Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Judges

I've been reading Judges in my quiet times recently. A book, like Joshua i'd not read before, and, in the same way as when i read Joshua, it's good to be reading new parts of the Bible, to be persuing sixty-six book Christianity. Judges is probably a good place to start for people who don't think the Old Testament is relevant, or that it has nothing to say to us today. I think Judges has plenty to say.

The time of the Judges was not a great time in Israel's history, in fact, pre exile it's probably as bad as it gets. The book starts with the death of Joshua and goes downhill from there. It moves in cycles...God's people rebel, God uses foriegn kings to subdue them, God's people cry out for help, God provides a savior figure. A Judge, people like Gideon and Samson to redeem God's people and lead them back to Him. Typically as soon as that Judge dies the people return to their sinful ways, coporatly and personally. This is a salutory tale for our times, as it show the utter chaos and anarchy in society when syncretism and superstition worship of the Living God.

What i read yesterday and today, chapters 17 and 18 reflect that i think. The story goes like this. In Chapter 16, Micah steals 1100 pieces of silver from his mother, his mother invokes a curse on the unknown thief and Micah returns the money. Not, you'll note out of a feeling of guilt for stealing from his mother, but simply because he did not want to be cursed. Micah's mother then consecrates all the money to the LORD, but also gives 200 pieces of silver to a silversmith to make a carved idol. Not great so far then. Micah takes this man made 'god' and sets up a shrine to it in his house, complete with ephod and priest, his son whom he ordained.

The story then starts to get even worse, as we see the extent to which God's people are turning their back on Him. Micah comes across a Levite and asks him to be a priest in his home. Now you might expect that a Levite would have more sense...more faith than to be bought by ten pieces of silver a year and a set of new clothes. But no, he goes along with it happily enough, and serves as a 'priest' in Micah's home. Verse 13 sums it up. Micah says that he now knows the Lord will prosper him because he has a priest. What a shambles.

It gets worse.

The people of Dan are yet to gain their inheritan ce, whether through lazyness or defeat we're not told here. They send out two men to search out the land, who come across the Laish, who live quietly and well. They decide to take this peaceful people's land off them and make it thier own. On the way though they come to Micah's house and take his priest and his household gods for luck and end up destroying the Laish and setting up Micah's gods on an altar there. Half way there Micah catches up with them and complains, somewhat pathetically that they have taken away his rented priest and man made gods. Oh the irony of that complaint. Unsurprisingly the people of Dan ignore him and send him on his way.

The next chapter has the subtitle 'a Levite and his concubine' which sounds no more promising. But consider what we see here. Supersittion of the LORD's name, the syncretism of household gods and Levites, the lack of lack of faith from a man supposedly set aside for God's service, the horrible greed and faithlessness of Dan the bondage of Micah to his idols, as well as the murder of thousands of inoocent people to occupy the land that was theirs.

Israel was in a bad way. Judges is nearly over, soon Samuel will be born, then Saul, and finally David, so there is sun on the horizon. But it's a cloudy sky. The time of Judges was a time just like today, and God provided a savior for them time after time who died. Thank God that we now have a Savior who has died once and never will again. It's impossible to read Judges without reflecting on the grace of God to His people, the foolishness of faithlessness and the neccesity of a ruler over His people who will never die. Thank God than in Jesus we find eternal grace and soveriegnty...

1 comment:

thebluefish said...

So clear isn't it that we need a ruler who will stop us just doing evil and going our way. Keep reading! Be a man of the full sixty six books.