The darkest book in the Bible is the Book of Judges. Sure, it’s got the exciting stories of Gideon, Deborah, and Samson, but even those stories are set in the historical context of the Jews’ continual wandering away from God.
In the past I’ve mentioned to people some of the stories in the Book of Judges, and they were surprised. That’s in the Bible?! Stories like the dude who was so fat that when he was stabbed, “even the handle went in after the blade, and Eglon’s fat closed in over it” (Judg. 3:22). Then there’s the woman who killed a solder when “she hammered the peg into his temple and drove it into the ground, and he died” (4:21). The worst event occurs in Judges 19. I’ll let you read it for yourself, but after you read it, you’ll know why I have never ever heard a sermon or seen a Bible study on this historical event.
Why would such a story be included in God’s Word? The whole emphasis in the Book of Judges is to show how far the people of God had wandered from Him. The closing sentence of the whole book sums it up well: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him” (21:25).
It’s not that the people had totally forgotten who God is or the practices God called them to. They just followed what they wanted and ignored the rest. In other words, they practiced a form of religion that seemed right in their own eyes.
An example of this is in Judges 17. The account centers on a man named Micah and an unnamed Levite. Micah stole silver from his mother (bad move), but then confessed the crime and returned it to his mother (good move). Mom was so thankful that she said, “I personally consecrate the silver to the Lord … (another good move) … for my son’s benefit to make a carved image and a silver idol” (seriously bad move). Do you see how she distorted things? The small caps of Lord means that, in the Hebrew, she was using the name of God, Yahweh, by which He established a covenant with the people. She was not simply dedicating this in any god, but to the One true God who had spoken to them and given them the Ten Commandments—which included a prohibition against making idols!
She adapted the things of God—His name—to fit her own purposes.
Here’s where the unnamed Levite came in. The Levites were the tribe from which God’s priests came. This Levite was looking for a home, and Micah said, “Stay with me and be my father and priest, and I will give you four ounces of silver a year, along with your clothing and provisions.” And the Levite agreed! Sure, I’ll be your personal priest with this idol and false god, especially since I’ll go room, board, and a decent paycheck.
He adapted the things of God—His role as a Levitical priest—to fit his own purposes.
Micah was elated. Judges 17 closes with this statement from Micah: “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, because a Levite has become my priest.”
He adapted the things of God to fit his own purposes. Never mind the idol; Micah thought God was smiling because he had a Levite as a priest.
Judges 17 shows us religious people. There’s no doubt they were religious, but what was missing was obedience.
This dark period of Israel’s history reminds me of how dark our own history has become. As a whole, America is becoming increasingly secular, but I’m not connecting this story to all the irreligious people in our country; I’m concerned about the church.
Too many believers have equated being a Christian with being a Republican. There are many good things Republicans fight for—such as the rights of unborn children—but many Christians equate every Republican opinion, soundbite, and action as a Christian ideal.
Democratic believers do it too. Many say its Christian and biblical to love and take care of all people, and they use that as a public statement for why they support the LGBTQ+ community or want to squelch all restrictions for who enters the country.
Christians are increasingly changing their views on homosexuality because someone in the family has come out of the closet.
Christians will proudly tell you what church they attend, but they ignore God’s command for believers to regularly meet. Worship, and serve together. A third of church-goers only go to church once or twice a month at best. Another 30 percent seldom or never attend. [Source]
Christians rightfully stress the biblical stance of marriage—one man and one woman for life—but 28 percent of churchgoers have been divorced. [Source] (This is a complicated statistic because there are many instances where divorce is justified, but there are also many Christians who have adopted the culture’s lax attitude toward the issue.)
I could go on, but let me get to the point: Instead of adapting the things of God—biblical standards for ethics, morality, and obedience—to fit what seems right or preferable to us, we must adapt our opinions, actions, and lifestyles to fit God’s will, His plan, and His purposes. No other stance will do.
“If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15)
“This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, ‘I have come to know him,’ and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked” 1 John 2:3-6).
No other stance will do.
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