“And (Micah) said, ‘You take away my gods which I made and the priest, and go away; and what have I left? How can you say to me, what ails you?’”
Judges 18: 24
“Symbols of Power”
“Symbol – something representing something else by association, resemblance, or convention.”
What “symbols” in my life do I latch on to that hold a place of representation for something else?
“Idolatry is an attempt to use God for man’s purposes, rather than to give oneself to God’s service.”
Charles F. D. Moule
“There is always a danger in religion, any religion, to idolize – idolizing everything from power, pomp, doctrine, and creed to some minute detail of how a believer is to be initiated into the mystery of faith.”
Theologian from Taiwan
Poor Micah! Life from his perspective looked very good indeed. He was financially set. He had his own Levite within his family dwelling and he even had an “ephod, the teraphim, and the graven image.” These were Micah’s symbols of power – both financial and spiritual. He had literally carved out a wonderful world for himself. That is until the Danites decided to invade his settled world and turn it upside down.
The landless, pilfering tribe of Dan settled upon the novel idea of holding Micah hostage as they took his Levite along with his “idols.”
In Judges 18: 22, 23 we are informed that Micah didn’t want to stand by as his treasured possessions were torn from their place of honor and so he gathered neighbors close by and took off after the Danites. When they saw Micah in hot pursuit, they called out, “What ails you that you come with such a company?” In other words, the Danites wanted to know why Micah was so troubled that he’d lost possession of his religious trinkets and his in-house priest.
What we find here are words we should underline and never forget for Micah’s response was this: “You take away my gods which I made and the priest, and go away; and what have I left?” (Judges 18: 24, Amplified Bible). Without the symbols of power, Micah felt he had nothing. In his case, the symbols were handmade images he had created that became the representatives of his wealth and stature. Micah felt that he was defined both physically and spiritually by the things he had. Rather than worshipping his Creator, Micah chose to worship what he, himself, had created. Without the icons and images that embodied his belief system, Micah basically was saying, “I’m nothing. I don’t have anything. I’m worthless.”
How tragic, for we too, so often, act the same way! Idol worship and the attachment we have to our little treasures, whatever they are, become the yardstick by which we measure our personal value. We must never forget that the story of Micah is not reflective of a belief-system that was held only in the hearts of the Canaanites. Instead, this was a creed that defined the lives of many of God’s children.
As I studied the lives of Micah and his mother these past few days, I began to contemplate how their philosophy so easily creeps into my life, too.
As you reflect on your own life, what are the symbols that you hold tightly in your hands, those idols or images, that if taken away would cause you or me to cry out like Micah, “What have I left?” William Stringfellow calls idols anything that are “imposters of God.”
In Agenda for Biblical People, author Jim Wallis noted that the images we “idolize” may be “things, ideas, persons, or institutions exalted and worshipped as gods.” He continues by explaining that, “idolatry denies the place of God as the giver of life and the author of salvation, and dehumanizes people by making them pay homage to objects not deserving of worship.”
How sad that God’s children fell so low that without images made by human hands, they felt they had lost their personal worth and had no value in their own eyes.
Not long ago, my husband, Jim, was having a conversation with an acquaintance who has poured a great deal of his money through the years into a significant collection of expensive and exotic automobiles. This gentleman made this comment to Jim. “My cars define who I am – successful and accomplished. What I own shows off my good taste.”
Before we become too critical of this worldly viewpoint, let’s turn the mirror around and look at ourselves through heaven’s spiritual lense. How often do our images of impressive churches, stupendous musical extravaganzas, and institutional longevity, replace the “still small voice” of God’s spirit that draws us to a life of faith and dependence on the Man of Galilee who asks us to give up all that hinders or loads us down and to follow Him, unencumbered by the weight of the images we have come to depend on – those symbols that represent the power we mistakenly think give credence to our lives.
After studying the life of Micah and his mother, and realizing the load they carried as they carved out images with their own hands, the words of Jesus appear in stark contrast for they bring the relief you and I long for. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28, K.J.V.).
“Lord, bestow on me two gifts,
--to forget myself
--never to forget thee.
Keep me from self-love, self-pity, self-will
in every guise and disguise
nor ever let me measure myself by myself.
Save me from self,
my tempter, seducer, jailer;
corrupting desire at the spring,
closing the avenues of grace,
leading me down the streets of death.
Rather, let my soul devote to thee
its aspirations, affections, resolutions.
Let my mind look unto thee
in all its searchings, shinings, certitudes.
Let my body work for thee
with its full health and abilities.
Let thy love pass
into the depth of my heart,
into the heart of my prayers,
into the heart of my whole being;
So that I desert myself
and dwell and move in thee
in peace, now and evermore.”
- Eric Milner-White
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