The Results of Renegade Religion
February 22, 1998 Judges 17-18
Scripture: 2Tim. 3:1-9
There are two accounts at the end of the book of Judges (chapters 17-21) that reveal much about the fallen condition of the times in between the occupation of Canaan by Joshua and the conquest of it by King David. It was a time in which:
Ju 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
Although in God’s grace and mercy, he raised up deliverers called judges, the people always went back to their stubborn ways:
Ju 2:18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.
19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
These two accounts, written and added later during the time of the kings but actually occuring early in the period of the judges, have much to tell us as a parallel account about our own times. Things perhaps symptomatic of our own times, even of some Christians in our times. This morning’s Scripture passage speaks loudly about these things. The events of the judges happened in part because there was no consistent leadership. There was as yet no king or kingly line, and the writer (perhaps Samuel) saw this as part of the problem. It was a time of renegade religion and self destructive disobedience.
I want to bring a message this morning on the first of these accounts about the results of renegade religion in chapters 17-18. It is about what happens when we insist on doing things our own way instead of God’s way. It is about what happens when we don’t stay put and let God deal with us in his way. It is about what happens when we refuse to trust him for the courage and strength to obey.
For the Christian it is about what happens when we hop from one city church to another to avoid dealing with the serious issues in our lives whenever we feel God turning up the heat. For the Christian it is about what happens when we stay on the fringes of fellowship to avoid getting too vulnerable to the changes necessarily prompted by the Holy Spirit when we interact more closely. For the Christian it is about refusing to go all the way to the cross, thereby being tempted to substitute another god, one we find easier to deal with. But we soon find that this substitute god is no god at all, and dealing with our own self deception is a harder taskmaster than submitting to truth ever was or could have been.
This account is about the tribe of Dan, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Samson was from the tribe of Dan. He was the last judge written about. If you recall the message about Samson from several months ago, he was a Nazirite, set apart to God, but somewhat of a rebel who was a lone wolf. He wanted to do things his own way, ultimately getting himself in the crosshairs of Delilah’s scissors. His encore performance brought the house down on the Philistines but it was curtains for him. The beauty in his end result obedience was God’s grace in spite of his disobedience. He delivered the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines at least for a time. But this took place after the events in chapters 17-18. His life seemed to be characteristic of the Danite tendencies.
These chapters concern the migration of part of the tribe of Dan from their alloted inheritance on the line between Ephraim on the north and Judah on the south. Their inheritance stretched between Jerusalem on the east and the great sea on the west. They were pinned between the Amorites and the Philistines. They never could muster the faith or the courage in God to get it together and defeat their enemies.
Jud 1:34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain.
Jud 3:3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
Jud 3:4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD's commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses.
Jos 19:47 (But the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory, so they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their forefather.)
Samson was a part of the Danite remnant who stayed in the alloted area and ultimately found deliverance. This story is about the rest who did not stay and trust God to deliver them - about how it happened and about the results.
I. Micah’s mother and idolatry.
II. Micah’s Levite.
III. Danite spies and Micah’s priest.
IV. The report of the spies.
V. The abduction of Micah’s priest.
VI. Micah’s futile pursuit.
VII. The capture of Laish.
It is interesting to note Jacob’s prophecy about his son, Dan. It reveals the judgeship of Samson and may also imply Dan’s independent separation - governing itself without others. It reveals their reluctance for open warfare and preference for guerilla tactics, even deceptive tactics. It has also been said that they may have made their living by robbing caravans passing through their territory.
Ge 49:16 "Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
Ge 49:17 Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse's heels so that its rider tumbles backward.
We see that even Moses predicted Dan’s northern location.
De 33:22 ¶ About Dan he said: "Dan is a lion's cub, springing out of Bashan."
Deborah, a judge in Israel, along with Barak, delivered the country from the Canaanites, but without Dan’s help. This shows their lack of confidence in open conflict because of a lack of faith in God.
Jud 5:17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves.
They wanted a “form of godliness but denying its power” and this renegade tribe found a renegade priest. It was clear in the law that priests were to come only from the line of Aaron. They found someone who was not to be what he wanted to be, but would tickle their ears in order do it.
Nu 3:5 The LORD said to Moses,
Nu 3:6 "Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.
Nu 3:7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle.
Nu 3:8 They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle.
Nu 3:9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.
Nu 3:10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death."
The result of all this was preparation for deep seated generational idolatry. The results of renegade religion lies in the ruins of the lives it enslaves. They ran from God’s plan for them and resettled into an increasinglly false, powerless religion that could not save them. It took them to the northern fringes of any protection from the rest of the kingdom.
Jud 20:1 ¶ Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came out as one man and assembled before the LORD in Mizpah.
They instituted an idol worship so entrenched that Jeroboam felt quite free to set up one of his two politically religious golden calves in Dan as a northern center of worship to replace Jerusalem in the divided kingdom. Their penchant for idolatry was well known and the northern location was vital.
Jud 18:30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land.
Jud 18:31 They continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.
1Ki 12:26 Jeroboam thought to himself, "The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David.
1Ki 12:27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam."
1Ki 12:28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
1Ki 12:29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.
This was continued by Jehu, who even took Baal worship out of Israel, but not the golden calves. It was firmly entrenched even to the time of Pekah, and Dan was in the territory first taken captive by Assyria. The rest of Israel followed soon after. The results of Dan’s renegade religion were devastating. Dan was one of the so-called lost tribes carried away by Assyria to disappear.
2Ki 10:29 ¶ However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit-- the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.
2Ki 15:28 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.
2Ki 15:29 In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.
And yet we see the marvelous hand of God’s grace even to the northern tribes. All 12 tribes are mentioned in later Scripture even though the northern kingdom of Israel was never formally returned from captivity.
Ezr 8:35 Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD.
Eze 48:1 ¶ "These are the tribes, listed by name: At the northern frontier, Dan will have one portion; it will follow the Hethlon road to Lebo Hamath; Hazar Enan and the northern border of Damascus next to Hamath will be part of its border from the east side to the west side.
Ac 26:7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.
It is interesting to note that Dan is not included in the list of tribes in Revelation 7. The 12 tribes are made up by including both Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. There is a tradition from the Jews that the antichrist is to come from the tribe of Dan, probably because of their early connection with idolatry.
Re 7:4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
Re 7:5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
Re 7:6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
Re 7:7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
Re 7:8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
We began with the possibility that this going astray was because the people had no king. The king on the near horizon for them was King David. And if Samuel wrote Judges, it is likely that his postscript to the book is in reference to what happens without godly leadership. Twice in the book, he refers to God’s choice of Judah to have precedence in delivering the land from oppression. Judah had leadership as savior of the nation. Of course, David was from Judah and delivered the nation from all oppressors. Christ is the Lion of Judah, of the seed of David, who delivers the soul from the oppression of sin and death. As the time of the judges was in the last days before the coming of King David, so are we now in the last days before the return of King Jesus.
Jud 1:1 ¶ After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?"
Jud 1:2 The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands."
Jud 20:18 ¶ The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, "Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?" The LORD replied, "Judah shall go first."
In true worship with Christ as our Lord and King, we are delivered from all our spiritual enemies. But he demands our full allegiance. There is no room for any other gods, including ourselves. He wants us to follow him all the way to the cross, without fear, trusting him to work within us what is powerful and perfect. He wants us to grapple honestly with all the issues that confront us and submit them to his scrutiny. He wants us to stay and work them through without sidestepping or substitution. He wants us to submit not only to him, but to one another, in the openness and honesty of Holy Spirit led vulnerability.
Ac 2:36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
37 ¶ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s answer about “what shall we do” was basically to make Jesus both Lord and Christ. That means obedience to him as well as belief in him. Anything else is renegade religion leading to the ruins of idolatry. The results of renegade religion lie in the ruins of the lives it enslaves.