Buying Favor

I read through the latter part of the book of Judges a few days ago and could have sworn I was reading literature about contemporary times rather than biblical times.  After all, I really don't think people are that different now in their makeup than they were back then anyway.  I shake my head as I read the story of Micah in Judges 17 and how he thinks that he can buy favor with God just by having all of the right pieces in their right spiritual places.  Outward appearances though, do not impress God ever or others for long.

So the story of Micah goes something like this.  Micah was from the hill country living of Ephraim and at first glance from the text appeared to have all of a sudden gotten a conscience as he returned to his mother some silver that he stole from her.  Micah stole from his own mother.  Already, he has won no points with me.  Then, to see that he is only returning the money out of fear of the curse that he overheard his mother put on the money.  My, oh my. 

Mom was more gracious than I would have been for sure as she had the silver made into an idol and gave it back to Micah for the shrine in his house.  Micah had a shrine and had installed one of his sons as a priest, even though he wasn't a Levite.  Remember, only Levites could be priests.  But never fear.  Micah found a priest for hire and thus figured he was right with God.

And Micah said, "Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest." (Judges 17:13 NIV)

Does anyone else see the things that are wrong in this picture? I encourage you to read carefully throught the 13 verses of this short chapter.  I believe there are a lot of principles here to apply to our lives.  I'll briefly list what I see and you can feel free to add your own.

1)  Repentance - Micah returned the stolen money, but was he really sorry for what he did?  I don't think so.   He was just afraid he might suffer from a curse.  We must examine our motives for righting a wrong and make sure that they are pure so we truly can be right with God.

2) Forgiveness - Kudos to mom for blessing her son (17:2) when he returned the silver he stole.  He should have gotten a "spanking".

3) Idolatry - It would appear that Israel had gotten comfortable with their idol worship.  How many idols do we have in our  "homes"?   I believe that affluent societies suffer greatly from this one without even realizing it.

4) Anything for a buck - Do you think the young Levite was really a priest of God?  If he was, would he have taken a "job" in a home that had a shrine with idols in it?  Some things just aren't as they appear.

5) Buying favor with God - Micah "bought" a priest who might not have been a priest to preside over an idol-ridden shrine.  Micah really thought he would be gaining favor with God.   In reality, he was fooling himself, but not God.  What are we fooling ourselves with?

As I said, there is a lot to unpack out of this short chapter with lots of applications to our lives.  We must guard ourselves from not allowing the ills of society to affect our perspective.  Remember, Israel was once a godly nation.  Let's keep in touch with God so He can continue to keep us going in the right direction.

Our Emotional God

I'm sure we've all said the phrase "This hurts me more than it hurts you!", haven't we?  I know as a kid I've heard it from my mom and dad before a spanking.  I've never spanked a child - because I don't have any children - but I have spanked my dogs and have had the thought cross my mind.  It is surely no fun to have to be the disciplinarian is it?  The same goes for in the workplace.  Reprimands, I believe, are definitely harder to give than to receive, if done in the spirit of love and not in anger.

Reading through Judges 10 today, I saw once again how much Israel grieved a God who loved them beyond measure.  The children had once again started serving other Gods (10:6) and God was irate (10:7) ! In fact, God was so mad that He sold Israel into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the children of Ammon.  Consequently, Israel was oppressed for 18 years.   Now that is quite a "spanking".

Finally, Israel came crying back to God in repentance - 18 years after being sold.   My first thought is "I can't believe it took them 18 years to repent".  Then, God reminds me to look at my own life and rethink that thought.  Can anyone relate?  What was interesting to me is that Israel had a short dialogue with God before they changed their ways:

  • They acknowledged their bad ways and idol worship - v. 10
  • God reminds them of His past miracles - v. 11-12
  • God tells them they have forsaken Him and will not deliver them anymore - v 12-13
  • "Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen" - God v. 14
  • Israel whines a second time & displays willingness to accept God's discipline - v 15
  • Israel puts actions with their words, removing the gods and serving THE God. - v 16

Once God saw the sincerity of Israel's "heart", He was grieved for their misery.  Let's take a look:

And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. (Judges 10:16)

God didn't want to punish His beloved people.  He did not like to see them in pain.  Here's another verse in Isaiah to reference the same emotions of our God.  Again, He is pained because of their problems, even though Israel's trials were well deserved for their bad behavior.

Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

My heart just melts with compassion when I think of God's lovingkindness to His people.  My friends and family surely don't give me that much grace when I mess up! Time and time again, we break God's heart.  Time and time again, he grieves for us and with us, and lets us come back to His loving arms. 

Thank You, God, for Your longsuffering with me and with all of us as Your children.  Forgive is for making your heart break and show us how to live in ways that are pleasing to Your sight.  I want to make Your heart smile. Amen.