What distinguishes your God from other gods and His supernatural activity?
(For those who essentially relegate religion to a legend or myth by attribute anything that defies nature or goes beyond human intellect to a “higher power.”)
Meet Pharaoh—declared as son of the god Horus, the king of Egypt not only ruled the land, he was imagined to be divinely conceived and lived out his days as the representative of the Egyptian deities on earth. His noble advisors were priests and magicians—in Egypt, one in the same. So when a slave’s God demonstrated His power over Pharaoh…well, it was startling.
“Many gods have been created by men, but only one God created all men.”
“If the Hebrew god can strike the Nile, he’s stronger than the Nile god, Hapi, and Kopshef can’t command him.”
“‘Tell your god the Son of Horus declares that he should kill the frogs tomorrow.’ ‘It will be as you say, Ramesses…Tomorrow the frogs will die so that you will know that there is no god like Yahweh among your gods.’”
“Pharaoh’s fury turned to rage…‘Are you telling me that none of Egypt’s gods can overpower this Yahweh?’ ‘Jannes and Jambres have tried every spell and chant. I too have called on every god and dark spirit, but our magic can’t duplicate this plague [biting gnats]…This plague is the finger of the Hebrew God.’”
Throughout the book, emotion, questions and stir created by Yahweh’s continue to create reaction:
“It’s not Moses and Aaron that overpower Egypt’s gods. It’s their Yahweh. Who’s going to kill him when we can’t even match his tricks?”
“‘All right! You may sacrifice in the wilderness, but don’t go far. Now pray for me!’ The Egyptian guards exchanged a stunned glance as did Hoshea and Eleazar. Pharaoh, deified Son of Horus, asked for a blessing from a slave’s God.”
“Everything in Creation need[s] a guiding force. Egypt had the Nile. Sailors had the stars. Miriam and her brothers had Yahweh. Eleazar must determine his. As long as he viewed Yahweh as the enemy or another capricious deity among Egypt’s many gods, his course would never be steady.”
“The strange and frightening things that make you question Yahweh are the very things that help me believe…I don’t want a warm-bread god that I can understand…I need a God I can’t explain to do the things I know are impossible.”
“No doubt, they hoped to win Yahweh’s favor with gifts as they believed other gods could be swayed.”
It wasn’t just the Egyptians who had turned to other gods. Israel had fallen into a spiritual malaise during their four hundred years of captivity. Only after months of witnessing God’s unrelenting power to bring about their deliverance did the Israelites truly recognize the “I AM”:
“The light and heat drove many Hebrews to their knees, their weeping turned to wonder, their wonder to praise. The enormity of God’s majesty roared in [the pillar of fire], and His firstborn Israel responded with a roar of worship, shaking the ground. As one, the nation lifted hands and voices, basking in the protective shelter of the One True God.”
“Others began to point and gawk in silent wonder as the alley between walls of water began to widen. The wind blew violently, remarkably, precisely. Miriam closed her eyes, letting herself feel the wind, Yahweh’s touch—like an impassioned Lover, determined to rescue His people.”
Each of the above quotations explores a slightly different nuance to the very common barrier of faith: What distinguishes your God from other gods? What can we know about supernatural activity?
Points to Ponder
- Some people are quick to notice that there is something “bigger” than them in the world, something “other” than them. But things can get tricky when we try to figure out exactly what that “other” is, what it looks like, and what it does. Describe your general response to supernatural activity. Is it something you expect? Is it something you believe in? What does it look like to you?
- Read Exodus 20:3-5, Deuteronomy 6:14-15, and Psalm 77:13. What does the Bible say about the existence of other gods (and potentially other supernatural activity) in the world?
- Read 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:12. What further insight do these verses give us about the presence of supernatural activity in the world? Is it all good? Is it all God?
- If there is both good and evil supernatural activity in the world, how can we know the difference? Are the differences between God and other gods (or devils) always clear?
- Read John 8:44, Acts 13:10, and Galatians 5:22-23. What insight do these verses give us into the difference between the works of the devil and the works of God’s spirit? How might these characterizations help us distinguish between different kinds of supernatural activity in the world?
- How have you known or seen God’s supernatural power on your behalf? How did you know it was God and not something else? What characteristics were present in the supernatural power?
- In your practical, day-to-day life, do you tend to rely more on luck, chance, statistics, science, fortune, and beating the odds, or on God’s faithfulness and supernatural power acting on your behalf?
- Why is it sometimes difficult to distinguish between “coincidence” and supernatural activity? Read 1 Chronicles 29:10-12, Colossians 1:15-17, and James 4:13-15. What insight do these verses give us about “coincidence” or “chance”?
- If God created all things (even thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities) and all things hold together in Him, do you think there is anything that happens by chance or outside of His will?
- What did Miriam mean in the quotation from chapter 37 – “As long as he viewed Yahweh as the enemy or another capricious deity among Egypt’s many gods, his course would never be steady”? What kind of belief or what kind of God might be able to give us a steady course in life? Read Hebrew 13:8, Psalm 62:5-8, and Matthew 7:24-27.
- What idea do these verses give you about God’s steadying nature?
This Week’s Faith Builders
- This week, keep an eye out for God’s supernatural activity in your life. Keep in mind Galatians 5:22-23, to remind you of what His presence might look like when it shows up.
- Also, try to pay attention each day to what kinds of things you set your hope on…facts, statistics, science, medicine, luck, chance, coincidence, etc. If you find yourself consistently trusting in temporal things or lesser “gods,” consider asking God to open your eyes to see His supernatural activity on your behalf and His sovereign power over all other powers.
Scriptures to Build On
Exodus 20:3-5 – “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”
Deuteronomy 6:14-15 – “You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you – for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God – lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.”
Psalm 77:13 – “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?”
1 Peter 5:8 – “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Ephesians 6:12 – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
John 8:44 – “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Acts 13:10 – “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”
Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
1 Chronicles 29:10-12 – “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are all power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”
Colossians 1:15-17 – “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
James 4:13-15 – “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”
Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Psalm 62:5-8 – “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On god rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
Matthew 7:24-27 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mind and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”