History is replete with people who have idolized themselves and tried to be gods. We also have seen those who claim to be Christ returned. In fact, we have several false Christs walking the Earth today in Asia and Australia. Although we are to emulate the character of God, to be transformed to his likeness and walk in his ways, this is not the same as trying to be him. That is where we draw the line, but many have crossed this line. If we survey the scriptures, we can see what happens when that line is violated. It is the reason the world is the way it is today. Without this desire of lowly creatures to be God-like themselves, we would not have fallen to our current state.
[B]ut God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Imagine the Garden of Eden for a moment. This was a place of perfection, of complete provision. If we recall the most beautiful natural places we have seen in our day, all would pale in comparison to the Garden. Now, imagine feeling like something was missing from that place. You probably cannot wrap your mind around that. If you are like me, you see the Garden in your mind’s eye as the paradise it was, and you cannot imagine wanting more or seeing anything lacking there. Yet, that is what entered the mind and heart of Eve. She and Adam had been given the gift of perfect paradise, but she let herself be convinced that there was something more to have. The perfect gift from the perfect God was insufficient.
It is clear from this passage that the serpent deceived Eve, but that does not mean that she was powerless to resist. Just as Adam could have rejected her offer of the fruit, she could have rejected the serpent’s offer. The problem was that she allowed the seed of God-likeness to be planted. She entertained the idea that God had wrongfully withheld knowledge from her, and then she convinced herself that was true. She ignored the instructions she received because she saw what she thought was a better way, and she tried to become her own lord. This is a very subtle way of exercising this desire to be God-like, and it is rampant in this world, but we know how it ends. There is God’s way, and there is our way, but our way only leads to death. [Pro. 14:12] Adam and Eve proved that to be true long before it was written.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
If you read about idol worship throughout the Old Testament, there is a clear theme. When Asherah poles and places of false worship and sacrifice were erected, it was very common for them to occupy high places. Literally, they would be placed high on the hilltops, and the metaphor should not escape us. We see that same thing in Babel. These people wanted to reach the heavens with their tower. They wanted to invade God’s realm in order to make a name for themselves. This really was an act of trying to usurp from God something that makes him special and ascribe it to themselves. In physically occupying heavenly places, they would be sending the message that they are God-like and unlike all other people.
God tells us why He put a stop to this construction. Mankind could not be permitted to operate without restriction. [v. 6] He had to put a limit on the evil we have the ability to carry out, and that is for our good. The thing about trying to be like God is that we do not understand healthy limits. If we had the ability to do everything God can do, we would be terrible stewards of those abilities. Our hearts are weak, and we showed that shortly after we were created. We are too easily deceived, and we are too easily led astray by the promise of being better or wiser than the rest. This tower was a way for these people to elevate themselves above all other people to God-like status not only in their own eyes but in the eyes of men.
Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.”
We can jokingly say that Pharaoh’s question of who is the lord were his famous last words, but I believe this really was the beginning of the end for him. This question was not one of ignorance or sincere inquisitiveness. Pharaoh was not looking for an explanation. He was making a statement of comparison. He was asking who the Lord is compared to himself. He was really asking a host of other questions that truly get to the heart of what he said. Who is this God who dares command my obedience? Who is this God who dares tell me what I should do or require anything of me? Does this God not know who I am, that I am the king who rules the land and commands other to obey him?
I recently watched an interview with a famous celebrity who is an atheist. He said that he did not believe in God, but that if God existed, and if he met God at the end of his life, then God would have something to answer for. My jaw dropped. This is a person today who carries the heart of Pharaoh, and he is not the only one. This is a person who holds himself and his own morality and ideals to be higher than what he perceives God’s to be. This is someone who has decided that there must not be a God because any God that exists has not met his standards, which he has perceived are good and right. It is the attitude that makes us believe that no God exists because we are our own little gods, and if He does exist, He will have to answer to us for his failures.
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.”
The deceptive golden image is really a red herring. We read this passage, and it looks like King Nebuchadnezzar has built his own god separate from himself. After all, we are not told what exactly this image looked like. The fact that worship of the image was commanded seems to suggest that this was to be a god, but no name was given for that god. Despite all that is unclear here, there is something that is abundantly clear. King Nebuchadnezzar’s goal in erecting this image was to commandeer the people’s worship. He was telling them what they could worship and how they could do it. He was deciding for them where to put in the spiritual effort that should have been reserved for worshiping God alone.
When the king hijacked the people’s worship and decided for them what and how they should worship, he was playing God. Regardless of what this image actually was or what it represented, the king had placed himself in a position of power reserved only for the Lord. Having control over the people’s worship was assuming the position of a god in their lives. It is no wonder that our three friends refused to bow to this image. [v. 18] Their worship was reserved for their God and in the manner that He commanded. They would worship no other Gods because He commanded that. The nature of the image did not matter, and the nature of the worship did not matter. Obeying the king would mean placing him in a divine position he should not occupy.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever.
The fall of Satan and the legions of angels who followed him can be difficult to understand. We must remember that the fall of mankind was a rerun of sorts; it happened first in the heavens. Before we fell on Earth as a result of our desire to be God-like, Satan fell from the same desire. It was pride that made him think he should not be the one to worship but the one who is worshiped. Unsatisfied with his own beauty or position, he wanted what God had because he somehow thought it should be his. We know pride leads to a fall, and it happened long before it was written. [Pro. 16:18] This desire to be God-like also leads somewhere else when unchecked and unchanged. The only place it can lead is to a dreadful end.
Satan is trying to take others with him, and it is not because he has a better place for them. He knows his end, and he wants as much of God’s creation as possible to join him. Remember that corruption has not entered mankind alone. Imperfection has found its way into all creation. He wants to corrupt everything that God made, and his way to corrupt us is the same way he corrupted himself. That is what he knows. If he can get us to see things as he sees things, he can get us to think that we are God-like. If we think that, we will start to behave that way, and there will be no way for us to please God. Those who think by this manner will idolize themselves and leave no room for the Lord, which is what our enemy wants because he knows this method works.
One cannot be Godly if one is trying to be God-like. The difference is not subtle. Those who think themselves God-like will follow their own rules, think they know best and command the worship of others. These are not the attributes we are to carry to be Godly. Godliness is behaving in accordance with Godly standards; it is akin to holiness. Godliness is not the desire to be God himself. When we fail to understand this distinction, it is a slippery slope toward trying to make ourselves into little gods. None are too wise to be deceived, so we must remain vigilant in this respect. Satan would like us to lose our way on this issue and become like him, and we cannot forget that. To pursue God-likeness is to be on our way to a dreadful end.