so. Disney movies repeat the same mantra. Employee enhancement programs and self-help / motivational speakers continue to reinforce the idea.
Even popular Christian culture obsesses over this notion by proclaiming “you’re beautiful,” “there could never be another you,” and God doesn’t make cookie-cutter Christians—He has made each of us in a unique way for His special plan. We use select texts from Scripture to try to argue the point. One of my favorites (as an example of this abuse and misapplication) is Psalm 139:13-14: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Somehow we’re missing the point of the psalm—it’s not about me. Instead, Psalm 139 highlights the greatness of my God who is all-powerful, present wherever I go, and so loving that He condescends to know me intimately and protect and care for me. God is awesome and His works are wonderful—there’s nothing here to inflate my ego.
While there is a certain amount of truth to the claim that we are unique, our narcissism has gone too far. We are distinct from the rest of creation because we are made in God’s image and to be His image bearers as each one of us carries an individualized stewardship. However, today our self-love and self-promotion are out of control. We take pride in owning the limited edition car, working the job that few others can, living in the exclusive neighborhood, only shopping at certain stores. We want to draw attention to ourselves by our music, ours abs, our hair, our fashion or lack of name brand clothing if you’re a hipster, our tattoos, piercings—the list goes on and on.
As I read the Bible though, I see that there is only One who is unique and set apart. This One is so distinct, so lifted up from all of creation that He is to be worshipped and adored. If you haven’t guessed yet, it is God. My narcissistic obsessions have become so extreme that they are driving me to be that one in a million. It’s more than just personal tastes and preferences. All of this based in desires to be important, significant, and set apart from the crowd than what it is to simply drive that certain car or wear that shirt because that’s what I like. This is wrong. This is sinful. It is hellish.
The prophet Isaiah has a few things to say to me and my generation on the topic. First, he writes that God is God and there is no one else like Him. He is infinitely unique and stands apart from all of creation. Here in just two chapters (45 and 46), Isaiah records seven statements revealing God’s sentiments on the subject:
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God … (Isaiah 45:5)
… there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:6)
Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him. (Isaiah 45:14)
For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18)
Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. (Isaiah 45:21)
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)
… remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me… (Isaiah
He is unique and there is no one like Him. Alright! I think I’m beginning to understand. However, there is another significant truth I need to get and that is found in Isaiah 42:8. It is here that the Lord declares: “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” God’s not in the habit of sharing the limelight. He gets the stage all to Himself. I love the ESV Study Bible note on this text: “God must discredit all idols to receive his proper honor. He is not one of many; he is not superior among inferior gods; he is not even the best of all; he is the only God, and he will have his people know and rejoice in this truth.”
Discrediting all idols would include the destruction of the “Mark Shaeffer is Great!” branding and memorabilia production site. The Mark Shaeffer label must be bagged up and sent to the landfill. My significance and any honor I receive are subsumed in Jesus Christ and I will spend eternity, along with my brothers and sisters, returning to Him all power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (see Revelation 5:12)!
What is so unique (sorry for using the word again) in all of this is that there is great peace and delight in recognizing the One and only God. Living in the truth rather than living a lie is so much easier and this is what I’ve been created to do.