Sermon preached by Rev Rudi Schwartz on 7 July 2012
- 1Peter 2:4-12
- Judges 17:1-13
“Immortal, invisible, God only wise”
“Speak, O Lord”
“The Servant King”
Our God and Father,
In your unfailing love you have lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you have guided them to your holy dwelling. (Exodus 15:13) You have brought them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance— the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established. (Exodus 15:17) You led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; You lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.
Now Lord we pray that You will lead us into the green pastures of your presence. Teach us your will and give us yielding hearts to take hold of your Word and understanding minds to grasp the vastness of your wisdom. In the Name of Jesus Christ and for his sake we pray. AMEN.
My dear brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sure you have heard these words in some way or form:
“Don’t tell people what to do. Everyone needs to find out for himself. As long as it feels good and as long as it makes you happy.”
That is the catchphrase of liberalism born of humanism. The argument goes like this:
“We are all inherently good; we just need to learn to bring out the good within us in order to dislike the bad. There is actually no standard, for as long as we all agree that certain things are not as good as others.”
Arguments like these feed on the self, and is just a very fined excuse to not conform to any expression of the accepted standard. It promotes the individual and can lead to using the individual experience as standard, which means that no standards really applies, hence the need for so-called tolerance! Applied to faith it promotes private worship as a norm, which is nothing else than idolatry.
It gives birth to pragmatism where something can only be the truth if it is practically useful. The purpose of thought is merely to guide action. The effect of an idea is more important than its origin – it is more important to do something, than to ask who and what led you to do that thing. Therefore truth is relative to time, place, and purpose – it cannot therefore not be absolute: what was valid then, it not necessarily valid now. It also declares that value is as inherent in means as in ends – it therefore doesn’t matter what you are aiming for, what you do on the way to get there, for as long as it has some practical value (you get something out of it), will have some value too. Well, then do it!
These ideas we find in all philosophies which place man in the centre, having no regard for God. It’s as old as mankind itself, because it wells out of the depraved soul of sinful man.
We have titled the message for today “Everything goes!” Judges 17:6 says:
“In those days Israel had no king [it refers to the force or authority of law and order]; everyone did as he saw fit.” The subtitle of the sermon is “sugar-coated spiritual degradation.
God and his people
We saw last week how God called his people out of the bondage of Egypt. He did it because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He promised them a land. Now, on their journey to this new land, God gave his commandments to them. Over and over we hear the expression (as a matter of fact 76 times in the first five books of the Bible), “I am the Lord”. Over and over we hear the word “holy” (157 times in the Pentateuch). The Lord repeated over and over that He is holy, therefore his people needed to be holy. To that end God gave them his law to which they had to adhere to in the finest of details. Their holiness did not lie in their sinlessness or their effort in keeping the law; it lied in the fact that as they would live according to this law, they would be different from the other nations. Listen to the word of Leviticus 18:1-5:
The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 18:1-5)
What Israel had to do was to drive out the nations out of Canaan and destroy everything in the land. The reason? The land had to be holy unto the Lord. What belonged to and what was dedicated to other gods had to be removed.
You must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you. (Deuteronomy 7:16)
As soon as Joshua allotted the different portions of the land of Canaan to the different tribes, they were commanded to occupy the land and live as the Lord commanded. The Lord was good to them, promising not to destroy the inhabitants of the districts before they got there in order that the land would not lay waist to the wild animals (Deut 7:22). The Lord, by his grace, intended for them just walk in already built houses and already cultivated vineyards and paddocks. One thing they were commanded not to even think of was this:
You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” (Deuteronomy 7:17) Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. (Deuteronomy 7:21)
Then Moses died, and after Joshua took over. Israel got what God promised, but they became unfaithful. Let’s follow the line:
Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah. (Joshua 15:63) Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely. (Joshua 17:12-13)
It is very handy to blame circumstances if you fail to do what you are supposed to do. It is even handier to, after that, capitalise on your so-called inability by trying to turn your failure into fortune by making those whom you were supposed to destroy your man and maidservants as some tribes did.
That laid the foundation for our verse: everyone did as he saw fit. No less that a third generation after Moses and the story of Judges 17 happened.
Not holy as God commanded
A private interpretation of the law
Micah, not the prophet, stole silver from his mother. Stealing, of course was against God commandments. The fact that he stole the silver, and even more so, the fact the he stole it from his mother, showing disrespect for her and by this breaking another commandment of the Lord, did not really bothered him. What bothered him was the fact that his mother put a curse on the thief. Not his fear for God drove him to admit his sin, but the fear for some superstitious curse, probably as they saw the other nations around them did.
So he admitted to his mother, “I took your 11 kilograms of silver!” We don’t know how the mother got it, but it seems possible, since the father never figures in this passage, that she got it as an inheritance from her late husband. If the son took the inheritance unlawfully, it was actually another sin.
A private interpretation of the law leads to private worship
What was her reaction? Did she take this unruly, greedy, lying son to the elders for discipline as the law required? No. She rewarded him for his “honesty”! She overturned the curse and made it a blessing. And not every blessing. “The Lord bless you my son.” Using the word Lord, she used the name of the God of the Covenant, not just any other God. Spoiled rotten, not regarding the law of God, she went further: 200 shekels (2 kilograms) were given to a goldsmith to make a carved image and cast an idol – all for the son. And he got the silver back. Why? Because the mother wanted to solemnly consecrate her silver to the Lord! “I will set apart as holy unto the Lord my silver. I will have an idol made and give it to my son so he can worship.”
What did Micah do? Well, he built a shrine, his own little temple with his own god in it. He even went a little further: he appointed his own priest.
He was a real pragmatist, this Micah. Who cares about the truth? Who cares about the means, as long as the end is met? Who would argue that the truths of God’s Word are still valid now that we live in such a changed society? Certainly, what counted then cannot count today! Besides, it works for me, therefore it must be true.
A private interpretation of the law leads to a private worship which leads to sincretism
He introduced syncretism. Syncretism is to combine two or more religions. It is to borrow elements from the one and replace the original meaning of some aspects of the old with the new. The process can be reversed too. In short, it is to conform to the principles of this world. The danger is just that you still hang on to the outward forms of the old, replacing it with the new. In other words, all still looks the same, whilst it is not the same.
Micah could have priest, albeit his own son, and later the Levite. It looked like the real thing: there was worship. The name of the Lord was still mentioned. Micah even declared: “I know the Lord will be good to me.” But the true religion and worship as God ordained it in so much detail is stripped of every shred of truth. Paul says some people have the form of godliness but denying its power.
Who was the Levite (keep in mind, God ordained that all priests had to be from the line of Aaron, not just any Levite!) Micah paid to be his priest? His name was Jonathan we read later down the track, the son of Gershom, the son of – Moses! (Jud 18:30) Moses’ own grandson!
A private interpretation of the law leads to a private worship and leads to syncretism, which leads to nothing
Micah tried it, God hated it. Micah thought he had it, but they stole his god. He ended up having nothing. The tribe of Dan stole his god and his priest. Micah tried to defend it, but there was nothing to defend. History tells us that that part of the tribe of Dan settled northwest of the region of Lake Galilee on Israel’s most northern border. Dan’s apparent lack of interest in assisting the other tribes suggests that Dan, situated on Israel’s northernmost border, had more in common with its foreign neighbours to the north than with Israel’s other tribes.
The exclusion of the tribe of Dan from the sealing of the twelve tribes (Rev. 7:5–8) should not be overlooked. It appears that Dan had been cut off from the other tribes of Israel.
My brother and sister,
I dare to say we live in a time of sugar-coated spiritual degradation. We sugar-coat so many ungodly practices with a Bible verse or even so-called spiritual acts, not acknowledging the fact that we are not doing it God’s way. Everything goes. As long as it has a hue of Christianity. As long as we enjoy it and as long as we love one another.
Christians, God’s holy people redeemed by the blood if Jesus Christ, act like the world, talk like the world, dress like the world, sing like the world, spend their time in leisure like the world. What is the difference between church and world these days, especially if what is happening in the church services is not much different from what happens on the markets of worldliness. God command is, “Love not the world”.
As pagans gamble, so Christians gamble. And some money winners in this regard are too sure as Micah was, that God has been good to them. As the world spend time and money in cosmetic self-indulgence to just look better and improving the self, so Christians run after it, spending millions of dollars not in spreading the Gospel of hope to a lost world, but to look good and be physically fit when you meet the person on the other end of the mirror.
The church trips over itself to talk of “inclusiveness” of everyone, while the Bible talks of exclusiveness or holiness. The church joined the chorus of “tolerance” while the Bible talks about driving out the things that may become a trap to worship God in a way different to his command. In Scandinavia some churches has devised “Rainbow Masses” for gays and “Sophia Masses” for feminists and lesbians. There is what is referred to as a “à la carte” Christianity. Churches encourage what is called a “patchwork” religion that takes elements from Buddhism, aspects of Hinduism mixing it with the Christian faith for people then to create their own belief system.
But how is it with your worship of God? Can you discern the true Biblical worship of the living God according to the Scriptures? Can you to defend your Christian faith with your hand on the Scriptures? Don’t be satisfied with a sugar-coated religion. Micah tried it, God hated it. Micah thought he had it, but they stole his god. He ended up having nothing. Build your faith on the Rock. The storms will not sweep it away. Consecrate yourself afresh to the Lord today by giving Him all you have: heart, soul, mind and strength.