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In an earlier meditation on God as ‘the Holy One of Israel’ the concept of ‘counterfeit gods’ was briefly discussed. This week’s meditation looks further at this concept in Isaiah 41 to 46.

Probably the most important fact about anything counterfeit is that it is an intentional imitation of a genuine reality. It exists only because there is a real thing of which it is a copy. It is a deliberate substitute for the real thing, with the deliberate intention of deceiving people into thinking it is the real thing. In the secular context the most common counterfeit is money, but we also hear of counterfeits of popular but expensive products.

Around the world many ‘gods’ can be found, and various opinions are given as to why these different ‘gods’ exist. The two views that appear to be most popular in contemporary western culture are:

That all ‘gods’, including the God of the Bible, are human inventions – that no real ‘god’ actually exists. If this is true, then it doesn’t matter which ‘god’ you believe in – they are all fake.

That all ‘gods’ are the one ‘god’, but are called different names in different cultures. If this is true, again, it does not matter which ‘god’ you believe in, because ‘there’s only one god and all roads (all religions) lead to that one god’.

The Bible aggressively denies both of these views. It teaches that ‘God’ – the Creator of the whole universe – is very definitely real, that he is the only God and is very distinct from anything else that humans call 'god'. It teaches that all other things or ideas that humans call ‘gods’ are fake. This gives rise to another perspective on why there are so many ‘gods’ around the world:

That all of these other ‘gods’ are counterfeit: deliberate substitutes for the one real God. Their existence confirms his existence. A counterfeit exists only because the genuine reality actually exists.

If this is true, that there is only one real God and all the others are counterfeit, then it matters very much which ‘god’ a person believes in!

Of these counterfeit ‘gods’, Isaiah states:

They are made by humans, dependent on humans for their existence [41:7; 44:11-17; 46:6].
They are crafted out of physical substances [41:7; 44:13-17,19; 46:6].
They are powerless even to keep themselves stable [41:7; 46:7].
They cannot speak of the past or the future [41:22,23; 44:7].
They can do neither good nor bad [41:23].
They are less than nothing [41:24].
They are not God [43:10-11; 44:6,8].
They cannot and do not save [43:11,12; 46:7].
They do not speak [43:12].
They are worthless [44:9].
They can’t do anything [44:10].
They know nothing and understand nothing [44:18].
They cannot see [44:18].
They need to be carried around [46:1,7].
They are a burden to those who worship them [46:1,2].
They cannot move [46:7].
They cannot answer [46:7].

In 44:20 Isaiah encapsulates the counterfeit nature of these other ‘gods’ – they are ‘a lie’.

There are ‘god concepts’ all around the world – whether the visible idols created by human hands or the intangible concepts of ‘god’ created by human minds. These counterfeit gods exist only because there actually is the one real God.

In sinful rejection of the one real God, in rebellion against the one real God, humans have put in his place gods created by their own hands and minds. Powerless substitutes for the one real God. Corrupt and diminished caricatures of God.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014, 2023