Judges 17:1-13 – Saying that We Are Zebras When We Are Elephants Does Not Make Us Zebras…

Posted: September 22, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 17:1-13
Micah’s Idols

One of the most famous lines from the Old Testament is Judges 17:6 which states, “In those days, Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” When you read that and if you are a student of the Bible, you go, “Yeah, man, those Israelites were really a screwed up bunch.” They generally became a more and more depraved people even though God had made them His own people. Today, we call the essence of Judges 17:6 moral relativism.

What is moral relativism? In moral debate in the United States today, many people resort to moral relativism. They argue that there are no objective moral values which help us to determine what is right or wrong. They claim “everything is relative.” In order to defend this position, the relativist puts forth two arguments: (1) Since people and cultures disagree about morality, there are no objective moral values; (2) Moral relativism leads to tolerance of practices we may find different or odd and celebrate that the person has to beliefs. In moral relativism that are not universal truths, no moral absolutes. In moral relativism you can be both a claimed affirmer of life but yet support abortion. We can claim to be anti-slavery but yet we treat our unborn fetuses as if they are our own property to do with whatever we please. We can support gay rights and transgenderism but fail to give a beating but as yet unborn life as if the fetus has no rights. Doing what we feel is right and justifying it as OK is the essence of today’s culture.

The problem for the moral relativist (who is often a secular humanist who rejects God) is they have no good answer to the two-part question: Is there anything wrong with anything, and why? A proper answer to the question necessitates that an individual have: (1) an unchanging standard they can turn to, and (2) an absolute authority that has the right to impose moral obligation. Absent these two things, and morals or ethics simply become personal preferences rather than universal absolutes. Rape, for example, could never be deemed wrong; the strongest statement that could be made about rape would be, “I don’t like it.” Abortion is a choice because turning a life into property which I can dispose of as I please cannot be wrong if there is no moral standard to measure it against. If we do away with God, anything is fair game and everything is relative. Is there anything wrong with nothing being wrong? Our culture now celebrates its so called enlightened freedom from Christianity. We celebrate that the old moral standards that governed our nation up through the 1950s are no longer valid for society. We are now free to be identify today what I want to be – a man or a woman. We celebrate alternative sexual lifestyles as a freedom of personal expression. We celebrate a woman’s right to choose to treat a beating heart as a piece of property to be tossed away like yesterday’s leftovers. We celebrate that we have freed ourselves from conformity to mutually accepted social norms. We now celebrate and protect fringe behaviors as a right that must preserved even at the expense of the prevailing desires of the general society. We even vilify those who pushback against elevating the rights of a few over the rights of the many.

This is the world in which we live and how little it is different from the world described in Judges 17:6 in this passage of Judges 17:1-13. Right smack in the middle of the passage is the crux of the problem of the people of Israel and so it is with us today. We have effectively in the 21st century wrestled control of our lives from God. We are now our own gods. We decide that which is right and that which is illusion (sorry…that Moody Blues reference just jumped onto the page). We decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. I can decide today that I can ignore hard coded and obvious genetics to say that I identify at least for today that I am a woman when it is naturally and anatomically obvious that I am a man. This is the height of today’s self expression. When we say an elephant is a zebra and everyone supports your right to believe an elephant is a zebra then we can begin deluding ourselves as to what is right and what is true. When we start calling things to say that they are when they are not, we begin to accept lies as truth. Thus, then truth becomes what I perceive it to be. The inevitable conclusion for all this moral relativism will be that there will be no rule of law because there will be, eventually, no universally accepted moral standards. Laws are based on moral standards with everyone determining for themselves and even having the courts defend that it is right for my rights to be held in the highest of esteem even at the cost of problems in society, there will be a decay of law. There will be a decay of knowing or even caring what is right and wrong. Courts are already on their way there. Courts no longer weigh the rights of the few against the rights of the many – what is best for society as a whole. Courts now see individual rights as sacrosanct and what is right and good for society must take a back seat to the rights of individuals. Therefore, when we make the individual the locus of morality at all cost, we are destined to lose any corporate sense of what is right and wrong. I am my own god. I determine what is right for me. It’s been tried, folks, right here in the history of God’s people. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

Let’s think about Israel’s desire to pursue individual self-interest at the cost of the good of society and at the cost of their relationship with the Creator God as we read this passage:

17 There was a man named Micah, who lived in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 One day he said to his mother, “I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces[a] of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.”

“The Lord bless you for admitting it,” his mother replied. 3 He returned the money to her, and she said, “I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.”

4 So when he returned the money to his mother, she took 200 silver coins and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah’s house. 5 Micah set up a shrine for the idol, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols. Then he installed one of his sons as his personal priest.

6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

7 One day a young Levite, who had been living in Bethlehem in Judah, arrived in that area. 8 He had left Bethlehem in search of another place to live, and as he traveled, he came to the hill country of Ephraim. He happened to stop at Micah’s house as he was traveling through. 9 “Where are you from?” Micah asked him.

He replied, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am looking for a place to live.”

10 “Stay here with me,” Micah said, “and you can be a father and priest to me. I will give you ten pieces of silver[b] a year, plus a change of clothes and your food.” 11 The Levite agreed to this, and the young man became like one of Micah’s sons.

12 So Micah installed the Levite as his personal priest, and he lived in Micah’s house. 13 “I know the Lord will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest.”

Here, in this passage, we see that Micah and his mother seemed to be good and moral people and may have desired to worship God, but they disobeyed God by following their own desires instead of doing what God wanted. The attitude that prevailed in Micah’s day was this” “The people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (17:6). How remarkably similar is that attitude to today’s world. However, God has given us standards. He has not left our conduct up to us and our opinions. We can avoid conforming to the standards of our day by taking God’s commands seriously and applying them to our daily lives. Independence and self-reliance are positive traits but only when such traits are displayed within the framework of God’s standards.

Today, as in Micah’s day, everyone seemed to put self-interest first. Time has not changed human nature. Most people still reject God’s right way of living. The people of Micah’s time replaced true worship of God with a homemade version of idol worship. As a result, God’s unchanging, equally applied justice was replaced with chaos. Ignoring God’s standards for living led to confusion and destruction. Morality was on a sliding scale. People who do not live by God’s standards will end up doing whatever seems most expedient to support their own self-interest at any given time. This tendency is present in all of us. God’s Word provides us with the consistent and universal truths by which we should govern our lives. It is the way by which we can tell the difference between right and wrong.

In the end, the moral relativist has no satisfying answer in his attempt to respond to the question, “Is there anything wrong with anything, and why?” There is no standard to turn to and no authority to recognize and respect. In contrast to the moral relativist whose worldview is secular humanism, the Christian worldview provides a solid standard and authority that can be confidently referenced and followed. The Creator God, Who has revealed Himself in His Word is both the standard and authority for morals. From God’s nature comes pure good that serves as the straight line by which all crooked lines can be measured.

God’s image has been impressed upon humanity (Genesis 1:26-27) so that human beings instinctively know God’s moral law and what is right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15). People don’t have to believe in God to know His moral law, but in denying Him, they lose the ability to ground an objective moral law. It is then that we descend into the chaos of calling an elephant a zebra and defending my right to call it a zebra. It is then that everything is fair game and there is nothing to cling to as universal truth. Nothing to compare behaviors against. Nothingness. Everything is OK and nothing is the result. There is no meaning to life. There is no greater good only what I perceive. There is no God. I am my own god. There is no heaven and there is no hell. There is no need for it because nothing can be said to be wrong. We are elephants believing that we are zebras.

The funny thing is…is that one day when our individual deaths occur and/or when Jesus returns, we will learn that there will be no moral ambiguities. We will realize that God really does exist. That there are actual moral absolutes and they we had deluded ourselves by thinking we were zebras when the reality, the universal and unmistakable truth is that we were elephants all along.

Amen and Amen.

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