On a recent morning walk, a phrase came into my thoughts: “Who is like the LORD our God?” The all-caps “LORD” in this question is YaHWeH, the personal name of the God of Israel. In a variety of ways, the unique and superlative nature of Yahweh comes up again and again in the pages of the Bible. As Christians who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a post-Enlightenment, post-Christian culture, we are in danger of missing the significance of this repeated question: “Who is like Yahweh?”
In our post-Christian world, the one true God of the Bible is the default in discussions of all varieties that involve “god talk”. When someone says “Oh my God!”–an empty oath– which god are they thinking of? Even for equal opportunity atheists, the “god” they really, really don’t believe in is the monotheistic God of the Bible. The Biblical question: “Who is like Yahweh” comes across as being rhetorical: “There is only one God so, duh, no one is like the Lord.” But that is not what the biblical writers were communicating.
Think about this: if you are the winning participant in a race of one runner, or the last man standing in boxing match featuring just you, is that much of an accomplishment? All the nations that surrounded or opposed Israel had gods: gods of war and love, of fertility & harvest, of the moon and sun, of sky and ocean. Some rulers, like the Pharaohs of Egypt claimed divine or semi-divine status. A defeat of an enemy was proof that their gods were inferior to yours (2 Chron. 32:17). The gods worshipped by the nations were powerful… but petty and capricious. They had to be placated with gifts and sacrifices and they seemed to favor the strong and ruthless.
And then Moses encounters Yahweh: a God who is utterly unique. After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the God who had spoken and walked with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, completely and utterly humiliates the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12), parts the Red Sea, and destroys the ancient world’s most powerful army in a single blow.
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. “Who is like you, O YAHWEH, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. – EXODUS 15:10-12
Living as Egyptian royalty, Moses would have been educated about the Egyptian gods; he would have known what were like and how they acted. But this God, Yahweh? He was not like any god Moses had ever heard of, and not just because of His awesome power. Yahweh is unique in what is important to Him:
Who is like YAHWEH our God,… He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes with the princes of his people. He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
Yahweh is not a God who needs to be on the side of winners. He loves and cares for the least, the weakest, and rejected. And just as amazing, you can count on this God; he entered into a covenant relationship with His people, binding himself to them. He is not capricious, He doesn’t get distracted or bored. He keeps his word continually:
“O YAWHEH God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart” – 1 KINGS 8:23
In a battle, the strongest army wins. It is easy to say the victor’s god has given them victory. Who could argue with that logic? No god actually showed up, but whose to say he or she wasn’t present? Yahweh isn’t like that either; he is unambiguous and he can act even in the territory of other so-called “gods”: three faithful jewish boys walked into and out of a giant oven without even the smell of smoke on their clothes. Having seen a mysterious fourth person walking around in the fire with the young me, the King of the Babylon whose god, Marduk, had made itthe most powerful empire of the age said this about Yahweh, the God of the conquered Jews:
Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way. – DANIEL 3:29
Incredibly, this one-of-a-kind God, the One who created everything (John 1:1-3,14) did something no other God has ever done in entering human history to die in the place of his rebellious creatures so they could live. (Philippians 2:5-8). In the person of Jesus, this God has brought us into His forever family (Ephesians 1:5-7). Search the pages of history and mythology; you will never find any god like the one who shows love and forgiveness to law-breakers and enemies (Romans 5:8) in this way. Now, more than ever before we can ask with awe and wonder: “Who is like Yahweh our God?”.