“And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said unto his mother, ‘The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.’”
Judges 17: 1, 2, King James Version
“Idols and Ephods – An Unholy Alliance”
“A true love for God must begin with a delight in His holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this.”
Is there an “idol” in my life that is keeping me from living a “holy” or “whole” life for my heavenly Father?
“Whatever man (or woman) loves, that is his (her) god. For he (she) carries it in his (her) heart; he (she) goes about with it night and day; he (she) sleeps and wakes with it, be it what it may – wealth or self, pleasure or renown.”
“Whatever you love more than God is your idol.”
D. L. Moody
For the next three days we will look at the stories which are contained in Judges, Chapters 17-21. Believe me when I say the Biblical record that chronicles the events we are going to delve into are real, “doozies,” as we say here in the United States. Some of the details are nearly unspeakable. However, what can we really expect to find, during a time in history when the Bible tells us that, “Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.”
As we study the final chapters of Judges, I believe it would do us well to look at where we’ve come from and where we are going because the book of Judges is such a tremendous reflection of our own world today. Just another one of those times when the Bible is right “on target.”
If we go back to the beginning of Judges 1: 1, (K.J.V.) we find that this instructional book begins with these words, “Now after the death of Joshua, it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, ‘Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?’”
For so long, God’s children had been led by strong individuals who were wholly committed to God – Moses, Miriam the prophetess, and Joshua. While God’s children wandered and griped and howled, God had leaders like Rahab the harlot, who stood firm and said in the midst of evil, “I know your God, He is the God of heaven and earth” (Joshua 2: 11).
What strength and courage! This was the kind of backbone that was needed for God’s children, Israel, to vanquish the evil that dwelled in the Promised Land.
Sadly, instead of obeying God and ridding Canaan of the evil nations, God’s children decided to mingle with the enemy, intermarrying with their children and living in the cities. The holy and the unholy, trying to form an alliance. As we find, what was first an alliance made by marriage, soon became an association of common interests. A union formed by conformity! And it wasn’t the Canaanites, Gibeonites, Amorites, Hittites, and Perizzites who conformed and became worshippers of the God of heaven and earth. The exact opposite happened! God’s children adapted and adjusted and made accommodations with the surrounding nations, to their utter downfall.
Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t “sugar-coat” this tragic period in history. Instead, God lays out the painful details, as gory as they are to study. We would do well to pay close attention because it doesn’t take a genius to realize we are not only capable of doing the same thing, we are already living in a time when the mingling of the holy with the vile is so common place, we hardly even take notice anymore.
As the children of God, in Judges, found themselves in situations where strong Godly leadership was waning, the result was a complete breakdown of the moral fiber in their society – and it isn’t the secular society I’m talking about here. We shouldn’t expect the godless people of Canaan to live up to the God of heaven’s standards. Most of them didn’t even know who “God” was. What’s worse, the example they had seen from God’s own people, His representatives, was often a total failure.
In fact, by the time we got to the study of Gideon, even God’s chosen leader we are told, “Had many wives and his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son” (Judges 8: 30, 31. K.J.V.). But there’s more. As if the breakdown of family relationships and the lowly treatment of women wasn’t enough, Gideon made an “ephod” in direct disobedience to God and tried to mix the worship of the holy with the unholy.
We as women ought to really take note about this for when the treatment of women is defined by sexual immorality and abuse, the worship of God is on its way out the door, too! Girls – “Holy” treatment of women walks hand-in-hand with the obedience of a Holy God – who longs and desires to bring His holiness – His wholeness and completeness – into our lives.
Don’t forget – this miserable behavior toward women and God – was infused into the lives of God’s children. They were no better than the Canaanites they were told by God to destroy.
Unholy alliances resulted in unholy lives – pure and simple! This is why our lengthy study on the women in Samson’s life was such a critical element in our complete understanding of why we don’t associate or consume what is in the Valley of Sorek, the Valley of the Vine, where the Philistines await our folly as they did Samson’s.
It is with this background that two extraordinary stories are laid out in Judges that we will study for the next two days.
Tomorrow, we will look at how “idolatry” can permeate our family lives and on the following day, we’ll find out how “idolatry” takes down our spiritual lives as well as the spiritual structures and individuals we come to depend on. These are lessons God has left for us – for our instruction, for our guidance, for our protection and for our salvation. May we never ignore His warning and try to form any unholy alliance, for it will be our downfall.
“The dearest idol I have known,
What-e’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.”
“Cleanse me, O God, by the bright fountain of Thy mercy, and water me with the dew of Thine abundant grace, that, being purified from my sins, I may truly serve Thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.”
“O Lord, prepare my heart, I beseech thee, to reverence thee, to adore thee, to love thee; to hate, for love of thee, all my sins, imperfections, shortcomings, whatever in me displeaseth thee; and to love all which thou lovest, and whom thou lovest. Give me, Lord, fervour of love, shame for my unthankfulness, sorrow for my sins, longing for thy grace, and to be wholly united with thee. Let my very coldness call for the glow of thy love; let my emptiness and dryness, like a barren and thirsty land, thirst for thee, call on thee to come into my soul, who refreshest those who are weary. Let my heart ache to thee and for thee, who stillest the aching of the heart. Let my mute longings praise thee, crave to thee, who satisfies the empty soul, that waits on thee.”
Edward Bouverne Pusey
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