Judges ~ Chapter Eighteen
Read: Judges 18:1-31
"In those days there was no king in Israel.
And in those days the tribe of the Danites
was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in;
for until that day their inheritance among the tribes of Israel had not fallen to them.
...So they went to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there."
(Judges 18:1, 2b)
The Danites were unable to conquer the land of their inheritance due to the hostility of the Philistines, so they sent out a small group of spies to search the land for a new place to settle in the north. "And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains, for they would not allow them to come down to the valley" (Judges 1:34). Forced out of their own territory and preferring to do what seemed right in their own eyes, a remnant group of Danites migrated north and found the city of Laish to be inhabited by a people who lived "quiet and secure" and appeared to be easily conquerable (Judges 18:7). Dan was the firstborn son of Rachel through her maid Bilhah (Genesis 30:6); his name means "judge". The tribe of Dan was last to break camp with their banners when Israel was given the signal to move (Numbers 2:31), but they would be first to lead the nation into idolatry; setting in motion Israel's sin cycle of apostasy-oppression-deliverance in the period of the "judges" and fulfilling the words of Jacob: "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horses's heels so that its rider shall fall backward" (Genesis 49:16, 17). The personal sins of Micah's household paved the way for an entire nation to be given over to idolatry and rebellion against God. The Danites idolatry would even begin as Micah's had - with theft. On the way to capture the city of Laish, the Danites stopped at the home of Micah, whom the spies had told them held a shrine with vast collection of idols. They stole Micah's idols and convinced the Levite, Jonathan, Micah's family priest, to go with them to be their tribal priest. "And they said to him, "Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?" So the priest's heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people" (Judges 18:19, 20). The Danites idolatry began with covetousness; they coveted the pleasant land of Laish, and they coveted the personal gods of Micah. Instead of remaining in the land the Lord had assigned them and refusing to seek the counsel of God's counsel in the true sanctuary at Shiloh, they chose to do "what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 17:6) and established a rival house of worship that would infect the nation for generations to come (1 Kings 12:25-33). "Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah's carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh" (Judges 18:30, 31). We live in a world where people are always seeking substitutes for the living God and demanding that their degenerate beliefs be tolerated. They cling to the gods of their own making, which hold no power, and refuse to listen to the truth of the One who holds the world in His hands and is mighty to save. We should not let this to deter us from speaking the truth in love and holding up the banner of Jesus Christ high, though we may feel like we are the rear guard following from behind. For when they turn around to ask us, "What ails you, that you have gathered such a company?", it will not be because they have taken anything from us, but because we are in possession of the One they need! Let us pray fervently for the souls of the multitudes around us who are dying in their sin, and for the consecration and courage of the Church, so that we will lead the way in truth and righteousness and proclaim the good news of the gospel which is for their salvation (Romans 10:14-17). "So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him" (Isaiah 59:19).
"Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory,
because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say, "So where is there God?"
But our God is in heaven, He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see;
they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell;
they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk;
nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them."
"So he said, "You have taken away my gods which I made,
and the priest, and you have gone away.
Now what more do I have?
How can you say to me, 'What ails you?' "
When Micah's idols were stolen from him, he found he was left with nothing. He did not even have the power or courage to rescue his gods, which could not even rescue themselves. "And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him; he turned and went back to his house" (v. 26b). It is a tragedy to forsake the true and living God for gods that need to be carried. "Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you. To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?" (Isaiah 46:4, 5). Like the deaf and mute gods that he worshiped, Micah had ears but could not hear. He chose to follow the foolishness of his own heart rather than the wisdom which comes from heaven, and his disobedience and rebellion infected an entire tribe, and eventually polluted the bloodstream of an entire nation, leading to their spiritual decline. The tribe of Dan stole Micah's idols and established idolatry in a stolen land which had no deliverer of their own. The people of Laish were entirely independent and self-sufficient, and utterly unsuspecting that they were about to be conquered. It is a great tragedy when a people become sleepy and secure like the people of Laish. "...how they dwelt safely, in the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure. There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything; they were far from the Sidonians, and they had no ties with anyone" (Judges 18:7b). They saw no need to protect themselves, nor any reason to prepare themselves for battle. May the story of Laish motivate believers everywhere to be on their guard against the dangers of falling into a carnal coma. May we be awakened from our sleepy state, which has caused many to drift in devotion to God and has led to the foolish belief that we need nothing, when in reality we are in great danger because of our neglect of the spiritual disciplines of prayer and the Word of God. "Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, poor, blind, and naked..." (Revelation 3:17). When the church loses its zeal and truth slumbers, evil triumphs and wickedness covers the land. Though no one can carry off our God, we can rob ourselves of wholehearted devotion and be lulled to sleep by our neglect. Unlike Laish, who had no ruler, we have an internal magistrate. God has set up His government of the soul and He sits on the throne of our heart in righteousness, ruling and restraining us from within. May we strive daily for closer fellowship and abiding communion with our God by accepting His invitation to come to His table and dine with Him each day, allowing our souls to feast on the richest of fare and awakening within a holy desire to do what is pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20). May our greatest concern be for the Kingdom of God and for the revival of His work in our day (Matthew 6:33). "All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:6b-8).
"And do this, knowing the time,
that now it is high time to awake out of sleep;
for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand.
Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Let us walk properly, as in the day,
not in revelry or drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."