The first evident sign, the first harbinger of doom was the decline of the spiritual, or of spirituality, among the people. Preceding this great catastrophe the people had given themselves over to idols, they were worshiping graven images, they had mixed with the people that surrounded them and adopted their traditions, their proclivity for sin, as well as their gods. In essence the people of God had assimilated with those of the world and the outcome was a hideous amalgam of the sacred and the profane, a people who still believed that God was with them even though His glory had long departed their midst.
Even after all these years of studying the Word of God, it still amazes me that although the fear of the Lord had long ceased to exist among them, although reverence for the things of God had long ceased to be evident, although the keeping of God’s statutes had long ceased to be practiced, the people still believed or at least assumed that God was with them, and that they would be victorious over their enemies.
Judges 17:1-3, “Now there was a man from the mountains of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, ‘The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you, and on which you put a curse, even saying it in my ears – here is the silver with me; I took it.’ And his mother said, ‘may you be blessed by the Lord my son!’ So when he had returned the eleven shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, ‘I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the Lord for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore, I will return it to you.’”
This is just one of many examples of how convoluted the people’s thinking had become, how polluted and contaminated their hearts were, how impure and tainted their spiritual lives had come to be, that there was no longer a delineation between the Lord, the one true God, and the idols they were worshiping.
Here is a woman who by her own words had dedicated the silver which she had previously cursed to the Lord, then offers it up that a carved image might be molded from it. Lest we forget the first commandment that God gave to Moses is that the people have no other gods before Him, yet here this woman was having an idol molded of her silver, all the while dedicating it to the Lord. She was doing as unto the Lord, something the Lord hated, and commanded against, yet in her mind it seemed reasonable, and even something worth bragging about.
This is what happens when we attempt to blend, to amalgamate, or to meld the lifestyles, beliefs, traditions, and mindsets of the world with those of the household of faith. No good can come of it. Compromise as the church might, there will be no tolerant and all-inclusive utopia, wherein the perverted, profane, and blasphemous will walk hand in hand with the righteous, the sanctified and the holy. The only thing that will occur is what has occurred in the past. We will become a bane in the sight of God, a stench in His nostrils, and the recipients of His well-deserved wrath.
Another thing that occurs as a direct result of spiritual decline is that the people begin to look for teachers who will tickle their ears, who will not convict them of their sin, and who will not preach the righteousness of God.
Within the same chapter in Judges, there is yet another telling interaction between the man from the mountains of Ephraim named Micah, and a young man from Bethlehem, who was a Levite, and from what the Word tells us, a wanderer of sorts, going from place to place, and residing temporarily wherever he could. As it happened his journeys took him to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah.
Judges 17:9-10, “And Micah said to him, ‘where do you come from?’ So he said to him, ‘I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am on my way to find a place to sojourn.’ Micah said to him, ‘Dwell with me, and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten shekels of silver per year, a suit of clothes and your sustenance.’ So the Levite went in.”
If it were not so tragic, one would think that the preceding interaction was the beginning of a bad joke.
‘A stranger walks into a house, and the master of the house wants to make him a priest!’
Perhaps there was still some spiritual figure in Micah’s life that spoke the truth to him, perhaps there was still someone who was willing to point out the inconsistencies, so what he did was create and finance his own ‘yes’ man.
‘I’m going to pay you, I’m going to clothe you, I’m going to feed you, you better say what I like to hear, you better tell me I am the apple of God’s eye, and that I am blessed coming and going, and that my cup is going to be pressed down, shaken together and running over. You’d better say soothing things to me, you’d better tell me how good and noble I am, because I’m holding the purse strings buddy, I’m the one paying your way. Just keep that in mind before you go spouting off ‘words from the Lord’.
How, is what is happening today in most churches any different than what Micah did with the young Levite?
‘No, we don’t care if you weren’t called to the ministry, nor do we care that you know nothing of the Word of God, or even the paramount importance of Jesus Christ, or even that Jesus is the only way to salvation, you have the look we’re looking for, you have a great smile, and our polling suggests that you seem trustworthy to senior citizens and women between the ages of thirty five and fifty six. We’ll pay you well, buy you nice suits, get you a mansion for a parsonage, and all you have to do is crack a few jokes, speak in platitudes, avoid controversial topics like hell, or Jesus, or repentance at all cost, and make us feel good about ourselves. If we have a deal, sign on the dotted line.’
Solomon was right; there is nothing new under the sun, just the same old perverted human nature that attempts to supplant God, reinventing the same old schemes and tricks to keep their hearts from being convicted, and one of the best methods of doing this, is knowing that the person who’s supposed to be your spiritual leader is well in your pocket, indebted to you, and so comfortable in his current existence that he would not dare rock the boat.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.