“Then Micah said to him, ‘Live with me and be my father and priest, and I’ll give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes and your food’…and Micah said, ‘Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.’”
Judges 17: 10-13
New International Version
“Wealth, Power and Authority”
“We can love the world, or love God. If we love the world, there will be no room in our heart for the love of God. We cannot love both God, who is eternal, and the world, which is transitory.”
What person or thing has “authority” over my life?
“Unless there is within us, that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.”
Peter Taylor Forsyth
“Nothing is more contrary to a heavenly hope than an earthly heart.”
When I was in college and chose to take a class on Comparative Religions, my study led me to some advice from a theologian who had a doctorate in Old Testament History from the University of Chicago. He noted that when someone studies the Bible, they need to always try, with God’s help, to keep the “big picture” in mind. By the “big picture” he was referring to the heavenly view that God sees, rather than the earthly view that you and I are focused on.
I find this to be very wise advice when delving into the nuggets of truth God has for us in a book like Judges. When I’ve read the Bible through in the past, I have much too frequently found myself drawn to books like the Psalms or the book of John. But Judges – why in the world would I read about Jephthah’s daughter if I needed to be encouraged or uplifted? Yet, we found during our time reflecting on this girl’s life, that her story gives us one of the most inspiring visions of female friendship and encouragement found in the Bible. The entire book of Judges so far has been like opening a treasure chest packed full of valuable wealth from heaven’s storehouse. This is why the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable (II Timothy 3: 16).
Judges, chapters 17-21 are no different. As we began our study over the past few days, it became clear that alliances which tried to mix the holy with the unholy were not only forbidden by God, but brought disaster into the lives of God’s children. While the alliances between the Israelites and the nations in Canaan usually began as intermarriage or business transactions, we found that soon, these seemingly convenient arrangements penetrated the protective barriers, the hedges, that God had designed to shield His children from invasion by the unhallowed.
Yesterday, we found that the worship of God had been so degraded that even within the homes of God’s children, molten images became the gods they bowed down to.
With the adoration of God degraded to the point of idol worship within the Israelites’ private dwellings, it didn’t take long before the worship of God by the spiritual leaders, also hit a low point. This is what our text for today tells us happened.
As I read this text and the passages that follow, there are three words which give us the “big picture” as to what God wants us to learn from this situation:
Word 1: “Wealth – The abundance of valuable material possessions or resources.”
“We all bow down before wealth. Wealth is that which the multitude of men (and women) pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. It is an homage resulting from a profound faith that with wealth he (she) may do all things.”
Word 2: “Power – The ability or capacity to exercise control over others.”
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely … There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
Word 3: “Authority – The right and power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, and determine and judge.”
“Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.”
Over the next few days we will uncover the ways in which the mis-use of wealth, the abuse of power and the exploitation of misguided authority brought down the spiritual pillars that were placed by God to uphold His people and allow them to serve as a beacon of light to the nations that surrounded them.
Simply put, through what was once looked at as harmless and common associations and intermingling; to the intrusive pollution of the family lives of the Israelites; came the inevitable toppling of the spiritual structures. The wrong use of money, power and authority, even vanquished the Levites. God’s chosen tribe, set aside and called to be the spiritual leaders, became tainted by the lure of money, the intoxication of power and finally they usurped the authority that belonged to God and not to themselves.
Here’s the tragedy I find so heartbreaking about the stories in Judges. How little we have learned from the records God left to protect and guide us on our earthly journey. If we had really taken to heart the instruction found in the pages of Scripture, the scandals that so often upend our own lives and the lives of religious leaders today, would not have been repeated.
Tomorrow, we will take a bold look at how an unholy imbalance in wealth led to an immoral response. Then we’ll study how the abuse of spiritual power was even more destructive than the abuse of secular power. All these lessons have been left for our admonition – so we will avoid the pitfalls that impeded the way of God’s children in the past and led them into destruction.
“You can in no manner be satisfied with temporal goods, for you were not created to find your rest in them.”
Thomas à Kempis
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
Be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord;
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower;
O raise thou me heavenward, great power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart
O sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
High king of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun
O grant me its joys after vict’ry is won;
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be thou my vision, O ruler of all.”
(translated by Mary Bryne (1880-1931), versified by Eleanor Hull (1860-1935)
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