COUNTERFEIT, MAN-MADE SPIRITUALITY REINFORCES ITS OWN CYCLE OF SELF DECEPTION
(AND OFFENDS GOD BY REPLACING OBJECTIVE DIVINE STANDARDS WITH ANARCHY AND MORAL RELATIVISM)
With Chapter 17 we arrive at the third and final section of the Book of Judges:
I. (1:1 – 3:6) Justification for the Lord’s Anger —
II. (3:7 – 16:31) Journal of Repeated Cycles of Apostasy and Deliverance Highlighting the Faithfulness of a Long Suffering God –
III. (17:1 – 21:25) Jumbled Mess of Religious and Moral Depravity
No longer are we talking about the cycle of sin, suffering, and salvation through a designated judge raised up by God. The stories of Deborah, of Gideon and of Samson fade into the background. Instead we are presented with a couple of very depressing pictures of the depths of Israel’s depravity – both from a religious standpoint and a moral standpoint. The secularization of God’s people has yielded the inevitable result of governmental anarchy and moral relativism and confusion. Everyone is making their own decisions about right and wrong, having rejected God’s divine counsel. Israel has hit rock bottom and the picture is jarring. You won’t find any “feel good” moments in these final chapters. God intends for us to be both shocked and yet disgusted by the parallels we see in our own contemporary situation.
We are going to see two very serious deviations from God’s prescription for true worship for the nation of Israel:
1. The Man-Made Establishment of a Counterfeit Worship Sanctuary (17:1-6)
2. The Man-Made Establishment of a Counterfeit Priesthood (17:7-13)
You can hardly offend the covenant keeping God of Israel more if you tried. These are grievous errors with far-reaching consequences.
COUNTERFEIT, MAN-MADE SPIRITUALITY REINFORCES ITS OWN CYCLE OF SELF DECEPTION
(AND OFFENDS GOD BY REPLACING OBJECTIVE DIVINE STANDARDS WITH ANARCHY AND MORAL RELATIVISM)
George Barna (Boiling Point): Many Americans, Barna says, now cling to the values that best align with relativism — that is, independence, personal happiness, tolerance, comfort, instant gratification, the right to make one’s own choices — all of this centers on the individual. . . Convenience, comfort, and emotion tend to be the values that drive today’s spirituality.
SEVEN RED FLAGS OF COUNTERFEIT, MAN-MADE SPIRITUALITY
I. (:1-2) BASED ON A WRONG FOUNDATION = POOR PARENTING AND LACK OF INTEGRITY
“Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, ‘The eleven hundred pieces of silver which were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse in my hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.’ And his mother said, ‘Blessed be my son by the LORD.’”
A. Poor Parenting
Lots of meaningless cursing and blessing – but no discipline and accountability; raised a thief
Using the name of the Lord in vain; mouthing a lot of spiritual platitudes
The classic Enabler for her son’s irresponsibility and criminal behavior – What does an Enabler look like?
– An enabler is someone who promotes a specific type of behavior in another person. The term is most often associated with people who allow loved ones to behave in ways that are destructive
– one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.
Sad when parents have no values to communicate to the next generation; look at the problem faced by school teachers when parents don’t properly discipline their children
Legitimate questions: Who trained you? What was the content and methodology of your spiritual training? What course of study did you submit to?
1100 pieces of silver is a significant amount – very wealthy family; son never learned the proper work ethic; had everything handed to him (vs. 10 – look how happy the Levite was to work for annual wages of 10 pieces of silver); equals the amount each of the Philistine lords had pledged to give as a bribe to Delilah to engage her services in entrapping Samson
B. Lack of Integrity
Stealing from your parents is about as low as it gets; this is not some child
Micah = “who is like the Lord”
No conviction of sin; no real fear of the Lord; no concern for the Lord’s commandments and directives regarding worship
Character must be the key to spiritual leadership (cf. qualifications for elders and deacons);
Not academics or charisma or ministry success measured by marketing metrics
II. (:3-5a) PRACTICED VIA HYPOCRITICAL DEDICATION = EXTERNAL RELIGIOUS TRAPPINGS OF IDOLATRY
“He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, ‘I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.’ So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols”
Look at all of the Ten Commandments that Micah and his mother broke – all without even leaving home! Quite a record of lawlessness! Exodus 20
1. Polytheism — I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. Idol worship — Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
3. Swearing — Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
4. Sabbath Observance — Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
5. Honoring and Obeying Parents — Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Murder — Thou shall not kill/murder†.
7. Adultery — Thou shall not commit adultery.
8. Stealing — Thou shall not steal††.
9. False Witness — Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
10. Coveting — Thou shall not covet‡ your neighbor’s wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).
Brensinger: This act of dedication involves the construction of an idol of cast metal. The Hebrew phrase is an example of hendiadys, where and connects two words referring to the same thing. The second noun explains the first. Thus, what is envisioned here is likely not a pair of figures but a single image. Both the singular pronoun it in 17:4 and the references to a single image elsewhere in the narrative (18:20, 30:31) support such a view. The figure is perhaps carved from wood and subsequently covered with metal.
But Judges 18:18 seems to indicate there were two distinct objects created!
Inrig: He established a full-fledged shrine in his home, complete with a priestly garment (the ephod), a molten image (an idol of poured silver), a graven image (a carved idol coated with silver), and a number of portable household gods, called teraphim. . . Judges 18:31 “So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.” The tabernacle was at Shiloh. A quick look at a map reveals the fact that Shiloh was in the hill country of Ephraim, only a short journey from Micah’s house. Micah’s idolatry had nothing to do with the unavailability of God’s house. It had everything to do with his refusal to follow God’s Word.
Wolf: Scripture consistently condemns the use of terraphim (cf. 1 Sam 15:23). Like the ephod . . . the terraphim could be used for divination purposes (Ezek 21:21).
Is. 44:9-20 mocking the foolishness of idolatry
Adam Clarke: Perhaps the whole of this case may be stated thus: Micah built a house of God-a chapel in imitation of the sanctuary; he made a graven image representing the ark, a molten image to represent the mercy-seat, teraphim to represent the cherubim above the mercy-seat, and an ephod in imitation of the sacerdotal garments; and he consecrated one of his sons to be priest. Thus gross idolatry was not the crime of Micah; he only set up in his own house an epitome of the Divine worship as performed at Shiloh.
Richard Tow: I can see this woman living today with a fish symbol on her lapel, a shinny cross on her necklace, and wearing a “what would Jesus do” bracelet yet doing nothing that Jesus would do. Wear the symbols. Talk the talk. But if you’re going to do that then walk the walk.
Hard for us to identify with the sin of idolatry – we don’t make little silver figures that we worship; how can we identify with the error being exposed here?
Dale Ralph Davis: One form such syncretism takes is that of sacramentalism, believing that some degree of conformity in religious externals will surely draw down the divine approval . . .
Another example would be our modern tendency to deny the traditional belief that “faith, worship, and religion are rather regulated by royal revelation and subject to sovereign prescriptions” . . .we prefer to worship as we please.
III. (:5b) LED BY FALSE PRIESTS APPOINTED ON THE BASIS OF EXPEDIENCY AND SELF PROMOTION WITHOUT REGARD TO DIVINE ORDINATION
“and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest.”
I need a priest; I will make someone a priest
Brensinger: More literally, he “filled the hand of” his son, a technical expression for ordination, rooted in the actual filling of the priest’s hands with portions of a sacrifice (Exod. 28:41; 29:9; Lev. 8:33; 16:32; 1 Kings 13:33; cf. Exod. 29:24).
Block: it involved the placement of some symbol of authority into the hands of the person being installed. This action posed a direct challenge to the officially authorized Aaronic priesthood.
B. Self Promotion
Richard Tow: This man has found a way to do spiritual things—even have his own church—keep his own tithe in the family—and stay in control of the situation. It all looked spiritual but in reality it was all a sham and contrary to the commandments of God.
What is lacking in this personal shrine is any focus on the Word of God – certainly his son was not going to be equipped to bring such instruction to the family
IV. (:6) BLINDED BY THE ARROGANCE OF ANARCHY AND MORAL RELATIVISM
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Timestamp – “no king in Israel” – not that a king would have solved all of their moral and spiritual failings – a righteous king would have made a difference – certainly they had the opportunity to function as the theocracy that God had instituted – but without the fear of God and the submission to His revealed Word, they were rudderless and living in lawlessness and anarchy
B. Moral Relativism
Inrig: The Israelites did not do what was wrong in their own eyes. On the contrary, they were convinced that they were doing what was right. It was a society filled with violence, idolatry, gross immorality – utterly pagan – and yet these people thought that what they did was right. Their value systems, moral standards, religious doctrines, and practices had lost all touch with reality and absolute truth. As a result, only the swamp of relativism was lift. That is what makes Judges so practical to twentieth-century Christians; for we, too, live in a society that has not standards. The basic life philosophy of the modern man is, “If it is right to you (i.e. in your own eyes), do it.”
V. (:7-9) UNSETTLED BY SELFISH AMBITION
“Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. Then the man departed from the city, from Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he might find a place; and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. And Micah said to him, ‘Where do you come from?’ And he said to him, ‘I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place.’”
From 18:30, we learn that this young Levite was named Jonathan, son of Gershom who was the son of Moses – who was from the tribe of Levi, specifically through the line of Kohath; probably already somewhat of a drifter and an opportunist
How can you both be from the tribe of Judah and be a Levite?? Maybe just resided in the territory of Judah
Inrig: Levites were men who had the call of God upon their lives. They were not to be opportunists moving from place to place, looking for a job. They had been assigned specific cities in which to live and that is where they were to reside and serve God. As a matter of fact, this man probably should not have been in Bethlehem in the first place, since it was not a Levitical city. Here was a man who refused to be satisfied with God’s arrangements for his life. . . he was committed to self-promotion and to personal betterment.
Wolf: Bethlehem was not one of the forty-eight Levitical cities assigned by Moses. The Levites were doubtless scattered because of lack of support, a situation that prevailed all too often in Israel’s history (cf. Neh 13:10). In an attempt to improve his situation (v.8), the young Levite traveled north and found Micah eager to hire a more “legitimate” priest.
VI. (:10-12) SECULARIZED BY MATERIALISTIC GREED – SERVING AS A HIRED GUN
“Micah then said to him, ‘Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance.’ So the Levite went in. And the Levite agreed to live with the man; and the young man became to him like one of his sons. So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah.”
Micah knew enough of the God’s standards to feel insecure in his employment of his own son in the capacity of priest; this was definitely sub-standard; when the opportunity presented itself for a significant upgrade – a Levite no less – he jumped at it – even if it meant shoving his son into the background
“father” – in a position of honor and leadership in the home
Where did this concept of a personal priest come from? Micah designed a religious system where he was in control because he had the money and could afford it; he could dictate the terms; nothing that disturbed his conscience or made him uncomfortable; he could worship at his convenience
Levite served as a “hireling” – John 10:12-13 – not a true shepherd; went where he could get the best contract; no sense of divine calling or mission
“Micah consecrated the Levite” – talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
(an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.)
Inrig: Cf. Numbers 16 – when an ordinary Levite named Korah tried to act as a priest, God intervened by causing the ground to open up and swallow him.
James Jordan: This story is a parody of the story of the establishment of true worship at the exodus from Egypt. Virtually every detail found here is also found there, but here it is perverted. . . The “suit of clothes” is mentioned in verse 10 as a parody of Aaron’s garments of glory and beauty.
VII. (:6) MOTIVATED BY A PROSPERITY GOSPEL = RABBIT’S FOOT APPROACH TO SPIRITUALITY
“Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.’”
No orientation towards glorifying the Lord
Treats this Levite like a good luck charm
The ultimate in Self Deception
James Jordan: Like the Philistines ridiculed by Samson, Micah believes in magic. Like a Baalist, Micah believes that the essence of religion is the manipulation of God, not submission to Him. Now that he has some gods under his control, Micah believes that the Lord will bless him for sure. He is about to be relieved of that misconception.
We have been called to worship God “in spirit and in truth.” God desires worshipers – those that would worship in a genuine fashion – not counterfeit. Those that would submit to the divine leading of His Holy Spirit – not promote their own man-made agenda. Worship is not about convenience. It is not about entertainment. It is not about anything goes or exalting man’s individuality or creativity. We have been privileged to be made a kingdom of priests. We approach God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man without the need for any Aaronic priestly order or complex sacrificial system. Yet that doesn’t mean that God has not revealed standards – standards for the leaders in His church – for the elders and deacons – and standards for those who would assemble together as the ekklesia to worship God “in spirit and in truth.”
Is your Worship pleasing to the Lord or are you Self Deceived?
1) Check out your Foundation – how have you been instructed … are you characterized by integrity?
2) Check out your Dedication – is it sincere and complete or hypocritical? Is it oriented towards heart righteousness or just external religious trappings?
3) Check out your Church Leadership – do they meet the divinely revealed qualifications for ordination or are they self promoters
4) Check out your Submission to God’s Authority – or are you operating on the basis of what looks good in your own eyes? Are you a moral relativist or one who believes in the absolute truths revealed in God’s Word?
5) Check out your Contentment with God’s methodology for fulfilling the Great Commission today through the program of His church – or are you motivated by Selfish Ambition – drifting from church to church to find what is most comfortable and secure and entertaining
6) Check out your Treasure Orientation – are you driven by laying up treasure in heaven or by materialistic earthly possessions and security
7) Check out your Motivation – is it personal prosperity or that Jesus Christ might be glorified in all things
Don’t settle for Counterfeit, Man-Made Spirituality that might make you feel good for a short while.