Christopher B. Harbin
1st Kings 8:22-32
"Our God is greater, our God is stronger; God, You are higher than any other." So go the words to a popular worship song. Ours is the biggest, strongest, most powerful of all gods, and none can stand against this our God. In a sense it is strange that these lyrics would be so popular, yet for their meaning has probably never gotten through. We do not really think of God as one among others. We immediately reinterpret these words from Scripture with a completely different sense, that our God is the only God. Yet this is a far cry from the background to these lyrics. How is it that we can readily sing words that in so many ways counter doctrine that we hold undeniable?
The ancient Hebrews lived in a world full of deities. As was true of the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks with their pantheons of gods, so also the Canaanites, Assyrians, and Babylonians had their own deities to worship and fear. The Hebrews found themselves amid various nations and gods. For Israel, only Yahweh was to be worshipped. Yahweh was the One Moses claimed had heard their cry in Egypt, and who under Joshua had led them to reclaim the land promised to Abraham.
Of course, idolatry and the worship of competing deities had existed among them much prior to Moses. The families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had demonstrated a mix of religious loyalties, not always being true to the God of Abraham. Under Moses and Aaron's tenure, the people had fashioned a golden calf, likely a version of Ba'al, fertility god and god of the thunderstorm. At the end of Joshua's lifetime, he had called the people to follow his example of following only Yahweh by setting aside their idols. Apparently, idolatry and religious pluralism was still alive and well in his day. Not much changed during the subsequent period of the Judges.
When we turn to 1st Kings, we do well to remember that even in the days of David and Solomon there were voice ...
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