I’m still reading in the book of Judges, and today I was in chapters 17-18. Several places in Judges it points out that people did whatever they felt was right. At times it goes on to paint a picture of what that looked like, and in chapters 17-18 we see just how bad things are getting. It gets even worse in the final chapters, but I’ll focus on 17-18 for now.
In the chapters I read today, a young man named Micah stole a hefty sum of silver from his mother, but decided he should give it back. She was happy to have it back and said she was now dedicating it to God so her son could have an idol. Now we know from the first few books in the Bible that God told the Israelites that they should not make idols. But here is someone convinced that it’s okay because they’ve brought God’s name into it.
After the idol was made, Micah put it into his “house of gods” and made more ritual accoutrements. He then consecrated one of his sons to be a priest. Later on a Levite was looking for a new place to live, and when Micah found him and found out he was a Levite, he hired him to be a priest in the house of gods that he made. Micah and the Levite ended up getting along so well, that the Levite became like a son to him. Micah knew that the Levites were God’s priests, so he was sure that God was happy with his decision to have a Levite priest. The Levite should have known better about the whole ordeal, but he doesn’t even correct Micah!
Later on the tribe of Dan was looking to conquer some land to live in. They sent a few men to look around for a good spot, and on their way they found Micah’s house, his house of gods, and the Levite. They recognized the Levite’s accent and struck up a conversation, asking him what he’s doing here and how he’s living. He told them, and they asked him to ask God if their journey would be prosperous. The verses don’t mention that the Levite actually went and asked God, just that he replied God was surely with them. Satisfied with this, the men from Dan moved on and found the land they wanted.
The men from Dan headed home and to tell their people what they found, then they all geared up and headed out. They stopped by Micah’s place again on the way, and since they knew there were valuables, particularly in the house of gods, they decided to steal them. The Levite asked them what they were doing, and they told him to be quiet. They then asked him if it would be better for him to be one man’s priest, or a priest for a whole tribe. The Levite seemed to just shrug off the immorality of the situation and quite happily decided to go with the tribe of Dan. Micah was upset and went after them to complain, but after being threatened and finding he couldn’t do anything against an army, he went home and the people of Dan headed off with the idol, accoutrements, and the willing Levite.
Throughout this whole account we see no one feeling even the slightest bit bad about making an idol, worshipping idols, consecrating a priest that God did not choose, serving as a priest in the wrong way, or stealing from someone. Everyone felt just fine with their decisions. As I read these chapters, and really the whole book of Judges, I see that even if we are doing something that doesn’t feel wrong, we can be be very, very wrong. We can even be wholeheartedly doing what we truly believe is the right thing, but if what we’re doing is against what God has told us, then we are actually wrong.
So how do we keep from disobeying God while thinking it’s okay to disobey? How do we keep our consciences from going numb to immorality? We study God’s Word, we listen to what God tells us, and we maintain a relationship with Him. You can’t know right from wrong if you don’t know what right and wrong are, but God is the absolute moral authority, so we can learn from Him. God can make our consciences sensitive enough to know when we’re doing something wrong and when we’re doing something right.