“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. 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. 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.’ ” ISA 44.6-8
Yesterday I was working on my book in my favourite library, and I re-read this passage from Isaiah with great interest. It is such a rich text–one could mine it for a long time to great profit. But even a simple second reading yields a great deal of truth to contemplate.
LORD refers to the “I AM” who challenged Moses from the burning bush at Mt. Horeb, in Arabia. After introducing Himself to Moses in this way, God declared, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (EXO 3.15b) YHWH–written as “Jehovah” in English and as LORD in the English translation of the Old Testament–is the Everlasting God, the Self-Existent One. Eight times in John’s gospel, Jesus Christ also declares Himself to be, “I AM.”
God is the “King of Israel and his Redeemer.” God chose to involve Himself in human history by giving birth to a nation–a unique covenant people–who, despite God’s steadfast love for them, forsook Him and turned to other gods. And when “I AM” came to dwell with them, “his own people did not receive him.” (JOH 1.11b) He came as their Redeemer, and they scorned Him. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (JOH 1.12,13) God’s plan for Israel has not yet been fulfilled, and the existence of the State of Israel today is clearly foretold in the Scriptures. Regardless of one’s perspective on the Jews, God chose to use them as the conduit of redemption–He “appointed an ancient people.” One day the Davidic kingdom will resume, and the true King of Israel will be known and worshiped by the whole world–He who is also known as the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God, “I AM.”
YHWH declares Himself to be “the first and the last.” The Bible is an ancient book–the Old Testament was begun between 1400 and 1200 years before Christ and completed in 400 B.C. The New Testament was completed before the end of the First Century A.D. Are there older books? Yes. But in the Bible, God describes not only the beginning of history, but also the end. He was here before it started, and He will be here after it’s all over. The Bible is metanarrative, and over-arches everything that comes between creation and what theologians call, “the eternal state.” Many false gods have been invented and worshiped by men throughout human history, but YHWH, who has no beginning and no end, supersedes them all.
The LORD also says, “besides me there is no god.” That pretty well locks it up. Either He’s telling the truth, or He’s not. There is no middle ground. The Law of Non-Contradiction comes into play here, doesn’t it? If YHWH says there is no other god besides Himself, the world’s religions must answer His challenge: “Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me…” Either both are wrong, or one is wrong and one is right. They can’t both be right.
God even offers a means of comparison between Himself and the false gods of the earth: “Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.” One of the best proofs for the veracity of the Bible and the reliability and authority of Jehovah is fulfilled prophecy. Hundreds of prophetic statements have already been fulfilled to the letter–history attests to things like the decree of a king named Cyrus, predicted by Isaiah 100 years before Cyrus was even born; the destruction of the city of Tyre, which took place exactly as Ezekiel had prophesied hundreds of years earlier. The birth of Christ alone fulfilled 300 Old Testament prophecies! The State of Israel–regardless of what one thinks about it–exists today for only one reason: God said He would bring the Jews back to the land from every corner of the earth where He had scattered them in the diaspora. And there they are.
About the re-establishment of Israel as a nation, Isaiah even asks, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?” (ISA 11.11)
Short answer: YES! The modern State of Israel was established in a moment at 4:00 PM on 14 May, 1948. Just like that. And whether we love them or whether we hate them, they’re here to stay. How can we know that? Because the same God Who said He would bring the Jews back to the land said He would preserve them. If Mr. Netanyahu, Congress, CNN, and the rest of the world would read and believe the Scriptures, they would understand that Iran is not who Israel needs to fear. They need to fear Jehovah Himself, as He will hold them to account for their unbelief in the Messiah He sent to redeem them, and He will judge them severely with the whole earth in what the Old Testament calls the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble”–seven years of horror the likes of which the planet has never seen. And the events that precipitate it could begin before I finish typing this post.
Jehovah challenges the gods of this world to match His record of absolute reliability. None can. He even told the Hebrews that if a prophet makes even one prediction that is not fulfilled, no one needs to pay attention to anything he says. (DEU 18.15-22)
Finally, God encourages us by telling us not to be afraid. If I didn’t know Him, but still knew what I know about what’s coming down the pike, I’d be very much afraid. I wouldn’t sleep, and I might not enjoy eating as much as I do. But God urges us to remember His past record–He has told us from the beginning!–and to understand that there is no other God, no other Rock, but He.
I can sleep on that.