I was having a conversation with someone recently about Christianity, and I found it sad to continually need to speak to the difference between a biblical Christianity as opposed to so much else that is out there. That led me to think about how sad it is that so many organizations and groups put on the word Christian as a title even when they clearly oppose the fundamentals of the faith.
Then I read through a few chapters in Judges, and I saw a thread that helps me understand how in the world this has happened in the modern world.
In Judges 17-18, we read a very dark, very ugly story. A man named Micah steals money from his mom. When he gives it back, his mom blesses him. That actually makes some sense. Mom is proud of her boy being honest. But look what she tells him to do with the money.
Judges 17:3 – And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “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.”
Wait a minute. She said that she dedicated the silver to the Lord. Thus, she is saying that what she is doing is something she fully expects the God of the Bible to be pleased with. But in her next breath, she says that the silver should be used for the fashioning of a carved image. She would call her religion faithful. But she is violating two clear commands of God.
Exodus 20:4-6 – 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God is absolutely, abundantly, crystal clear. He forbids those who would worship him doing so through the fashioning of images. This woman has commanded her son, as an act of worship, worship she believes is of the Lord, to do what God says never ever do.
Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Because the woman uses the name of the Lord in her pronouncement, she is also violating this, the third commandment. She shows us a perfect example of what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain. She is using the name of God in a way that is false. She is calling something of God that is exactly opposite. She is using the name of God in an empty and meaningless way.
The story gets worse. Micah finds a Levite wandering around the countryside, not staying put and serving the Lord as he should have done. The Levite is not holding fast to the word of God or teaching others the law as he should have done. And Micah invites the Levite to serve him as a priest. The Levite is happy to help. And now he has joined Micah in his idolatry.
Judges 17:13 – Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
Micah thinks that his sin will lead to his prosperity. Why? He thinks that having a Levite as priest is enough to guarantee him God’s blessing. He has no worry about the commands of God.
In chapter 18, men from the tribe of Dan have failed to settle in their allotted land. They want to take a spot for themselves, and they send out an armed force. ON the way, scouts discover Micah’s house and the idols therein.
Judges 18:14 – Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.”
What should be the response of the men to this? They should go in with their swords drawn to destroy those idols and to execute those who are polluting the land of Israel with their violations of the word of God (cf. Deut. 13:1-18). But what do they do instead? They go in, take the idols and the Levite with them, and set him up as their own priest to those idols in their new tribal home.
Then, as the story closes, we get a revelation that ought to knock us over.
Judges 18:30 – 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.
Woah. The Levite who played priest for the Danites, the one who helped Micah and his household worship idols, the one who was wandering the countryside instead of serving the Lord and teaching his word, he was a grandson of Moses. It is possible that he was a great or multiple great grandson, as we do not always record every single generation in a verse like this one. But, either way, this man was a direct descendant from Moses, the Moses, Ten Commands and parting the Red Sea and delivering the law of God Moses. Yet this man pretended that his worshipping of idols was somehow pleasing to God.
And again, to tie this all together, I ask, “What happened?” Why did this happen in the Old Testament? And I add to that question this one: Why do things like this happen in the church today? Why are people who claim to be Christians so easily able to promote things that are in direct violation of the word of God?
The answer is in the sinfulness of the human heart. But the answer is also in the book of Judges.
Judges 17:6 – In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
The problem is that everyone was doing what was right in his own eyes. The problem is that nobody was standing up and holding to the authority of the written word of God. No king was in the land to tell the people that they are to submit to the law of God. And so, corruption crept in.
And the very same is the problem in the broad swath of people in our land who use the word Christian as a label. If they are not holding to the word of God as the ultimate and final authority for all things related to faith and practice, for all doctrine, for all our lives, they will be just like the people who are doing what is right in their own eyes. That leads to foolish ideas. It leads to people who would bow to a statue and call it worshipping God. It leads to people who would violate the command of God and, with a straight face, declare that violation of the law of God to be the thing that pleases God.
What is your authority for what you believe and how you live? Is it Scripture? Or is your authority your own opinions? Is your authority the word of God or some teacher or collection of teachers? If you wish to be genuinely Christian, you must find your authority in the word of God rightly and clearly interpreted and applied.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.