Continuing to read in Judges this morning. And encountered the first of four repeated strikings of an ominous gong.
In those days there was no king in Israel.
That gong sounds in Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, and 21:25.
Implication? It echoes out twice from this repeated warning — “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 17:6, 21:25).
Modern day translation? Things were out of control!
If Samson’s story hinted at how out of control things were when it came to the sensual, the story of Micah demonstrates how out of control things were when it came to the sacred.
A mom blesses the LORD when her son confesses he stole 1,100 pieces of sliver from her. And the way she responds in gratitude for her son’s repentance is to “dedicate” the silver to the LORD. How does she do that? She takes 200 pieces of the returned silver and sends it to the silversmith “to make a carved image and a metal image” (17:3-4). She makes an idol! What?!?
Micah takes it home and adds it to his collection. He already has a homegrown shrine, so he takes the idol, adds an ephod, supplements it with some additional household gods, and then ordains his son as a priest over it all. Viola! A DIY worship center.
That’s when enough is enough and the gong sounds for the first time.
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. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
(Judges 17:5-6 ESV)
Eventually Micah will make the whole set up “legit” when he hires a traveling Levite to be his “real priest.” (Though the Levite probably wasn’t of the Aaron’s priestly line, it was close enough).
And lest we think this is totally a pagan pursuit, as Micah stands back, beholds his shrine, bows to his carved image, and reveres his personal priest . . .
Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
(Judges 17:13 ESV)
You know the LORD will prosper you now?!? O brother! Micah, give your head a shake!
It’s not like he had forgotten God, or even thought he had abandoned God, it’s just that God got all mixed in with his worldly, culturally influenced ways. Just like everyone else, he was making it up as he went along. Somehow thinking that if it looked like something sacred, and it operated like something sacred, and it used the language of something sacred, then it must be bona fide sacred. That’s kind of what happens when there’s no authority outside the individual to hold them to account.
There was no transcendent authority — they had in effect made God in their own image. There was no written authority — you got to think that no one was reading the Word, or if they were, no one felt compelled to submit to it. There wasn’t even any peer pressure, or community authority, from hanging with others who had determined to walk in the ways of Jehovah. No longer a team sport, it was now an individual’s game. Everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.
I can’t help but see a warning here for God’s people today. We live in a culture where self rules. Where to be “authentic” is to go with what you feel inside. A culture that has cut ties with the transcendent and therefore has no ethic anchor to be tethered to, and no moral compass, beyond their own calloused conscience, to navigate with. A culture which is happy for us to bring in our God language and our God practices as long we don’t speak of them as having any God authority over our culture.
A culture which can lull us into a DIY approach to the sacred. Self determining to what extent the Word of God will have authority over our lives. Self picking and choosing how often to gather with the people of God and what level of accountability that holy community will play over the whole of my life. Self creating the manner in which I worship God, the way that works best for me and my family.
When there’s no king, we kind of end up doing what’s right in our own eyes.
O King of Heaven, call us back to Yourself. Rule in our hearts. Reign in our lives.
By Your grace. For You glory.