punishment? Which god has ever been able to resurrect from the dead?
The answer of course is none of them. No other god can point to a moment in the history of mankind and say: “Look! That’s what I did in order to save the world.” Only Yahweh can do that. And every Christian is a witness of it, because each Christian has personally experienced the saving-power of the One, True God. Is there any other god like Him?