God Is No Idol

God Is No Idol

The Biblical Basis for a Speaking God, Part 1

We’ve responded to a number of possible objections to the idea that God still speaks. Now let’s examine what the scriptures say.

To the Gentile converts in Corinth the apostle Paul wrote,

You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols…. (1 Corinthians 12:2)

In its pervasive polemic against the evil and futility of idolatry, scripture repeatedly calls attention to the fact that idols and false gods are voiceless, unable to respond when their worshipers pray. Notice the report of the frustrated cries of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel:

Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’ But there was no voice and no one answered. (1 Kings 18:26)

Their persistence was useless:

When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offerings of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. (v. 29)

Psalm 115 highlights the difference between the God of Israel and the idols of the nations:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, / But to Your name give glory / Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. / Why should the nations say, ‘Where, now, is their God?’ / But our God is in the heavens; / He does whatever He pleases. / Their idols are silver and gold, / The work of man’s hands. / They have mouths, but they cannot speak; / They have eyes, but they cannot see…. (vv. 1-5)

The Lord through Jeremiah offers a similar taunt of idols:

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, / And they cannot speak; / They must be carried, / Because they cannot walk! / Do not fear them, / For they can do no harm, / Nor can they do any good. (Jeremiah 10:5)

And to the prophet Habakkuk the Lord says,

What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, / Or an image, a teacher of falsehood? / For its maker trusts in his own handiwork / When he fashions speechless idols. / Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ / To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ / And that is your teacher? / Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, / And there is no breath at all inside it. / But the Lord is in His holy temple. / Let all the earth be silent before Him. (Habakkuk 2:18-20)

Why be silent before the God of Israel? Because, unlike the voiceless idols of the pagans, this God speaks to those who listen.

So here is my question: In light of this consistent and decisive contrast, how could we think God has silenced Himself so that, after thousands of years of speaking, He’s now just as mute as the idols He mocks?

One could object, of course, that God does still speak—He just speaks today through scripture only. Certainly I believe God “speaks” through scripture. This, however, is not what the above passages envision. God never makes the observation that idols can’t write books. The point, of course, is true enough. It just isn’t the one He’s concerned to make.

Why? Because a written book is no evidence the author is still alive. Mark Twain still speaks through Tom and Huck, but no one infers from this that Twain still lives. God distinguishes Himself from imaginary deities (and the images that represent them) precisely by proving Himself to be alive—by acting and speaking—in the present, not just the past. He is the “I AM,” not the “I WAS.” And so He is still in His holy temple, poised right now to speak to those who will listen. If not—if He has silenced Himself to the end of the church age—in that respect He has become just like the lifeless gods of the pagans. He has freely chosen to adopt a trait He consistently ridicules in scripture.

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