Are you serving God? Serious questions now. Are you in your desire to be a follower of Jesus actually following and serving Him in submission to Him?
You may answer – I am a christian or I go to church and that is great, but the questions goes a bit further.
Are you as a person submitting yourself to God in your worship and service of God….or is the god that you say you believe in actually serving you?
Well, maybe but I was reading Judges yesterday and it occurred to me that since the beginning there have been a whole lot of people who call themselves religious and look religious with all the trappings that are not actually worshipping and serving God. Rather, they are setting up religious systems that serve them.
Toward the end of the Book of Judges we run into a guy named Micah for example. We don’t have the backstory on Micah. He just appears in Judges 17 and 18 and then disappears but in the brief telling of this portion of life, boy do we get an interesting picture.
The account of Micah starts with him stealing 1100 shekels of silver from his mother. Great beginning, right? He is a thief stealing from his own Mother, but wait, it actually gets worse.
Micah decides to return the money to his mother and his mother seems happy to have her money back. So much so that when Micah mentions he was planning on using the money to have idols made, a carved statue of a false god and a molded one, mommy gives him the money to do so. Micah gets the idols made along with an ephod and sets up a mini-Temple service in his own house.
If you have ever seen ancestor shrines from some religions or the household altars that seem to be commonplace in some regions this is what Micah seems to be setting up, but on a larger scale. He even goes so far as deciding that his son is going to be a priest of this household temple and his family comes and worships here. God choose the Levites specifically to be priests, but Micah chooses his son – who do you think is correct on this issue?
While it is set out without comment in Judges, this procession of events in the Israel at that time is flat out insanity.
God has already given the Israelites the Law and Micah, his son and mother are all Israelites. Contained among the Laws commandments are prohibitions against stealing, making a graven image, and worshipping false gods along with the specific direction to honor your mother.
How is Micah doing so far?
God also directs specifically how He is to be worshipped through the priestly system and through the Tabernacle that is then located in Shiloh and in accordance with the directions set out in the Bible. Only the Levites shall be priests and only they should wear the garments associated with priestly service serving God at the Tabernacle. The penalty for these transgressions should be death under the Law.
Yet, Micah openly and without any sort of shame or seeming awareness completely blows past all of these clear directions of God and jumps heartily into grave sin. The normalcy of his actions in the narrative speaks to the depravity of not just Micah’s family but all of Israel. There is no one there that objects and calls Micah to account for his brazen rebellion. Micah is a lost man in the midst of a lost a wicked generation. Seems kind of like the world today, doesn’t it?
Even worse, when a Levite comes along looking for a place to stay, Micah sees this as an opportunity and hires the Levite to act as his priest. “His priest” in case you missed it. Micah is excited because he has a priest who works directly for him – you know the guys who are supposed to work, get paid by and only ever serve God. Micah actually thinks the Levite works for him and this will be a good thing for him and his family.
He violates God’s specific directions in 800 different ways (exaggeration but only by a little) and the Law says he should be put to death and yet Micah really thinks that God will smile down upon him and bless him because he is acting religious. It is just crazy talk and would be unbelievable if it were not true and was not what we are tempted to do all the time. I know that I am in an adulterous relationship, but I go to church on Sundays so God will bless me, right?
What has Micah really done here though?
And what in the world does some dude in ancient Israel making a house temple and having a trained Levite to serve him have anything to do with us?
It is initially hard to see the application given all that is going on. Truthfully, I had not read these verses in a while and my head was swimming trying to just keep track of all of the bad things that were going on.
But what Micah is actually doing in setting up his altars and buying off the priest?
He is taking God completely out of the worship of God and making religion all about Micah. My house, my priest who I pay, my idol made from my silver, me, my, mine is what Micah is all about. He has set up a religion of his own that he can control in order to get good stuff from it and not have to deal with such bad things like submission and worship of the real God. There is no submission to God involved in Micah’s version of worship, just expressing Micah’s desires. It is like having Jesus traveling with us, but not actually making any decisions or having any impact. Jesus is in the sidecar to our motorcycle – we can say He is there but He really is having no impact.
Think about it – with Micah, God sets up the system that requires a person leave their own house and their own lands and travel to Bethel or Jerusalem in order to worship Him. He requires that they pay close attention to the rules and submit sacrifices to God. When an Isrealite traveled from even Micah’s hometown that was actually pretty close to Bethel, they are submitting to the instruction of God and thereby admitting that He has the power to make the rules. They are also taking part in something bigger than themselves and admitting that they need God’s structure to participate in the worship of God. Humility and submission are tough pills to swallow for the natural man.
Micah is not humble and submits to no one. Instead he makes himself god of his own house and his own little religion. It is much easier and less challenging to serve yourself as god rather than the one true God. It is also a great affront to God.
So in short, Micah is rebelling against God and creating a religion to serve Micah as god. Sounds quite Old Testamenty, right? We don’t have these sort of things now, do we?
While there are not many Levites serving in houses these days serving shrines, how many different versions of religion have been created by false prophets and self involved men that are doing the very same thing in the world today. Religions that solely serve the created man and not the creator.
Joseph Smith apparently loved women, so his religion conveniently allowed polygamy especially for the prophet so much so that he married other men’s wives while they were on missions Smith sent them on. Mohammed loved power and conquests so when he became a powerful warlord, conveniently, his previously peaceful revelations from Allah turned to jihad.
Religions created to serve the desires of the men who created them are very popular in the world.
Closer to home even in the Christian world, how many churches and people are setting up false versions of Jesus’ church in order to serve themselves rather than submit to God.
If you are thinking that sounds strange, what else would you call the Word of Faith Movement or the Prosperity Gospel movement. People who have decided that if they are just faithful/prayerful/yell in a high pitched voice enough God will serve them and give them anything they want. God is evidently a gumball machine,a subservient being who responds when you insert the right amount of money. It is all about people again, just like Micah.
They have created a religion of their own choosing for their own benefit and seem to care not that God’s Word tells them not to do so.
In less egregious cases, how many decisions do we make where we have set out the goal and created a plan for carrying out that goal and then we ask Jesus for His blessing on that goal and plan. Or we wait until we get a fork on our self appointed path to ask Jesus which way to go rather than asking Him from the outset what He wants us to do. It is the contrast between Jesus driving the car from the outset and taking us in comfort where we want to go versus sidecar Jesus or Carrie Underwood’s Jesus take the wheel. Our hands should never be on the wheel to begin with if we are letting God drive.
So when you start quoting the eminent theologian Carrie Underwood, that is a good sign you should stop typing, but the question for us as we seek to be faithful followers of Jesus in this fallen world remains. Are we serving our Lord Jesus in faithful submission and obedience and letting our religion be an expression of worship of Him? Or are we doing religion for our own purposes ultimately to satisfy ourselves? The funny thing is that self serving religion is always ultimately hollow and unsatisfying.
Be the anti-Micah, where our story from beginning to end testifies to submission and obedience to Jesus and you will have a peace that surpasses all understanding.