Monday, January 24, 2011
a classic path to apostasy
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
This telling little verse reiterates four different times in the book of Judges when Israel's deterioration is attributed to a lack of leadership. This verse tells me what an autonomous worldview gives a society. Individual choice and absolute "freedom" prevailed, even under repeated oppression by the Canaanites around Israel. The book of Judges ends with the religious and moral entropy that resulted from people doing what each person thought was right.
Judges 17 tells the story of Micah. He is a thief and a liar. But somehow, when he confessed to robbing his own mother (!) his mother was so taken with his confession that she devotes the returned sum of silver (which was a very large amount) to the creation of an idol. Micah immediately sets up shop with a competing religious system. He hires a Levite to come serve as his "priest", which in his mind lends God's legitimacy to his idolatry, and begins profiting from his idolatry. He is so twisted in his thinking that he actually attributes the levite's willingness to serve as priest as a blessing from God (Judges 17:13).
Our society has magnified individual choice. We are taught to be self-made men, to value personal rights, and to think things through for ourselves. Not everything about those values is wrong... if we do them from a framework where obedience to a Holy God guides them. But when a Christian worldview does not provide safeguards, you end up with something very like the situation here in Judges. Sinners tend to make sinful personal choices. Selfishness marks our self-made values. Left alone, without any input from God, we will create moral chaos, and we are so spiritually stupid, we may not even realize it! That is what happened to Micah. He made of his sin an idol. He saw the idol and the religious system he personally created around it as part of the provision of God Himself.
The sad thing is that Micah had probably convinced himself that his idol was a representation of Yahweh. In his view, he WAS worshipping God. But he had no category of holiness by which to gauge his life except his own experience. That is what happens when we don't have the Word of God help frame our worldview. It is a classic path to apostasy.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13