Blog / Book of the Month / “There is no God (besides Me)" / Isaiah 45; Psalm 96; 1Thessalonians 1; Matthew 22 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht/ Sunday October 18th 2020 / Season of Pentecost

“There is no God (besides Me)" / Isaiah 45; Psalm 96; 1Thessalonians 1; Matthew 22 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht/ Sunday October 18th 2020 / Season of Pentecost

“There is no God (besides Me)" / Isaiah 45; Psalm 96; 1Thessalonians 1; Matthew 22 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht/ Sunday October 18th 2020 / Season of Pentecost

Text: Isaiah 45; Psalm 96; 1Thessalonians 1; Matthew 22
Theme: There is no God (beside me)

Intr – I want to share with you an episode that happened with me. The other day I was driving my car on Scarth Street and being it around 5:00PM, the sun was straight into my eyes. Now because of that I had a near miss with a car in front of me, which prompted me to sway to the side and almost forget to stop for a person crossing the street, for barely being able to see her. It was a tense moment, but fortunately nothing serious happened.

How do you know that this is not a true story? How can you spot the lie? If you’re not from Regina that would be harder, but if you have been living here long enough it could be easy. There’s one detail in my story that gives it away, and it’s not the fact that I was driving, because I can drive... I guess.... If you paid close attention to what I said, I told you I was driving on Scarth with the sun in my eyes. The thing is that downtown Regina streets and radiance run north-south, and avenues run east west. This way when driving around 5PM the sun can never be right in front of your eyes on a street. That must have had taken place in an Avenue. If you’re on a downtown street, you’ll be always going north south or vice versa with no sun in your eyes. There is no changing to that. And this makes my entire story just a made up thing. (By the way, it is really).

As we live our lives in Christ, as we drive along the road with Jesus we may find sometimes things, some systems of teaching or some ideas that could sound like a true story; but when you pay attention to details you can spot where they diverge from the Christian faith.

One of the main stories often ill told is about “Who is God?” Or even before that “Is there a God?” A wide array of responses and explanations are attempted on that matter and the only way we can do that is that we know the map and its details: The Bible.

Now, when the teaching sounds like a square peg forced into a round hole we may have little difficulty in spotting the problem; “that’s not a true story for sure”. The thing is that sometimes the problem is in the details, which we may skim over or just accept as an alternative explanation of what we already believe. As we initiate the onion effect, that is, as we start to peel off the story comparing it with the detailed teaching the Scripture provides us it starts to become evident which story is true, and the ones who have the details proving them wrong.

There are many such topics, for example:  
_The Bible contains the Word of God.[1]     
_you have to learn how to forgive yourself;[2]      
_ everybody is a child of God;[3] 
_you need to accept Jesus in your heart in order to receive faith;[4]

         Now, when it comes specifically to the topic for today, “who is God?”, here are some ways we can be either taken for a ride on a conversation, or we can spot the details, and have the record set straight.

_“it doesn’t matter your religion or what you believe; there is only one God and only one Jesus”. It is charming and attractive, but we should go for the details. Is this God Triune? Is this God the Creator of all Things? Has this God planned the salvation of entire humanity? Is he a definite God that you learn about, or is it a God that we learn how to compose to fit our ideas, expectations and needs?

_”God is love” – At first there’s nothing to be against here. God is love, says 1 John chapter 4. Now, sometimes when we hear a development on that statement it goes like: “If God is love, how come He’ll let people suffer in Hell?” There’s when details emerge that sound the alarm off. Now, in fact this sounds like a contradiction, but condemnation is actually the consequence of human choice. God chooses us to salvation. But whoever is spending eternity in Hell, it’s because of sin. Heaven is offered to all. But just go outside after Church today and offer it to let’s say 20 random people, and see how many of them will take you seriously on this “old tale” about a heaven and a hell. We are saved by God. We are condemned by our own lack of repentance.

Another unfolding of this “god is Love” proclamation is that “god accepts all forms of Love”. From Scriptures, we know that God shows His love this way: Jesus. When we learn about Him, that’s when we can answer that song from the 1980’s that yearned: “I wanna know what love is; I want you to show me”. We can show everyone what love is: Christ.[5]

_”God sent the coronavirus” – I’m inserting coronavirus because that’s the current pandemic, but insert any other catastrophe there. Based in the OT reading for today, when God says that He is the one who creates darkness and evil, we may be sold on the idea that every evil thing that happens is sent by God.[6]  The temptation here is to make the Word of God speak something it doesn't say, or at least not the way one thinks it speaks. Biblical texts dealing with plagues and punishment from God, for example.[7] In order to pair any of those biblical texts with the current pandemic, the first thing one needs to do is to prove that God Himself has sent the corona virus upon us. But I don't think we can make that statement.  After that, there are some exegetical and doctrinal questions that should be addressed too. 

On another angle to that, a similar reasoning is presented in the idea that God “took away our idols from sports, movies, politicians… he made us stay at home and rethink life…etc.” Should we then also state that God intended to take Church going, Holy Communion and the communion of the brethren from us too? 

We don't have biblical base to state clearly that God Himself has decided to send the corona virus to Earth in the year of 2020, or similar catastrophes of our time; and we should stick to that. Disasters, catastrophes, calamities, accidents, even when sent by God as stated in the Bible, come ultimately because of sin. God uses all things that happen according to his purpose? There’s no shadow of doubt on that. And there are surely many things we can learn from isolation, quarantine and having lots of extra time we thought we didn't have before. But better Biblical texts for this time could be, for example, Exodus 20 (the ten commandments); John 14 (in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world); Colossians 2 (stick to the Word); Psalm 46 (Be still and know that I am God).[8]

In Isaiah we read. “There is no God”. You see, even this phrase itself could be use to disprove this entire sermon. But the extra detail is “besides me”. And that changes the story.

You see, sometimes it doesn't seem a flawed story at first, but if you spot the detail, both the explicit and the hidden ones, you can spot where it is not right; now you can reject altogether, or maybe start a conversation, where what The Bible actually says may be brought up.

The readings for today are of great help. In Psalm 96, we read:“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all Gods. All the gods of peoples are worthless idols. But the Lord made the heavens” (v. 4 and 5). God is proclaimed to be above all gods. Isaiah adds to it (Isaiah 45): “I am the Lord and there is no other”. Here we run out of all the millions of definitions and are left with only one God. Iahweh says through the prophet that what we call “other gods” they actually don’t even exist. So there is only One God.[9] The epistle for today, 1 Thessalonians 1, helps us for that matter too when Paul writes to them: “And how you turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God and to wait for His Son from Heaven”.

In Matthew 22 Jesus is showing to the religious leaders of His time the difference between Him and Caesar. He draws a line between what a human god looks like and Him. Caesar was considered by many to be a god, and many Caesars and kings of old would demand divine worship to themselves. Well...of old? How many times do you hear the word “idol” connected to human beings these days? More than a couple I can assure you.

         We need to realize that in the end, a god, with a lower case g, is everything you place your heart and faith upon. Your possessions, your friends, your assets, your wisdom. People, places, things. Family may become an idol. Even life and health may become an idol. That’s why some people mock Christian faith saying: “Well, if your God exists, why are you sick?” As if life and health would be values which would be even above God Himself.

         There is no God besides me, says the Lord. Here are some core teachings about God which we find in the Scriptures:

_God is One;
_God Is Triune;
_God is Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent;
_God reveals Himself in Christ, and in Christ alone;
_God wants to save all – in Christ;
_God is Love – and whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God in Him;
_There is no other God. All idols are actually nothing. He is the only and One Living God.

The Bible brings the whole story of salvation, and that one is true in all its details. The Bible teaches us who God is, what He does and everything we need to know (perhaps not everything we would like to know though). There is no God other than the Scriptural God. He wants to be the God of all, the only one, in Christ, the only and perfect Saviour. Jesus is the truth is the way the life we can always know as we drive along life as we walk with Christ as we have a measure power life we always know

Cc – So my friends, as the Chinook is always present in our prairie winter, so we can be certain of our God...oops, I’m pretty sure you’ve got this one. Here’s a wrong detail again, we need to replace “Chinook” for “dryness” or “30 below”. Then the record is set straight. There is no God besides me, says the Lord. We can trust Him and His Word. The Bible, in all its details, never tells a lie. It is His Word. It is the truth that sets us free.  Then we will drive with the Son not in our eyes, but in our hearts, in the certainty that we will drive north to arrive safely in our eternal home.

[1] The Bible contains the Word of God of the Bible is the Word of God? If the Bible only contains it, then perhaps there are parts there are not His Word.  We as Christians and Lutherans affirm that the Bible IS the Word of God, from cover to cover.
[2] The Bible never speaks that way. When it speaks about forgiveness, that is either God forgiving us or us  forgiving others We can never forgive ourselves, prior to, and after we receive pardon for sins from God Himself, there is nothing left for us to do.
[3] It sounds really nice and comforting, but there’s a difference between God’s child and God’s creature. Everyone is God’s creature, but we are made God’s child can only by faith, in our Baptism or Conversion.
[4] We can only accept the Word of God in our hearts (James chapter 1), we can only recognize Jesus as our Saviour and Lord after we have been called by the Holy Spirit to faith (Small Catechism, Third Article)
[5] Connected to this one is “Jesus was a good man, a Master, a revolutionary.” Here the issue it’s not in an open but a hidden detail. Jesus is our SAVIOUR. That’s the main and foremost thing, without which all the other titles are nothing. More to that: Is this only Jesus true God and true man? Was He born from a Virgin? Is this only God going to condemn some and save some through Christ? Details left out that make all the difference on this story of Salvation and Life.
[6] “The meaning of the words is not exhausted by those who content themselves with the assertion, that by the evil (or darkness) we are not to understand the evil of guilt (malum culpae), but the evil of punishment (malum paenae). Undoubtedly, evil as an act is not the direct working of God, but the spontaneous work of a creature endowed with freedom. At the same time, evil, as well as good, has in this sense its origin in God - that He combines within Himself the first principles of love and wrath, the possibility of evil, the self-punishment of evil, and therefore the consciousness of guilt as well as the evil of punishment in the broadest sense. When the apostle celebrates the glory of free grace in Romans 9:11., he stands on that giddy height, to which few are able to follow him without falling headlong into the false conclusions of a decretum absolutum, and the denial of all creaturely freedom.” Keil and Delitzsch. OT Commentary, Isaiah chapter 45
[7] For example, 2 Chronicles 7 and Exodus 12 are quoted in connection with the covid-19 plague. Problem here is that in those texts, and many others, it is clearly stated that God Himself sent the given punishment or plague, like the death of the firstborn in Exodus.
[8]A second topic in this connection would be about texts portraying life before covid-19 – hustle and bustle, little time for family and friends, greed, consumerism, selfishness, etc… - which go on to preach a better world and a better Humanity after it. They wish, almost demand, that people would go back to daily life differently; that the world would be transformed, and people would enjoy more family, kids, would preserve the planet, put their smart phones away for longer, and stay away from their credit cards, among other wishes.
These are supposed to be inspiring but they are not so much. After the preaching of the Law - the world as it used to be – comes more preaching of the Law - how everybody should behave better after the crisis is gone. More legal demands, which means more guilt.
Breaking news: when life goes back to normal, we will all continue to be what you always were: human beings. Sinful, lustful, selfish, indifferent… You can list all the Ten Commandments here. Transformation doesn't come from the Law, which at its best can hinder some attitudes, or give some orientation to others. Transformation is made inside with the Gospel that Forgives sin, points to Jesus and His Word and Will for our lives.
We are always trying to make sense of things, and it’s not different now. While that is useful, it usually can be done only in hindsight. Trying to guess what God is up to right now or tomorrow without sound biblical basis will only bring us either more anxiousness and despair, or more legalism and hypocrisy. We need to be honest, it is very unlikely that we are all going back to normal life doing all the right things we didn't do before. 
Christ has transformed us in his Word to send us out in the world to do our best in doing good, that’s for sure; but in His Word we are also reminded that we remain sinners in daily need of his forgiveness and love. And they are always there, unlimited, abundant and permanently available. It prevents us to be too pessimistic about the future, or too optimistic about humanity, leading us to the real life with the real God, facing all the problems that come from sin and enjoying all the blessings that come from the Son.
An inspiring and comforting Bible passage for this moment can be found in Romans chapter 8, verses 26-39.”
[9] This is especially important when we see many studies trying to proof that the People of Israel had more than one God, being Iahweh only the main of them (Henotheism). Whereas God addresses idolatry amongst his people (Surely there were lots of people that would cling to superstition also in those days), the Bible is sufficiently clear to show us there is no other God other than the Lord, as Isaiah lets us know.