The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
- We have looked at all of the judges, all twelve of them from Othniel to Samson. We come now to the last five chapters of the book of Judges, chapters 17-21.
- Bible teachers believe that the events described in these five chapters occurred early in the period of the judges (cf. Ussher's dates in Scofield Bible). The writer of the book of Judges (Samuel?) put these events together as a sort of appendix to the book to show how wicked the people had become.
- The days of judges were days of lawlessness (cf. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). There are no king. There was no strong leader. There was no royal authority.
- Consider Judges 18:7 — "there was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame in any thing."
- They were shameless. This shamelessness is seen in Judges 17 in the story of Micah (not the prophet) and his man-made religion. It is seen in chapter 18 in the story of the tribe of Dan and their apostasy and idolatry.
- It is seen in chapter 19 in the story of the wicked sodomites who raped and killed the Levite's concubine.
- In fact it is seen all throughout the book of Judges. "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (17:6).
- It was an age of lawlessness. There was no obedience or conformity to the Word of God. Tese chapters vividly describe the darkness, the degradation, and the debauchery which resulted from their rebellion against God's law.
- It was a time of apostasy, lawlessness, and anarchy. The Scofield Study Bible refers to it as a time of "confusion". In other words, it was a time very much like today. We have a mayor here in NY who supports "gay marriage".
- We have a Supreme Court that finds a constitutional right to abortion, buggery, and who knows what else. America needs to get back to God. Studying the book of Judges shows us how wicked men can be when they disobey the Word of God.
- Let us start out by noting that Micah was a thief (17:1, 2). He stole from his mother. Although he professed to be a religious man, and he maintained a house full of idols, he was nothing but a thief.
- There are many religious people that are nothing but no-good thieves. Consider the "Reverend" Henry J. Lyons from Florida. He was the pastor of the Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, as well as the president of the National Baptist Convention, supposedly the largest black denomination in America.
- He was a big shot in religious circle — he made a lot of money and he was friends with President Clinton (they apparently had a lot in common). Lyons had had at least four wives, numerous girlfriends, and at least one illegitimate son who is now in prison.
- Pastor Lyons received nation-wide publicity back in 1997 when his third wife, Deborah Lyons, was arrested for setting fire to a home after she discovered her husband had purchased it with another woman, Bernice Edwards.
- That arson set in motion two years of revelations about his financial dealings using the convention's name. The arson charges launched an investigation of Lyon's use of his leadership role with the NBC to finance a luxurious lifestyle, which included a Rolls-Royce, two Mercedes-Benzes and gifts for his mistresses.
- Officials estimate that he stole $4 million from the convention. He swindled money from companies that wanted to market life insurance, credit cards and cemetery plots to his convention members. Prosecutors said Lyons padded the convention's mailing list with names randomly selected from phone books across the country.
- In 1999, he was convicted of racketeering and grand theft, as well as fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced for five years to a prison near Ocala, Florida.
- For a while his church members debated whether or not their pulpit should be left open for Lyons or filled by someone else. Eventually they decided to call another religious con man by the name of Joaquin Marvin. Mr. Marvin had been arrested and convicted for various crimes, including forgery, petit larceny, passing bad checks, possession of crack and marijuana, shoplifting, assault, weapons possession, and violating his probation.
- The assistant pastor at Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church, a Pastor Harvey told a newspaper reporter, "There wasn't anything in his background that we felt was detrimental to Bethel." That is an amazing statement!
- Marva Dennard, a longtime member of Bethel Metropolitan, supported the new pastor. She said, "How can you talk to these young people about what's out there if you don't know about it? How can you talk to these kids about jail if you haven't been there? The man is just awesome, and I am just so happy to have this man as my pastor."
- Deacon Booker Marshall, a member of the search committee, said Marvin visited Bethel twice, "and the church received him well."
- Well, these foolish people were soon to find out that their new pastor was just as bad as their last one! It wasn't long before they fired him, and then he turned around and sued them, alleging breach of contract. He is seeking unspecified damages.
- In the response it filed to Marvin's suit, Bethel Metropolitan claims that the church had no employment contract with him and that it did have grounds to fire him. Among them, the church says Marvin physically attacked Lynda B. Smith, wife of the chairman of the deacon board. The church said Marvin also physically attacked longtime member and former City Council candidate Marva Dennard in its fellowship hall.
- Notice he attacked two women. Notice also that the second woman was the same member who thought he was "awesome" and she was so happy to have him as her pastor.
- Our story in Judges 17 took place over 3,000 years ago but it is as up to date as this morning's newspaper (cf. II Peter 2:1-3).
- This was a time of corrupt morals. Micah was a thief (Judges 17:1,2). Notice also that he only returned the money he had stolen from his mother because he was afraid of the curse she put on whoever stole it (17:2).
- Micah's returning the silver was not out any true repentance of heart. It saddens me that people claim to be sorry for what they did but in reality they are just sorry they got caught!
- Micha's mother put a curse on the theft (17:2). A cursing mother and a thieving son — what a home! Notice also the strange language she use — "Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son" (17:2b).
- But there is nothing blessed about breaking God's commandments. The 8th commandment says, "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15).
- We live in a day of shallow Christianity. People think they can receive God's blessings when they are violating His commandments.
- "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3). Like the days of the judges, we too are living in a day of corrupt morals.
- Not only was Micah a thief but his mother was a liar. In 17:3 when Micah restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, "I had wholly dedicated this silver unto the LORD from my hand to my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee."
- So Micah's mother said she was going to give the entire eleven hundred shekels but she gave only two hundred (17:4).
- Micah's mother did not raise him right. When he admitted that he stole her money, she should have rebuked him but instead she blessed him (17:2).
- Parents need to discipline their children. If children are not disciplined they will not fully realize their sin.
CORRUPT RELIGION (17:3-6)
- Judges 17 tells us that both Micah and his mother were idolaters. Not only did Micah violate the 8th commandment — "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:15), but Micah and his mother also violated the 1st and 2nd commandments.
- "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).
- "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image..." (Ex. 20:4; cf. Judges 17:3-6).
- Micah made an ephod (17:5), an apron-like garment worn by the high priest. Micah had no authority for doing this.
- Furthermore, Micah made "teraphim" (17:5), little household gods (cf. Genesis 31:19, 30) to go along with the larger gods made by the founder with his mother's 200 shekels of silver (17:4).
- Micah was establishing his own religion. This is how false religions get started. This was religious confusion!
- What about today — the RC homosexual priest scandal, the crazy charismatics like Benny Hinn and the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the strange cults like the Mormons and the JW'S and the Moonies, the worldly rock-and-roll seeker-friendly churches, and so on — religious confusion.
- It's a miracle that anyone gets saved. Let's not forget that.
- Corrupt morals go together with corrupt religion. An idolatrous man is an immoral man. In both the OT and the NT, idolatry is referred to as "spiritual fornication."
- Countries which are noted for their idolatry are also known for gross immorality. After the recent tsunami disaster we were once again reminded of the horrible child prostitution business in that part of the world.
- But immorality is not only a problem in Buddhist and Hindu and Muslim nations, it is also prevalent in RC countries. I was reading Ian Paisley's collection of sermons from the book of Judges, and he refers to a trip he and some preacher friends took to Rome to protest the Second Vatican Council.
- "We went to Vatican Square. After the pomp and ceremony of the opening of the Vatican Council, we saw the Cardinals coming out. What else did we see? We saw the prostitutes lined up and the cardinals choosing which one they wanted. I asked the detective what this was all about and he said, 'It's the cardinals going on their honeymoon' and he laughed." But there is nothing funny about the immorality of the RC priesthood.
CORRUPT ECUMENICALISM (17:5)
- The dictionary defines the term "ecumenical movement" as a movement "promoting or fostering religious unity throughout the world" (cf. Revelation 17).
- Notice what Micah wanted to do. He wanted to put the true God of Israel ("the LORD" Jehovah — 17:13) among all his false gods. Micah was a true ecumenicalist.
- Micah probably learned all of this from his mother (cf. 17:3-6).
- The ecumenical movement is attempting to unite all the world's religions into one big organization. But true Christianity does not mix with other religions. Once you mix paganism in with Christianity, you no longer have Biblical Christianity (cf. John 14:6).
- This is how the RCC developed. They have their priesthood but it is contrary to the Word of God. In fact, they operate in defiance of God's Word.
- Judges 17:5 says Micah "consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest." But God had set apart the tribe of Levi to serve as priests in His tabernacle. Micah's family was from the tribe of Ephraim (17:1). Micah had no right to make his son a priest.
- Then later on he hired a Levite to become his priest. Notice he was from Bethlehem of Judah (17:7, 8). But the priests and Levites had been assigned specific cities in which to live. Bethlehem was not one of these designated cities (cf. Num. 35:1-8; Josh. 21:1-41).
- So we know that this young man was already out of the will of God before he even met up with Micah. He was nothing but an opportunist, and unfortunately there are many opportunists who enter the ministry for the wrong reasons.
- Then this backslidden Levite agreed to become a priest in Micah's new man-made religion. Here we see a corrupt priesthood and a corrupt religion.
- This Levite should have known better. He should have been worshipping the true God of Israel at Shiloh. That was where the tabernacle was. That was the place established by God.
- But this was a time of declension. These were the days of apostasy (Judges 17:6).
- After disobeying the clear commands of Scripture, Micah says, "Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest" (17:3; cf. Scofield's notes).
- There are many men like Micah and his priest today. They think that God is blessing them but they are deceived (17:13).
- They tell people what they want to hear rather than the truth (18:4-6).