There is often a big difference between what God wants and what we “think” God will bless.
Judges, chapters 17-18; Psalm 89; 2 Corinthians, chapter 3
There was a man named Micah, who lived in the hill country of Ephraim. One day he said to his mother, “I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.”
“The Lord bless you for admitting it,” his mother replied. He returned the money to her, and she said, “I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.” So when he returned the money to his mother, she took 200 silver coins and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah’s house. Micah set up a shrine for the idol, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols. Then he installed one of his sons as his personal priest.
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
Every year in the reading schedule when I come to the book of Judges, I continue to be amazed at how far from God the people of Israel had drifted. I’ve described that as the downward spiral of depravity. Each time God delivered the people, they drifted back into sin and idolatry – and the sin got worse and worse each time. With that in mind, it’s fitting that Samson was the last of the judges we see in the book of Judges. Samson seems to have considered God only at the end of his life, when he prayed that God would enable him to avenge himself. While his act of vengeance gave Israel a victory over the Philistines, it certainly did not prompt anything like a national revival.
That brings us to chapter 17, and the story of Micah. As we read this story in chapters 17-18, it seems that nobody has a clue about what it means to honor God. Here is our cast of characters:
So Micah’s mother “dedicated the silver coins to the Lord,” but then only used part of them in her attempt to honor God. She chose to “honor God” by having an idol cast, a clear violation of God’s commandments. She dedicated 1,100 coins to God, but then chose to keep most of them for herself.
Micah stole from his own mother – a violation of the commandment not to steal. He only admitted it when he heard her place a curse on the thief. He then took the idols which she had made “in his honor,” created a personal shrine in his house, and then installed his own son as his priest (again, something only God could do). When the Levite came along, Micah hired him to be Micah’s personal priest (even though Levites were not priests).
The Levite agreed to serve as the personal priest for a man with an idol-shrine in his house. He did this even though he should have recognized that this was against God’s commandments. Everybody in this story ignored and violated God’s commands. All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
As if this story weren’t bad enough, chapter 17 ends with Micah making this statement: “I know the Lord will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest” (17:12). Think about that: He violated the Seventh Commandment (stealing). He then violated the second commandment (idolatry). He took for himself the privilege of naming a priest, something only God could do. So he installed a Levite as a priest to serve in his personal idol-shrine – and he says, “I know the Lord will bless me now.”
He didn’t know anything! To think that not only would God be okay with this arrangement, but that God would actually bless him, demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of God and his ways. And in the end, it doesn’t work out the way Micah had hoped. Chapter 18 tells that the tribe of Dan came and took his Levite and his idols – and threatened to kill him if he complained. But that doesn’t mean that the people of Dan were the “heroes” of the story, either. All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. But that doesn’t mean that God approved it.
As I read this passage today, I was struck by the parallels with modern beliefs and practices by people who claim to follow Jesus. They too often do whatever seems right in their own eyes, and trust that God will bless them for it. They seem as oblivious to God’s commandments and his call to be holy as Micah was. Of course, Micah came by it honestly; his mother “honored” God by paying to have someone make an idol for her.
We need to understand one thing very clearly: God does not “bless” disobedience. Any “blessings” that seem to come from sinful choices are not from God – and they will not last. Every decision – for good or for bad – has consequences. In the end, God’s ways will be vindicated. We need to make the right decisions, and live for him!
Father, thank you for reminding us that disobedience has consequences – but we don’t have to experience those consequences. You have called us to walk in your ways, and your word reminds us that we’re blessed when we do. Sin may have its pleasures for a while, but in the end, we all reap what we sow. Help us to sow in obedience, that we may reap the abundant life of your kingdom – both now and in eternity. Amen.
Written by: Heartlight