Just plain wrong

Everything about the account of Micah in Judges 17-18 is wrong. Just plain wrong. The guy steals 1,100 pieces of silver from his own mother. Then, when he hears her cursing about it, afraid that he would fall victim to the thing, he returns it. She blesses him for undoing his wrong and then dedicates the silver to the Lord to benefit him (i.e., buy his salvation) and be used to make an idol (which was explicitly prohibited in the second commandment). Then Micah hires his own priest to teach him (but only the stuff he wanted to be taught) and ensure that he was indeed blessed.

So basically, Micah is trying to do everything in his power to make God like him, except for the stuff God wanted him to do. Brilliant plan here.

And then the Danites come along. At the beginning of Judges 18, we learn that (a) there was no king in Israel (i.e., there was no one in charge, no central government), (b) the tribe of Dan still didn’t have a territory (i.e., they forgot where they were supposed to settle or simply failed to do what they needed to do to drive the previous inhabitants out), and (c) the Danites were in the market for some new real estate (i.e., they were looking for somewhere new that they could capture easily and call their own). And so the people of Dan dispatch five men to find this new home.

When the Danite spies came across Micah’s house, they ask Micah’s personal priest-for-hire to ask if they will be successful. Of course, the guy tells them what they want to hear: “Go in peace. The Lord is watching over the journey you are going on.” It was a diplomatic answer. On the one hand, if the Danites went, found a new home and conquered it, the priest could say, “See, God was watching over your journey like a black ops sniper: ready to take out the bad guy for you.” On the other, if the Danites went out, didn’t find a new home or worse were smacked around in the process, the priest would say, “I told you! God was watching over your journey like Santa watching over the naughty kids!”

But it worked. The Danites were convinced that this guy knew what he was talking about, and when they found a place they thought they could capture and came back with the army to do so, they returned to Micah’s house to invite the priest to join them. Their offer to him in Judges 18:19 is compelling: “Come with us and be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest for the house of one person or for you to be a priest for a tribe and family in Israel?” Translate that: Hey, come with us, and you’ll be bigger, more popular, and more prominent than ever.

It’s a flattering offer. Compelling, even. And as I read it, I found myself asking how many modern pastors have succumbed to the same. But the more I look at it, the more I realize just how wrong the whole situation is. You see, Micah wasn’t the only one trying to do everything except the stuff God wanted him to do.

This personal priest shouldn’t have been a priest at all. He was a Levite. He should have been ministering in the tabernacle, not wandering aimlessly through the countryside. And the Danites shouldn’t have been looking for new territory. They should have been working to conquer the territory they were already allotted.

And when the priest decides to go with them, the whole situation only goes downhill from there. He and the Danites steal Micah’s wrong idol, go to the wrong town in the wrong territory, slaughter the wrong people, call it all by the wrong name, and then proceed to set up for themselves their own wrong religion.

Three things get me about this. First, Micah’s mom, Micah himself, the Levite priest, and even the Danites all wrapped their wrong ways in good stuff. Micah’s mom wanted to use the silver to secure blessing for her son and make an idol. So she “consecrated” it to the Lord. Micah wanted to make sure he was blessed rather than cursed. So he hired himself a Levite “priest.” The Levite just wanted more. So he went where he could “minister” to more people. And the Danites wanted a home. So they “inquired” of the Lord.

Their token piety was worthless in God’s eyes.

The second thing is the Levite himself. He starts out doing illegitimate ministry. He ends up doing illegitimate ministry. And he is, all along the way, nothing but a climber. You know the type. They’re the ones who will step on anyone and anything to secure for themselves the next best thing. And all the while, they’re not really interested in doing anything real.

God has no honor for climbers.

And the third thing that stands out to me is how the Danites cover their tracks when it’s all said and done. At the end of Judges 18, after the Danites had secured their new territory, they settle in the town of Laish and rename it Dan. It was a testament to themselves, their own greatness, etc. But it was also them stamping their names on the place, as though that made it truly theirs. And as though that wasn’t enough, they set up Micah’s carved images for themselves and set up Micah’s priest as their own. Because building their own temple somehow made the idol theirs.

God sees right through our covers.

No matter how good they seem to us, God has no use for token piety, no interest in people who are only interested in ascending the ladder, and no time for fraudulent victories.

I do not want to be in those camps!


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