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MICAH’S FALSE CONFIDENCE
Judges 17:13. Then said Micah, Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
IN the history before us we see the commencement of that defection to idolatry, which at no distant period prevailed throughout all the tribes of Israel. The account in point of time precedes the reign of the Judges; for it occurred whilst Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was the high-priest, and consequently soon after the death of Joshua [Note: Judges 20:28.]. And, as being the first step of Israel’s departure from God, it is related more circumstantially than its intrinsic importance seems otherwise to have deserved.
Micah was of the tribe of Ephraim. He had stolen from his mother a large sum of money which she had amassed: but from a dread of the curses which she had imprecated on the head of the guilty person, he had confessed his crime, and restored the money. She, pleased with the repentance of her son, would have given him the money: but he persisting in the refusal of it, she gave two hundred shekels of silver out of the eleven hundred which she had recovered, to form a graven image and a molten image; which she gave to her son, that he might have them to consult on all occasions. He on his part appropriated to them an apartment of his house for a temple, and consecrated his son to be a priest, to officiate before them with an ephod, which was made for his use [Note: ver. 2–5.]. But a Levite, who wanted employment, coming that way, Micah engaged him to minister before the idols; and concluded, that now he could not fail of being happy, since he had a duly authorized person for his priest.
Just at that time the Danites, who had not yet gained possession of all the land that had been as signed them, determined to go up to Laish, and seize it for their inheritance. But previous to their attack upon the inhabitants, they sent forth spies to search out the state of the people, in order that they might the better judge what force to send against them, and what prospect there was of ultimate success. These spies coming to Mount Ephraim, where Micah lived, desired him to consult God through the medium of his idols; and received from him an encouraging reply. The report of the spies being favourable, six hundred Danites went forth upon the expedition; and coming to the house of Micah in their way, robbed him of his idols, and bribed his priest to accompany them, and to minister to them, as he had done to Micah. After they had succeeded in destroying the inhabitants of Laish, and in taking possession of their land, they set up these idols for their gods, and thus established idolatry, which in process of time spread over the whole land.
But it is not of idolatry in general that we propose to speak, but only of that particular modification of it which Micah established, and of the confidence which he expressed, when his newly-invented religion was made to bear some faint resemblance to the Mosaic ritual. This so exactly represents the false confidences to which ungodly men of every age resort, that we shall find it a very profitable subject for our present consideration.
We take occasion then from our text to notice,
The false confidences of ungodly men—
The worship established by Micah was a mixture of heathenism and of the Jewish ritual: it was heathenism, as far as it had respect to idols; and it was Judaism, as far as the use of an ephod and the ministration of a Levite were concerned. But, faint as its resemblance was to any thing authorized by God, it was sufficient in Micah’s judgment to justify a most assured confidence in the divine favour.
Somewhat of a similar mixture is the religion of the generality in the present day—
[It is a combination of Heathenism, and Judaism, and Christianity. It is in part Heathenism. What are the views which men in general have of God, but such as were entertained by the heathen philosophers? We have, it is true, clearer views of the unity of God: but of his perfections we have scarcely juster apprehensions than the heathen had. Christians in general account of God as a Being who is but little interested about the affairs of this world, either in a way of present control, or of future retribution. All, in their apprehension, is left either to chance, or to the will of man: and, provided only some of the more heinous sins be not committed by us, the state of our minds and the habits of our lives will pass altogether unnoticed by him. To see the hand of God in every thing; to expect from him the blessings which we ask at his hands; to be sensible of his favour or displeasure; to regard him as pledged to order all things for his people’s good; and to rest assured, that he will fulfil to us his promises; is, in the estimation of the world at large, no better than presumptuous pride and enthusiastic folly: so entirely do they exclude Jehovah from the government of the world, and reduce him to the state of the god of Epicurus. In like manner the morality of men in general is simply that of the wiser heathens; the more refined and exalted requirements of Christianity being deemed unnecessarily precise, and absurdly strict. An entire deadness to the world, and devotedness to God, are never contemplated by them, but as the dictates of ascetic gloom or fanatical conceit.
Whilst in their principles they sink into heathenism, in their adherence to forms they trench on Judaism. Every sect has its favourite forms, which, though of human origin only, are of more weight in the estimation of the generality than either principles or morals. A man may be sceptical in his principles, and licentious in his morals, and yet offend no one: but let him violate the forms which have been established by his own particular sect or party, and he will raise an outcry against him immediately. This is common both with Papists and Protestants, yes, and with Protestants of every description. The rules of their own particular denomination are more to them than the oracles of truth; and a neglect or violation of a human institution is more heinous in their eyes than any departure from the commands of God. Thus it was with the Pharisees of old, who made void the law of God, and regarded only their own self-appointed usages: and thus it is at this day amongst multitudes who name the name of Christ.
A small portion of Christianity is for the most part added to this, to complete the system. Christ is acknowledged to have purchased for us such a relaxation of the divine law as we are pleased to claim, and a power to save ourselves by any measure of obedience which we choose to pay to the code we have devised — — —]
Whilst such is the religion of the generality, it is supposed to constitute a just ground of confidence before God—
[Micah had now no doubts or fears but that all would go well with him both in this world and the next. And similar to this is the confidence which almost universally obtains amongst ungodly men. They have no fears but that God will do them good, because they are free from those crimes which outrage the common feelings of mankind, and serve God according to such rules as they have laid down for themselves. Whosoever dies in such a state, they send to heaven, as a matter of course; thinking, that to entertain a doubt of their safety would be the height of uncharitableness. It is surprising to what an extent their confidence is carried. The bare possibility of such persons having perished in their sins is never once contemplated by them: and, if a doubt were expressed respecting the issue of their own expectations, they would be quite indignant. Were a truly pious man to express the same confidence as arising from the promises of God, they would inveigh against his presumption: but in their own delusive speculations their confidence is such as to preclude all doubt. We may see this exemplified in the Jews of old. To have Abraham for their father, and the temple of the Lord for their religious services, was in their estimation sufficient ground of hope, though they lived in a constant violation of every known duty [Note: Matthew 3:9; Jeremiah 7:4; Isaiah 48:1-2.]. And precisely thus it is with the generality of Christians: they have been baptized into the faith of Christ, and they have lived according to a system which the world approves; and therefore they can say without fear, “I know that the Lord will do me good.”]
But whilst ungodly men are buoying themselves up with such delusive hopes, let us contemplate,
Their bitter disappointments—
What was the issue of Micah’s confidence? Was it justified by facts? Could his idols help him in the day of adversity? or did Jehovah interpose for his support? No: his idols could not even protect themselves: and when he complained of the spoilers who had robbed him, his pathetic expostulations were of no avail; and he was constrained to submit in silence to the loss of all wherein he had put his trust. Hear to what straits he was reduced: “Ye have taken away my gods; and what have I more [Note: Judges 18:24.]?” And thus will it be with the ungodly in the last day.
Their “refuges of lies” will be swept away—
[The religion in which they now so confidently trust, will be proved a baseless fabric. No foundation will then stand, but that which God himself has laid: nor will any superstructure endure, but that which is able to abide the fiery test which shall be applied to it [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11-13.]. The law, which sinners reduce to their own standard, will be found immutable: the obedience which they pay to it will be found so imperfect, as to be incapable of affording the smallest ground of justification before God. The Lord Jesus Christ will then be seen to have been the only Saviour of sinful men; and his obedience unto death the only hope of a ruined world. The religion of the Bible will then appear to be, what it really is, the only means of a sinner’s access to God, and acceptance with him.]
Their destitution and misery will be then complete—
[“Ye have taken away my gods; and what have I left?” may then be considered as the bitter lamentation of every self-deceived soul. How gladly would they who were once so confident in their expectations of bliss, take refuge, if it were possible, under rocks and mountains! How thankfully would they accept of utter annihilation, instead of a protracted existence under the wrath of God! In vain are now their pleas, “I thought that I was right.” Why did they rest in vain conjectures? Why did they presume to substitute a system of their own in the place of that which God had revealed? Why would they not submit to be saved in God’s own way? Why would they venture the salvation of their souls on plans and systems of their own devising? Alas! it is now too late to rectify their error: they are gone beyond redemption; and are consigned to those regions of darkness and despair, where not a single ray of hope can ever enter to dispel their gloom. “They have walked in the light of the sparks which they themselves have kindled: and now they lie down in sorrow [Note: Isaiah 50:11.].”
Thus it will be, whatever men may now say to the contrary [Note: Job 15:31.]; and, if they will not believe, they shall soon “see whose word shall stand, God’s or theirs [Note: Jeremiah 44:28.].”]
See then from hence,
The importance of having right sentiments in religion—
[If we consider religion only as influencing the mind in this present life, it is no unimportant matter whether we have such a vain system as men form for themselves, or such a grand and glorious system as God has revealed in his word. Compare that of Micah with that of Daniel and the Hebrew Youths, and say, which of the two was the more effectual in the hour of trial? — — — But extend your views to the eternal world; and compare the states of the Pharisee and the Publican, or of the martyred Stephen and his self-applauding murderers; and then say, what principles are most salutary, and, what practice is most conducive to our true happiness. Away with all the systems then of man’s device; and embrace with your whole hearts “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.”
The comfort of having the Lord for our God—
[Who can ever rob us of that? Who can take our God from us? or what can we want, if we have him for our friend? We may be spoiled of all else; but still we shall be rich. With his favour secured to us, and his love shed abroad in our hearts, we shall be truly happy; like Paul, “having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Seek ye then to have the Lord Jesus Christ abiding with you. Seek to have him for your sacrifice; him for your altar; “him for your Priest;” and you may then be as confident of the divine favour as your hearts can wish. You may then safely adopt the language of Micah, and say, “I know that the Lord will do me good.” God’s favour is then made over to you by an everlasting covenant: it is confirmed to you by promise and by oath, “by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.” So that from henceforth you “may have strong consolation, if only you flee for refuge, to lay hold on the hope that is set before you [Note: Hebrews 6:17-19.].” Then you may look forward also to the day of judgment with assured confidence, that he who has witnessed the desires of your heart, will acknowledge you as his, and “claim you as his own when he shall make up his jewels [Note: Malachi 3:16-17.].” Then shall it be seen, beyond all contradiction, who was right; the self-confident framer of a human system, or the humble follower of the Lamb: for “then shall all discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him who served God, and him who served him not [Note: Malachi 3:18.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 17". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany