We Americans love a good buffet! Are you guilty of making up your own religion? Or do you have faith in God as He reveals Himself through His Word and through His Son, Jesus? In Judges 17-18, Israel began to follow a man-made religion that displeased God.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church! It is good to see all of you here this morning. Happy Memorial Day weekend! We had a wet one this year, didn’t we? Is it still raining when you came in? I haven’t looked out. I’m glad you’re here. It didn’t keep you from coming. I’m glad to see you.
It is “Pentecost Sunday,” as well. The word, “Pentecost,” means fifty days from Easter; fifty days from when we celebrated Christ’s resurrection. Pentecost Sunday reminds us that that’s the day when the church was given the Holy Spirit. Jesus appeared many times over the forty days prior to following His resurrection and then, on the 40th day, He ascended and He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was given to them. They waited for ten days and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. That’s why we celebrate “Pentecost Sunday;” the giving of the Holy Spirit.
It just so happens that the same Sunday or the same day is celebrated in the Jewish calendar as “Shavuot,” which means “festival of weeks” or “festival of harvest” and they commemorate the giving of the Mosaic law. I think that the Holy Spirit was given at the same time of the year to commemorate the giving of the law and the giving of the Spirit so that we have both truth and spirit. I think it’s a wonderful way to remember that.
Today, we are in part 11 of our 12 week series, through the book of Judges. We’re in chapters 17 and 18 today. Can you believe it? We’re getting there! We’ve entitled this message, “Man-made Religion.”
Just as the book of Judges opened with a two-chapter introduction, it gave us kind of an overview and then it told us the story of twelve judges–six minor judges and six major judges. We finished up last week with the twelfth judge, Samson, and now we’re moving into the close.
Just as the introduction prepared us, now, the last five chapters close out the book and show us that the twelve judges really were ineffective in rescuing Israel. These human judges would rescue Israel for a season but were ineffective in saving them from themselves.
In these final chapters, we have two case studies. There are really two stories. We’ll cover one of them in 17 and 18. Next week, we’ll finish with the final story. These stories really show how Israel has declined more and more into darkness and sin, and the human “saviors” have not been able to save them. What we’ll notice here in these five chapters, different from the time when the judges were appearing, is that there’s no foreign oppressor; there’s no external enemy. In fact, the enemy seems to be themselves; the enemy is from within not without. As I said before, there are no judges named in the final five chapters. This is Israel on its own.
In these chapters, especially 17 and 18, it’s as if the author wants us to make our own interpretation, without much comment. In some of the earlier chapters, the author would tell us that Israel fell into sin, but here, he just tells us the story and leaves the burden of interpretation on us, the reader.
I think this is how Jesus often taught. He would say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” It seems, in chapter 17 and 18, really, until we get to the final two verses of chapter 18, we really don’t know what the author, the Holy Spirit, thinks of what’s going on. I think that there’s the assumption that we’ve read other parts of the Bible and we can recognize when something’s wrong. The author leaves it up to us.
I would say this, in chapter 17 and 18, unlike the earlier chapters , Israel is not accused of worshiping pagan gods. The accusation here, that’s really kind of unspoken, is not that Israel is worshiping pagan gods or wrong gods, but that they’re worshiping the true God in the wrong way; that they have a man-made religion. They’ve started their own way of worshiping God. This is an insidious kind of danger. They are worshiping the true God, but in their own way, in a way that has not been given to them through His revealed word.
Tim Keller has written one of the better commentaries on the book of Judges. He “graduated to heaven” a couple of weeks ago. His voice is one that has often been a helpful voice for preachers. Here’s what he says about man-made religion. He says, “Fundamentally, the faith of God’s people is a revealed faith. God reveals himself in his Word—We we do not discover him through our reason or experience. In short, God says: Worship me as I am, not as you want me to be, and worship me as my heart directs, not as your heart suggests.”
It’s good to remember that, on Pentecost Sunday, He reveals Himself and we don’t discover Him on our own. He discovers us. He finds us and reveals Himself to us.
How often have you heard someone talk about their God? Maybe it’s a Hollywood performer or some famous person. They say, ‘Now, my God is a God of love, not judgment.’ They’re talking about an aspect of their God that has this character trait but not this other. ‘My God is a God of love and forgiveness. He wouldn’t send anybody to hell. My God wants me to be happy like that.’ You’ll hear people talk about their God. You know, Americans love a buffet and that’s what this is–it’s a “buffet religion;” ‘I’ll take a little bit of this, that’s in the Word. I want some of this and I want some of that.’ They put together like their own man-made religion.
I’ve been a pastor for thirty-one years. I’ve, often, met with a young couple that was living together and talked to them about the importance of making a commitment for marriage. They’ll say to me something like this, ‘Well, we prayed about it and God gave us a peace.’ They’re thinking that somehow their feelings will somehow tell them how to navigate such things as marital relationships and so forth. What they’ve done is, they’ve fallen prey to the culture. They’ve taken a piece of how the culture lives and they’ve compartmentalized it. They didn’t put it inside of what they’ve learned from God’s word. They’re not trying to follow God; they have, mistakenly, made a man-made religion. They’veleft out some other aspect of God. See, this is really what idolatry is.
Why does God hate idolatry so much? It is because, if you make an idol made out of a bull, what you’ve done is, you’re showing that your God is a God of strength, but it doesn’t show His forgiveness. If you make a goddess like Asherah, who is the goddess of fertility, then your God is the God of harvest and success. This is not God; any image falls short of the full revelation of God.
God warns us in His “top 10.” You don’t have to go far, just get to His second commandment. It says, “Thou shalt not have or make any graven image.” You’re not to make any false image of God. When you do it, it’s a man-made religion.
In Judges, chapter 17 and 18, Israel began to follow a man-made religion that displeased God. I believe that today we can study these two chapters and see why God is displeased by our attempts at reaching Him, because man-made religion always puts us in a situation where we have to work for it and, and it’s us trying to control God.
As we look at the text, we will see how God is displeased by that. We’ll see three reasons why man-made religion displeases God. We will break it into three bites. I will read chapter 17, then we’ll talk about it and then we’ll read chapter 18 in two parts.
Judges 17:1-13 (ESV) 1 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” 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.” 4 So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. 7 Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8 And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9 And Micah said tohim him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10 And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.” This is God’s Word. Amen.
WHY MAN-MADE RELIGION DISPLEASES GOD:
1. Because it does what is right in its own eyes rather than God’s.
It does what is right in its own eyes rather than God’s. Verse six is really the key to the whole book of Judges. There was no king in Israel. This means that during this time, there wasn’t even a judge. Not only that, they don’t even recognize that God is the king. They are king of their own lives; they are God of their own lives. They do what is right in their own eyes.
This is the mark of this generation. It could easily be said that that’s the mark of our culture today. You do you. You do whatever is right in your eyes. Morality is a flexible thing. It’s whatever you think is right or wrong, it’s whatever you feel like and whatever makes you happy. We add this one, too; we’ll say, ‘As long as it doesn’t hurt someone else, it’s ok,’ but the truth is, God has revealed an absolute truth that there is a right and a wrong, but that’s not how Israel’s living .
We have three characters in chapter 17. One is named Micah. Now, Micah is not anything to brag about. Here’s what we know about Micah. He stole money from his mama. That’s what we know about Micah. You might say, ‘Well, at least Micah confessed it.’ He did confess it, but what was his motivation? He had overheard her curse on the one who had stolen from him. That’s his motivation. This shows that he was afraid of the curse, but he wasn’t afraid of stealing. He wasn’t afraid of one of the 10 commandments that said, “Thou shalt not steal.” He was afraid of the curse that his mother had called down. He must have overheard.
He said in verse 2, “…about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears,…” ‘I heard what you said. I just want you to know that I took 1100 pieces of silver.’ That’s a lot of money that he took from her. Now, she has this curse but she loves her son. However she’s not a great mom. Can you tell that she’s not a great mom?
There’s a couple of things. One is, she’s one of those “permissive” parents. She doesn’t work through forgiveness or anything with him. She just immediately tries to undo the curse. She immediately says, in verse 2, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” She must have been kind of a southerner, you know, ‘Well, bless the Lord.’ You know, whenever something goes wrong, you just say, ‘Well, bless it.’
Now, Micah’s mother doesn’t say just any name when she calls on God. She calls on “Yahweh,” “LORD.” She’s praying to the right God. She’s not praying to a false God. She’s not praying to Baal. She says, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” She’s trying to undo the curse. Then she thinks further of it. She thinks, “You know what, I probably should dedicate this money to the Lord, just to be sure I’ve undone the curse,” so she says, in verse 3, “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son,…”
Now, there were 1,100 pieces of silver. I don’t know what she did with all of it. In verse 3, it says, “…200 pieces of it. She commissioned a silversmith to make some household gods a carving and a metal work.” This is what she decided to do. This reveals even more about the mother. They were both from this land of Ephram, from the land of the tribe of Joshua and she’s calling on the Lord, so it’s this “mixed bag.”
We see the Lord’s name mentioned three times in this text – “Yahweh, “LORD.” Micah and his mother, though, are calling God to bless them as they use idolatry. This is a strange amalgam. This is a strange, syncretistic kind of religion, where it’s “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” all mixed together.
Verse 5, “And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods,…” An ephod is a priestly garment. Micah decided, You know what? I need a priest. I’m going to make a Levite a priest. So, he ordained one of his boys; one of his sons. Now, he’s got his own little church right there in his house. How convenient.
There’s only a couple of problems. One, I mentioned earlier. The second commandment, Deuteronomy 5:8 (ESV) “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image…” This just happens to be one of God’s laws. One of His “top 10.” So here’s Micah’s mother, saying ‘Lord, bless my son,’ while she breaks the second commandment. Not only this, it says this in Deuteronomy 27:15 (ESV) “‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination tothe Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’
Did you two even check out the book of Deuteronomy? So, you got yourself a Levite priest. Did he read anything either? Does anybody know the books of the Torah, the five books of Moses? They’re living as if they don’t know the truth. What they have here, is they’ve been so influenced by Canaanite religion, that they’ve been left adrift. They just have “some of this” and “some of that.” They’ve put together a nice little “buffet” religion.
What is Micah’s goal in verse 13? “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.” Prosperity is what he wants. He just wants to be happy.
What did the Levite priest want? He was from Bethlehem, one of the great cities living in Judah. Why didn’t he stay in Judah? We don’t know why. It says that he wassojourningfrom Bethlehem in Judah.
This word, “sojourning,” reminds me of when I first moved to Wilson. I would ask somebody, “Where do you live?” They would say to me, “Well, I stay over at…” I would say, “Ok, but where do you live?” I think Wilsonians must be “sojourners;” ‘we stay here.’ It’s like a temporary place.
Micah asked the man, ‘Where are you from?’ He said to him, ‘I’m from Bethlehem, from Judah, but I’ve been looking for a place.’ Micah tells him, ‘Well, I got a place for you. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you 10 pieces of silver a year as a salary. I’ve already got a shrine here.’ “I will give you a suit of clothes and your living.” suit of clothing.’ The Levite says to him , ‘Sign me up!’ It made him happy; he has a job. He was looking for a place.
Just down the road in, sits the Tabernacle of God in a place called Shiloh. It’s there the whole time, within walking distance of Micah’s house, but Micah wanted a shrine in his house. He wanted to stay home and “watch” church. He didn’t wanna have to get up in that rain and go out to church. He wanted his own place, with his own priest, in his own house. He wanted God his way. He wanted his own God, that would let him have his own way and do things his own way.
How do we know this? We know his motivation because of verse 13, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a have Levite as priest.”
How do we know that that was a good thing? It reveals that he knew the law. He knew that priests were only supposed to come from the tribe of Levi. This tells us he knew better. He was just doing what he saw was right in his own eyes.
It says in Deuteronomy 12:4-5,8 (ESV) 4 “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. 5 But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go… 8 You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes. Where were they supposed to go? Everyone in Israel was supposed to go to Shiloh, during this time where the Tabernacle was their place of worship. God didn’t give him twenty ways to get to Him. He gave them one way and they decide to make up their own way and wrong truth. Absolute truth is what God says; it is not what you say. It is not what I say. It is what we believe about. God. God has told us what right and wrong is. It’s not up to us to decide in our own eyes. Whenever we do, we get on a slippery slope that ends up in a dark place, just as we see in Israel.
Let’s keep reading. In chapter 18, we’ll read part of it and then we’ll talk about it.
Judges 18:1-13 (ESV) 1 In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. 2 So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3 When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4 And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD.” 7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8 And when they came to their brothersat Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” 9 They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land. 10 As soon as you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.” 11 So 600 men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12 and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13 And they passed on from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.
The plot thickens; all three parts of the story are coming together. We have Micah’s place and we have the Levite priest. Now we have a whole tribe – the tribe of Dan.
WHY MAN-MADE RELIGION DISPLEASES GOD:
2. Because it seeks to use God rather than serve Him.
It seeks to use God, to control God and to treat God as if He were some “celestial Santa Claus,” so that we can just earn His approval and get what we want from Him. So we can be happy, rather than bow down before Him and say,”You’re God and I’m not” and I want to serve You. Man-made religion always seeks to get what it wants in its own way from the Lord.
Now, I would like to remind you how chapter 17 ended. What did Micah want? He wanted prosperity. What did the Levite want? He wanted a place where he could sojourn and live. He wanted a good job, a good income and good benefits. That’s what he wanted.
Now, we have this third group. We have a household, a priest and now, we’ve got a whole tribe, the tribe of Dan. What did they want? They wanted a place to dwell and they wanted success.
Verse 1 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” These people are doing whatever they want to do. It says that they didn’t have an inheritance to dwell in because no inheritance had fallen to them. The truth is, through Joshua, an allotment had been given to them. We could look at a map and see where it was. They were given an allotment right next to Judah and Ephram. What was the problem? It was right up against those Philistines with their iron chariots. So, they’re trapped up in the mountains and they can’t take the land. It’s too hard; it’s too difficult. When they first came into the land, Dan was one of the bigger tribes, but they were not faithful to possess the land that God had given them.
Dan was the tribe of our hero from last week, Samson. Samson had won this great victory here, but we all know the type of judge he was. He didn’t really elevate his people, so here they are, after Samson’s death. What are they doing? They’re going on this journey. They leave Zorah and they stop off at Micah’s place. Then, they head all the way up to either Manessah or Naphtali, depending how you market it or it may have been just outside. At any rate, it wasn’t the land that God had allotted to them. Why did they go up there? They were looking for a “push over” place, a place that they could “push over” the people and take it easily. That’s what they were looking for, but along the way, they stopped off at Micah’s place, which really thickens the plot. It really gets more interesting at that point.
They weren’t really telling the truth when they said that they didn’t have an inheritance. They did, they just hadn’t believed God for it and trusted God for it, so they went exploring the land. They send five spies. It kind of reminds you of when Moses sent the twelve spies. The tribe of Dan sends five spies and they go to the land.
Again, I would say to you that the burden of interpretation is kind of left to us by the Spirit. He wants us to, I think, “read between the lines.” I don’t think these people deserved what they got. Why do you say that, Gary? It is because the reading is so particular, it says that they were a “quiet and unsuspecting people. “ They lived after the manner of Tyre and Sidon; these were coastal cities. And so these people are on the other side of a mountain range and it says the Sidons couldn’t easily support them. They were wealthy and it was a great land. It was spacious. In other words, it looked like a great opportunity to go in and kill a bunch of people, burn their city down and take it over. I am “reading between the lines” here without commentary. It looks as if Dan was doing something not called for by God is the way it reads.
So, here they go. They take 600 men now and they’re headed up that way, but along the way, they decide to stop off at Micah’s place. Those five spies said, ‘You know, on the way, we took a pit stop right here. We got some “vittles” and we met this priest.’ I like how they say, “Who brought you here?” What are you doing here? When they were by the house of Micah,in verse three, they recognized the voice of the young Levite.
Do you remember a few weeks ago, when the Ephraimites couldn’t say “shibboleth?” The Levite had a Bethlehem accent, which is familiar to the Danites. One tribe was able to identify an Ephraimite.
Are you from Wilson? If you are really from Wilson, you will say “Wiltson.” Maybe, you’ve heard it said that they took the “t” out of Johnston County and put it in Wilson, so we don’t say “Johnston” County. We say “Johnson” County. How do you know that you’re from Wilson? It is because you say, “Wiltson;” that’s how you know.
The Danites heard this priest and knew that he was not an Ephraimite. they knew people from Bethlehem. They asked the priest, “What are you doing here?” This kind of sets it all up. They have a priest, 5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” Notice that they didn’t say ‘Would you inquire of the Lord.’ They would have said “of Yahweh.” No, they said, ‘Would you inquire of “Elohim.” The name for “God,” in Hebrew, is “Elohim.” Would you inquire of [Elohim] for us?
Now, I would say, that I don’t know which “priest school” this Levite went to. I have a suspicion that he left before he graduated, but he has learned something– he’s learned to give certain kinds of benedictions that don’t mean anything. That way, they can’t prove him right or wrong. He gives them a “politically correct” benediction. ‘Would you inquire of the Lord to see if we will succeed?’ What are they after?
Is it success? Is it prosperity? That’s what they’re after. They want a place. All three of these stories are intertwined in what they want from God. Success, prosperity and happiness are not bad things in and of themselves, but it’s using God to get what you want rather than serving God to see what He wants for you, which is always better.
They ask the priest, ‘Inquire of Elohim for us.’ He gives them this, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD.” What is that?, He didn’t really say anything, but they went out.
It says this in 1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NIV) “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have …been robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
There is a gospel, that is no gospel at all, that’s being preached many times on the television and other media. It’s been around for quite a while. It’s called “the prosperity gospel,” which is no gospel at all. It says that if you would just believe enough,speak right and make sure you give regular donations to the one who’s telling you this, then you’ll have health, wealth and prosperity. In other words, if you just get yourself a Levite priest or you just turn in this money to get this certain thing that I’ve prayed for, or this certain prayer cloth or, this… they’re all over the TV, they’re all over the internet. People who are saying, ‘If you’ll do this, God will do that,’ be careful. That’s called “prosperity theology.” It’s a false theology. It has truth in it that attracts you, but it’s mixed with worldly cultural values, which says, ‘My purpose with God is, I use Him to make me happy, successful and prosperous.’ You are leaning toward false theology, rather than bowing down before Him and saying, ‘You’re God and I’m not and I need You. Without You, I’m nothing.’ This is the warning–don’t come to God to use Him. We come to Him to serve Him.
Let’s keep reading. Judges 18:14-31 (ESV) 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.” 15 And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him about his welfare. 16 Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 And the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. 18 And when these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19 And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priestto a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20 And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people. 21 So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and the goods in front of them. 22 When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. 23 And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24 And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’” 25 And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26 Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home. 27 But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28 And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29 And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first. 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. 31 So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was atShiloh .
This is a man-made religion that they have put together. One commentator says that it starts off with the corruption of a household, it leads to a corruption of the Levi priesthood and ends up the corruption of an entire tribe.
WHY MAN-MADE RELIGION DISPLEASES GOD:
3. Because it makes God in its own image rather than believing His revealed Word.
God’s already revealed Himself to Israel. He’s given them the books of Moses. They have the Torah; they know who God is. They know right from wrong. They know how God reveals Himself, but they’re choosing to go their own way and to make their own image of God.
It’s ironic, but it seems like Micah had it coming–Micah steals from his mother, ends up getting blessed by his mother, makes his own church in his house, then somebody comes along and steals all his stuff, including his priest. They steal all this stuff and his priest; he chases them out with his little army. He didn’t have an army as big as the Danite’s army.
Verse 23, And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24 And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’” 25 And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26 Then the people of Dan went their way.
Micah thinks he has nothing because he thinks his possessions were his gods. He thinks he has nothing. This man has really missed God’s revelation about who He is. If you have the Lord, no one can take Him from you. They can put you in a prison with no bible, no church, no hymn, no nothing and you’ll still have the Holy Spirit living in you. Micah doesn’t believe in the God that’s been revealed to Him through God’s word.
As I was saying before, I don’t think it’s accidental. There’s never a comment from a narrator that says they shouldn’t have killed those people in Laish. It kind of reveals it by saying that they were an unsuspecting, quiet people. I think it’s letting us know there was no deliverer.I don’t think they were supposed to take these people. They weren’t supposed to even be up there, but that’s what they’ve done.
What do they do when they get there? They take Micah’s stuff and Micah’s priest and they set it up and they begin to worship. This whole tribe now has turned astray by worshiping idols.
In chapter 18, verses 30 and 31, finally, the narrator speaks. He spoke in verse six of chapter 17, “In those days, there was no king and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Then, the narrator tells the story and he waits until Chapter 30 to finally tell us the name of the priest. We’ve been wondering who this young priest was. We know he’s from Bethlehem and Judah. We know he used to stay over there. He stayed with Micah and now he’s staying up there in Dan. Now, we know his name, his name is Jonathan. See, in verse 30? His name is Jonathan and he’s not just any Jonathan. He’s in the lineage of Ham who was born to Moses.
Can you imagine this? A Levite who was born into the line of Moses has set up a false religion, contrary to the mosaic law. You see, it doesn’t matter what your parents believed, it does matter for them, but it doesn’t matter for you. You have to believe for yourself. Moses believed the true God, the revealed God. But this man, Jonathan, had sons and they set up this whole false worship that lasted all the way to the captivity of when the Assyrians overthrew the northern tribes of Israel. It says that , right there, in verse 30, 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. This worship was a bad, false worship. It was not worshiping foreign gods. It was worshiping the true God in a foreign way, in a false way.
Then we have verse 31, “So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.” This says a lot if you really think about it. They set up Micah’s carved image that he made. They want to make sure you remember that. He kept it as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.
Where was the house of God the whole time? It’s just right down the street from Micah’s house at Shiloh. They could have stopped off at Shiloh and really spoken to the true Levites. They could have heard a true word from the Lord. The Lord would have told them; He already gave them land. They need to go back home and get it. They don’t need to be going north. They knew that. They already knew that. When they already knew, they shouldn’t have stopped off and talked to that preacher, who they can pay and he’ll tell them what they want to hear.
As a believer, you go to a church that’ll tell you even what you don’t want to hear as long as it’s from the word of God. The house of Shiloh was there the whole time and they didn’t drop off there.
Why is this story in the Bible? I asked the Lord this question a lot this past week. “Lord, why is this story in the Bible? How am I supposed to preach this?” Every time it says Lord, they don’t mean it.
A couple of thoughts. One is, it explains where Dan ended up. Chapter 17 and 18 explain how Dan fell into this synchro, man-made religion and how they ended up way far north, how they ended up being the first ones to fall to the Assyrians when the Assyrians invade and brought them into captivity. It explains that. It, also, points out a few other things.
If you go to 1 Kings, chapter 12, you find out that David’s already been king and passed away. Saul has been king. David has been king, his son Solomon has been king over all of the tribes. But then after Solomon, the nation is divided and the southern kingdom becomes Judah. The northern kingdom keeps the name, Israel, and Jeroboam is the king of the northern tribes of Israel. He says to himself in 1 Kings, chapter 12, ‘if these people keep going to Jerusalem to worship, they’ll leave me and Israel will be reunited. They will kill me and I won’t be king anymore.’ So, he set up two golden calves. Where did he put them? He put one in Bethel and one in Dan. The scripture says that the people of Israel prostituted themselves and fell into sin, worshiping those golden calves, especially the one in Dan, that’s in 1 Kings chapter 12.
It may also explain why the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are not listed among the 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each tribe) who will believe in the last days of the Tribulation (Rev. 5:7-8). That’s why chapter 18 is in the Bible to help us understand why Dan fell off. Dan fell off and started mixing together this pagan religion and so forth. They weren’t worshiping where they were supposed to worship and how they were supposed to worship. I would remind you that they still worship where the Tabernacle was.
Deuteronomy 12:4-5 (ESV) 4 “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. 5 But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go…” They were supposed to go to Shiloh. Shiloh was the place that Joshua had the Tabernacle set up from when they first came into the Promised Land. It sat there for 369 years. Everybody knew where Shiloh was. This is right down the street from Micah’s house. I guess it was more convenient to stay home and have your own church at home, but that’s what happened. They weren’t going to the one place. They weren’t given ten places or two places. They were given one place to go.
I want to take us into the New Testament, If you’ll remember, Jesus went to the northern tribes area. He went to a little town called Sychar. That was where the Samaritans lived. The Samaritans were a mixture of people. They had interbred, intermarried with the Assyrians. So it was Jews and Assyrians that married together. The Jews looked down upon the Samaritans, as a result.
In John, chapter 4, Jesus is at the well and this woman at the well and she tries to “pick a fight” with Jesus. She says, ‘Now you Jews, you worship down in Jerusalem. But we Samaritans, we worship up here on this mountain.’ Jesus says to her, “I tell you the truth. The day is coming when you’ll not worship on this mountain nor even worship in Jerusalem. Now you worship what you don’t know and we Jews, we worship who we do know because salvation comes through the Jews.” “But, I tell you the truth. I true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” The woman says to Him, I know when the Messiah comes, he’ll reveal this to us.” Jesus says to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Here’s what I want you to understand today– our “Shiloh” is Jesus. It’s not a place anymore; It’s a person. He says, ‘There’s a day coming when you won’t worship in a place, you’ll worship a person.’ The word, “Shiloh,” in Hebrew, means “place of rest.”
This is why Jesus has this invitation – He says in Matthew 11:28 (ESV) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We don’t come to Shiloh anymore. We come to Jesus. There’s only one Shiloh; there’s only one Jesus. There’s not many ways to God; here’s only one way revealed to come to God. Jesus tells us this, John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
He’s our place of rest. If you want to know the Lord, you must know Him in Spirit and in truth. The truth is revealed through the revelation of Jesus, through His word and through His holy Spirit that comes to live in you when you receive Jesus. That’s how we worship Him, not in a man made way.
I would add one more verse, John 1: verse 14 says, “And the word became flesh and dwelled among us.” The original Greek had this idea– “and “Tabernacled” among us. He’s our Shiloh. He’s our Tabernacle. Jesus is the only way to be right with God. There is no other way. We have not discovered Him on our own. He has spoken. He’s revealed Himself through Jesus. Do you know Him? Put aside man-made religion. Receive the revelation that’s given through Jesus.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank You for Your word today. We stand upon it. We depend upon it. We pray for that person, today, that would sense You knocking at their heart’s door. The Lord Jesus is calling to you to come out of whatever man-made religion you’ve built for yourself. Whether it’s trying to be good enough or whatever it is, you’ll never reach God on your own. You’ll never even be truly fulfilled on your own. Would you receive Jesus right now? You can do it right now, by faith, receiving Him, asking Him to save you. Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner and I believe that You died on the cross for my sins, that You were raised from the grave and that You live today. Come and live in me, forgive me of my sin and make me a child of God. I want to follow You as my Lord and Savior. If you’re praying that prayer of faith, believing, He’ll save you. There’s only one way – it’s Jesus. Others are here today and you’ve been compromising. You believe, but yet, you have kind of a “buffet” of cultural ideas that you’ve included. Holy Spirit, speak to us right now. Reveal to all of us where we might need to repent and say, “That’s not God. That’s the way I’ve tried to reduce Him. That’s the way I’ve tried to control Him. Lord, forgive me. I want to know You in Your fullness. I want to know You by Your spirit. Reveal Yourself to us, Lord, through Your word and through Your Holy Spirit today. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.