Judges 17&18: Focus on the Family
The last chapters of Judges are not in chronological order, but are similar to an appendix or footnotes, where the author shares episodes in Israel’s history that illustrate her corruption. I have entitled this lesson- ‘ focus on the family’ for two reasons: (1.) We will focus on one family in the story in these two chapters. And , (2.)- I want us to ‘focus on the family’ because it is obvious from creation, that God’s focus is on the family. Family is an institution created by God from the very beginning with Adam and Eve. In doing so God made the family the foundation of our society. God created three major institutions: family, church and government. In fact, the church and government were created for the benefit of the family. And of course since God’s focus is on the family- guess who else is focused on the destruction of the family? Our enemy- the devil.
The foundation of our society and all societies is the family unit. If this foundation crumbles- the whole society caves in on itself. The moral fabric our society is being ripped apart by the enemy. There is a great attack on our families. Look at our divorce rates, abortions, and child abuse. Then the redefining of God’s very definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The enemy knows that if you destroy the family unit, the nation will go also.
How did God start all of mankind? God began with a simple plan- called ‘ family.’ In the beginning God created a man and a woman and He told them to have children and to fill up the earth. God started with a family, not with the church, the tabernacle, government or the nation Israel. It was a simple plan, each generation was to pass on their faith in God to their children. This is the reason God takes the time to show us genealogies in the Bible, they are a part of His overall plan.
As the population grew ,we saw the believers in Jehovah and the ungodly became separated. The ungodly grew greater in number and influence and pressed the people to conform to their world view. Until by Genesis 6 we have only one family left who have faith in God Almighty- the family of Noah. Noah had obviously passed on his faith in God to his sons and their wives. They were saved from the flood and God started over again with one family. But as Noah and his family multiplied and filled the earth- the numbers of the wicked grew rapidly again and soon the earth was filled with all types of wickedness. False gods were served and represented by idols. Sexual immorality and violence filled the earth.
When the family unit- fails- there is confusion. Confusion in the home, confusion in the ministry and confusion in society. Elected officials will reflect the will of the people- so confusion reigns in all of the major institutions. The results will be increased crime ,sexual immorality, sexual abuse and violence . Today sex and violence are the themes of Hollywood that bring in millions of dollars at the box office and influence behavior world- wide. Art imitates life and life imitates art.
Once again in Genesis we see God use a father and his family in the story of Abraham. First Abraham is called to come out of the society in which he lives- a picture of our separation. Abram moved out of the region of the Ur of Chaldees. It was a land and culture of man-made religions, false gods, wickedness and idolatry. God wanted Abram to leave that behind. Later Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, would pass on the faith of his grandfather and father, Isaac, to his family and the nation of Israel would grow out this one man’s family.
Now in today’s story we see household idols,carved images in this family’s home. Micah and his mother do not worship Dagon, they call upon the Lord. But as we will see it is a ‘lord’ of their own making. Watch how easily the 10 Commandments are broken without any remorse or guilt.
The family is a unit of manageable size where God has set up an order and instructions to follow. Every family is a potentially holy family. Listen to these ancient words of wisdom from God in how the family is to operate and the father is to lead: “ Hear O Israel, The Lord your God the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them upon your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.” ( Deut. 6) We realize God created His laws to govern and instruct the family in the way they are to go.
God then instructs them and warns them to be careful as they experience material success : “ When the Lord your God brings you into a land He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you- a land with large , flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant- then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of slavery.” ( Deut. 6)
Do we not live in houses filled with all kinds of good things? God is giving the Israelites and us instructions on how to live as a family unit. How to avoid materialism- how to raise our children to fear the Lord. Recognizing all good things come from Him. Or are we prone to forget the Lord Our God who brought us out of the slavery of sin?
Micah’s mother evidently lives with him. He has stolen 1100 shekels of silver from her. A child stealing from his mother for his own use. She utters a curse on the thief,not realizing it is her own son. Micah evidently fears his mother’s curse and confesses he stole the money. Look at her response: “ The Lord bless you ,my son!” I believe she just used the Lord’s name in vain, didn’t she. She asked the Lord to bless sin- the sin of stealing.
When she received the money back, the shekels of silver- she decided to make an idol out of 200 shekels of silver .One of the main ways a silversmith made money in those days was by making idols. We have not changed that much today- in fact we use to go to a place called ‘ Goldsmiths’ to buy some idols for our homes, didn’t we? These shekels of silver were made into an image and the idol was put in Micah’s home. His home was a shrine for idols. In fact, they had made an idol out of money, literally. Another commandment is broken.
The Canaanites had a worship centers in their homes. They each had a shrine with their carved idols of Baal and Ashtoreth. They had temples also- but the strength of the Canaanite religion was in the family unit- in the home. If they had magazines in those days- a popular magazine would have been- “ Southern Canaanite Living.’ God knew his people would be tempted and influenced by the culture they lived in to conform.
Now you begin to realize why God gave the 10 Commandments to His people before entering this pagan land. He knew of the practices of the Canaanite religion. He knew they had shrines with carved images and idols in their homes. So God gave them these commandments- for the family. “ Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” And the second command: “ You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or on earth or beneath the waters.: ( Exodus 20) He was speaking to families and what they were to do and not do in their homes in their families.
Why did God give them the Sabbath day? “ Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The one day they did not work was a day to worship the Lord as a family. In fact, when we were growing up- all businesses were closed on Sunday, weren’t they? No movie theaters, grocery stores, or department stores were open. Today, it is just another day in the USA. What about adultery? Adultery causes divorces and tears families apart. “ Thou shall not commit adultery.” Lying, stealing, murder- all protect the family. Most murders are committed by family members, relatives or people who know each other. And of course- : Honor your father and mother’ was to protect and tie the family unit together.
We find instructions for the family all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Psalm 78 says: “ ..what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide from our children, we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel when He commanded our forefathers to teach their children so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born and they in turn would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but keep all His commands.” Do you now see why the enemy wants to revise the history of our country and our forefathers’ faith?
From generation to generation we are to do this. Parents and grandparents. What we see in Judges is what happens when there is no king and everyone does what is right in their own eyes.
Now in this story we see Micah and his mother have a ‘lord’ of their own making, for obviously He is not the Lord God Almighty who gave the 10 Commandments which they break so easily.
The desire to worship images is really the desire to shape and revise God spiritually to fit our lifestyle and culture. When we selectively filter out those parts of God’s character which are revealed in Scripture dealing with His judgment of sin- we are shaping a God that we are comfortable with- not realizing He is a Holy God who cannot tolerate sin. He had rather dispense His grace, mercy and love- but be not deceived God is not mocked. God will judge sin. Often you will hear this comment from people who have devised their own God. ‘ I don’t believe in a God like that- the God I believe in- is loving and kind and merciful. Not a God of wrath and judgment’. This is homemade religion and a god of your own making. And it is no God at all.
Our culture today is deceived into believing we are progressing in our discovery of science, psychology, medicine and no longer need the God of this ancient book to tell us what is right and wrong. We can no longer accept a God who forbids this and that- calling it sin. What we are really saying is : our culture’s distaste for what God calls wrong means we must drop it. We must have a God that fits our culture’s definition of what is right and wrong. We will determine and define what a family unit is- not God.
God also revealed what worship was to be about. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and later the temple were to be a place where God was present in the glory cloud. This is where worship was conducted for the community of families and where sacrifices were made and His Word was taught. But the home is where the revealed God of Scripture is to be honored and taught from parents to children.
Micah and his mother did not submit to the authority of God’s Word. Their home was a place of religious and moral confusion. Money was their god. The confusion resulted in a child who lied to his parent and stole from his mother.
The devil knows that if you destroy the family , the nation will fall also. He has attacked the family since the Garden of Eden. He does not want a society of families who adhere to God’s instruction given in His Word. So he attacks the Word of God. Today our government has banned the Bible from our schools. Vance Havner said : “ We shouldn’t worry because the government won’t allow children to have Bibles in school. They’ll get free Bibles when they go to prison.” Isn’t it something – the government will not allow Bibles in the public schools, but will give them away to prisoners in prison.
Our prisons are overcrowded to the extent- our government does not know what to do. If every family would make Christ the head of the home and it was reinforced in the public schools- I believe we would see our crime rate plummet. “ Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” ( Psalm 127)
When there is confusion in the home, because God is not head it will create confusion in the ministry. Watch what Micah does next. Verse 5 tells us ‘Micah had a shrine in his home, and he made an ephod and some idols and installed his son as priest. In those days Israel had no king; and everyone did as he saw fit.’ When the Only One and True God is not head- the confusion will lead to confusion in the ministry, the church becomes a place where the ‘preacher’ preaches a gospel that fits the culture and a god of their own making who wants everyone to be happy and successful.
In fact we see in today’s lesson, a young Levite came to Micah’s house in the hill country of Ephraim. Micah asks him: “ Where are you from? I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I’m looking for a place to stay.”
Micah hires him to be the priest of his home and he will pay him and give him a place to live. Look at Micah’s reasoning: “ Now I know the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.”
We want God to bless us, don’t we? People want a preacher to tell them what to do to be blessed by God. This Levite was a hireling, not a shepherd. He would preach and teach what his congregation wanted to hear. He would preach the prosperity gospel that was not restrictive and demanding in obedience- but fit their lifestyle and culture. Micah reveals what his goal is: the purpose of his religious efforts is to get access to God so that he can get God to do what he wants God to do. Make him successful and happy. This is just the opposite of the purpose of true faith. True faith is to give God access to your heart so that God can get you do what He wants.
Now in the continuation of this story in Judges 18 we meet some desperate Danites seeking a place of their own. The chapter starts with what is really their motive- ‘ in those days Israel had no king- so they are seeking something to make their own, as everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They are seeking something- because they have restless hearts. We all suffered from restless hearts before we found the Lord, always seeking something to make us happy.
When they come to Micah’s home- they found a man like them who seems to have it made. He has his own shrine, idols and even his own Levite priest. The Danites were covetous and decided to take what they saw there in Micah’s home.
Coming back with a force of 600 men- they took Micah’s carved image, his ephod and other household gods and the priest as well.
Micah confronts them over their theft. However, since they outnumber him, Micah can do nothing. Listen to his comment: “ You took my gods I made and my priest, and went away. What else do I have?”
If your career is your idol, your god, that which gives your life meaning and purpose- guess what? Someday you career will end. If it is your looks, guess what- age will take those away. Whatever you choose to make your god besides the True and Living God of the Bible- something or someone will take away your god. Micah said you have taken my gods- I have nothing. When you have Jesus Christ, there is nothing or no one can who take Him away from you. He is the One and Only True God who will never be taken away from you. Jesus will never leave you or depart from you.
Many a professional athlete has found their life void and empty after age has eroded the skills that made them famous, admired and wealthy. Pistol Pete Maravich found such a void in his life after his career in basketball ended, he did not know what to do with himself. He dabbled in the occult, drugs, became a vegetarian, took karate, practiced yoga and explored the existence of UFO’s. He finally found what could never be taken away from him- Jesus Christ. Pistol Pete discovered what the Apostle Peter discovered: “ To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we know and believe you are the Holy One of God.” ( John 6)
When we find Jesus- we find the blessing we were searching for. We will then experience his blessing when we say to Jesus: Jesus without you- I have nothing. You are my everything.
In 1982 Pistol Pete Maravich became a Christian. He began to travel the country sharing his new found faith in Jesus Christ. Pete told audiences his story and said in a few years before his death: “ I want to be remembered as a Christian, a person who serves Him to the utmost. Not as a basketball player.”
On January 5, 1988, while playing a pick up game of basketball, Pistol Pete had a heart attack and was dead at the age of 40. It was discovered Pete was born with only one coronary artery instead of two.
On the day he died, he was playing with a group that included, James Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family.
Here is the very important principle we are missing today in the USA: The family is the very heart of God’s plan.
Fathers and mothers make the mistake of placing more emphasis on being a provider of income and thus their careers consume valuable time away from their families.
We must focus on our families- it is God’s plan.