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By Gary F. Zeolla
93% of people in the USA say they believe in God (Barna). But what kind of God do they believe in? Is the God people say they believe in the God of the Bible?
This article will the focus on the prophet Isaiah and what he said about God. The vital question needing answered is, "Is your God the God of Isaiah?" But first, a look at a couple of other conceptions of God.
Different people and religious groups have varying conceptions about the nature of God. A couple representative viewpoints will be explained.
The first is the opinion of Mormons on who God is. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, taught, "GOD HIMSELF was once as we are now and IS AN EXALTED MAN ..." (Ludlow, p.277). Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Mormon church, said, "As man now is, our God once was; AS NOW GOD IS, MAN MAY BE ... (Ludlow, p.72).
The New Age Movement takes this concept one step further. According to New Age thought, people are already gods. Shirley MacLaine, in her TV miniseries, "Out on a Limb," stood on the beach of the Pacific Ocean shouting, "I AM GOD, I AM GOD" (Ankerberg, p.10). She could say this since she, like most involved in the New Age, believes she is innerly divine.
Lastly, is the viewpoint most non-religious people have of God. To many, God is just the "old man upstairs" - an old, gray-haired man sitting in a rocker. Despite some differences, there is one common mindset in each of these views and others that could be looked at. It is the idea there is basically no difference between the nature of God and the nature of human beings. He may have progressed a little farther than us, but that is about it.
Compare the above viewpoints to Isaiah's description of his vision of God:
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two He flew. And one cried to another and said "HOLY, HOLY HOLY IS THE LORD OF HOSTS; THE WHOLE EARTH IS FULL OF HIS GLORY!" (6:1-4).
This is no old man sitting in a rocker! This is God in all His glory; the thrice, holy One. Even the seraphim in His presence cannot bear to look upon Him.
What is Isaiah's reaction to this spectacle? Does this vision help him to realize his own inner divinity? While standing in the presence of the holy One, does he begin shouting "I am God" a la Shirley MacLaine? Does he stand there having a casual conversation with God as Joseph Smith records happening when God supposedly appeared to him? (Smith, pp.49f).
Does he start bargaining with God? Does he try to convince God that He should let him into heaven because of the many "wonderful" things he has done? Many seem to think they will have this chance when they die.
The answer to these questions is an emphatic "NO!" Isaiah continues, "Then I said, 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips'" (6:5). His own utter sinfulness overwhelms him. He is undone!
Further, this sinfulness pervades the whole human race. Isaiah continues, "And I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips" (6:5). Isaiah expressed the same idea elsewhere, "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way" (53:6).
Moreover, Isaiah wrote, "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away" (64:6). In the presence of God and His absolute holiness, even our "good" deeds by comparison become "filthy rags" and our sins condemn us.
But God did not leave Isaiah in this state of despair. Isaiah writes:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the alter. And he touched my mouth with it, and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged [atoned for]" (6:6,7).
God cannot just overlook sin. His holiness will not allow it. Sin must be atoned for. But Isaiah could do nothing to atone for his own sins. The atonement had to come from heaven's side.
This scene is a prefigurement of the greater atonement God has provided for all His people. He did this by sending His Son to die for us. While on the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of the Father against our sins in our place.
Isaiah wrote about this event 700 years before it happened:
Surely He has borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.... And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (53:4-6).
This writer used to have a poster depicting a nature scene. The caption read:
TWO FOUNDATION FACTS OF HUMAN ENLIGHTENMENT:
#1 There is a God.
#2 You are not Him!
You are not a god as the New Age teaches. You are not even on your way to becoming a god as Mormonism claims. God Himself declared through Isaiah, "And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even, I am the LORD, And besides Me there is no Savior" (43:10).
If your God is not the God of Isaiah, then your god is a false god. There is only one true God - the thrice, holy One of the Bible. Bow before THIS God. Confess your utter sinfulness before His absolute holiness. Repent of your sins. If you do, God promises He will forgive you of all your sins.
even I, am He who blots out your transgressions
for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins"
For a more detailed treatment of this subject, see R.C. Sproul's excellent book The Holiness of God. It is available from Books-A-Million. Books-A-Million also has many other books by Sproul available, all of which are highly recommended.
All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.
Ankerberg, John. The Facts on the New Age Movement . Chattanooga, TN: Ankerberg Evangelistic Asso., 1988.
Barna Research Group. Reported in "The Valley News Dispatch" 3/7/93.
Ludlow, Daniel. Latter-Day Prophets Speak. USA: Bookcraft, 1988.
Smith, Joseph. The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS: 1986.
Is Your God the God of Isaiah? Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
The above article was adapted from a sermon the author preached at Bellview Mennonite Brethren Church in Littleton, Colorado in 1989. It appeared in Darkness to Light newsletter in 1993 and was posted on this Web site in July 1996.
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