SDA Sabbath School Lessons
June 22, 1996
#12 Misguided Devotion
Read for this week's study:
Exod. 20:4, 5, KJV
God accepts worship that is offered according to His instructions, which leads to a proper understanding of Him. A blend of true and false worship may be appealing to human beings, but God does not accept it.
Royal Rules. If you wish to speak with the queen of England, you cannot simply knock on the door of Buckingham Palace and expect her to come to the door. She is a queen. You are a common stranger. Even if you are granted a meeting with her, you must approach her through a protocol established by the queen and her assistants. She makes the rules. You follow them.
Like the queen of England, the Lord is a monarch. Not only that, He is Deity, greater than any earthly monarch. He is the King of kings, who "is sovereign over the kingdom of mortals; he gives it to whom he will" (Dan. 4:17, NRSV). Therefore, human beings must approach Him on His terms. He makes the rules. Those who approach Him in worship on their own terms rather than His do not honor Him; they insult Him. That is what the ancient Israelites did when they used idols to worship the Lord; they insulted Him.
- Sunday June 16: Image Worship (Judges 17:1-4).
- Samson is the last in a series of "judges," deliverers whose stories are recounted in the core portion of the book of Judges (Judges 3:7-16:31). This part of the book shows how the history of the Israelites in this period was characterized by apostasy, oppression, and deliverance.
- The end of the book describes two events that show how lawless the Israelites were during the period of the "judges." That lawlessness is the theme of this section is clear from the words found near its beginning and at its end: "In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 21:25; compare 18:1; 19:1).
- The two events were (1) the idolatry of Micah and the transfer of this form of worship to the city of Dan (Judges 17, 18) and (2) a crime committed by Benjaminites and the civil war that resulted (Judges 19, 21). Judges 18:30 and Judges 20:28 indicate that these events occurred in the time of Moses' and Aaron's grandchildren, before events related earlier in the book.
- What is the significance of the story about Micah and his mother that is told in Judges 17:1-5?
- The story provides background to Micah's idolatrous worship, explaining how he came to own images. He had taken silver that belonged to his mother. When she discovered it missing, she uttered a curse, apparently upon whoever had taken it. Hearing the curse, Micah was apparently afraid and confessed to her, whereupon she promptly forgave him.
- A problem remained: the curse could not be taken back. It appears that Micah's mother had inadvertently cursed her son, just as Jephthah had inadvertently vowed to offer his daughter as a sacrifice (Judges 11:30, 34, 35). Her subsequent words and actions seem to indicate that she attempted to neutralize the curse by providing her son with a blessing. She dedicated the silver to the Lord by having it made into images for the worship of the Lord, against the Lord's command (Exodus 20:4), and gave the images to her son.
- Unlike Samson's mother, Micah's mother did not rely on instructions from God. She had 1,100 pieces of silver, the same amount promised to Delilah by each of the Philistine rulers for her contribution to Samson's physical downfall (Judges 16:5). In the way Micah's mother used her silver, she contributed to her son's spiritual downfall.
- How would you evaluate your spiritual influence upon others?
- Monday June 17: Priest for Hire (Judges 17:5-13).
- Because of his mother's strategy, Micah had a shrine, to which he added an ephod (a priestly mantle; Exodus 28:6-8) and teraphim (household idols; Gen. 31:19, 34). He installed (literally "filled the hand of") one of his sons as his priest. This was blatant idolatry. Gideon had made an unauthorized ephod to worship the Lord, and it subsequently came to be worshiped (Judges 8:27), but Micah and his mother blatantly set up idolatry from the start. Recognizing the illegitimacy of Micah's cult in the sight of God, the book of Judges makes the observation at this point that "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).
- Why did Micah seize upon the opportunity to have a Levite as his priest? Judges 17:13.
- God had chosen the tribe of Levi to serve Him in a special way at His sanctuary (Exodus 32:26-29). From this tribe, Aaron and his descendants were consecrated to function as priests (Exodus 28:1; Num. 3:2, 3), who were authorized to perform rituals in the sanctuary. Other members of the tribe of Levi were designated to perform nonritual labor connected with the sanctuary (Num 3:5-39; 4:1-33).
- Jonathan, Micah's Levite, was descended form Levi through Moses and his son Gershom rather than Aaron (Judges 18:30; compare Exodus 2:21, 22). Note that if your translation of Judges 18:30 reads "Manasseh" rather than "Moses," it is because the Hebrew text shows the addition of a Hebrew letter to the name "Moses," thereby changing it. Jonathan was not qualified to serve as a legitimate priest. But Micah's shrine was not legitimate, and the Levite would make it seem more legitimate.
- Micah's statement after the installation of the Levite reveals his motive: "Now I know that the Lord will prosper me" (Judges 17:13). His underlying goal was not to honor the Lord through a relationship of love with Him but through material prosperity. He thought that the presence of ritual objects would ensure God's blessing and his well-being. (See 1 Sam. 4:3-11.)
- Worship is an offering to God. Is it more important that we own our worship and can relate to it or that God wants to own and accept it? Gen. 4:2-5; Exodus 32:1-10.
- Tuesday June 18: Spies
- Following the story of Micah and his idolatry in Judges 17, chapter 18 seems at first to begin a new story about the Israelites of the tribe of Dan. But the reader soon becomes aware of contact between the Danites and Micah; the two stories are interlinked.
- Why were the Danites looking for a place to live? Had not territory been allocated to them, along with the other tribes, in the time of Joshua? Joshua 19:40-48.
- The original inheritance of the tribe of Dan was in the southwestern part of Palestine, just north of Judah. This territory included Zorah and Eshtaol, where Samson lived (Joshua 19:41; compare Judges 13:2, 25). The problem with this area was the fact that it was next to the land of the Philistines, who were not inclined to mind their own business and respect Israelite borders. Although Joshua 19:47 does not say who took the territory of the Danites away from them, it was probably the Philistines.
- Judges 18:30 indicates that the events of Judges 18 occurred at the beginning of the period of the "judges," but some Danites still lived in part of their original homeland as late as the time of Samson (Judges 13:2, 25).
- Before attempting to conquer territory, the Danites sent spies to find a good place. (Compare Numbers 13 and Joshua 2.) As the spies passed through the territory of Ephraim, they stayed at Micah's house. This is important for what happens later.
- How valid was the prediction of the young Levite (Judges 18:6) regarding the success of the Danites?
- The Danite spies wanted the security of knowing that their endeavor would succeed. Since the young priest had ritual objects, they thought that he could use them to inquire of the Lord. He gave them an answer, but since he was disobeying God by his form of worship (Exodus 20:4, 5), God would not have spoken through him. (Compare 1 Sam. 28:6; Ps. 66:18.) The Danites went on their way with false security, thinking that God was with them. The only kind of people they could conquer were the weak and unsuspecting, who, like themselves, had false security (Judges 18:7).
- Is your spiritual security genuine? On what is it based? What could threaten it?
- Wednesday June 19: Stolen Gods
- The Danites sent soldiers from Zorah and Eshtaol to take the territory that the spies had found. The place of one of their first encampments came to be called "Mahaneh-dan" (meaning "camp of Dan") because they were there. Compare Judges 13:25. speaking of Samson's being "in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol" (NRSV). If this were the same Mahaneh-dan, and if it had received its name by the time of Samson, then the story of Micah and the Danites took place earlier than the story of Samson. (Compare Judges 18:30; see Sunday's lesson.)
- We have found several links between the story of Samson and that of Micah and the Danites: (1) mothers are prominent; (2) 1,100 pieces of silver are mentioned (Judges 16:5; Judges 17:2; see Sunday's lesson); (3) Samson was a Danite (Judges 13:2); and (4) the Danites in Judges 18 originated from the same places as Samson.
- Why did the Danites take Micah's ritual objects? Judges 18:14-20.
- The spies showed the soldiers the way. As before, they came to Micah's house. This time, however, they stole the valuable ritual objects, which, they thought, would give them access to the Lord. They not only wanted to be able to inquire of the Lord; they wanted a worship center of their own (Judges 18:19, 30, 31). Their thinking must have been similar to Micah's: having a shrine would bring prosperity (Judges 17:13). What hypocrisy! They wanted to worship the Lord with stolen idols!
- How did the Danites persuade the young Levite to cooperate with them? Judges 18:18-20.
- The Danites promised the Levite a promotion: he could become priest of their tribe. Micah pursued the Danites, just as Laban had tried to recover his household gods when Rachel took them (Gen. 31:19, 22-25, 30-35), but the threats and obvious strength of the Danites intimidated him (Judges 18:22-26).
- The silver that Micah had taken (Judges 17:2) was taken from him, illustrating the principle that we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7, 8). Have you seen this principle operate? Is it God's way of giving people what they deserve, or is there another reason for it? (See Judges 1:7; Judges 9:56, 57.)
- Thursday June 20: The City of Dan and Its Idolatry
- The Danites succeeded in conquering the northern city of Laish, which they rebuilt and named "Dan." Because the Danites were successful, it might appear that they were people of faith, like the Israelites whose continuation of the conquest of the land is described in Judges 1. In fact, they succeeded only against "a people quiet and unsuspecting" (Judges 18:27), a people with faith in a false god (verses 30, 31).
- Can you find indications that the Danites lacked the faith possessed by the successful Israelites at the beginning of the period of the "judges"?
Compare Judges 1:1 with Judges 18:5
Compare Judges 1:4-7, 20 with Judges 18:7, 10, 27, 28
- At the beginning of the book, the Israelites did not question whether they should fight the Canaanites of whether they would succeed. God had already told them those things (Joshua 1:1-9). Their question was how the Lord wanted them to go about taking the rest of the land (Judges 1:1). The Danites, on the other hand, inquired of what they thought was the Lord as to whether they would succeed, because they were unsure of the Lord's presence with them (Judges 18:5, 6). The assurance that they received (verse 6; compare verse 10) was a false assurance; the Lord was not with them.
- At the beginning of the book, the Israelites fought formidable enemies with large armies, such as Adoni-bezek, who was a conqueror himself (Judges 1:5-7), and giants (verse 20). They succeeded because God was with them. The Danites, on the other hand, succeeded because their enemy was weak; they simply overpowered them.
- What influence did Micah's idolatry have on the Israelites? Judges 18:30, 31.
- The false worship of an individual was accepted by an entire tribe and region. Not only was this idolatry wrong; it kept Israelites from participating in the true worship of the Lord's sanctuary at Shiloh, just as Jeroboam's calf images at Bethel and Dan later kept the Israelites from going to the in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26-33).
- Are you successful because the Lord is blessing you, or in spite of His not blessing you?
- Friday June 21:
Further study: Read Isa. 40:18-20; Isa. 44:6-20; Isa. 46:1-9.
- "The second commandment forbids the worship of the true God by images or similitudes. Many heathen nations claimed that their images were mere figures or symbols by which the Deity was worshiped; but God has declared such worship to be sin. The attempt to represent the Eternal One by material objects would lower man's conception of God. The mind, turned away from the infinite perfection of Jehovah, would be attracted to the creature rather than to the Creator. And as his conceptions of God were lowered, so would man become degraded."--Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 306.
- Discussion Questions:
- What points made by Isaiah regarding idolatry are relevant to the story of Micah and the Danites? (See Isa. 44:9, 10; Isa. 46:1, 2, 7.) Of what relevance is this counsel for us?
- What is the significance of the reference to "the captivity of the land" in Judges 18:30? (See Lev. 26:33-39; Ps. 73:1-20.) Note that Judges 18:30 probably refers to a captivity not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. (See verse 31; the sanctuary was removed from Shiloh long before the Assyrian captivity described in 2 Kings 17.)
- Compare the inquiries of the Israelites (Judges 1:1) and the Danites (Judges 18:5) with the questions of Zechariah (Luke 1:18) and Mary (Luke 1:34) to Gabriel. Why was Zechariah rebuked (Luke 1:20), but Mary was not? What kinds of questions do you ask the Lord?
- How can we avoid false assurance (Judges 18:5, 6, 10; Jer. 6:14; Jer. 8:11) and at the same time have true assurance that a saving relationship with our Lord is ours now? (See Rom. 10:9-13; 1 John 5:11-13.)
Disregarding God's law, Micah's mother made idols, which Micah used for worship of the Lord. Micah involved his family and then a young Levite in this idolatry. When the idols were stolen by greedy Danites and used for a religious center in the newly conquered northern city of Dan, many Israelites were subjected to this evil influence.
One person's disobedience of God often sets in motion a chain of circumstances that results in many being led into spiritual defeat.
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Last updated on June 11, 1996.