Last night we took the evening to glean from a story which spans the 17th and 18th chapters of the book of Judges. Here are the notes:
After reading Judges 17 and 18, notice how many, and how deep, the layers of sin are. I count at least 20 instances of something being totally wrong–which leads to a confusing history, many layers deep. And when we say that something in this story is “wrong,” we don’t mean simply by our own judgments. These people had God’s written word, and the Law of Moses to guide their actions. So the things wrong in this story are wrong specifically because they clearly violate actual commands.
Layers of Sin in Judges 17-18
- Micah stole from his own mother (17:2) That violates God’s law twice—Commandments 5 and 8.
- His mother’s response to the theft was to utter curse (17:2) (Micah only seems to have returned it because he feared the curse.)
- His mother invokes Yahweh’s name in response to the money’s return (17:2)
- His mother dedicates the returned money to make an idol (17:3)
- She claims the decision is dedicating the money to the Lord (17:3)
- Micah makes an idol for their house out of the money (17:4) (Violates commandment #2)
- Micah already has a house hold shrine. So they have a history of family idolatry. (17:5) (Violates Deut 12:3-5)
- Micah makes one of his own sons a priest. (17:5)
At this point, notice that both people have committed the ultimate crimes you could commit in Israel. But neither of them seems to notice. Even thought their religious feelings seem sincere—we know from the other scriptures it’s totally pagan and not approved by God. They talk about God a lot, but he’s actually nowhere in their thoughts or actions, and we know he’s totally not approving of their actions.
- Everyone was living like this. (17:6) So they probably couldn’t figure out they were doing anything wrong by looking at other people.
- A Levite is staying in the country of Ephraim (17:7) (Deuteronomy 18:1-9, Joshua 21)
- The Levite becomes the personal priest of Micah’s shrine, for a shirt and some money. (17:10-12)
- Micah declares that the Lord will bless him now, because he has a Levite as a priest (17:13)
- Dan still doesn’t have their inheritance (18:1) (see 1:34-36)
- The Danites think they can get an answer from God by asking this Levite who’s officiating at a pagan shrine. (18:5) All they care about is the success of their self-chosen mission.
- The Levite claims to speak for God (18:6)
- The mob-army from Dan steals the shrine. (18:16)
- The Levite becomes priest for the mob-army (18:20)
- Micah’s mad enough to fight about his stolen Gods. (18:24) He thinks he has a just cause.
- The mob threatens Micah (18:25)
- The tribe of Dan sets up the idol for everyone to worship (17:30-31)
Why is this situation so wrong, and so confusing? The answer is given in 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, and 21:25. The two halves of the formula here give the author’s explanation for why things are going bad.
- There is no king in Israel. No True authority to execute God’s will.
- Everyone doing what’s right in their own eyes. Everyone let their own desires be the law they followed.
Summing it Up: When God’s word is ignored, and his king is absent, everyone starts thinking that it’s ok to do whatever they want. This creates a situation where people’s desires conflict. Since two people who want the same thing can’t both get it, what happens then is that strength and deception rule the day. Whenever people disagree, the one with the bigger army will win the dispute. In addition, people act like God is on their side, and keep talking about him even when they totally ignore him and defy his commands. When all this happens, chaos becomes the dominant state of people’s personal lives. The longer society goes on like this, the more people it hurts, the more lives are wasted and destroyed, and the more clueless people get about everything, especially about what’s wrong and how to fix it.
The point: This is a picture of what it looks like when sin rules. Sin complicates everything. Everything becomes confusing, and it’s hard to tell what’s right anymore.
- This explains what’s going on in our culture today. Things are so confusing that it’s getting difficult to tell what is right. If you’ve tried to help a friend recently, or tired to help people figure out what they should do in a difficult situation, you’ve probably run in to this. When the layers of sin are so deep, it gets so complicated that it’s actually hard to know what’s right.
- This explains what we need to preach to those around us—The King and his kingdom. We need to tell people that their issues are directly related to their need for God’s king. They need to begin to live lives which acknowledge his authority. They need to turn away from the things which ignore him and dishonor him, and stop assuming God’s with them when he’s not. See Rev 19:11-15, Mt 28:18-20, Luke 24:46-49.
- This challenges us as believers. Like Micah and the Levite, we have no excuse—we have God’s word. Furthemore, we have the true king if we’ll acknowledge him. We need to make sure we’re not bringing the complications and chaos of sin into our lives, as if we could do whatever was right in our own eyes, and we won’t reap the consequences.