There Is No Other God
Walk down the medicine isle in Target or Wal-Mart and you will find name brand medicines like Nyquil or Aspirin. However, right next to those name brand medicines are also store brands or knock-off brands. The beauty of it is that the store brands are usually cheaper and just as effective.
People try to treat God that way too. They seem to think that they can choose the “store brand” god that they choose for themselves and that god will be just as effective as the true God. This morning, our text tells us that nothing could be further from the truth. Isaiah tells us that There is No Other God! He tells us to Leave behind our created idols (vv. 20, 21) because Only in Him is righteousness and strength (vv. 22-25).
Do you remember the context of this chapter? It may be difficult to remember back that far, but think of Pastor’s sermon from mid October. God had prophesied through Isaiah that he would raise up a king named Cyrus. Cyrus would come with his armies and overrun the Babylonian empire. One of the first tasks of this “anointed one”, as God labeled him, would be to release the Israelites from captivity and allow them to return to their homeland.
And now, near the end of the chapter, God had Isaiah issue this challenge: Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save (v. 20). Israel had been living amongst pagan gentiles, gentiles who worshipped their own gods like Ishtar and Maruduk. God now issues this judicial contest to the gentiles who had escaped annihilation by Cyrus and his armies.
These fugitives of the nations, pagan gentiles, possessed knowledge that there is a god from the moment they were born. If they stood before us today, they would probably say something like many of us has heard: “Yeah, I believe that there is a higher power.” But other than their knowledge that some superior being exists, they know nothing. Their knowledge of this higher power led them to turn to created things, gods that they formed out of trees and stones. They created their gods, they shaped them into what they wanted them to be and in doing that they turned to gods that could not save.
And here is the nature of God’s challenge to those pagan fugitives: Declare what is to be, present it – let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past (v. 21a)? God is challenging his opponents to act like a defense lawyer and present their case why their gods of wood and stone could be true gods. And if they needed a hint of where to start, God points them in the right direction. “Tell me,” He challenges, “which of these created gods can predict future events? Can they prophesy about what will happen generations later or even millennia’s later? If they can’t, they are useless hunks of metal and wood, able to do nothing.
Read between the lines, it is between those lines that God’s judgment on those idols and gentile fugitives is written. By asking which of these created gods can predict the future, God is really asking “Why believe in such ‘gods’ if they cannot answer your prayers. Why believe in them if they cannot prove their deity or cannot save you?”
Surely God’s challenge would have gotten those gentile fugitives thinking: “If our gods cannot do any of those things, what god can?” Listen to the true God’s response. Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me (v. 21b). The idols that the gentile fugitives had created for themselves cannot do the things that the true God can do. He and he alone, is the only God. It is only him that can do what he says he can do.
If we are to take this text seriously, then we too must say that there are times that we act like those gentile fugitives. When we’re faced with times of trouble, where do we look? If we’re faced with money problems, do we look to our check books or even to our jobs as a source of money? Perhaps when we’re in times of personal distress we look to our friends for comfort or guidance. And yet, it’s not just times of trouble when we look to things other than God. When things are going well, we often focus on sources of entertainment – music, athletic contests, even Christmas gifts.
It’s not that we need to cut out friends, jobs, sports, or gifts from our lives. But these things cause problems when we create them to be our gods. When we turn to these things for comfort or enjoyment and turn away from God, they have replaced God. Friends, sports, and jobs may not be created out of stone, metal or wood, but when they take God’s place we have formed them into our own gods. And yet, these new gods, lower case g, cannot predict the future nor can they save. They cannot save us for they cannot do anything. When our comfort and hope is in something that we created to be a god, our trust is in a useless, lifeless object.
As Isaiah reminds us that we need to leave behind our created idols, he leaves us with hope that there is still something more! Our created idols cannot save us, but the true God can for only in him is righteousness and strength.
If we look at the lesson before us this morning as a sort of story or novel, with all the plot portions of a story, it would be this section that we would label as the “climax.” After challenging the gentile fugitives to a duel, God calls out to them with an opportunity for repentance. He says, Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear (vv. 22-23). God is a just God, who punishes sin and impenitence, who will not tolerate obedience to other gods. But God is also a God who has mercy on sinners. After showing the gentile fugitives the error of trusting in created idols, he pleads with them to turn from those idols and to turn to him. He assures them that he is not a God who has promised salvation only to the nation of Israel, but has offered salvation for the ends of the earth.
While these gentile fugitives could not find salvation in their created idols, they now had one who was offering salvation to them. But we must be clear about one thing – it is not their action of turning to God would save them. Left to themselves they would not have known a loving, merciful God. The only gods that the world can know on their own are gods that desire humans to do something to please them. But in his loving, merciful nature, God revealed that salvation is through him and him alone. To further illustrate this point, look at how God describes salvation. He does not say “Turn to me and save yourself.” Instead he says with a passive verb, “Turn to me and be saved.”
And now the gentile’s response – They will say of me, “In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength” (v. 24a). God’s promise of salvation and righteousness is fulfilled, just as he had said. This is not a promise that created idols could make, let alone keep! Only God could make this promise, and then follow through and keep that promise. And it’s interesting how God describes that salvation he provides. He doesn’t just use that “generic” term salvation, nor does he call it “forgiveness.” Instead, he says that the one who has salvation now possesses righteousness. Those who have received salvation from the only God are now seen as innocent and perfect beings in the eyes of God. And even more, they have received strength to overcome the temptations of the world.
But not all will receive salvation from the only true God. The second half of this verse lays out the alternative to salvation. All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame (v. 24b). Despite God’s offer of free salvation there will be those who will not want to turn to the Lord for salvation. They will choose instead to reject his offer of salvation and continue to drag their created idols and pray to a god that cannot save. With their created idols in tow they become angry at God for offering free forgiveness. They may live their life in happy ignorance, yet on Judgment Day they will have to come before God and there they will be put to eternal shame in hell.
But that is not the fate of those who those who turn to the Lord. Isaiah writes, In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory (v. 25). Isaiah writes that this promise is for Israel, but he is not referring to those who have Jewish blood running through their veins. He is speaking of spiritual Israel, all those who have become heirs of salvation through faith and citizens of God’s kingdom because of salvation. Those citizens of spiritual Israel will be justified – they will be declared not guilty in God’s court. They will glory as they rule alongside the Son of God.
Who was God speaking to when he said all the ends of the earth? Was he speaking just to those who would hear and read these words up until the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon? No – God, when he said all the ends of the earth, meant all people of all time, including the members of Messiah and of the city Wichita. God reminds us that the gods we create cannot save us, and then reveals salvation as only through him. We praise God that he did reveal that salvation, for we could not have known it otherwise. Because he revealed and promised it, it is true. We are comforted in knowing that when we turn to him in repentance salvation and forgiveness is ours.
Go back to the beginning of our text. It is there that God said who has foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? What was God talking about, what was he referring to? To know we need to rewind all the way back to the beginning of time, back to Adam and Eve right after their fall into sin. As God spoke to the devil, he gave the first promise of a Savior. Doesn’t get much older than that, does it? It was that promise of a Savior that was repeated through every generation.
God had long since declared the promise of a Savior and kept that promise. A literal meaning for “my mouth has uttered in all integrity” is mouth of faithfulness. In other words, what God promises, he keeps. He is faithful to those promises. He promised a Savior, and that Christmas night he kept that promise. He sent a baby, his Son, born of a virgin, to be our Savior. It is that baby, Jesus Christ, who came to live a perfect life on our behalf, who would suffer and die in our place. It was that promised baby’s resurrection that placed the stamp of approval on the salvation he won for us.
Because God is faithful to that promise of a Savior “only in the LORD are righteousness and strength” and “all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.” God’s promise Savior, now arrived, has brought to each one of us righteousness and strength. Christ’s righteousness became our own. Through faith in Jesus as our Savior, we possess the strength to defeat the temptation to rely on other, created, gods. Through faith in the promised Savior Jesus, we have been justified and will glory. Do you know the definition of justified? My confirmation class was taught that being justified means that God looks as me as if I’d done nothing wrong. Through faith in our Savior, you and I share in the glory of God now and we will forever in heaven.
The next time you’re shopping for medicines or anything else that may give you a choice between the name brand and the store brand, don’t be afraid to consider the store brand. But be careful not to treat God as if he’s the name brand with an alternative store brand god next to him. Those store brand gods cannot do what the true and only God can! But rejoice that God is faithful to his promises! He promised a Savior from nearly the beginning of time. He promised that Savior and kept that promise. Through the one he sent – his Son Jesus Christ – you and I have righteousness and strength. Because he kept his promises, we confidently proclaim There Is No Other God!