Have you ever heard someone say, “You believe what you want, and I’ll believe what I want. We are both right?”
That is more or less an “all-gods-are-equal” theological framework. But even someone who claims to be a Christian may say something like that. In theological terms that is called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). It can be summarized in five distinct statements: (1) God exists. (2) God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other. (3) The central goal in life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. (4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except to resolve a problem. (5) Good people go to heaven when they die.
As Christians, our belief that God is the one and only true God directly contradicts the all-gods-are-equal philosophy.
In 1 Kings 20, God’s people were battling the Syrians, a conflict that challenged not just political borders but also the character of God. In the ancient world, gods were understood to control the borders of the country where they were worshiped. Each nation had its own deity, and while they acknowledged that other gods existed, local deities had home field advantage, so to speak.
This explains why after their loss in the first battle, the Syrians changed their strategy. They reasoned that because the Israelites lived in a mountainous region, their god gave them victory over the battle in the mountains. But the Syrian gods were worshiped in the plains, so if they battled there, they (the Syrians) would claim victory (v. 23).
This logic contradicted the theology of Israel. Through Moses, God revealed that He was God not just of the mountains but the entire world. Yahweh had no rival. Defeating Israel would not result from better strategy or battling on a different field. Israel would lose only if God gave them over to defeat.
God said, “I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord” (v. 28). The previous victory proved that God had the power to defeat Israel’s enemies. This victory over Syria proved that God’s power was not limited to one region (v. 29). God’s power is everywhere. Ahab didn’t get the message. He immediately pardoned the Syrian king (v. 34). But the truth had been told. God’s people might long for a powerful righteous leader, but there was no need to long for a powerful, righteous god. They already knew Him.
One of the most profound reasons to study history is to see how faithful God has been through past ordeals, trials and even everyday circumstances. Reviewing the specific events of history and seeing how God has indeed been faithful to His children in the past is a marvelous way to grow our faith.
In fact, that is also a great way to pray: “Lord, you have done great miracles in the past, hanging the stars and the moon in space, breathing into us the very breath that gives us life. You delivered your people from the hands of Pharaoh. You parted the Red Sea and allowed your children to cross on dry land. You have won great victories in the past over the enemies of your people, just one of which was the king of Syria. And I have also seen how you handled my own situations in the past. Thank You, Lord, for the past victorious experiences I have had, and thank You for helping me to believe You can accomplish great things. Now, God, I’ve got this problem. I need a demonstration of your faithfulness and power. And Lord, I will trust You no matter how this turns out, because I know that You know what is the best for me.”
My friends, no matter how powerful the enemy, no matter what the circumstance, our God is victorious. Looking back on our past trials and tribulations, if we look real closely we will be able to see clearly how God was with us then, working His best to accomplish our good. All He is asking from each of us is that we would trust Him now to achieve that same good for us.
The next time you find yourself facing what seems to be an impossible situation, turn to God first and trust Him for the result. When you do that, there will be no issues with the MTDers and the “all-gods-are-equal”-ers, because you will have seen the one and only God in action.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.