Last week we discussed Samson, the thirteenth judge of Israel, and although there are two more judges after him (Eli and Samuel), Samson is the last judge recorded in the book of Judges. And yet, after Samson’s death, the book of Judges does not end; in fact, it continues for another FIVE CHAPTERS! What happens within these last chapters may have happened following the death of Samson, although some believe that these chapters record events that happened earlier in the period of the judges. Whatever the case, it is not necessary to pin down a specific date, because these chapters give us a good sense of the condition of Israel during the era of the Judges. The reoccurring statement “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25) gives us a clear and direct understanding of the times, and the impact of such a statement is all the more effective when it is used as the final word at the end of the book. That’s right, there is no happy ending for the book of Judges.
Judges chapter 17 begins by introducing us to a man named Micah of the mountains of Ephraim. We learn first that he recently stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his own mother. His mother had spoken a curse upon the unknown thief, and for whatever reason (maybe fear of the curse), Micah decides to give the money back to his mother, and she responds by blessing her son. Following this, she says “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image.”
So Micah made his own household idols, he also made a priestly garment, and appointed one of his sons to become the family’s priest, serving over the shrine. Remember that all this was done for the Lord. Micah did not make the idols in order to worship other gods. This is a family that worshipped the true Lord God of Israel, as is evident by 17:2, 3, 13. These idols made of silver were to enhance their devotion to God.
And yet, what would be even better for Micah’s homemade religion to the God of Israel? How about a real Levitical priest? Well there just so happened to be a young Levite man traveling to find a new home for himself, and as he passed through, he came to Micah’s house. When Micah heard that he was a Levite, he offered him wages for hire if he would stay with Micah and be a priest for the family. The young Levite agreed and was content to dwell there. Micah’s gratifying response was “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest.”
Friends, what we just experienced in the scriptures was a picture of the spiritual condition of Israel in the era before the kings. But even though this account happened over 3,000 years ago, it hits significantly closer to home. This is the spiritual condition that is still prevalent today. Micah, in his and his mother’s goal to better worship the Lord, moved to transgress the second law that the Lord had given to Israel; they made for themselves idols. To make their brand of worship look more genuine to the original word of God, Micah appointed a man with Levite blood to be the priest; he paid him wages to do so. So Micah attempted to serve the Lord by violating the clear commandments of God, and the Levite compromised and therefore violated the law of God to secure his own physical comfort and contentment. Still today, far too many, in seeking to worship and serve the Lord, act in blatant violation of the words of Christ. To make their worship look a little more genuine, they may include a few things into their lives and their worship that appear similar to something you can find in the scriptures, but with deception and destroyed consciences, they have found a very attractive form of false worship and idolatry that benefits their own comfort and contentment. Micah and the Levite are alive today, just under many different names of denominational and non-denominational churches. A self-seeking world has flocked to these churches, and such churches swell, not because broad is the way that leads to eternal life and there are many who find it, but because it is an easy transition from a world of selfish pleasure to a religion and worship of selfish pleasure.
The seared conscience of Micah is evident in his exclamation “now I know that the Lord will be good to me,” while every aspect of his religion is a transgression of God’s word. Similar statements are repeated all over the world today when folks do something “for the Lord” while violating what the Lord told them to do for him in His Word. The words of Jesus forever ring true: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
While this is such a mournful subject, let’s not miss out on our application. The account of Micah and the Levite are testimony to the type of service to God that is unacceptable. The elements of such service can be clearly seen in the text: Not looking to the word of law for instruction; serving the Lord with the ideas that we like; satisfying our own comfort and contentment in our service. Such are not really serving the Lord, but merely our own self-want. May we keep away from such characteristics, and repent where we may have fallen in these areas.
Article by Tanner Campbell