Near the highway in front of a pretty little brick building on the outskirts of my village stands a signboard. This signboard proclaims in neat, professional, semipermanent letters that the building houses a group which calls itself the "First Church" of a certain denomination. Beneath the semipermanent letters is an area reserved for changeable messages, which can be altered by removing and replacing individual letters of the alphabet. It is entirely necessary that these messages be changeable and that they should be changed rather often, because "Gobabs," the god of billboards and bumper stickers, is himself a changeable god, and therefore his messages likewise must frequently change. As one has said, "As goes the god, so goes his message." (Or, was it the other way around?)
On a mild afternoon last fall, Gobabs proclaimed from his billboard throne, "GOD OFTEN TRIES US WITH A LITTLE TO SEE WHAT WE WOULD DO WITH A LOT."
It should be readily apparent to passersby that this GOD, so proclaimed, has nothing much in common with the True and Living God of the Bible. True, Gobabs also has a Bible, and he usually (but not always) prefers the King James Version, and he does have a son called Jesus. This fact will not alarm anyone who has a hope in Christ and has been taught even a little by the True and Living God. Paul assured the Lord's people that "if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." In accordance with this principle, ye might well bear with Gobabs for a few moments.
Unlike the Eternal God Jehovah, Gobabs is not omnipresent, although he seems to be nearly everywhere nowadays. His billboards are scattered far and wide, seemingly in every city and town, village, and hamlet in the United States, but it cannot be said of Gobabs that he is truly "everywhere present and nowhere absent."
Should anyone wonder where Gobabs got his name (It is indeed an acronym for "God Of Billboards And Bumper Stickers"), it was given to him by an anonymous observer of these things. And, why not? Gobabs could not name himself. In all of creation and history it has never been heard of that any inanimate being ever named itself. Invariably, it seems the lesser is named by the greater. The observant passerby is greater than the god of the billboard.
It is highly doubtful that Baal or Beelzebub named themselves. Who, given the opportunity to name himself, would pick "Baal" or "Beelzebub" for a name? Yet, of the gods many and lords many, these two are among the very most popular. Remember Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines? If you were a god, would you name yourself "Dagon"? It is doubtful. Nevertheless, Dagon was a god. Yet, he could neither keep his head on straight, nor keep his hands to himself, let alone name himself. No. Dagon, Baal, and Beelzebub, and all the other "little-g" gods seem to have been named by someone else.
Now, Gobabs of necessity is a changeable god, for he has set out to learn something He wants to find out what we would do if we had "a lot." From that one statement, if we had nothing else to go on, we could yet reason this out: If he can learn something, he is not the all-wise and omniscient God of the scriptures. If anyone learns a thing, that indicates he has changed somewhat. The change is usually (but not always) for the better. For better or for worse; in any case, he has changed, in that he now knows something which he did not know before he learned the thing, whatever it was he has learned.
Gobabs "tries us," he proclaims, with a little, in order to see what we would do with a lot. "A little" of what, or "a lot" of what, he does not see fit to divulge to the general public. Judging from what is proclaimed in such places as the pretty little brick building behind the sign, we are moved toward the conclusion that it is "a little" money and "a lot" of money. That is generally the motivating power and influence proclaimed in such places.
Certainly, no one should take it upon themselves to instruct such a being as Gobabs, but the question has occurred in the mind of at least one passerby, why does Gobabs not give us "a lot" immediately, to see what we will do with it, and thus eliminate that preliminary and rather useless step of at first only giving us a little? Is it because Gobabs does not have all that much to give?
Last summer, Gobabs was in a far distant city in front of another brick building (not so pretty a building as the one in my village, but it was occupied, oddly enough, by people of the same denomination). There in that distant city he proclaimed from his billboard with changeable letters:
"FREE FIRE INSURANCE. INQUIRE WITHIN.
JESUS HAS ALREADY PAID FOR IT."
One can only speculate about how the state insurance board will appreciate hearing about that!
Not far away in the same city, in heavy rush hour traffic, a slovenly woman in a dirty, dinged up old car flew down the freeway like a pilot in a fighter-jet with the afterburners engaged. One or two dirty little urchins were hanging out of each window, for it was indeed summertime, and she verily had no air-conditioning. Weaving in and out between the bumper-to-bumper cars and trucks, within a minute's time she had been in every traffic lane at least once, and in many of the lanes two or three times. Although the slowest vehicle around was moving faster than the posted 55 miles per hour speed limit, she somehow managed to outdistance them all, soon disappearing far ahead. Gobabs was last seen riding on the bent rear bumper of her jalopy, proclaiming his latest changeable message from a weathered bumper sticker for all to see: "I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS."
In the totality of the scene a passerby could not help wondering if the particular "Jesus" she had decided to follow was in another car somewhere far ahead, driving 70 in a 55 zone, and, like his follower, weaving erratically in and out of the traffic.
Obviously, "The king's business required haste."
March - April 1992