Summary: A sermon on the how the world today resembles the world during the time of Judges. i.e. where everyone did their own thing and followed false gods.
It’s good to have you here today. I am glad you all braved the snow, the terrible weather. I have a question for you. Did Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow or not? Not. Now that’s a good thing, right? Because that means early spring. Well, that’s good. Anyway, today we are going to be talking about worship again. When we think about worship in Bellevue Christian Church, we mean Christ-centered worship. Worship that is focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that as we exalt Christ up, as we lift Christ up, that all men and women will be drawn to the Father, will be drawn to the Father through Christ. So we are a Christ-centered church. One thing that we know, though, is that all throughout history, people have not been focused on worshiping God. Or they were focused on worshiping God and, for some reason, they have strayed from the worship of God and the result being a lot of spiritual and moral decay.
Today, we are going to look at the Book of Judges because Judges actually gives a nice picture of what I would refer to as a cycle of disobedience. Some of you know the story of Judges. Basically, it chronicles a time between the conquest of Canaan, when the Jewish people came into the Promised Land, and then about 400 years which ended in the establishment of Kings. We think about Judges we think about courthouses and things like that. These Judges were really military rulers but they were referred to as Judges because they would make decisions on things. Anyway, they entered into the Promised Land, and the first thing they were supposed to do, the Israelites, was to get rid of all the pagan gods because the Canaanites had a way of worshiping a lot of different gods, but they didn’t do that. They got a little bit lazy. They quit following the God of Yahweh, the God of Creation, and they began to turn to other Gods, resulting in sin.
I think the best way to explain this is by a graphic that I think kind of shows what is going on in the Book of Judges. This constant, what I would call, cycle of disobedience. It starts really with just complacency. Again, they were worshiping the God of creation when they entered into the Promised Land, but like a lot of people, they became complacent. They fell into idol worship, which as we will talk about, is a form of sin. Oftentimes what would happen, especially we see in Judges, God would give some sort of a judgment on the people, which often involved allowing the enemies to come in and bring their military in and destroy a lot of the people, kill people and that sort of thing. Then what would happen was the people would cry out and they would repent. They would turn from their ways. They would go back to God. He would deliver them. He would reach down and basically free them from the hands of their oppressors by sending in a new judge, and then there would be a period of peace restored where everything would go fine for a few years, and then they would get complacent again, and the cycle would begin again. That is really a picture of what is going on in Judges.
In today’s reading out of Judges 17:1-13, to me we see a picture of how bad things often got when they were in this cycle of sin or cycle of disobedience. I am going to read through Judges 17:1-13, and then I’ll come back and try to put it in a modern context. Reading from the New International Version Judges 17:1-13. (Scripture read here.)
Now there are a lot of problems in this particular passage. This is a very strange passage. One that I actually forgot even existed. It is an interesting story. To quickly summarize what is going on here, again you have a point in history where people have gotten complacent and are falling back into sin. They are all surrounded by these different gods out there, and so you’ve got this blending of the God of Israel blending with all these other different gods out there. So the story goes this mother, this lady apparently had some silver stolen, 1,100 shekels which I guess is equivalent to about 28 lbs of silver, which I am not sure what the equivalent today is. But she had the silver stolen and, as pagan people often did, she puts a curse out on the person who stole the silver, not knowing that the person who stole the silver was her very son. Somehow the word got out to Micah that the mother had put a curse on him, so he returns back and goes back to the mother, admits that he had stolen the silver, and the mother is upset now because she knows she has placed a curse on the person who stole the silver. In an effort to reverse the curse, you have to invoke a blessing on that person. What she does, she invokes a blessing on him and gives him 200 shekels of silver, which is equivalent to about 5 lbs and takes that money and goes to a silversmith who produces a nice silver cast idol. As we know, that is not a good thing to do. In fact, it is a violation of several laws that are found in the Old Testament starting with out of the Book of Exodus where it says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:14) You just don’t do that. It is a violation of the decree that every good Jewish person was brought up to recite, which was known as the Shema. The Shema basically just means “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The reason that these laws were so important was because God knew that they were going to go into a foreign land that was going to be occupied by all these people who followed all the pagan gods, in particular the Canaanite gods which included a sun god, a god of the sky, a god of the river, and included gods of livestock. It included a number of fertility gods, gods of agriculture. All these gods were there, so they had to know that when they come into this land, there were no other gods out there. There was one God. That is who you need to keep your focus on. As we see, we see how bad things had gotten because Micah had just lost that focus. He became complacent and his mother and began to follow other gods. He set up this little shrine basically in his house. Not just one god, but several gods there. And to make matters worse, what he did was he got his hands on a priest who helped administer his little chapel, his little shrine. Not just any priest but a Levite priest. The Levites were supposed to be dedicated to be priests of the temple of God, of the One God of the universe, of creator God. Apparently he had originally started with his son as a priest and that didn’t work out, and so this Levite is coming along and he invites him to come in and administer his little shrine, and he offers to take care of him, give him a little money for food and clothing and a little salary on the side. That again is a violation of so many different laws there.