7th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 11 – A)
July 19, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading from Isaiah.
Nebo, Ra, Moloch, Xipe Totec (sheepeh tohtek), Baal, Zeus, Apollos, Shiva, Jupiter, Inti, the Great Spirit, Mother Earth, Vishnu, and Apu are gods and goddess that come from different times and different places. Some have disappeared, some are still worshiped. Some had power over the weather, others fertility, still others war. Even though they come from different nations and different eras, they have one thing in common. Nothing: as in they can do nothing. And it’s not like they exist and just aren’t that powerful, they’re figments of the imagination, stories to explain the unexplainable. If you compare them to each other, they’re all the same. But when you compare them to the Lord God, you see that there’s nobody like Him.
In 740 BC, Isaiah had a vision that transported him into throne room of God where he heard the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Not much later he delivers the word of God to the people, “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.’” The word for Lord here is Yahweh, the name that God gave when Moses asked who he was, and Yahweh means “I am”. I am means that God isn’t restricted to a place or time. He’s not the god of agriculture or the god of war or the god of the stars. He’s not limited to a little wooden figure or a stone buddha. He’s not a national God, the God of the Jews but not the God of Egypt or the United States. I am is what He is. He is the Great I am; I am good, I am gracious, I am love, I am your King, I am your redeemer, I am your rescuer.
The gods of the Babylonians, the Incans, and the American Indians, what did they do to save the people? Nothing! The people believed that the gods provided rain and a good harvest, but that’s it, and they didn’t do that. But more importantly, the people didn’t see these gods as a source of spiritual help. These gods didn’t take heavy loads off the people, they added them. Sacrifice your children on the super-hot iron arms of the Moloch statue. Murder your enemies. Cut yourself. Starve yourself. Make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The gods don’t provide anything because they’re not real gods. Fortunately, we’re far more sophisticated right? We know sacrificing children won’t bring about a productive harvest. We know that sitting in a tent while smoking hallucinogens won’t bring us closer to heaven.
We’re not all the sophisticated though. We sacrifice unborn children to the god of “choice” and personal autonomy. We sacrifice the elderly to the god of “we don’t want him to suffer” or “I don’t want to be a burden to my family.” We sacrifice our time and attention to the gods of Hollywood, leisure, and fun. We sacrifice our money to an endless parade of toys. We sacrifice God’s truth for the god of not offending anyone.
We even sacrifice our God-given holiness for sin and earthly pleasure. We’ve given up our freedom for slavery to our homemade gods and sins. And yet, what does God do? He rescues us. By identifying Himself as our Redeemer, God reveals that He knows something we often forget: we need to be rescued and He’s the only one who can do it. He is the one who rescues us from the burdens of laws and regulations. He’s the one who rescues us from pain, sorrow, sin and death. Pray to the fake gods and see how much it helps. Pray to the Lord, your Redeemer, and see how much it helps. Job says, “I know that my redeemer lives” and that means more than He’s alive. It means that He’s continually by your side, supporting you, and fighting for you.
God is “the LORD of hosts”; the Lord of Sabaoth (sound familiar). The Lord is the one who rules the army of the Heaven and the army of His people, the Commanding General who fights for you. Did Horus protect the firstborn of the Egyptians from the Angel of Death sent by God? Did Moloch keep the Israelites out of Canaan? Did the Incan gods keep the Conquistadors from defeating them? Will your money fight for you when your unemployed or scared or overwhelmed? Will the gods of your time and work and fun fight for you when you’re sick or hurting? Will the gods of booze or drugs help you fight the pain of life? You know they won’t. Yahweh alone fights for you, and He’s been fighting for you since before the dawn of creation.
He fought for you when promised to send the Savior. He fought for you when He sent the Savior. He fought for you when He took on the demons and healed the sick. He fought Satan at the cross when He bore the heavy weight of you sin and idolatry. He fought Satan at the tomb, pushing him aside as He left the tomb. Only Yahweh, fights your sin and leads you in your fight against it. He is your General, leading you into battle, giving you the victory, which includes speaking absolution, forgiveness, to you when you don’t fight back against the sin in your life.
The Lord says, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” There’s no god like our God because there is no god. He is the first. He is the one who existed before the Romans, Indians, or Hindus created their idols of gold and wood. He is not a figment of someone’s imagination or a myth. He is the eternal God – no beginning and no end. Where will be our gods of fun be when our lives are over? Do your gods transcend time and space to hear, heal, and help you? When was the last time a celebrity answered your prayers? When was the last time a Tik Tok video took away your pain? When was the last time a fishing pole or a golf club or a pontoon boat heard your prayer and saved you? Did your bank account save you as laid in a hospital bed or struggled with marriage troubles, or tried to recover from the physical and emotional pain. Facebook, sex, television, our health, our fears, all the things we love and trust in place of God have beginning and ends and they’re not any different than Ra or Zeus or the Great Spirit. Only God is first and last. Only God is Alpha and Omega. Only God prepared a plan to save you before He created you.
And God gives us a perfect way to know which God is real and which is not. God says, “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.” To put it another way, God threw down the gauntlet. He challenges these so-called deities to predict the future. If they can do it, they can share the stage with Him. Of course they can’t. If you want to serve another god, go ahead, but it’s never going to help you and it sure can’t tell the future. God is speaking not just to the idols of the past but also to the idols of the present: wealth, power, knowledge, status, reputation.
Can the things we worship tell the future? Have they made any promises that they’ve kept? Only God makes promises and keeps them. And we’re witnesses of it. God promised to rescue the people from exile and He did. God promised to send a Savior from Bethlehem, and He did. God promised that the Savior would be a suffering Savior who would suffer, die, and be raised on the Third Day, and He was. The disciples witnessed this, they then shared this Good News so that we too are witnesses and recipients of all that He has done.
It’s kind of telling that the gods of people’s imagination weren’t nicer gods. They ruled with anger and fear. Why did Canaanites sacrifice their children to Moloch – to appease him. Why did the Aztecs skin their enemies alive? To please gods so they wouldn’t be punished. Why do people abort their children? They’re afraid of what a child will do their lives, afraid of the consequences. Why do we cling to gods and idols that provide nothing of substance? You know why, fear. Fear of losing our lives or our money or our free time or our fun or whatever it may be. Fear is a powerful motivating force.
The real God, the Triune God who rules over all things is the God of strength and courage and encouragement. The Lord says, “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.” Don’t be afraid of anything! He has promised to take care of you, and He has and He will continue to do so. No matter what the future holds, the Lord, who is the first and the Last, is already there. He is the Rock in whom you can find protection, comfort, sustenance, peace, help, hope and forgiveness. He alone is God, there are no others.
There’s this great announcer who kicks of boxing matches by yelling, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” He’s telling everyone that they should prepare for a battle in which either party could win. It comes down to whomever has the most strength and stamina and prepared the most. When it comes to the rumble between the gods of man’s imagination and the true God, there’s no doubt who will win. Who is like our God? Only Yahweh is our King, Redeemer, Lord of Hosts, First, Last, and Rock. The others are nothing. He is everything.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen