SCRIPTURE: Micah 7:18-20
God’s Compassion and Steadfast Love
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of your possession?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in showing clemency.
19 He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
from the days of old.
David J. Clark and Norm Mundhenk offer that “We have come to the last paragraph in the book, a prayer or hymn of praise to God. Verse 18 opens with a question, ‘Who is a God like thee …?’ (RSV). The answer expected is clearly that there is no one like God, and so TEV restructures the question as a negative statement, There is no other god like you, and adds O LORD, to show who is being spoken to. No matter how this is expressed, some translators may be hesitant to allow people to think that there are any other gods at all, even if they are not like the Lord. The problems in 4:5 are somewhat similar to this, and it may be useful to reread the discussion there on how to talk about the ‘gods’ of other nations. As for this verse, we should note that in many languages these words would not be understood as saying that other gods do exist. It may be just a way of speaking, looking at the situation from the point of view of other peoples. Therefore it would seem best to follow the Hebrew wording here if at all possible. But if a translation will definitely suggest to the readers that the prophet is stating that other gods exist, then a translator should try to find some others way of expressing this idea. In that case, something like ‘No other god like you exists’ or ‘There is no one like you, O God’ may be a possibility.”
The idea that there might be other gods (whether lesser than the God Christians claim a faith in or other deities that other religions celebrate and worship) is not a new one. Throughout the Old Testament, we find reference several times to the idea that Yahweh is stronger than (better than, etc.) other gods, typically gods of other nations. Egyptians, Greeks, and several other groups worshiped (and some still do) numerous gods and deities. There are several mentions of a god named Baal whose followers are often in conflict with the followers of Yahweh.
But once we enter into the New Testament, there is truly little mention of other gods and deities in Scripture. There may be several reasons for this, but it is interesting to note. Some Christians hold fast to the theological idea that the God we worship is the ONLY god, and no others exist. Other Christians though believe that there may in fact be other deities or gods, but that the God we worship is the most powerful (superior, in-charge, etc.). Still, others claim that all of the other gods or deities that others worship is just our God, called by a different name.
Ultimately, we may not know what the true reality is until this life is over. For myself, I do not know that I have an especially strong feeling towards one standpoint or another, but I also do not know that any of the three truly conflict with my theological understanding of God as a loving, grace-giving, triune god. I believe that the God we read about in Scripture (Yahweh) is all-powerful, and the God that is in relationship with me and my faith journey. My belief in the Christian God does not have to come into conflict with someone believing in a different god, and vice-versa. There may be situations where conflict does arise, especially around the status of different people based on gender, sexual orientation, etc., but there are many similarities across faith traditions surrounding love, peace, being a good neighbor, and more.
What is your belief (theology) around the idea of more than one god across the multiple faith traditions in the world? How do you engage with those who believe in a different god than you? How have you (if you have) found common ground in the morals and teaching of those faith traditions?
Great “I Am”, Yahweh, Lord of lords, we give you thanks for opening yourself to your creation and being in relationship with us. We claim the belief that you are all-powerful, grace-giving, loving, and saving in the triune existence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Help us to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and share the Good News with the world, but always in loving ways and not condemning or oppressing measures. Amen.