“The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers.”
John 4:23 b-c (NET)
There is something in the human heart that draws us to seek glory, fame, money, popularity, and a number of other things. The history of mankind is filled with stories of tragedy that ensue when someone chooses to reach for the things that “glitter.” Whole nations have been destroyed by leaders who seek power by swallowing up other countries and bringing defeat on themselves and their own people. However, the majority of such stories concern the destruction of families or relationships: parents who have ignored the needs of their children to pursue other things; husbands and wives who are more concerned about fulfilling themselves than about building oneness in their marriages; pastors who have destroyed their churches by focusing on building their own kingdoms rather than the kingdom of God. This week we read a sad story which results from one man’s desire to have what glitters.
This week we begin the last of the three sections of the book of Judges. We saw the introduction in Chapters 1:1-3:6 and the stories of the judges in 4:7-16:31. Now in chapters 17-21 we read the stories of religious anarchy and moral chaos that permeate the period. This section is not chronological after the life of Samson but predates that time probably following the farewell of Joshua by only a few years. Some call it a double conclusion, just as there was a double introduction. We will study the story of the tribe of Dan this week and conclude our study of the book with the story of civil war next week.
Remember that God can use the darkest and saddest chronicles of history in order to teach us about our lives today. Paul tell us in 1 Cor. 10:11-13 that God has given us these Old Testament stories so that we learn by them: “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB) We must take these accounts seriously so that we do not fall into such darkness and incur discipline from God as they did.
Read Judges 17:1-6, and meet the main character of this story, Micah.
1. What did Micah confess and what seems to be his motive for confessing?
2. What did Micah’s mom do with the money she dedicated to Yahweh (LORD)? Read Ex. 20:4-5 and Deut. 5:8-9 and write down God’s perspective of her actions.
3. How does Rom. 1:22-23 help explain why God so condemns idols, even if they are dedicated to worshipping him?
More Light: Look up idolatry in your Bible dictionary, handbook, encyclopedia or other resource and add any additional insights that help you with this concept.
Judges 17:6 is a repeated verse and is seen again in the last verse of the book. It describes the attitude of the people of that day and is illustrated here in the story of Micah. The repetition of this same verse indicates how prevalent these attitudes were. They describe these last few chapters and the stories that we find there.
4. Write Judges 17:6 in your own way, explaining it. How do you see its truth in the mother’s actions?
5. Sharing question: Honestly consider your own attitudes. In what areas do you tend to do what is right in your own eyes rather than what God says is right? Is there an area where you give excuses for your conduct? Are there places where you ignore God’s clear standards, thinking they are outdated or minor issues?
6. Responding to God: Confess whatever God shows you to confess about your own attitude of knowing what is right more than God does. Accept his forgiveness. Write your prayer below.
Review Judges 17:1-6 and read Judges 17:7-13.
7. According to Deut. 12:1-7, 11-14, 26, what was God’s attitude toward the Jews having personal shrines in their homes?
Micah imitated the religious observances given to the Jews by God: a temple, priests who wore ephods, and ways of worship. Micah believed that he could worship the true God as he pleased.
More Light: Read more about God’s instructions for the tabernacle and the priests in Exodus 25-28.
8. Read Num. 3:1-10. (Note that Moses and his brother Aaron were from the tribe of Levi, as this priest was.) What family from among the Levites was to have the priesthood? What was the job of the other Levites?
God gave the Levites specific cities in which to live which were scattered among the land belonging to the various tribes. Bethlehem was not one of their cities.
9. Why was this Levite in Micah’s area (Jud. 17:9)? What did this and the fact that he lived in Bethlehem tell you about this Levite?
10. How did Micah think that God would respond to his religion (Jud. 17:13)?
11. Responding to God: Sit quietly before God. Read John 4:20-23 (and be sure and learn it!), considering how he wants us to worship him today. Do you worship him according to the truth of scripture? Consider ways that you may have made him into your own comfortable God. Is there any area in which have you fallen into the thinking of the culture about God? Repent of your false worship and accept his forgiveness.
12. Sharing question: Share what you saw as you sat before God.
Read Judges 18:1-2.
13. Why were the men of the tribe of Dan spying out the land?
14. Joshua had allotted this tribe land close to the Mediterranean. What happened to that land according to Judges 1:34?
The tribe of Dan was disobedient to God by not living in their allotted portion of the land of promise. It was too hard! So they looked for an easy way. They spied out this area that they were never given, looking for an easy way to get some land.
Read Judges 18:3-10.
15. What was the report of these spies about the city of Laish?
More Light: If you have a Bible atlas or some maps, try to find Laish in the northern area of the land, north of the Sea of Galilee.
Read Judges 18:11-20.
16. Consider what you learn about the Levite’s character from 17:7-13 and this passage. Write down your insights.
17. Responding to God: Are you content with the ministry that God has given you or are you looking for more recognition? Honestly evaluate your attitude before God. Are you willing to serve in your giftedness outside of the limelight? Confess what is truly in your heart before God.
18. Sharing question: Share the story of how God opened a door of ministry for you that you did not expect.
We have been looking at the story of Micah and his homemade worship of God. We read yesterday of a Levite who was more than happy to be exalted to the level of priesthood although he was not qualified according to God’s word.
Even in the church it is possible for someone to elevate themselves to a position to which God has not gifted or called them. In fact, the New Testament warns repeatedly about false teachers, who are not even true believers.
19. Read these passages and write down what you learn about false teachers and your responsibility to discern who is from God and who is not:
a. Acts 20:28-31 (Paul to the elders of the Ephesian church)
b. 2 Pet. 2:1-2; 3:17
c. Gal. 1:6-10
d. Col. 2:8
e. 2 Tim. 2:15-19
f. 1 John 4:1-3
More Light: Read all of 2 Peter 2 and write down Peter’s harsh warnings about false teachers.
20. What did Jesus teach in Matthew 7:13-23 about how to determine whether someone is a true teacher from the Lord? (Note the things that this person may be able to accomplish.)
21. Sharing question: What one step can you take this week to grow in character so that you exhibit more of Christ to others, so that your words match your actions? Be specific.
22. Responding to God: Pray for your leaders, asking God to raise up those who are mature, wise, and qualified, teaching truth. Write down your prayer below.
Today we read the end of the story of Micah in Judges 18:27-31.
23. What sort of worship did the tribe of Dan institute in the land that they conquered and how long did it last?
Once we establish systems of worship, they are difficult to overcome. Even when we attend a church with a different culture, these traditions seem to stay with us. We develop a love for them, perhaps because they represent our traditions or sense of awe. These are not necessarily false systems, but they can be. We need to see clearly to discern the nature of our worship—is it simply an alternate form of worship or does it contain elements that are not true to who God is?
24. Responding to God: Are you holding on to any form of worship that is not worship in spirit and in truth? God requires us to worship Him in truth. Ask God to show you in his word if there is anything in your practice of worship that does not conform to spirit and truth. Write down your prayer.
25. According to Judges 18:30, who was this “priest” and who were his ancestors?
This may be the saddest part of the story, the identity of this so-called priest. My Bible (NASB) identifies his ancestor in a footnote because some manuscripts read Manasseh as his ancestor.
More Light: Read what your commentaries say about Jonathan’s identity.
“To cover the fact that such a godly man could have so worthless a descendant, the scribes altered his name. . . . Godliness is not genetic.”15
Just being part of a believing faithful family does not ensure that your faith is real. The Bible is full of stories of children who do not follow in the faith of their fathers and mothers.
26. Sharing question: Is your faith as strong as your ancestors? What sort of tradition of faith do you have in your family? If you come from a family of followers of Jesus, what influences did you have that most impacted you?
27. Responding to God: If you are a mother, pray for your children to truly believe in Jesus and live for him. If you do not have children, pray for a niece, nephew or other member of the next generation. Ask God how you can be an influence in his or her life Write down your prayer below.
I grew up in a Christian home and in a very strong church that taught the Bible and I participated in the youth group, the Wednesday night activities, and the youth choir tours. I was there virtually every time the door was open and I loved my church, my friends, and the strong Bible teaching and music. I worked at a Christian camp after I graduated from high school and I went to college very excited to be going to a Christian university after having spent 12 years in public school. I was sure that this would enhance my walk with the Lord. I would finally be able to relax and enjoy school with other believers.
When I got to college, I immediately felt accepted and successful and I began to acquire recognition and honors. I gradually began to substitute this for a growing relationship with the Lord. I still went to church but the word wasn’t being taught. I prayed every day but they were short prayers of thankfulness or prayers for help or prayers of desperation. I became a double-minded person (James 1), thinking that I could worship and serve God and do my own thing at the same time. I substituted human logic for divine revelation and I lost all discernment. I used my own reasoning to sort out situations and I enjoyed the “passing pleasures” of sin. As I reached the pinnacle of the achievement track I was on, I felt totally empty inside and was truly miserable. I knew that I should be happy. I had achieved the goals that I had set. However, I had drifted away from the truth and the rest of my life had lost its meaning.
Thankfully, God prevented me from making some disastrous decisions at this time in my life. (He prevented me from marrying the wrong person by having that person decide it was not right.) Eventually, through God’s painful, loving discipline (because I was his child) I began to think through some things. He would not let me go my own way. A friend invited me to a conference taught by the top speakers at Campus Crusade for Christ. I went night after night and I realized what I had left. These bible teachers were exciting and challenging and I remembered that God’s word was “alive and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword.” I was challenged to confess sin and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It was all coming back to me. I had left my “first love” (Rev. 3). I had drifted off on my own but God called me back to himself. How grateful I am today that he would not let me go my own way. His word is truth and I cannot make up my own way to serve him or to worship him. I have to do it his way.
I still had no desire to study the Bible on my own but at least I realized what I had been missing and I now wanted to have this desire. (I had avoided Bible studies when I was having so much “fun” in college because I knew I would feel convicted.) I prayed that God would give me a desire to study his word and he has! The joy, peace, purpose, and fulfillment that I have now are the result of his working in and through my life. He has filled the emptiness that I tried to fill with position and relationships with himself. The plans I had for my life pale in comparison with what God planned. He has given me his best for me and I am still in the process of learning to trust him fully and not “lean on my own understanding.”
The story of Micah involves a poor mother and the failure of family faith.
Micah’s mother was responsible for the idolatry of her son and eventually of an entire tribe. She indicated that she believed that this was the way to worship the true God; yet, her plan was in direct contradiction to God’s word. We have such influence upon our children in every way! When you advise your children, do you know what God says on the subject or do you give your children worldly advice? Where do you get your perspectives—from the Bible or from celebrities like Oprah? Are you immersed enough in Scripture to recognize it if you hear advice contrary to that of the world?
Just as Moses’ descendant, perhaps grandson, Jonathan strayed from the faith of his family and followed what seemed right to him, so your children may also follow another god—money, success, fun, or popularity. As Gary Inrig said, “Faith is not genetic.” We are all rebels at heart whose tendency is to do what is right in our own eyes. We cannot make them believers, but we can influence them by teaching them the truth and living it out before them. Prayer is your greatest hope because only God can draw anyone to himself. He has the power to touch the hardest heart. Entrust your children and their faith to the one who made them and died for them.
15 Gary Inrig, 276.