The difference between god, gods, and God may make little sense, but in a world where a single deity is said to be real the difference is like night and day, and quite literally, like life and death. We may think it is weird for a person to have a god fashioned by human hands, but even the people with an invisible deity have tons of objects that assist them in their devotion; objects ranging from literature to charms, amulets, objects of mysterious origin and worldwide fame. When a city gangster pulls a pocket knife on Crocodile Dundee, a rugged Aussie outdoorsman, he pulls out a humongous blade, saying, “That’s not a knoife. This is a knoife”. A real deity cannot be ranked by size, or the number of devotees. Most ancestral or tribal deities are just that; ancestral and tribal, and the imagination of people wanting to be recognized as associates and friends, if not outright deities themselves, of a great deity are too many to count.
Wazzup and what’s coming up
An incident in Yeshua’s life illustrates how connected intelligent people can be to daily life. The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.” (Matthew 16:1-4, NASB)
Isaiah had a rough time dealing with people who saw themselves as God’s messengers or officials of some sort. I suspect he may have had a chuckle or two from what they were claiming. Isaiah’s generation was not very different from ours in this century 2500 years later. People expected God to advance their interests and they put God, his interest and his instruction, at arms length. They could not be convinced that calamity was knocking at their doors.
Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; (Isaiah 41:22, NASB)A genuine deity ought to know past and future equally
Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. (Isaiah 41:23, NASB)
Behold, you are of no account, And your work amounts to nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination. (Isaiah 41:24, NASB)
Mankind has built nothing bigger than a single neighbourhood. The gods we have fashioned are dwarfed by the failed empires. There are god who affect nothing in the world, who do not see or hear, and are carried about by people even when they have legs and feet. We have not forgotten the Egyptian deities who were decisively exposed by the events in the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. It is surprising that the Egyptians did not calculate that the sun was going to die, or notice that the moon was scarred by meteorite bombardment and was barren lifeless. The ancestral homeland of Jacob was known for its amulets – called gods, elohim and teraphim in Jacob’s departure from Padan-aram.
Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods (elohim)? (Genesis 31:30, NASB)Jacob’s uncle wants to know
“Now Rachel had taken the household idols (teraphim) and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them.” (Genesis 31:34, NASB)Exactly what was Laban looking for
“She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household idols (teraphim).” (Genesis 31:35, NASB)The household gods were untouchable because Rachel had put them in a virtual vault: the circumstance of her menstrual flow and the camel saddle on which she was sitting.
Why one is more than enough
Hold your horses, tanks, missiles, firearms, homicidal state warriors, and perjured justices! Most people expect a deity to protect, defend them, and supply their needs, even those things people can easily do for themselves. Deities are supposed to have excessive kinds of powers that are represented by military and people-in-council. Obviously, amulets, charms and idols neither see, nor hear, much less aim, fire weapons successfully. They most certainly do not have any wisdom to impart to intelligent human beings. One blank stare from a carved deity, one sacrifice it can never consume, one tear it can never dry, is sufficient to end the illusion that any dead material or living entity we can control, can be confined to a country, city, house or box is a deity.