Fool’s Gold

(Today's post by James Rooks)

Judges 17 & 18

Judges 17:1 NASB – Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah.

These 2 chapters start off promisingly enough. We've got the hill country of Ephraim and a man named Micah. But very quickly things take a strange turn. Micah had stolen money from his mother to the tune of 110 years worth of wages. It wasn't like he'd robbed the piggy bank with a few dollars in it. Ten pieces of silver would have been a decent earning for a year, so the Eleven Hundred pieces that he took would have represented quite a nest egg. After his mom calls down a curse on whoever took it, he has a change of heart and gives it back. Reminds me of a story I heard one time where a fella ran out of a convenience store with a 12-pack of beer without paying for it. In his haste to make a quick get-away he wrecks his car in a ditch across the street from the store. He then walks back into the convenience store, sets the beer on the counter, and says to the clerk, “I'd like to pay for this.” Yep, that happened.

Don't get me wrong, I had the hardest time with these two chapters in Judges. The first time reading through I find myself thinking, “Where's the redeeming quality here? Where's the hero? Where's the cool battle scene? Where's God in all this mess?” I then read the chapters again, and then again, and then again. Reading mostly trying to figure out what to write about here, but also to figure out what exactly was going on. I think the mental exercise did me some good.

Sometimes when we read scripture it jumps off the page at first glance. Let's face it; some parts are easier to digest than others. Look at Psalm 139 and you find verse after verse of nuggets. Read the letters that Paul wrote and even the book of Acts where we see the birth of the church. If I were honest about Judges 17 & 18, if they were simply part of my reading plan, it would have been easy to just gloss through them and hope for a better day tomorrow when I hit Judges 19.

On the 3rd or 4th reading some things began to sink in. Although the story of Micah in Judges 17 & 18 is more of a close-up view, it represents a period of time that would have to be considered one of the spiritual basements for Israel as a whole. What we are seeing is what a society/culture looks like when there is moral decay and godlessness. There is a side bar in verse 6 that helps to explain this.

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

Now there were gods being worshiped in these 2 chapters, but not the one true God.

Take a look back through today's reading and make note of all the crazy things that happened. Micah steals the family fortune and gives it back. Mom celebrates getting her money back by taking it to have an idol made. Micah then sets up idols, a place of worship for these idols, and consecrates one of his sons in hopes that he'd be a priest…. basically he started a new religion/cult. A Levite enters the picture and Micah offers him a job for 10 pieces of silver a year to be the priest of his newly set up religion (Micah does this with hopes that the LORD will bless him). Things take a turn for Micah when the tribe of Dan shows up. They take his idols, they take his priest, and proceed to humiliate him when he tries to confront them. What Micah had set up for himself was now gone. The tribe of Dan finally settles, and when they do, they set up Micah's idols as a place of worship.

So what do we do with this information? Where's the personal application? I think sometimes it is easy for us to become ego-centric when reading the Bible. While there is PLENTY of self-application throughout Scripture, I don't know that the purpose of all Scripture is to make me feel good about my personal devotional reading for that day. Think for a moment what it would be like if we just read the Bible and said, “What is God saying here?” instead of, “What is God saying to me?” I don't want to wreck anyone's Bible Study time, but go with me for just a moment. If I approach Judges 17 & 18 with the mentality that there MUST BE some personal application, then I'm going to have to bend scripture to fit me. But, if I approach these 2 chapters and the rest of the Bible with the simple question, “What is God saying here?” then I would be more apt to look into things like: history of Israel, the tribe of Dan, how much a piece of silver was worth back then, location of Ephraim, etc. I would basically be digging and digging into Scripture with hopes that the Holy Spirit would reveal to me the intended meaning of these 2 chapters, not what I want to make it mean, but what it really means. I personally have missed so much over the years of living off of 5-minute morning devotions because I've taken a quick dip for a personal application and left without wading into the deeper waters.

So what is the snap shot that we see today? Things go really bad when you have generations of people living their lives doing whatever seems right to do. There is no good apart from God. This is why Micah's story is such a wreck. Believers should read this and see parallels of decay and decline in the lives of those who are apart from God. We can see clearly in our reading today that those that seek to find joy and enrichment apart from God are only finding fools gold. It has no worth! Knowing that because without Him there is no hope, we should be willing carriers of the hope that we have in Jesus. 1 Peter 3:15 gives us the charge to always be prepared to give a reason for our hope. Let us be men who carry that hope with us today. Go with God!

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  • I love the thought of “What is God saying HERE” vs “What is in this specific line of Scripture that applies to my life right this second”..good words Dr. Rooks. That has helped me reshape the way I’m reading. Thanks for that little nugget!

  • Adam Cooper

    James you have said great wisdom. There is such a wealth of information in the many verses of Scripture that God gave us and that information is not always written. It is in the history of the time, the history of the people and their struggles that really brings the truth out of Scripture. I agree that it is so easy to takes books like Judges and especially (gulp) Leviticus and glaze right over them just to say that we have read the entire Bible. But when we dig deeper like I feel God intended us to we truly READ and EXPERIENCE the Bible. Great word!

  • Andy Mitchell

    Good post James. I think its safe to say that if the danger of idolatry is shown to all of us in the book of Judges, then we’ve benefited from reading it. We need to realize that idolatry isn’t always an item or a golden statue. Most of the time it is something good in our life that we make ultimate in the place of Jesus. Like you say in the title– anything we find hope in, other than Jesus, is Fool’s Gold.

  • Lem Hill

    I felt the same way about the reading today. It was hard for me to find a clear message. Of course I am one of those people who can read the Bible and wonder what in the world is God trying to tell me. I often have to ask my translator (that would be my wife) to help me out. Sad but true fellas. Just keepin it real. Thanks for reminding me that all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching.

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