Bless My Idols
This is something we need to take very seriously and I think we’re naïve about our own heart and how prone we are to idolatry. John wrote:
1 John 5:21 – Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
“Dear children…” He addressed them using the most intimate of terms from the Father to children. “…keep yourselves from idols.” I think we often go over this too quickly, thinking that if we don’t have a wooden Buddha in our house that means we’re not idolaters. And yet, what is in man’s central nature, what is in him since the fall, is a tendency toward idols. It comes natural to us, to make God in our own image, to make Him conform to what our ideas are. We even do that with the message of the cross. First Thessalonians 1:8 gives is the passage that’ll ring through all of what we look at today. Men and women everywhere in churches talk about Jesus Christ and read Scripture. Yet when they’re through reading the Scriptures, they fashion the Scriptures into what they want them to mean, or apply them in a way they think they should be applied. When men look at their own hearts and examine the wickedness or the goodness there, they fashion with great effort and speed to justify themselves, condemn themselves, or condemn somebody else. They literally take the very words of God—what He has written down—and fashion those words into an idol that will be pleasing to them.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 – The Lord’s message rang out…
It wasn’t man’s message that rang out. Our lives must ring out of Jesus within us, so people can see a difference and a distinction because the cross is crucifying us. The people of Jesus’ time said He wasn’t like the Pharisees or Sadducees because He taught with authority. There was something different about His character. He wasn’t a religious man; He wasn’t someone who just knew Scriptures. The way He applied the scriptures, the way He presented them, and showed the power in which He spoke was different from all the religious leaders of His time. When you consider the number of Pharisees there are today, how many churches we have, the number of people that claim to be Christians, and even in our own body, how easy it is for us to take on Scriptures and yet it’s not the Lord’s message that is ringing out. It’s our opinions and ideas of what we want Jesus to be that rings out.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 – The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.
This kind of faith is different than idolatry of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “Therefore, we do not need to say anything about it.”
There is a distinction, a quality, a fragrance of Christ, that transcends arguments, positions, doctrines, justifications, and excuses. Their life declares that the living God must be in each of them. Most people that I know who want to keep their sin spend most of their time defending that sin, so what rings out from them is the justification of who they are. Every scripture they use is to fashion their Jesus into their own image.
1 Thessalonians 1:9 – …for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us.
The contrast we will look at today is the difference between a God who is alive forming us in the image of Jesus Christ verses when we go to the Bible and try to apply Jesus to our lives. It’s either following the living God or our own Jesus who is an idol. Paul said:
1 Thessalonians 1:10 – …and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
One of the things we will see today is that when someone is an idolater, the last thing they can do is wait. Idolatry creates within us first of all, a restless kind of spirit, an unsettled kind of spirit. We cannot be at peace and wait upon God. Let’s look at Exodus 34:17.
Exodus 34:17 – Do not make cast idols.
Do not pour forth your time, wealth, or energy into something that you can fashion, create, or walk away from. Don’t take your effort, money, time, prayers, and all that you have and pour it into a Jesus that you are casting into a mold so that He would be what you made Him to be. Instead, verse 18 tells us to:
Exodus 34:18 – Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
So we have a contrast between a feast and a cast idol. Everybody wants a Christianity that is comfortable. One of the marks of idolatry is that everybody’s looking for a land in which they can settle, be comfortable in their Christianity, have Jesus all figured out, the forces of their heart have been dealt with, sins have been revealed and they are satisfied with those things. Yet God comes with the cross every single day of our life to refine and purify. The living God seeks to crucify us, but we want a Jesus that we can cast, give our energy to, and then set on the mantle, walk away from, and say, “I live that, that’s my Christianity.”
Exodus 34:18 – Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread . For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
We find the short sentence saying, “Do not cast an idol,” then we see God calling us to a celebration; a celebration of His timetable and His plan for our lives.
Again, let us not be fools and think only the people that are idolaters are in the Far East countries where they have golden Buddhas and statues of Confucius that people pray to. We are as prone to idolatry as they are. It is so easy for us to become uncomfortable with the living God, and then turn to a replica of that living God, and say, “Oh, I have the message of the cross.” The message of the cross honestly crucifies us because it’s the living God doing that, but we don’t like that. Yet we know it to be a true message. What we do is we sidestep God and say, “Okay, this will be my message of the cross.” Then we look at the message of the cross and say, “I’ll take that aspect here and I’ll take this aspect over here,” and we fashion it, control it, put it in our lives, and say, “See, I have the same thing.” It is a replica, it is an idol, but it is not the living God.
2 Kings 18:1-3 – In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done.
Now look at what he did and what was involved. He attacked, first of all, the idolatry in the land. If we expect to have men in this church who are holy and really filled with the Holy Spirit, what is the first thing they will seek to purify in this church? They will seek to deal with the idols that are in our own lives. The things that we covet and the gods we hold on to. The things that might look like Christianity, but are not Christianity. It says in verse 4 that “He removed the high places.” He took their fine Christianity, moved it off the shelf, and tore it down. He went for their high places. He “…smashed the sacred stones,” the things that they considered to be holy, shiny, proper, and good; he tore those down. We all had our high places and we thought, “I’m fine in this area,” and “I worship the Lord in this area.” What did God seek to do? He tore down their high place.
Then you have the shiny stones. “Oh, this is valuable in the Lord.” I’ve heard this many times; “I know this is of God and I know that we were called of God in this.” Those are the sacred stones that were torn down, taken apart, and shown for the rubbish that they are.
And he “…cut down the Asherah poles;” the things that we put up, point to, and say, “Oh, I worship the living God. See the pole and see what’s on there?” He cut those down.
He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made. They took the very message of God that brought forgiveness—the message of the cross—and turned it into idolatry. The message of the cross was used to benefit themselves. It was used, but without the presence of the living God. Now think about that. They used the message of the cross, but without the presence of God in order to benefit self. Hezekiah broke it into pieces. He took it apart and destroyed it so that nothing was left. The people had prostituted themselves to the message of the cross because they had forsaken the living God.
2 Kings 18:4 – He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
They’d been offering prayers of the message of the cross. They’d been coming in to a Jesus Christ who had died on the cross, but it was one of their own image, their own fashion, and on their own terms. Though it rang out of being of Moses, though God had given the commandment as though it were theirs, though they could point to it and say, “The Lord gave us that,” it was without the presence of the living God. We are prone to idolatry just as they are, for we take the message of the cross and control it. We cast it, fashion it, and use it for our own means and by our own power. Where you find idolatry destroyed, you find verse five.
2 Kings 18:5 – Hezekiah trusted in the LORD …
Where you find all of the destruction of the idols, the stones, and everything, you will find rich faith among those who seek after God. When all those things are torn away, when all the idols are gone out of our life, and the high places are torn down, what will be left is pure, holy faith and love and a trust in God. God takes all the things that we consider to be of Him and tears them down so that what might be left is this next verse:
2 Kings 18:5 – Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.
Do we want God to say that of us? Do we even want to get close to it? Do we want to even dream that we can have it in our life? The only way that will happen is if we come in before the presence of the Lord, stand there and say, “God, find my high places and tear them down. Find my sacred stones. Find the Asherah pole and the bronze snake that is there and tear them down so that it is just me and you; not a replica; not a cast idol; not something that I control, but You, the living God interacting and dealing with me. I will wait for You to rescue me.” This is what should ring out from our lives. Not just an acceptance of the message of the cross, using the terminology, or embracing of the ideas and concept of it, but the living God putting it in our lives.
There are eight signs of the sins of idolatry, and you can watch for these as we go through.
- Restlessness. Those that are involved in idolatry cannot rest, they cannot be at peace.
- Those who worship idols have lots of double-talk, because as they say something their hearts convict them and they can never get the truth just right.
- They actively seek Scripture, but only to support their flesh.
- They have a skewed viewpoint of what Scripture says. They’re off-center.
- They have a muddled mess of what is right and wrong. They have no clear perspective about is really true and honest.
- They have within them an inability to respond to what is holy.
- They have a desire to settle in, to find a place in the world, and be at peace.
- Of course, above all else, they seek to bless themselves.
Judges 17:1 begins the unfolding of what we will look at.
Judges 17:1 – Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim…
His very name was a contradiction of who he was. His name was Micah and that means, “Who is like Jehovah?” He who had a promising life, who should have represented the holy God, was deep into idolatry.
Judges 17:2 – …said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.”
There was a conviction in his heart that he had done wrong. There was a turning of the conscience, so he went to his mother and confessed, but mixed in with all of this conviction was a preserving of self. So just because a man is convicted or confesses his sins does not mean that he is seeking the living God. It may mean that he’s trying to fashion an idol and trying to create something that looks like the message of the cross, but is not the message of the cross.
Judges 17:2 – . . . said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.”
It looks like a confession of sin doesn’t it? It looks like he’s coming out in the light to confess his sin, but he knew his mother. He knew it was safe to confess this sin. We see that sometimes even in this body, this is how this idolatry starts, we confess to the people for whom we know will not be able to really deal with our sins and so we pick and choose. We find the right mother that we can go to, because how does she respond?
Judges 17:2 – Then his mother said, “The LORD bless you, my son!”
She began to spin this in his direction for self.
Judges 17:3 – When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, “I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD…”
All of this talk about God and yet, the end result—is a love of self. How skewed they were in their thinking. Her son confessed to the stealing of silver and she said, “The Lord bless you. It’s okay, it’s fine.” We do that when somebody comes to us and confesses sin and we say, “Okay, fine. No problem.” When it’s not really being dealt with by the living God, we’re literally saying to them, “Well, the Lord bless you in your sin, let’s see what we can work out.” It happens in churches and prayer meetings and groups all the time.
Judges 17:3 – When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, “I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast idol. I will give it back to you.”
She used some holy words, didn’t she? “I solemnly, with great seriousness, with contemplation, with thinking, give this back to my son.” With prayer, with thinking with all that a man can think about, what direction should we go and how shall we apply this righteousness. She consecrated it, she used words like that to set it apart to be holy, different, and used for religious purposes. And can we not do the same thing with the message of the cross? We can feed our flesh or allow somebody else to feed their flesh. We allow them to consecrate and we’re solemn about what we’re doing, but the end result is that it’s an idol cast in our own image. She said, “I will give it back to you.” So in the confession of sin, what did he lose? Not a single thing, he gained back more.
The cross comes along and seeks to crucify us and when you’re through confessing your sins and getting it out in the light, do you get it back? And there’s the measurement.
How many times people have confessed sins to me, how many times have they walked in the light only to walk out and grab it back again? They think the message of the cross that I present to them is like the message of the cross that they want to live. They want to confess and pray about their sins. They want to look for all these things, but in the end they want to hold on to their sin. So they use the message of the cross, Jesus Christ, and the living God in order to shape an idol in their own image. It is a vile form of idolatry.
He made two kinds of idols. He did a carved image. He wanted something that looks beautiful to him, that is attractive to him. We fashion it with arguments and justifications. We fashion it with tools. We hire experts to do this. Then we have a cast idol, where we take our silver and those things that are valuable to us, we take our time and our gold and pour those into a cast so there’s something solid, beautiful, or of value that we can hold onto. We fashion our arguments, sin, and whitewash so that it’s solid. It stands up there and people look at it and say, “Oh, isn’t that beautiful?”
Judges 17:4 – So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith…
She found a silversmith, someone who would fashion exactly what it is that she wanted to represent what her son wanted. They were in a conspiracy and idolatry. Brothers and sisters, I don’t want to find anyone in this body in a conspiracy with one another to fashion the message of the cross into what they want.
Judges 17:4-5 – …who made them into the image and the idol. And they were put in Micah’s house. Now this man Micah had a shrine…
He found those who would fashion it for him and put it in place. He was a religious man. We see already they talked about the Lord and they used the Lord’s name. They went back and forth with the Lord’s name, so don’t think he bowed to Buddha here. But they never talk about talk about God, they talk about Micah.
Judges 17:5 – …and he made an ephod…
He had his own garments that represented his religiosity—his ideas of the cross—some idols, and he installed one of his sons as his priest. He was very zealous, but his zeal was devoted fully and completely to idolatry.
Judges 17:6 – In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
As the author of Judges wrote these things, you can see that he was appalled and it’s like he just threw his hands up and he said, “Everybody’s just doing as he sees fit.” If they wanted to worship an idol, they did that over here; if they wanted to call upon the name of the Lord, they did this. That is the mark of the self-centered. The beginning of idolatry is the absence of the cross, and you do as you see fit in relationship to Jesus Christ and the message of the cross. You pick and choose and then you say to the cross, “No further.”
Judges 17:6 – In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
Today people in the churches have all kinds of different opinions, different ideas, and everybody does exactly what they think their interpretation of Scripture says. Where is the cross that crucifies opinion and gets rid of excuses? When will somebody say, “This is the truth and this is a lie.”? There’s one thing that can’t happen here and that is a distinction between lies and truth. Everything’s gray, shadowy, and full of double-talk.
Judges 17:7-8 – A young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living within the clan of Judah, left that town in search of some other place to stay.
This theme runs all through what we will look at today. Where you find idolatry, you find no satisfaction, but restlessness. The living God is trying to do His work and you’re constantly running from Him. The conscience says, “This is faulty, this is sin, this needs to change” yet you run from that, looking for an answer anywhere else. When you run to find that answer, God begins to convict you and you look somewhere else. So Micah looked to expand his territory. He looked for a place where he could settle in. He looked for that one argument that he could hold on to that would be his.
Judges 17:8-9 – . . . left that town in search of some other place to stay. On his way he came to Micah’s house in the hill country of Ephraim. Micah asked him, “Where are you from?” “I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah,” he said, “and I’m looking for a place to stay.”
“I’m looking for a better gospel. I’m looking for a different answer; I’m looking for some satisfaction. I’m not at peace, I’m not at rest. I’m not satisfied being a Levite, so I’ll go from town to town, and place to place. I’m looking for some other answer.” Micah was not settled either. He wanted the Lord’s blessing and he knew he didn’t have it. Here was a man who spoke the same language as Micah. One idolater meets another idolater. They felt a common bond, let me tell you. I watch it in people’s lives all the time when they try to form Jesus Christ into their own image. They have their friends who they can relate to. They’re involved in their own idolatry, too.
Judges 17:10 – Then Micah said to him, “Live with me and be my father and priest…”
Look at what he said, “Be my father.” He who was a father asked a young man to be his father. “Be lord over me, be responsible.” You see, it’s not even logical.
Judges 17:10 – Then Micah said to him, “Live with me and be my father and priest, and I’ll give you…”
This doesn’t even make sense. It should have said, “He was like his father to him,” but that’s not what it says. When a person involved in idolatry fashions this idol he does it in a certain way. Then you bring in an aspect of God that doesn’t fit the idol. So what did they do? They had to re-fashion that idol. They never settled in, the logic never fit because they had God in their nice little convenient box. And He’s always larger than the box. The Levite was a father, a son, and a priest. What was he? Anything but a man of God.
Judges 17:11-12 – So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man was to him like one of his sons. Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house.
Verse 13 is the central goal of both of these men. They were after the blessing of God. They wanted that sense of peace and well-being that God was with them. Their conscience said they did not have that so they looked for someone that they could be united with in this idolatry.
Judges 17:13 – And Micah said, “Now I know…”
How did he know? He knew because he had the idol and the preacher, and everything to this man was outward, and what he was able to control and manipulate.
Judges 17:13 – And Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.”
He claimed that which he had no right to claim at all. And the claiming of it is a lie and presumptuous faith at best. How often you find people fashioning Jesus into a certain idol. They confess their sins, they pray about them, they do penance for them and then they walk away with an air that says, “I know I’m forgiven. I know that I’m healed. I know these things.” So Micah and the Levite sat down together with a sense of satisfaction and feeling that God was with them and they knew it. That’s how sure they were. Idolatry removes doubt from your life, but it’s not the living God, and this story does not end.
Judges 18:1 – In those days Israel had no king.
This is the problem, Jesus Christ is not King of Kings and He’s not Lord of Lords. We have to let God come to us on His terms and who He is.
Judges 18:1 – In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own…
Did we not read this before? “. . . seeking a place of their own.” Who else had this same attitude? Micah tried to settle in and the Levite looked for a place of his own. And now we see a whole tribe of Dan. Where you find idolatry, you find a restlessness of spirit because you have to satisfy that emptiness that’s deep within.
Judges 18:1 – In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.
They were unwilling to wait for the Lord. Remember Thessalonians told us that we’ve come to the living God, and have chosen to wait for Him who will rescue us. Those who have idolatry cannot wait for their blessing—they have to have it now.
Judges 18:2 – So the Danites sent five warriors from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all their clans. They told them, “Go, explore the land.” The men entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night.
“What an amazing coincidence! This must all be from God.” You see, from their perspective, this is all from the hand of the Lord. Every one of these people bumped into everybody else thinking that God arranged those visitations. Verse 3 says, “When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice…” There’s a common bond among those who worship a Jesus that is an idol. They relate to one another, they feel as if they speak the same language. And they do speak the same language.
Judges 18:3 – When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?”
Unsettled in their questions, unsettled in their life, always probing, always asking, and always looking.
Judges 18:4-5 – He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, “He has hired me and I am his priest.” Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.”
Everybody sought God here didn’t they? Everybody wanted God to bless them. Everybody wanted God to smile on them. In order to get it they formed and cast idols. Verse 6 says, “The priest answered them . . .” It doesn’t say he inquired, bothered, or even wrestled it out. If there’s one thing the cross requires of each of us, a lot of wrestling out to determine what God’s will is. The cross requires, when it comes to seeing sin in our life, a lot of wrestling. The cross produces within us is a quiet spirit that before we ever say that we are innocent in a matter, we have wrestled it out and saw the places where we are not innocent. But where you find idols, you go to your idols and ask, “How do I look? Oh, I look just fine. I prayed about it.” “The priest answered them, ‘Go in peace.’” Everything’s fine and dandy. “Your journey has the Lord’s approval.” He portrayed it as not just a discussion about the Lord, but a communication of His very will and of His very heart, saying, “You should be at peace and you should be at rest, this will all be of God and you have His approval and it will be a success.” Brothers and sisters, it will be a success. This will work. Were they here today, they would come in and we would say, “It’s not of God, don’t go on that journey” or “Don’t claim that” and then they would go and do it and it would work and they would say it was of God because it worked.
Judges 8:7 – So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.
They found people who were unsuspecting and at peace. One thing idolatry does is to destroy anybody that gets in its way. It will inflict whatever damage and use whatever it can use in order to gain the ground that it wants. It will make war against unsuspecting people, who were at peace. We’re not talking about the walls of Jericho where people loaded with idolatry lived and God said, “Go in and abolish the land because of idolatry.” These were prosperous and innocent people who were at peace. We’re easily prone to idolatry. Revelation 2:14 refers to the church in Pergamum.
Revelation 2:14 – Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.
We find all kinds of sexual immorality, divorce, remarriage, and all kinds of things in the church today. We see the food and the partying and all those things happening in the church. Because it began with idolatry and the pleasing of flesh, it will end here. Revelation 2:20 is about the church at Thyatira.
Revelation 2:20 – Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.
You have to understand that when someone preaches idolatry, the most dangerous people are not those who worship Buddha over in Thailand or somewhere. It’s somebody that comes through this door or people in our own congregation who are trying to turn the message of the cross into something they can manage and control. Jesus brought them to account by saying they tolerated, put up with, allowed it to happen. We have to hold on to the living God. Don’t let it be robbed from us or be taken away, for it is the power of God to save us.
Again we see the same result of sins.
Revelation 2:20 – By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
They might have been holy to begin with, but when you find idolatry beginning to move in, you will eventually find all the sexual immorality, the eating, drinking, and things a lot of you were involved in before the message of the cross even came. You will lose that ability to stay away from those sins if you don’t keep idolatry away.
Judges 18:8 – When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers asked them, “How did you find things?”
“Give us a report,” they were asking. “You went in and looked at the land. You spied around and examined. You sought God and prayed about these things. He told you He’d give you success.” What is the evidence of whether God is with us or not with us?
Judges 18:9 – They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them!”
They felt the evidence was overwhelming that God gave them this land. And not only did He give them the land but also these unsuspecting people who won’t even put up much of a fight. They don’t even have to really battle at it. It seemed that the Lord gave His approval. All of the evidence, all the outward things, and everything they saw declared fully that God indeed was giving them the victory.
Judges 18:9 – They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen that the land is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over.”
They never waited upon God. They acted. They claimed and looked. They enlarged their territory, and they had a “bless-me” attitude. There was no need to hold back, they had the truth on their side. They were justified in this matter, and then declared it.
Judges 18:10 – When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.
They all talked of how the Lord provided all this, but it was unbridled selfishness. It is total self-centeredness in the name of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, let us be very, very careful with the message of the cross.
Judges 18:10-13 – “When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.” Then six hundred men from the clan of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house.
It was a center of idolatry. You know this young man reveled in the attention that came his way. He was just a Levite. By the way, the Levites were supposed to serve the priests in the temple. The Levites were servants and they had no property or place in the land. By him saying that he was looking for a place to live, he went against what he was called to do. They were not entitled to any inheritance in the land. He wanted some little niche in the world.
Judges 18:14 – Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, other household gods, a carved image and a cast idol? Now you know what to do.”
Now you would think they’d go in, kill the guy, destroy the idol, take everyone captive, and rebuke them. How did they know what to do when they were all going toward sin? Very simple. Each one knew in their own heart what they wanted when they came to visit the first time. All of the spies looked at the idols, and the blessing Micah had. They looked at the kind of religion that he had, the kind of worship of god that he had and they said, “I like that.” So they all knew what to do, but it wasn’t destruction, instead they took his idols.
Judges 18:15-16 – So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite…
By the way, the Levite was not mentioned by name, God did not even consider it worthy to mention his name.
Judges 18:15-16 – So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance to the gate.
You see the sin, the situation here, don’t you? Look at their words again in verse 14. They knew exactly what they were doing. Jesus said, “By your words you’ll be condemned.” How many times when people are speaking about their sins or their lives, and they’ll say the very words that will condemn them. Look at what they said in verse 14. “You know what’s in this house? Other household gods.” How blind can you be to all the commandments that God set down? “There was a carved image and a cast idol.” They went into great detail about what was in there. So everybody stood there; the men all armed for battle and the five spies. Did they move in to destroy the idols? Not at all.
Judges 18:18 – When these men went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”
I guarantee you, he knew more in his heart about what they were doing than he let on. Those who love self speak a familiar language with those who love self; the winking of the eye, the nodding of the head, and raising the eyebrow. They communicate a lot more, they speak a common language and have a common bond. Fellowship with people in the light and the message of the cross, and you will know that distinction.
Judges 18:19 – They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word…”
You know, there’s one thing about these guys. They had a plan. I have to give them that much credit. They knew what they wanted and what they would get, just none of it was of the Lord. It was all in the name of the Lord, but it wasn’t of God.
Judges 18:19 – They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father…”
They didn’t have God as their father, because the living God wasn’t their father. They looked deep inside their hearts. They wanted a father; they wanted someone to guide them; someone who would take responsibility for their lives, but rather than turn to the living God—because He wouldn’t feed their flesh and they would have to wait upon Him—they found a young man to be their father. This is how low we can go in idolatry, where we will grab on to the most worthless of things. We do! Have you not done it yourself with arguments and justifications for your sin? You will grab the most worthless argument you can find and you’re thinking, “Nobody can destroy that, it’s mine. Go in and get it.”
Judges 18:19 – They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan…”
He who started out with nobody to minister to wound up with a house to minister to and went on from there to find a tribe to minister to. He increased in his Jabez prayer, did he not? He gained more territory and all in the name of the Lord. It all seemed to be of God. How many people will we watch, even in our own body, succeed in everything they do, but you walk away from them saying, “That is not of God.”
The Danites, of course, appealed to the Levite’s pride, flesh, and the religious part of him. Look at what it says:
Judges 18:19 – They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?”
People who feed their flesh know how to feed other people’s flesh, even if that is religious flesh.
Judges 18:20 – Then the priest was glad…
Quite the understatement, I bet. He took the ephod, the other household gods, and the carved image and went along with the people. Everybody embraced these idols. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on them first.
Judges 18:21 – Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.
The Danites knew what they were doing and they had a plan to get it. They knew that Micah would get upset, so they put their household goods and their children in front and they were the rear guard, knowing that an army would probably come and try to take it all back. Above all else, they wanted to secure what was theirs. They took a land that was not theirs and they protected themselves and their goods at all costs. Now they had a priest. They had stolen not only the land where they were going to live, but a religion that was not theirs.
Judges 18:22-23 – When they had gone some distance from Micah’s house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites. As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, “What’s the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?”
Idolatry always leads to arrogance. They toyed with the man, stirred up trouble, and then acted like they hadn’t done anything. Those who start bitter roots are the same way, I’ve seen it a hundred times. You get it going and stir it up, then you back up and act like you didn’t do anything.
Judges 18:24 – He replied, “You took the gods I made…”
Look at what he said in the heat of his passion, in the heat of anger, because it’s what’s in our hearts. Some of the most revealing times in my own life have been when I have been angry, upset, or under pressure and I will say something and then later I’ll ask, “Did I say that?” Of course, what usually comes to my mind after that is, “Well, I didn’t mean what I said.” But if I get quiet enough before God, God says, “You meant exactly what you said.” And so in his frustration, he said, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away.” This next statement is the cry of those who die with their idols. This is so pathetic. “What else do I have?” Those who worship idols, those who turn Jesus Christ into an idol, will die saying, “What else do I have but that which my hands have made?” They all die with confidence. They die lonely, having lost it all because their gods are in this world. “How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’?” You see the frustration this man had—everything about him was taken away. All that he loved and had made, everything about who he was had been taken from him and he was left wholly and completely empty-handed. It is one idolater against another idolater. Selfishness unleashed.
Verse 25 doesn’t say that they showed any mercy. They never do; those who worship idols, because flesh is unleashed. Its pride is welling up. Its selfishness that grabs and will take anybody. Those who destroyed an innocent land—a land in peace—had no hesitation about taking over anything else. And those who embrace the idols of lies will embrace all lies. The reason the church fell prey to Hitler was because they embraced lies a long time ago. Long before Hitler ever came to power.
Judges 18:25 – The Danites answered, “Don’t argue with us, or some hot-tempered men will attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.”
They were taunting and arrogant. “You are weak, you’re nothing. You’ve lost your idols, we’ve overcome you. Our plan out-succeeded your plan.” There was not a ring of love, mercy, grace, or anything that would be remotely called of God, was there? This is why God hates idolatry because it unleashes the worst of us and justifies it. Of course he couldn’t stand. Those who are guilty can only stand in large numbers. They’re bullies. Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Those who embrace idols have nothing to stand on and no grace. The only way they could stand was if there were other fighting men with them.
Judges 18:26 – So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home.
He moved back home to his self-pity and depression. He moved back home to sulk and nurse grudges—all the things that would be in a man like this.
Judges 18:27-28 – Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there.
Now look what verse 29 says, and of course we would figure this.
Judges 18:29 – They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish.
“Laish” means lions. They had taken it for themselves. How many people do we know that take name the Lion of the Tribe of Judah? They take the name of Him who is holy—the name of Jesus Christ—and in all their idolatry and power, they lay siege over it and say, “It’s mine,” and they turn it for themselves. It is too easy for all of us to lay hold of Jesus Christ and form Him into our own image.
Judges 18:30 – There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses…
Do not think any of us are exempt from this. And let us with fear and trembling read 1 John every day if we need to, and pray before God to “keep ourselves from idols” that God might be God among us. And let us pray that would God dwell and move in this Body and be holy, beyond anything we can make, conjure up, or work. Because if He does not act, or if His presence is not here, we will fashion something. It might be called the message of the cross or it might be the bronze snake, but it won’t be Him.
Judges 18:30 – …and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land.
They knew not how close captivity was to them, did they? If you were to go and talk to them and say, “Did the Lord give you this land?” “Oh yeah, we did it all in the name of the Lord. Did you talk to our priest? All the circumstances were set up, the logic was there, the situation was present, everything was in its place, and we won. It was all of God.” But captivity was at their door. Be leery of your own arguments that justify your sin and excuses. Let Him come and be God and crucify you.
Judges 18:31 – They continued to use the idols Micah had made…
And this is the saddest part of this whole story. All that time the house of God was in Shiloh. They could have gone and worshipped. Shiloh is equal to the Messiah or the peaceful one. They could have gone and worshipped the living God, but they chose their idols instead. There was no excuse for their idolatry. They could have gone to Shiloh—they could have gone to the living God. But they chose what their hands could make and control. How sad it is when idolatry’s embraced and the peace of God is right there.
How can we know whether we have started on the road to idolatry or not? All you need to do is ask yourself one simple question. Is Jesus making you or are you making Jesus?
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 – Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Is Jesus Christ transforming you into His image with ever-increasing glory? Are more and more lies being pushed out so that more and more truth can be there? Is more and more lack of self-discipline being crucified and more discipline being put in its place? Are more opinions being crucified that you might have the mind of Christ? Is He doing the work in you or are you doing the work? Are you able to control how the cross comes and when it comes and what manner it comes? Are you able to put it off or sidestep it? If it’s you doing the work, you’re an idolater.
But if He speaks to you what He wants to speak and declares it when He wants to declare it, and says, “This must die today” and He comes on His own terms and His own power with ever-increasing glory and you respond to that, then you’re worshipping the living God. It depends who’s making you into the image of Christ.
Exodus 20:25 – If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.
If we are to build an altar to God, to take the stones and build it, we are not to smooth any stone or chisel anything. You are not to pick up a tool. Instead you are to take raw stones that are on the ground and pile them up one upon another, not fashioning or changing them in any way. They don’t need any help. He who formed the universe and made that rock knowing you would pick it up and build an altar, does not need your help to make it more beautiful than it is.
The message of the cross by the power of the Holy Spirit is all that we need. He does not need our help in dying to self. He needs your cooperation to allow Him to crucify you, but He does not need your extra prayers and extra help. And He does not need you quoting scripture back to Him, nor anything that we have to offer. What He needs are humble, teachable hearts that say, “Yes, Lord, I will die and do what You want to do today.” But we pick up our tools; “Here, let me help You with that Lord.” When we’re done, we’ve fashioned something that we like.
In Philippians 3:6, Paul wrote about his life before the message of the cross, before contact with the living God. This is what he said about his life before encountering the living God.
Philippians 3:6 – as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
Even in our best days before we met God, none of us could say that. None of us could say that in terms of our walk with God before the message of the cross, before the living God, that we were faultless in that.
Philippians 3:7 – But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Every time I defended myself to the living God, every time I “profited” from my argument, I lost. Every time I argued with Carla or defended myself with some man, and I had to go back to the prayer closet to be convicted, I lost.
Philippians 3:8 – What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…
Everybody else did as they saw fit; no one had a king, but he who worshiped the living God said, “Jesus Christ my Lord.” God comes to me on His terms. He comes to me when He wants to. He speaks to me the truth whether I want to hear the truth or not. He declares to me who I am whether I like that or not. He comes and He works and wills, not how I choose or demand, or how I throw a fit or not. He is the living God. He is my Lord and every time I kick and scream, or I run and hide, or I do what I do, I lose. He says, “for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish.” They’re idols at best. “I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:9 – and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
You see, when a man justifies himself by law, he has all of his arguments down; “This is what is written,” he says. And “This is what I live.” How foolish a man. Verse 10 tells us whether we worship Jesus as an idol or whether we worship the living God—“I want.” Is this what you want? If you don’t want this, you’re an idolater.
Philippians 3:10 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Those who worship idols will not die.
Philippians 3:11 – . . . and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
He knew not how it worked. Somehow it works. Those that worship their own idols know how it works because they fashioned them. They have it all down, they’re in place, and they’re satisfied. Their life is fine.
But those who come to a living God and say, “Oh Lord, You do and You will, whatever is pleasing in Your sight today” cannot control that God. If that doesn’t make you weak-kneed to pray that prayer, then the Jesus you worship is an idol, because He will take that as the most serious of prayer, I guarantee it. He is a living God. He is holy, He is King of Kings and He is Lord of Lords and let us never fashion a stone into anything that we like.
Philippians 3:10 – I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.
How much do you participate in those sufferings?
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.