Have you ever considered that period of time when Jehovah dwelt alone, without any of the works of His creation? There was a period in eternity before the sun ever gave its light. There was a time before the stars floated in the sky. There was a time when all that you and I can now see was yet unborn, slumbering in the mind of God.
Before the creation of the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets of the Milky Way, there was a God, and He was blessed forever. Although no angels yet hymned His praises, He sat as a King on His eternal throne. "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" (Psa. 90:2).
In the process of time, it pleased the Father to create this world and all things therein through His Son. "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Col. 1:16-17).
Have you ever considered how infinitely inferior we are to God? We can hear the great prophet Isaiah say, "O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand" (Isa. 64:8). Throughout the course of human events Jehovah has endeavored to teach mankind that He is God, and beside Him "there is no other" (Isa. 45:22).
When the king of Assyria threatened Israel, the good king Hezekiah humbly prayed, "O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth" (2 Kings 19:15). He then beseeched Jehovah to "hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God" and "save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone" (2 Kings 19:16, 19).
Let us examine how God has been teaching this great lesson to the world throughout recorded history.
Human history records how men would often set up a block of wood or stone to be his maker. "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things" (Rom. 1:22-23). He then prostrated his body before the creature of his hands -- calling it god, while it had neither eyes to see, or hands to feel, nor ears to hear.
Where are those gods before whom the people of Nineveh once fell? You would have to ask the moles and the snakes, because those gods are now buried beneath mounds of dirt and clay. Alternatively, you could go to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and see their remains there, and smile as you think that men should have ever bowed before such gods such as these. God has spoken concerning the gods of Nineveh, saying, "Your name shall be perpetuated no longer. Out of the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, for you are vile" (Nahum 1:14).
Where are the gods of Persia? The fires of their altars are quenched, and the memory of them has nearly passed away from the earth.
Where are the gods of Greece -- those gods who were once hymned in the most sublime odes? Who talks of them now? Only those in the halls of academia, as they study long forgotten relics of the past. Where is Zeus, the god of the sky, weather, thunder and lightning? Where is Nike, the winged goddess of victory? Where is Athena, the warrior-goddess who was the embodiment of wisdom and the protectress of Athens? Who now stands before Jupiter or bows before Saturn?
Where are the gods of Rome? Does Janus, the god who supposedly hovered over households, now command any temple? Can you now find the priests of Jove today? Where is Bacchus, the god of grapes and wine? Are there any now who bow before these gods? No! They have lost their thrones.
Great empires have risen up, and have become the gods of their age. Kings and princes have taken upon themselves high titles, and have been worshipped by the multitudes. Nevertheless, ask these empires now whether there is any beside Jehovah?
God taught the Egyptians that He was God. "The Egyptians considered sacred the lion, the ox, the ram, the wolf, the dog, the cat, the ibis, the vulture, the falcon, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cobra, the dolphin, different varieties of fish, trees, and small animals including the frog, scarab, locust and other insects." (John Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p. 95).
I think many people miss the point of the plagues God sent against Egypt during the days of Moses. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in studying fleas and locusts that they forget the purpose of the plagues. The plagues were not just to be an inconvenience to the Egyptians -- they were designed to teach the Egyptians about the power and might of Jehovah. It seems as though every plague was a direct affront to one or more of the gods of Egypt. God told Moses, "But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them." (Exodus 7:4-5). At the death of the firstborn, Jehovah said, "against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord" (Exodus 12:12).
But where is Amon-Re, the supreme god of Egypt? His temple in Karnak now lies in ruins. Where is Isis, the mother goddess of fertility and nature? Where is Osiris, the god of the dead and of the underworld? Where is Horus, the god of light -- the god represented as a falcon-headed man wearing a sun disk as a crown? Were is Ptah, the chief god of Memphis, the one whom they believed created the moon, the sun, and the earth?
Consider the Babylonian Empire. She who was great among the nations -- where is she now? You could go to Iraq and stand upon the mounds that once housed some of the most feared armies of the world -- but it is now covered in sand and forgotten by time. You could stand upon the mounds of ancient Nineveh and let those hidden ruins remind you that there is but one God and empires sink before Him.
Go to Greece and walk amidst the ancient temples where the apostle Paul once traveled. Recall how Paul told the Athenians about the God "who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17:24-25). As you walk through the many temples in Athens it is as though you hear a solemn voice amid those ruins saying, "I am God, and there is no other."
Nebuchadnezzar had to learn about the nature of God the hard way. Can you not picture him with the crown on his head and his purple robe over his shoulders as he walks through proud Babylon? Daniel had already told him that God "changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings" (Dan. 2:21). However, it appears as though he soon forgot this lesson, and what a journey he had to make! (Dan. 4:1-37). Nebuchadnezzar had to learn that "all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" (Dan. 4:35).
Herod Agrippa I was smitten by an angel of the Lord in the theater built by Herod the Great (Acts 12:20-23). Josephus said Herod died after five days of suffering. God indeed humbles the proud and abases the mighty.
"Now, when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato's Tower; and there he exhibited shows in honor of Caesar, upon his being informed that there was a certain festival celebrated to make vows for his safety. At which festival, a great multitude was gotten together of the principal persons, and such as were of dignity through his province. On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another (though not for his good), that he was a god; and they added, 'Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.' Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery." (Josephus, Antiq. 19.8.2).
Think of the fall of the Soviet Union. It has not been that long since we saw old dynasties tremble and gray-haired dictators driven from their palaces. We watched president Ronald Reagan stand in front of the Berlin Wall and say, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear this wall down." Then in November of 1989 we sat by our televisions and watched the cranes dismantle the wall that had separated the East from the West for more than a generation, and they toppled the statues of Stalin and Lenin. It was as though we saw Jehovah put His foot upon land and sea, and with His hands uplifted cry -- "Hear you people of the earth! I am God, and beside me there is no other."
There have always been those who sought to set themselves up in the place of God. One of the greatest enemies of Truth has been the wisdom of men, for wisdom of man does not see God (1 Cor. 1:18-25).
Nevertheless, have you not noticed, in reading history, how God has abased the pride of wisdom? The mighty thoughts of Socrates are now all but utterly forgotten. Even a child in grade school today would laugh at the "wisdom" of Socrates. And to the "wisdom" of Socrates, we could add Aristotle and Plato.
One century passes and another century comes and a new set of philosophers rise up to refute their predecessors. At one time Sigmund Freud, a man who described himself as "a completely godless Jew," was considered to possess one of the greatest minds on earth, but is now repudiated by so many great centers of learning. The Bible is like a stone that breaks into pieces human philosophy -- it is like a battering ram against the thin walls of humanism (cf. Dan. 2:44-45).
The Jews in the Promised Land forgot this lesson and bowed before other gods, and therefore Jehovah brought against them kings and nations. During the period of the judges "they forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs" (Judges 3:7). Israel forgot Jehovah and was carried away into Babylonian captivity.
What Israel did, we often do as well, i.e., forget that He is God, and beside Him there is none else. Sometimes we plan for the future without taking God into account (James 4:13-15). God teaches His people every day, by affliction, by trials, by the loss of the joys of His countenance, that He is God.
We must continue to look "unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross of Calvary we hear our Savior pleading with men to accept His kind and tender invitation (Matt. 11:28-30). Come to Calvary, and to Calvary's Lamb and learn from Him!
(Article based upon a sermon preached by C. H. Spurgeon)