|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:Today, I will focus upon the tragic story of Micah and the Levite, found in the book of Judges. There are many lessons in this shocking story. And the best explanation of it (I think) may be found in the exposition of Pastor Keith Krell, senior pastor of Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane, WA and associate professor of biblical exposition at Moody Bible Institute–Spokane. Thus, the following is a portion quoted from Pastor Krell on Bible.org.
The final five chapters of Judges function as an appendix to the entire book. Instead of focusing on the sins of Israel or of their judges, these chapters look closely at the lives of two Levites. Levites were the priestly tribe in Israel—the religious leadership of the nation. Sadly, we will discover that the religious leadership is not holding the nation accountable for its sin.
Instead, the Levites are as messed up as the people they are supposed to lead! Their small, personal failures escalate to tribal and national dimensions and plunge Israel into political and moral anarchy. Thus, Judges concludes with a finger pointing in the face of the Levites. The overriding message is: When God goes, everything and anything goes.
Scene 1: The idolatrous Levite (17:1–18:31). Our story begins in 17:1–6 when a man by the name of Micah steals a large amount of silver from his mother. The exact amount is 1100 pieces of silver (about 28 lbs). An average yearly salary in Micah’s day was ten pieces of silver (17:10), so he ripped off a fortune. Micah’s mom gets ticked and pronounces a curse on the thief. This is completely understandable. How would you feel if someone ripped off your retirement?
Tragically, due to our crashing economy, perhaps you know first-hand the feelings Micah’s mom experienced. When Micah learns of his mom’s curse, he gets nervous and returns her silver. The Old Testament law required Micah to add a fifth to what he had stolen, but there is no record of him doing so. It is not the fear of the Lord that motivates Micah to confess his crime and restore the money; it is the fear of his mom’s curse. Micah is not broken over his sin; instead, he is merely trying to save his own skin.
To make matters worse, when Micah returns his mom’s silver, she doesn’t curse him…she blesses him! This mom’s values are upside down! Micah’s mom doesn’t discipline her son; instead she rewards him by hiring a silversmith to make her son idols that he then brings into his home. I don’t need to tell you that this is NOT a good thing! Apparently, this mother doesn’t condemn her son because she is a thief as well. In 17:3 she says, “I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the Lord,” however, in the very next verse she only coughs up 200 pieces of the silver!
What happened to the other 900 pieces that she had promised to the Lord? It appears that she keeps this amount for herself! She is a thief and she is not a woman of her word. She does not set a godly example and fails to pass biblical values on to her son. So the sad outcome is: like mother, like son.
Micah follows up his mom’s sin and his own sin with even more sin. He consecrates one of his sons to become his priest. This is completely opposed to God’s plan. Micah and his son are Ephramites and the Bible declares that only Levites are to be priests. There is disobedience all over the place in this account. Consequently, the author pens these disturbing words in 17:6: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
This is the key verse of the Book of Judges. It is likely that the expression, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) refers to God as King (see Deut 33:5). Israel has completely ignored God’s ways and instead has chosen to go their own way. The phrase “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25) tells the sad story of human history. Even today, we live by the philosophy, “If it feels right, if it seems right, do it. What’s right for me must be right.”
Micah and his mom epitomize what happens when you do what is right in your own eyes. They managed to break seven of the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:1–17) without even leaving their home. As far as sinners go, this is fairly remarkable.
Yet, Micah’s name means, “Who is like Yahweh?” He is a believer in Yahweh who is not living up to his name. Instead of honoring the Lord’s name, Micah calls the shots and lives for himself. It’s easy to do this…all it takes is just a few small compromises. These compromises can easily result in idolatry.
Perhaps you don’t feel like you are guilty of idolatry. You sold your boat and one of your three cars, stopped spending so much time in your yard, and started to prioritize your family over your job. I commend you. But in this context, the idolatry is primarily spiritual. Is it possible that your idol is your ministry, your biblical or doctrinal knowledge, your spiritual gifts, your reputation, or your marriage and family? Remember, an idol is anyone or anything that usurps the place of God. An idol can be one of God’s gifts that is abused or misprioritized. Do you have an idol that needs to be surrendered to the Lord? If so, give it to Him today!
In 17:7–13, we are introduced to a young Levite named Jonathan (see 18:30) who has been living in Bethlehem, which is not one of the cities assigned to the priests and Levites. He is probably unemployed. With the spiritual collapse of the nation, there is little or no demand for priests. Sadly, instead of seeking the Lord to meet his needs, Jonathan set out to find a place to live and work, even if it means abandoning his calling as a servant of God. Quickly he runs into Micah who invited him to be his personal priest. Certainly Micah knows that the Lord had appointed the family of Aaron to be the only priests in Israel; and if anybody outside Aaron’s family served as priests, they were to be killed (Num 3:10). Micah continues his sinful choices.
Jonathan is no better. Think about this for a moment: What did Micah have in his house? Shouldn’t a Levite who is to able to teach the law know that Micah has broken God’s law? If Jonathan is typical of God’s servants in the period of the Judges, then it’s no wonder the nation of Israel is confused and corrupt. Jonathan has no appreciation for his high calling as a Levite, a chosen servant of God. He gives up God’s call for comfort and security in the home of an idolater. The irony in all this is Micah now thinks he has God’s favor because a genuine levitical priest is serving as his private chaplain. Micah practices a false religion and worships false gods (with Yahweh thrown in for good measure), and all the while he rests on the false confidence that God is blessing him! Little does he know that the day would come when his priest and his gods will be taken from him and nothing will be left of his religion.
In 18:1–31, the author of Judges focuses on the Danites—a small tribe in Israel who begin “seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in” (18:1b). The Lord had assigned the tribal allotments under the direction of Joshua, with the help of Eleazar, the high priest, and the elders from the tribes (Josh 19:51). God put each tribe just where He wanted it. For the tribe of Dan to reject God’s assigned territory and covet another place is to oppose His divine will. Dan eventually discovers Laish—a place of security and comfort.
Dan ends up conquering this land and claiming it for themselves in the name of ease and prosperity. This sounds a lot like you and me, doesn’t it? Instead of submitting to God’s will and waiting on Him, it is easy to go after what somebody else has. TV and the Internet compel us to crave more and to never be satisfied with what we have. Therefore, we go out and spend money that we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people who don’t really care. At some point, we must recognize that we don’t need a better car, a larger house, a better job, a new spouse, different children, or the perfect church. Rather, God wants us to learn to be content and to trust that He alone can satisfy our restless hearts.
On their way to conquer Laish, the Danites send out five men to spy out the land. On their journey they come across the house of Micah, where they spend the night. When they hear the young priest speaking, they recognize his accent and know he is not from Ephraim. He probably said, “Shalom ya’ all.” Upon recognizing that he is a Levite priest, they immediately pepper him with a trio of questions: “Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?” (18:3) It’s always disturbing when those who are in sin “call out” other believers who are in sin without first examining their own hearts.
Jonathan’s response is hilarious. In 18:4 he says, “Thus and so has Micah done to me, and he has hired me and I have become his priest.” In other words, Jonathan lays a pile of baloney on the Danite men. He justifies his decision to work for Micah. The Danites realize that they have come across a two-timing spiritual compromiser. This pleases them because they are interested in Jonathan’s services. So they reply, “‘Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous.’ The priest said to them, ‘Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the LORD’S approval’” (18:5–6).
This priest resorts to ear tickling and confidently approves what God disapproves. What a sell-out! On another front, if the tribe of Dan had really wanted God’s counsel, they could have consulted with the high priest. But they were actually rejecting God’s counsel by refusing to remain in the land He had assigned to them. Therefore, it wasn’t likely God would have revealed anything to them. So with the blessing of the priest, the Danites scope out Laish and then return home to tell their brothers of the paradise they have discovered (18:7–13).
The Danites then prepare to conquer Laish, but first they make another visit to Micah’s house (18:14–17). This time they discover the idols! Instead of being incensed with Israelite idolatry, they decide that they want these idols for themselves! So with 600 men waiting at the city gate, the five spies waltz into Micah’s house and steal his idols. When Jonathan realizes what is going on he says, “What are you doing?” The men reply, “Shut up, boy! Mind your own business.” Actually, they say: “‘Be silent, put your hand over your mouth and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?’ The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod and household idols and the graven image and went among the people” (18:19–20).
Jonathan is a priest for hire. He goes to the highest bidder. After all, every priest has his price, right? In doing so, he leads the Danites into idolatry.
On their way out of town Micah returns and finds the idols from his crib are gone! So he tears out of his house and shouts at the departing Danites. Micah’s pathetic words are found in 18:24: “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away, and what do I have besides?’” Micah is so far out of fellowship with God that he feels like he has nothing else of value besides his idols! Consequently, he is willing to risk his life for his gods! After all, a man must protect his gods! What a sad state of affairs. When God goes, everything and anything goes. Since the Danites outnumber Micah and his neighbors they have to turn around and go home defeated.
The Danites continue on their merry way and destroy the people of Laish as they are minding their own business. Chapter 18 concludes with the Danites experiencing no visible consequences, apart from their idolatry (18:27–30). Yet, this is not the end of the story.
In the Book of 1 Chronicles, when the list of the tribes and families in Israel is given, Dan is the only tribe which is totally ignored. They had vanished into obscurity, probably because of intermarriage with the Philistines. Dan did not take what God had given to them, and they took what God had not given them. In the process, they lost all that they had. Furthermore, in Rev 7, we are introduced to the 144,000 Jewish believers who will carry out a special ministry for God in the Tribulation. In that list of tribes, Dan is not mentioned. They refused to follow God’s mission for them in the land of Israel, and they chose the easy way. Therefore, God refused to give them this special ministry of blessing for Him in the future.
The lesson here is that there is pleasure in sin for a season (Heb 11:25), but eventually God brings His discipline (Heb 12:5–11). If you are thinking about divorcing your spouse, having an affair, sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend, stealing from your employer, or walking away from the church, don’t do it! The consequences may not hit at once, but when they do they will be devastating! Interestingly, the sin of Micah, his mom, and a Levite priest profoundly affected those around them. In the end, the Danites were eliminated from usefulness. What a powerful reminder of the consequences of sin! One person’s seemingly inconsequential actions can carry a hefty price tag. The converse is also true: A righteous person’s obedience can be a blessing to others for generations to come.