Summary: Religion is cheap. Those who seek to perpetuate religion will sell the Faith for a pittance. The message calls on the faithful to distinguish between those seeking a job in the ministry and those who are appointed by God to minister.

“Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 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. And Micah said to 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.’ 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. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.’” [1]

Warriors do not fight war tomorrow, though they must prepare for tomorrow’s war; the battles a warrior fights are today. Those who now contend earnestly for the Faith lay a foundation for future generations through their struggles against wickedness; but these present warriors cannot compel the faith of those who follow. The Master instructs disciples who follow in His steps, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” [MATTHEW 6:34b]. Each generation must defend and advance the Faith in their own generation.

It is amazing how quickly the benefits of a godly heritage can be squandered. Our natural assumption is that the child of a recognised religious leader would stand firmly with the truth espoused by the father. However, history seems often to disprove what we imagine to be the case; it is rare that a child or a grandchild thrust into the religious limelight of a father or a grandfather will hold to the same standard that the father or grandfather held.

In the text before us today, we meet a Levite—underscore that fact in your mind. He is told, “Be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes.” The decision this man made is the basis for our study. The story should serve as a warning for all believers. Religion is cheap! I repeat—religion is cheap. Despite the fact that one may pay dearly in order to have it, religion has scant value, certainly nothing of eternal worth. Religion is what we do in a vain effort to compel God to accept us or to ignore our sinful behaviour. It is significant to note that God calls us to relationship and not to religion. The message this day reviews the drift of one individual into religion and the impact his drift had on a nation. I pray that understanding what happened will serve to warn us from the identical drift.

BEGINNING AT THE END — “The people of Dan set up the carved idol for themselves. Jonathan (son of Gershom and grandson of Moses) and his descendants were priests for Dan’s tribe until the people living in that land were taken captive” [JUDGES 18:30, GOD’S WORD]. I deliberately read this verse from a contemporary translation to make a point. The man we are about to meet was Moses’ grandson—yes, that Moses! Moses, the great emancipator of the Jewish nation, who gave the world the Pentateuch, the Law and the customs that marked a nation as identified with the LORD God.

The English Standard Version that I use reads, “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” [JUDGES 18:30]. “The son of Moses” was undoubtedly the original reading. Gershom is identified as the son of Moses in Exodus [see EXODUS 2:22; 18:3]. Jewish scholars could not bear to think that a grandson of Moses should act in such an ungodly fashion. Owing to their reverence for the text they did not venture to alter it outright, but they inserted a small n above the line between the consonants m and š, thus turning “Moses” into “Manasseh,” which they regularly read.

The fact that this Jonathan, the grandson of Moses, is said to have been of the family of Judah [JUDGES 17:7] may be explained by supposing that the Levites, having no territorial possessions of their own, were for some purposes merged into the tribes in which they sojourned. The descendants of the Levite, it is noted, ministered in unbroken succession at the sanctuary of Dan till the Exile. [2] Regardless of how this scribal distortion was introduced, the text is precise in identifying this young man as “a Levite” who had lived in Bethlehem in Judah [see JUDGES 17:9].

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