One of the concerns among modern leaders of Jesus followers is the encroachment of the American culture on belief and practice. Richard Niebuhr wrote a book called Christ and Culture back in 1951. It’s considered a classic among Christian Literature, and is probably even more of a necessary exploration today than it was then. It’s possible he would have drawn different conclusions today, our condition has deteriorated so far.
What happens to believers, honest, sincere, followers of Jesus, who follow a very distorted “version” of the Only Beloved Son of God? What do those who fill our churches believe about Jesus? Do they know what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture, or only what they’ve been told? If what we’ve been told by others sounds anything like the messages our culture tells us, there’s a danger that we begin to blend the messages.
Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver which were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse in my hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, “I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.” So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. (Judges 17:1-4 NASB)
Notice how Micah’s mother blesses Yahweh (LORD in NASB), then has her son make an idol to worship Yahweh? How does that happen among the Children of Israel? What does it take for someone living in close proximity to the Temple in Shiloh to setup a separate worship of Yahweh incorporating idols? She and her son don’t know! They think they’re doing something good! Don’t believe that? Then, read on.
Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place.” Micah then said to him, “Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance.” So the Levite went in. The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.” (Judges 17:9-13 NASB)
Now that Micah has a Levite as a priest, he knows he has the favor of Yahweh. He’s confident, faithful in what he knows, sincere in his faith, and worshiping a completely different god than Yahweh. He didn’t know the commandment about not making an idol (Exodus 20:4, Deuteronomy 5:8). The Canaanite culture, and all the “-ites” around him, all worshiped using idols. So, of course, that’s how someone would worship Yahweh.
How could he know it was good to have a Levite as a priest, and not know it was wrong to make an idol? How did the Levite not know? He’s young, but he’s a Levite, brought up in the Levitical family line. How does he not know idols are wrong? With all this pandemonium, you might wonder who’s in charge around here:
In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6 NASB)
In a sense, leadership has the responsibility to keep this from happening. We don’t like “kings”, we buck against authority, we resist being told what to do. We do what we think is right, in our own eyes. The danger is real, and the need for leadership to change this feature of modern Jesus followers is also real. And it doesn’t become easier if left unchallenged. That’s what tomorrow’s post is about.
In the meantime, what do you see of our Master and His children through your knothole in the fence?
Great post, Matt. Some really interesting reflections. Thank you 🙂
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Thanks Steven! Have a wonderful New Year!
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Thank you so much, buddy, you too! 🙂