By Lisa Huddleston
Settling in to a summer routine–or any change in my routine–is always hard for me. My semester of classes has ended along with the discipline it required. Vacation is already behind me. Now it’s just me, the chickens, cats, dog, and a long, hot summer. Discipline is much harder to maintain when it’s just me and the animals. They rather like me to be lazy and hang out on the cool porch with them, but I know there’s only so much of this kind of life I can take before I lose momentum. As Chuck says to me quite often, “Lisa, you don’t do nothing well.” And, as usual, he is right.
So I decided a good place to start this day was in the Word. I picked up my “reading” Bible and found my pencil stuffed in between Judges 16 and 17–right where my pastor’s sermon ended this past Sunday. Interesting only because this is not my “Sunday” Bible (HCSB) but my “reading” one (The Message). “Hmm,” I pondered and started reading Judges 17. A very short chapter that I almost breezed through and ignored, but then I wondered what Pastor Jim would be doing with it this coming Sunday, and I lingered. I’m glad I did.
As I considered the three short and, at first glance, unrelated stories I realized what connected them. All three demonstrate what happens when we are left to our own devices: when we have no king and do whatever we feel like doing (see 17:6). All three tell tales of misplaced values–seeking to do the right thing, but going about it in the wrong way.
The first story tells about a son returning some money that he has stolen from his mother, because he is afraid of her curse. The mother receives it joyfully and blesses her son saying, “I had totally consecrated this money to God.” So far so good. But then she adds, “For my son to make a statue, a cast god.” She then gives it to a sculptor who makes an idol for them to worship. What?!
Story number two introduces us to Micah, a man with a private chapel, an ephod, some idols, and a son whom he has ordained to serve as his priest. Okay–there’s all kinds of wrong in this story, but wait, there’s more.
The third part of this chapter tells us that a young Levite from Bethlehem shows up at Micah’s house while seeking his fortune. Micah is thrilled to accommodate him and hires the Levite to act as his “father and priest” for ten pieces of silver a year and room and board. I don’t know how Micah’s son felt about this, but the Levite moves right in and becomes a part of the family. Micah sums it up by saying, “Now I know that God will make things go well for me–why, I’ve got a Levite for a priest!”
Oh my–what was wrong with those people?
The first story is about misplaced funds. The mother has consecrated her money to God, but she ends up spending it on gods. The second story describes a man who cares a great deal about worship, but he privatizes it to such an extent that even God wouldn’t dare set foot in his “private chapel.” Misplaced worship, for sure. And, finally, story number three is a tale of misplaced trust. Micah delights in his certain security not because he trusts in God, but because he has a “Levite for a priest!”
Misplaced funds, misplaced worship, and misplaced trust. Well, “In those days there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.” Right? Quite true, and quite descriptive of our culture today.
What misplaced values am I demonstrating? Financially? In how and what I choose to worship? In whom or what I am placing my trust? I’m afraid the answers to those questions may not actually be far off from those shown in Judges 17. Certainly I too spend money on idols, I too want to worship in ways that suit me best, and I too place my trust in people or things that are not eternal and cannot really provide me with security. Ugh.
What was wrong with those people? What is wrong with me? I know that the answer to both of these questions is the same. Sin (selfishness, pride, and so on).
Glad I didn’t just breeze through this little chapter this morning after all. It was worth the second and third look, and I’m sure I’ll be pondering it for the rest of the day.
Father, be my King. Give me the desire to follow your holy ways: to spend my resources where you lead, to worship in spirit and truth, and to trust in you alone. Amen.