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Judges 17 – By Pastor Tony Minell

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The book of Judges is a barrage of increasing sin. If the angelic hosts that surround the throne of God are singing an antiphonal chorus of praise, the book of Judges seems to be an antiphonal chorus of sin.

By the time we get to Judges chapter 17, it is safe to say that the author has successfully shown that the cycle of sin will not end until the Lord steps in. Sin, unchecked, will destroy.

Chapter 17 begins on the heels of the blind judge – Sampson. If you want some of the most riveting and exciting (and rather dark) stories in all of Scripture (and all of history), then brush up on your reading of Judges.

In the second half of Judges 17 we read about a Levite from Judah who was wandering around in the land (17:7-8). As it happened, the Lord brought him right to the house of a man named Micah.

According to the beginning of the chapter, Micah was a man who stole a large sum of silver from his mom (17:2). Micah then admitted to the theft, and proceeded to give it back to her. In a “joyful” turn of events, Micah’s mother promptly takes some of the newfound silver and has an idol made. The idol was then placed at a prominent place in Micah’s home – the final touch to his shrine. Micah’s home displayed almost every form of the pagan worship of his day. At this time in Israel’s history, everyone did what was right in his own eyes – and in Judges 17, Micah’s home becomes a case study of what life looked like in Israel.

Anyway, it is at Micah’s house that this Levite finds himself. Apparently, he is simply roaming around trying to find a place to live (see 17:9) – at this time in Israel’s history, the priests (Levites) didn’t have much going on – not much true and right worship of Yahweh was happening.

So, Micah, being the charitable man that he was, immediately offered the Levite a rather good living arrangement, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living” (17:10).

This seems like a great opportunity for both the Levite and for Micah. Everyone wins!

The Levite quickly agreed to such a lucrative offer, and he moved right in. Micah fully embraced this Levite into his home and the Levite “became to him like one of his sons” (17:11) – ironic since he had just asked the Levit to be to him a “father and a priest.” One wonders who the priest really is in this home. 

Now, I’m sure you’ve picked up on some of my cheeky attitude as we read this. This text has been altogether shocking – at least, it would have been shocking to the original readers. As we read this we should expect something very important to happen in the next portion of the passage. Not only would we expect it, but we would also want the Levite to bring strong correction to this home. Surely Micah has been brought to this home in order to correct the idolatry that is present in the home. So we keep reading…hoping…reading…wondering… but…our hopes are dashed when the Levite brings no correction.

In short, the Levite is silent. He does not say a word.

Despite the fact that the Levite would have seen the idolatry and the shrine immediately, his correction is not recorded. Instead, what follows is the clear implication that the Levite took up his duty as an idolatrous pagan priest.

And, what exactly is an idolatrous pagan priest? Psalm 135:15-18 gives us a good description – they are those who “are like” the idols that they worship – silent. “They have mouths, but do not speak, they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths” (Psalm 135:16-17).

The Levite looks and acts no differently than the idol that sits in Micah’s home. In fact, when we read chapter 17 as one unit, what becomes evident is that, one can take “silver” (17:4) and make it into an idol. And likewise, one can take “silver” and pay someone to be his priest. The theological statement that the author is making, is that there is now no difference between the idolatry of idol worship and the idolatry of purchased worship in Israel.

So what are the implications for us? One of the most important applications for us is to recognize how problematic it is for us to be silent when we must speak. If you see someone in sin, it is incumbent upon us to speak. Otherwise we are no different than impotent piles of dead metal that are so foolishly cherished. We, whose mouth, eyes and ears have been opened, must speak.

When you see a brother or sister in sin, go to him and tell him. Speak.

Moreover, we must recognize that the priesthood of Jesus Christ cannot be purchased. He is entirely different than any form of worldly worship. His service is not something we can purchase, because His priestly duty was purchase by His own blood. We are not the master of the home in which Christ resides. Rather, He is our Priest – and He is not silent. He has spoken to us and continues to speak to us – if we would simply take up His Word and read.


pastor tony


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