Wrapped up Judges this morning. Heavy sigh! What a train wreck.
The book finishes with three accounts of incidents which occurred “in those days, when there was no king in Israel.” Not necessarily chronological, occurring after the days when Samson was judge, but illustrative of the time period after Joshua and his generation had passed, when “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). Narratives which portray the depths of depravity a people who had forgotten their God descended into.
The stories seem to present a slippery slope. Begins in a home where a man decides he no longer needs to go to the temple in order to worship. Instead he makes his own idol of silver, fashions his own ephod for worship, and ordains one of his own sons to be his priest. He then “upgrades” his customized religiosity when he contracts a wandering Levite to be his own personal intercessor between God and man. And the crazy thing is, rather than see how far he’s strayed, he is almost giddy with how close he thinks he is drawing to God.
Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
But, in those days when there was no king in Israel, what began with an individual soon spreads to an entire clan. And the tribe of Dan, still trying to appropriate the land they had been given, convinces Micah’s priest that if being the priest to the house of one man is good, then being the priest to an entire tribe of Israel has got to be better. And so, they take the priest, and the priest takes the idols and ephod from Micah’s house.
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. So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.
(Judges 19:30-31 ESV)
And so, an entire tribe of promise settles for a cheap imitation of the Promiser.
But hearts that have ceded the throne of God to idols of their own making are prone to cede it further to the desires of hearts steeped in their own depravity. And the final story (ch. 19-21), in those days when there was no king in Israel, is one of unbridled sexual lust, violence, rape, and human desecration beyond imagination. One resulting in God ordained revenge and destruction, but one of man marred foolish oaths and desperate “Plan B’s” which result in chaos and confusion. And all this because, as the book concludes:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
(Judges 21:25 ESV)
You can’t read the end of Judges without hearing the repeated warning: People! You need a shepherd! You need a ruler! You need a king!
Left to our own self-governance, we can only expect descent into increasing depravity and destruction. Hearts set on idols are hearts disconnected from heaven’s ideal. Worship as it seems right in our own eyes can only lead to worship of the wrong things. Distancing ourselves from the Author of Life can only diminish our sense of the purpose, value, and sanctity of life.
Maybe that’s why something I also read this morning, in Mark’s gospel, is resonating so deeply:
And [Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.”
(Mark 8:29 ESV)
Just as Peter did, we need to affirm allegiance to our King. Regardless of what others say, what scoffers scoff, what skeptics deride, we need to double down that there is a King. And that we, by His divine enabling through the gospel, will set our faces to follow Him and do what is right in His eyes.
In these days, there is a King. The King of heaven who rules over the kingdom of heaven established in the hearts of His people.
How we need a King.
A King of grace. The King of glory.