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Choose This, Not That

Choose This, Not That – What do you put your faith in? (Judges 18:18-20)

Today’s Reading: Judges 18-19

Today’s Reflection: Judges 18:18-20

18) And when these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19) And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20) And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

Throughout the last few chapters of Judges there is a repeated refrain:

Judges 17:6 – In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Two stories highlight the chaos and lawlessness that resulted from this reality.  The story of the Levite and his concubine (chapters 19 and 20) is referenced most because of its brutality, savagery and licentiousness.  But the story of Micah and the Levite is perhaps even more tragic.

Micah was an Ephraimite who spent considerable time, energy and money creating a shrine and household gods and anointing priests for his worship.  When a Levite happened by and asked to lodge at his home, Micah offered him a job as his fulltime priest.  As today’s reflection text suggests, Micah believed having a Levite serving in his home as priest would grant him favour with God.

The problem was that Micah’s entire focus was on the externalities—on what seemed holy according to his sensibilities.  In truth Micah actually overlooked critical parts of the law—the household gods were a clear violation of the second commandment. And Micah actually believed these objects, artifacts and even people could move the hand of God on his behalf.  As today’s text tells us, in the end a group of thieves from the tribe of Dan would steal his entire worship shrine—gods, ornaments, priests and all—and leave him with nothing.

What’s in your worship shrine?  Where is your faith in your worship experience?  Does it not feel like worship if you don’t sing hymns?  Is it not holy if everyone isn’t wearing nice suits or dresses?  Is it not ‘really’ church if there is no sermon?  Or if the speaker isn’t a pastor?  Is it not really worship if the praise team and band don’t sound right?  Is your worship experience ruined if one of these things are missing?  Or is the point really about an experience that draws you closer to God and leaves you changed from having spent time in His presence?

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with hymns, or pastors, or nice clothing, or a great sounding praise team.  The problem is when we hinge our connection to God on these things.  What would happen if you got to church and all of the hymnals were missing?  Or the praise team didn’t show up?  Or a power outage prevented the band from playing?  Or the pastor was delayed by car trouble?  Would worship be prevented from happening under these circumstances?  Is your experience with God dependent on these things?  Or no deeper than these things?

There is a simple truth God has been trying to tell his people since Adam.  Though God may use objects as symbols to point to Himself these objects are not the point.  The true treasure we seek is God’s favour, and this is not hidden in objects, or dress, or certain practices, or certain appointed peoples.  It is in your personal relationship with Him, your love for Him because of who He is and what He has done for you, and your decision to obey Him because you acknowledge Him as the one and only sovereign God who desires and plans only good things for you.

Are you going to put your faith in things that can be stolen, or in the one thing that can never be stolen, your personal connection to God Himself?

Choose This:  A living-breathing relationship with God that gives the rituals and practices of church and religion meaning, and has meaning beyond these rituals and practices.

Not That: A focus on rituals and practices that by themselves are empty and devoid of life-changing spiritual power.

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