God Is God All By Himself
5th Sunday in Epiphany
God is God all by Himself
February 4th, 2024
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. 21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.
In the name of Christ, who is Himself God above all and the only one in whom we should hope, dear fellow redeemed:
It is said, “While there’s life, there’s hope.” This seems to describe the case of the six Navy pilots who left their aircraft carrier on a scouting mission during World War II, searching the seas for enemy submarines believed operating in the area. When they tried to return, they could not find their ship. It seems that while they were gone, the captain had ordered a war-imposed blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. The pilots were then told of the blackout and that it could not be lifted even for them. After several appeals and denials of their requests, the ship’s radio operator finally turned the switch to break radio contact. Rather than risk the lives of thousands on the ship, the pilots were forced to ditch in the cold Atlantic and from there into eternity. The pilots left the ship thinking they would be able to return, but found that this was misplaced hope. In what are you placing your hope?
This was the same question the children of Israel should have been asking themselves as they heard the prophecies of Isaiah. Even when they had a good king who reinstituted the right worship of the true God and Him alone, it did not take very long for them to regress into idolatry worship. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai, the people began to worship a golden calf, fashioned by Aaron and claimed that was the god who brought them out of Egypt. When they were in the wilderness and rebelled against God, He had sent poisonous snakes in their midst. To save them, He told Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and place it on a pole so that anyone who looked at it would live. This was a wonderful picture of looking to the Son of God who would place Himself on the cross and whoever looks to Him will find salvation. But, instead, the people began to worship the bronze serpent and Moses had to destroy it.
In the divided kingdom, Jeroboam reinstituted the worship of golden calves in order that his people would not go down to Jerusalem to worship. Under King Ahab, Baal and Asherah worship was common place. You can go through the entire history of the children of Israel and see over and over again how they placed their hope in something that was crafted by man’s hands, something they could see and feel.
Isaiah writes, To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.
There were no shortages of idols in the ancient world and you did not have to be rich to indulge in one. Whether it be gold, silver, or treated wood, man would take every opportunity he could to replicate God; to find something that will last and stand on its own. The foolishness! 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. They truly believed they could fit God into an image crafted by a corrupt and sinful human being. One who has no clue what holiness is, one who has never looked upon God’s glory and lived, one who desires to fit God into a box of his own imagination. Sound familiar? Nowadays, we have images of God. The prohibition God gave to His people in the Old Testament has ended because God took on human flesh. He was seen by men, and Jesus is the image of the Invisible God. And yet, we continue to fit God into our own box, don’t we?
“I don’t think God would be that upset at me for what I did. It’s not that bad of a sin because it doesn’t hurt anybody.” “I’m going to excuse my behavior because it feels right to me. I want to hold on to my resentment, I want to give in to my hatred for another person, I don’t truly have to love everybody, or do good to everybody.” It is the same misstep the children of Israel took when they pursued other idols. You may not bow down and worship a craven image with the head of a fish and body of a man. However, we all like to “choose” when to or when not to recognize the authority, power, and supremeness of our God. When it comes to my behavior and how I act, well, let me just ignore what God has to say here. If this is what makes me happy, I can’t be faulted for that.
You can, and you are. That attitude before God is the same as creating a false god to worship. No, you aren’t fashioning a physical god, but you are elevating yourself to the position that belongs to God and God alone. You are the one that you are placing your hope in, your trust in, your self-worth, your moral compass. A sinful human being that is good for nothing on his or her own, but continually gives in to the Devil’s whispering taunts. This sin infects us all. Our nature desires to rebel against our God and insert anything else. Anything to place our hope in so that we might just avoid the accountability God demands.
Who is the One we are accountable to? 21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.
Yes, you have known, yes you have heard, yes you have been told from the beginning: We are accountable to the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We are accountable to God who dwells above the earth; whose word fashioned this place we call home and keeps the universe in order. Even the vast expanse of the stars in the universe, He created these. He has named these. Not one is out of place or goes missing without His knowledge. He is the one who causes nations to rise from nothing, but then He merely blows on them and like the grass on a hot summer day, they wither away. From the seeming infinite space of the universe, to the nations of people, to the smallest organism on this earth, God knows every intimate detail about it because He is its Creator. He is your Creator and mine. There is no one else. God is God all by Himself.
Though His power and greatness are enough of a reason for us to place our hope in Him, there is an even greater reason: Love. Obviously, the false gods in ancient Israel were not real, but they held real authority over the people. They demanded sacrifices, self-mutilation, immoral behavior, and elaborate gifts, but these so-called “gods” had no power whatsoever to bring any blessing or gift in return for this behavior. The people would commit themselves to these things without realizing they were committing to a false hope. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, he mocked them saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” He knew full-well that Baal would never be answering no matter what the “prophets” did.
What does God demand? “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Yes, God demands perfection. But God also knows that you and I can’t provide that perfection, so He takes care of it for us. Instead, He demands, or commands, that we come and place our hope for salvation in Him.
Love is what drives God and sets Him apart from every idol you could think of. He does not want you to be lost in the vain search for a god other than Himself. He has provided everything you could possibly need. Most importantly, that of a Savior. Every time that you and I have elevated ourselves to the place of God, we simply need to look in humble repentance to the cross where our Savior hung, and see His blood shed for the forgiveness of that failure. We simply look to the empty tomb on Easter morning that proves our sins are truly forgiven because God raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus was and is true God. He is God all by Himself. Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we have, as our hope, the one true God. When Jesus walked this earth, He understood the struggles and temptations that you and I deal with on a daily basis. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Satan tempted Jesus to bow down before him in order to gain ultimate power and glory. That is the same temptation that you and I deal with. Except, where you and I succumb to it, Jesus refused. He knew that He had everything because He is God, and nothing, no matter how enticing, would keep Him from perfectly fulfilling God’s Law in your place.
Jesus did just that. He went to the cross a perfect man. He died on the cross as the most despised sinner in the world because He was carrying your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world on His shoulders. He, the perfect Son of God, yet also true man, died to pay for your sins and rose again to secure your justification. This is what ultimately sets God apart from all other idols. He showed love. Not just any ordinary love. He showed a love that knows no bounds. A love that is willing to leave His throne in heaven to come and die so that you and I might live forever. There is no love like that. There is no God like our God. Truly He is God all by Himself and the only one worthy of our hope, Amen.