Why Theology Matters
“This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
– Isaiah 44:6-8
First and foremost, it is our ideas about God that shape us, that give rise to our insecurities or inspire confidence as we engage with our world. It is the calling of every Christian to examine our narratives, our own ideas about God, and, rather than craft those ideas to our tastes and preferences, to give those notions a continuous and thorough look, finding where those concepts ring true, and where they have gone dreadfully astray. Our calling is to know God as God is. Not as we would like our God to be.
In the book of Isaiah chapter 44, we find these words of the prophet that declare who God is. No apologies are made. God is a God with a history, naming both role (King) and nature (Redeemer), whose story is wrapped up and revealed in the story of Israel. God is God alone, “the first” and “the last”, apart from whom “there is no God”.
On the basis of this declaration, God invites all would-be rivals to come and make themselves known. God does so on the basis that through his relationship with the people of Israel, he has made known his power through mighty deeds, and through faithfulness to his promises. He has spoken things “long ago” that have come to pass. And the people, being witnesses to this, should now testify: “there is no other Rock.”
Such a notion is rooted in the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” As Luther so well knew, this is the commandment upon which all the others rise and fall. If you get this right, everything else falls into place; we can embrace God’s command, “Do not tremble, do not be afraid.” We are able to establish that God is trustworthy and true, holding fast to his covenant promises and the content of his Word. We are able to believe that God is perfectly loving and perfectly just, absolutely holy, forever present, unfathomably gracious, and worthy of our devotion.
By God’s grace, with the help of Holy Scripture and the people of God, may we know, love, and serve God in spirit and in truth.
Originally posted on July 17, 2011.