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Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Sneak Peek into the Life of Israel

Reality TV gives people an inside look into the otherwise private lives of others. The writer of Judges grants such a look into the private life of a typical Ephraimite familywhen everyone did as he saw fitin Israel during the Judges Era. And, it isn’t pretty. 
Chapter 17 introduces Micah (whose name means “Who is like Yahweh?), an Ephraimite, whose mother consecrates a portion of her recovered silver (even though she had promised it all) to the LORD for her son to make for her “a carved image and a cast idol” (17:3). Micah sets up the idol in his household and installs one of his sons as his priest. Later, a Levite from Bethlehem, Moses’ grandson(18:30), joins Micah’s household as the family priest. Moses’ grandson leads Micah’s family in worshiping a carved image. Wow! Who would have thought such a thing would happen?
One generation after Israel’s crossing the Jordan River, the Danites have yet to obtain their inheritance. Finally, they send five spies to explore their territory and on the way they come across Micah’s farm, hear the Levite speaking, and seek his blessing. After scoping out the Sidonians, the Danites return to Micah’s house, seize his household idols, and convince Moses’ grandson to become their tribal priest. Israel has embraced idolatry one generation into the settlement of the land of promise. Wow! Who would have thought such a thing would happen, and that it would happen so quickly? 
What does this scene in Judges reveal about the spiritual life of Israel?
  • Without Bible literacy and a teaching priest people quickly embrace syncretistic religion. After consecrating the returned silver to the LORD, Micah’s mother uses a portion to commission an idolatrous image. Then, a Levite uses the idol in family worship. Micah and his family blended Judaism and idolatry and formed a religion that they could live with.   
  • Syncretistic rapidly transforms religion into total idolatry. Jonathan takes Micah’s idols and sets them up as gods for the Danites to worship. One family’s idol (Micah) becomes one tribe’s idol. Later, all of Israel, except for a remnant, worship the gods of the Canaanites.  
  • No generation can depend upon the godliness of their forefathers. Every generation must experience God for themselves. Moses’ grandson was an idolater. He had a form of religion without the power thereof.
The Apostle Paul refers to the Old Testament stories in order to warn every generation through their example, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Any generation is only one generation away from total spiritual decay.

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"There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land" (Judges 18:30-31; 4:4, 9).

Talk about a "Momma called" preacher boy! Jonathan, the Danites' priest was a third generation priest. His grandfather was Moses himself. In the same way that going into a garage doesn't make a person a car so being a male descendant of Moses doesn't make a man a real priest. God doesn't have grandchildren.

Many priest like Jonathan exist in the ministry today. They are politically correct, tolerant like Jonathan, but have never been born-again. Jonathan:
  • Made decisions based on monetary gains and maintaining a comfortable lifestyle (17:10; 18:4).
  • Presumed to speak for God without saying, "Thus says the Lord", demonstrating that wearing a clerical collar doesn't make a man of conviction, a man of God (18:5-6).
  • Used his position as a priest to build his own ministry (18:19).
  • Created a seeker-friendly syncretistic religion which had a large following (18:20-21).
  • Practiced Canaanite religion (18:20, 31).
  • Taught generation after generation that they could depart from the Lord and remain "religious" (18:30-31).
  • Disregarded the Tent of Meeting, the celebration of Passover and all other events which occurred in Shiloh around the Tent of Meeting, deceiving Israel to believe that their worship was just as acceptable to God (18:31).
And then there was Deborah:
  • She settled disputes (4:5).
  • She was respected and revered in Israel as God's spokeswoman.
  • She guided the military affairs of Israel (4:6-7).
  • Men responded to her leadership. She sent for Barak and he came (4:6).
  • God spoke to Deborah (4:6-7)
  • She successfully guided the military affairs of Israel (4:6, 23).
There is no question that God raises up and uses women in His kingdom purposes. It seems that He does so in the worst of times (Miriam, Esther, Ruth & Naomi, Huldah, etc.). The days in which we live should be considered in the 'worst of times' category. What can we expect in our day? Men like Jonathan, with their "theological pedigrees", thrive during the worst of times; they flourish and lead many astray. God will raise up unlikely men and WOMEN, like Deborah, to stand in the leadership gap.

The question then begs to be asked: Are you the kind of woman that God can use? Are you Word-centered? Do you have the wisdom of God on your life? Do you have great faith in God's ability? Are you respected by the men in your life? Can God entrust others to you?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Judges 18:1-31; Judges 3:7-4:24
  • Why were the Danites on a prowl?
  • What makes the people of Laish vulnerable to the Danites attack?
  • Describe the Danites' priest.
  • What were the Israelites doing in the first sin cycle that led them to subsequent oppression?
  • How long do the Israelites experience oppression and peace after their deliverance in the first sin cycle?
  • How long does the oppression last in the second cycle before Israel cries out to God?
  • How long do they experience peace before the next sin cycle begins?
  • During the third sin cycle God raises up a woman to judge Israel and a foreign woman to slay the enemies' king. Describe the extent of Deborah's role as judge.
  • What does the women's role in Israel teach you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask God to prepare you and others for useful service to Him in difficult days.