The above is a phrase that is often heard in Evangelical Christian circles. It is one of those sayings that you could forgiven for thinking that there was actually a verse of Scripture. But there is a section of the book of Judges that makes me think of that phrase. The chapters in question are 17 and 18, but it is only at the end, when the punch line is given that one will see why. So be patient if you are unfamiliar with these chapters.
I could also say that this post is one of an occasional unofficial series on parts of the Bible or Bible characters you rarely, if ever, hear preached on. Chapter 17 starts with a man called Micah who admits to his mother that he has stolen a load of her silver. When he returns the silver, she decides to “dedicate it to the Lord” by commissioning an idol to be made out of it. Obviously not getting the memo that idolatry was forbidden. He then compounds this by appointing his son as a priest. This is summed up by verse 6 which states that “in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” A verse that is often quoted without its context. Then its gets worse when a Levite turns from Bethlehem and Micah then appoints him instead. At which point (chapter 18) the Danites who were given land to settle along the Mediterranean coast where the Philistines lived decided, after Samson died, to call it quits and find somewhere where the natives were more conquerable. They sent out a party to search out possible victims and they headed northward and passed through the territory of Ephraim where Micah lived. As they passed Micah’s shrine they enquired of the Levite who they recognised because they living amongst the people of Judah in the meantime. He told them their journey would be successful. It was, and after they duly reported back an expedition was mounted to wipe out the people of Laish which would be renamed Dan. On the way the Danites steal Micah’s Idol, but the Levite woke up and tried to stop them. But they said that if he went with them he could be the priest to a whole tribe, he then agreed and went with. Micah and his neighbours tried to chase after them but had to back down when they realised how badly they were outnumbered. So the Danites went on their way and succeeded in conquering Laish and duly set up Micah’s idols with the Levite as their priest. But the identity of this Levite is then revealed as Jonathan, son of Gershom, the son of Moses.
The first time you read through the book of Judges this hits you like a punch in the stomach. You think how could the grandson of Moses be so stupid as to officiate in idol worship. Now if you are a first generation Christian you might think so what? But for those who have been brought up in Christian families who can trace back a long line of believers it is troubling to think that family traditions could so quickly be abandoned. However, it is worthy to note that the motive that drove Jonathan the Levite to compromise was money, Micah promised to pay him, and then status when the Danites offered to make him the priest of their tribe, no doubt with commensurate reward. Sound familiar?
Unless a preacher is charged with systematically goes through the Book of Judges he is unlikely to choose to preach from these chapters, because there is no feelgood message that can be drawn this passage. Though it is possible to learn from these episodes as a warning as to how easy it is to go astray. As Paul said all Scripture is God-breathed.
David Rose, 2021.