The Living God
King Darius, after being tricked into casting Daniel into the den of lions, calls Daniel the “servant of the living God” (Daniel 6:20). When he sees that God has preserved Daniel, he decrees that all peoples “tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end” (Daniel 6:26).
Christians confess that God is. Indeed, his name is “I am” (Exodus 3:14). According to Hebrews 11, a fundamental aspect of pleasing him is believing that he exists: “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). But unless we are philosophers, words like existence and being and is are fairly bland. They don’t awe us (though they should).
Perhaps that’s why the Bible regularly stresses that God doesn’t merely exist, but that he lives. “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation” (Psalm 18:46).
A common oath throughout the Old Testament is “as the Lord lives.” What’s more, references to “the living God” are highlighted in some key biblical stories. Reflecting on the biblical witness to the living God may stir our affections more than simple statements about his existence.
Not Like the Idols
The Bible often refers to Yahweh as the living God in order to set him apart from the idols of the nations. In Jeremiah 10, the prophet exhorts Israel to avoid the vain customs of the people. He looks with disdain on the making of an idol:
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move. (Jeremiah 10:3–4)
The idols of the nations are “like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak.” What’s more, “they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.” There’s no reason to fear them, since they can do neither evil nor good (Jeremiah 10:5).
Isaiah echoes the same truth in chapter 45 of his oracle. The nations “carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save” (45:20). Isaiah 46 elaborates:
Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
They stoop; they bow down together;
they cannot save the burden,
but themselves go into captivity.
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.” (Isaiah 46:1–4)
The contrast couldn’t be clearer. Donkeys carry the idols of the nations; Yahweh carries his people. Idols can’t even save themselves; the Lord saves his people.
According to Jeremiah 10:6–7, this is why Yahweh is unique.
There is none like you, O Lord;
you are great, and your name is great in might.
Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you.