Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 25 Apr 18:
1. Judges 17:2 — “And he said to his mother, ‘The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.’ And his mother said, ‘Blessed be my son by the LORD.’” Micah stole from his mother who, in return, blessed him rather than holding him accountable for his actions, which helps us understand why Micah developed wanting character.
2. Judges 17:3, 4 — “‘I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.’ So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah.” Not only did Micah’s mother make a carved image, she also short-changed the promise by only dedicating 200 of the 1100 pieces. Integrity and fidelity were absent in Micah’s home, while the family lived idolatrous lives ‘for the Lord’ – more on this below….
3. Judges 17:5, 6 — “And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In a lawless land, Micah created his own rules for worship in complete disregard of God’s commands, all the while believing God accepted his abominable worship. It is not uncommon to hear people tell themselves and others that God has blessed their idol or abomination; it is not uncommon to see people defy God’s laws ‘in the name of the lord.’ Many examples of such practices are obvious to us, but Judges is written so we all would examine ourselves carefully to see where we are doing what seems right to us (in the name of the lord) rather than what God truly commands.
4. Judges 17:6 — “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This verse, which is repeated several times in Judges, can be considered the theme of the book, and the modern reader often misses the power of this verse because we do not understand how shocking these chapters were to the Jewish reader – let’s review the chapter: A man steals 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother (unthinkable), and when he confesses to this crime, his mother doesn’t scold him but rather blesses him (absurdity) and promises to use all this money for idolatry (though calling it worship to the Lord). As shocking as all that is, she then dedicates only 200 of the 1,100 pieces (not what she had vowed), to carve an idol, yes, an idol. Micah “ordains” the idol and makes one of his sons the priest (today you can become an ordained minister online) until a Levite comes along who agrees to be Micah’s personal priest (instead of serving God’s Temple, supported by the people, as God requires). In the midst of all this incredible, shocking sin which in God’s Law is all punishable by death, Micah says, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest (Micah 17:13).” Then some Danites, on a mission of pillage, visit Micah’s house and the Levite actually blesses their evil journey: “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord (Judges 18:6).” [Do you not see this sort of false blessing all the time today?] When the Danites return later to Micah’s house with a raiding party to attack a peaceful, unsuspecting village, they rob Micah’s house of its idols and take the Levite with them, whose “heart was glad” because he considered being the priest of the Danites a more prestigious position (again, shocking). Micah pleads with the Danites: “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left (Judges 18:24)?” However, the Danites show no mercy. “But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire (Judges 18:27).” The Nation had drifted into shocking lawlessness, completely rejecting God’s commands while all the while, maintaining their religion and claims of godliness. They were both religious and heartless, abominable to the Lord. They conformed religion to their evil hearts rather than conforming their evil hearts to the holiness of God. How did they get to this place? “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Note that they didn’t think they were doing wrong, but in their own eyes, they thought they were doing right. However, to anyone who knows God’s word, all of this should have been utterly shocking. Do you see any comparisons with what is going on in America today? What should be shocking to us is what is no longer shocking to us. Have you not noticed that the more the church drifts into sin the less we talk about sin? “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
5. Judges 17:10 — “And Micah said to him, ‘Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.’” God gave specific instructions to the Israelites on how to care for the Levites who were also given specific instructions on when, where, and how to lead worship. However, by this point in Judges, the Levites have become traveling Priests for hire. Turning religion into a profession can be a dangerous thing. Today, there are many talented people profiting from the Gospel message. Matthew 10:8 — “You received without paying; give without pay.”
6. Judges 17:12 — “And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.” Micah thought he could ordain priests. Lawless brings highly presumptuous religious activity which does not honor the holiness of God.
7. Judges 17:13 — “Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.’” Deep in religious activity, Micah was completely out of touch with The Lord. Many claim to hear from God and presumptuously assume God is ordaining what they have chosen to do. However, their focus is self-serving rather than Christ-serving. God is not deceived. Spiritual talk is not the same as spiritual walk. Jesus said, if you haven’t started with denying self, and if you haven’t taken up your cross, you are not truly, wholeheartedly following Him, and God has not ordained it, regardless of how many Bible verses you attach to it out of context (Matthew 16:24). In the Old Testament, God condemns the defiled and lame sacrifices offered to Him by the people — “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts (Micah 1:7, 8).” Don’t offer to the Lord what is acceptable to you, offer what is acceptable to Him.
8. Judges 18:5, 6 — “And they said to him, ‘Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.’ And the priest said to them, ‘Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD.’” The Levite had not heard from God, and God was not with the Danites, but the Levite, who led unauthorized worship, told these ungodly marauders what they wanted to hear. Again, the Bible warns that we must not presume to speak for God in order to please ourselves or others — “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4).” We cannot proclaim “peace” to others when they do not have “peace” with God through repentance and obedience — “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11).” Throughout the Bible, God has called His ambassadors to speak the truth in love, particularly to those who do not want to hear it — “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37).” However, too many have distorted God’s word to “keep the peace” by telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, a sign of end times — “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:3-5).” Our readings from Proverbs warn us continually not to be a messenger who is unfaithful with the message.
9. Judges 18:20 — “And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.” The Levite proved himself to an opportunist with no loyalty.
10. Judges 18:24 — “And he said, ‘You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left?'” Micah placed all of his hope in false religion. Though he claimed that his false religion was honoring to God, it was powerless. If you place you hope in anything but Jesus, you will discover that you built the house of your life on sand. The house of cards will crumble, and the bigger the house, the harder it falls.
11. Judges 18:27 — “…and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire.” The Danites, blessed by their illegitimate priest, were ruthless and took advantage of the weak. Some of the most ruthless people claim to be the most righteous. Moralism is often the excuse for lawlessness.
12. Judges 18:30, 31 — “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.” Once again, the Danites used man-made religion to validate their sinful lifestyles as many do today. Today’s most popular religion is secular humanism support by a fake science that starts with the premise that there is no God. Judges 17 and 18 mark a transition point in the Book of Judges, the third, final section of the book. In this section, no foreign oppressors are mentioned, no judges identified, and the many shocking sins of the protagonists are not called out (it is left to reader to identify them). Most specifically, there are no longer accusations of idolatry – their syncretism was so complete that they thought that, in some strange way, their idol worship was actually acceptable to God, and it had become totally integrated into their worship. Note that there are no prayers to God, only blessings proclaimed in the name of God to validate sinful behavior. This section in the Book of Judges reveals a disintegrated, lawless society where every important societal institution has been totally corrupted – the family, the church, the government, the economy. To paint this picture, the book artfully guides the reader to follow a thread that leads from 1,100 pieces of stolen and cursed silver to a permanent idol set up in an unauthorized and ungodly “church” on bloody stolen soil not far from both the land that had been allotted to the tribe of Dan by God through Joshua and the town of Shiloh, the place of worship authorized by God. Again the numerable, appalling sins throughout the story are only mentioned, not specifically addressed. At this stage in the Book of Judges, the writer merely repeats the phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).” To drive the point home concerning the depths at which the nation had fallen, the author reveals at the end of chapter 18 who the “young Levite” was: “Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses!” While scholars debate today over whether or not “Moses” should really read “Manasseh,” the point remains that this unfaithful, ungodly, idolatrous priest for hire had come from a once great and noble lineage – everything had been ruined. I believe in this stage of the game, God has turned them over to their own desires to face the consequences, no Judges, no rebukes, no protection from themselves. At this stage, their worship is utterly worthless – keep in mind that we are talking about God’s chosen people, not pagans. They are now on an inevitable path of terrible destruction. This is a terrifying place to be. The situation described in Judges is very similar to what Paul describes in Romans 1. How does this story apply to us today?
— Matthew 16:3 — “And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”
— 2 Timothy 4:2-4 — “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
— Matthew 24:11-13 — “And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
13. Proverbs 25:2 — “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” The old adage says, “Knowledge is power.” Knowledge can be very valuable, but not when knowledge is used to build up pride, to achieve personal power for self-centered ends. Many subconsciously seek knowledge as a substitute for faith, an effort to free oneself from dependency on God, an effort to worship the god of self. Of End Times, Daniel says, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Also, Jesus said, “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) Today, society is in a frenzied pursuit of knowledge in order to save themselves and to eliminate the need for the Savior. As a result, the love of most is growing cold. As Paul said, “This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1) Read Romans 1:18-32 (written prior to Rome’s fall) to see an accurate description of what is happening in society today. Seek knowledge in a selfless, humble way, and glorify God with your faith.
14. Proverbs 25:15-16 — “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” A key principle in God’s word is that lasting success is achieved little by little, step by step, overtime, and that patient restraint is vital. As the pastor says, “People always overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime.” Said another way, “Persistence overcomes the resistance.” The mantra of society today is, “more, faster, better.” People want quick fixes, quick answers, and instant success. Resist the temptation to “get rich quickly.” Patiently obey and watch God work over time — “The mighty oak does not grow over night.”
15. Romans 11:4-5 — Israel’s failure to believe did not surprise God.
16. Romans 11:17-24– God is both good and stern. You should trust and fear Him.
17. Romans 11:33-36 — God’s wisdom is beyond human understanding.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 April: Today, search yourself to see where you might be presuming that God will bless your idolatry. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)