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We here light upon quite a different kind of history from that which has preceded. We no longer have to do with judges and their mighty deeds in delivering Israel from his oppressors, but with two detached histories, which fill up the rest of the book, relating to the internal affairs of Israel. There is no note of time, except that they happened before the time of Saul the king (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1), and. that Phinehas the son of Eleazar was alive at the time of the occurrence of the second (Judges 20:28). Both, no doubt, are long prior to Samson. The only apparent connection of the history of Micah with that of Samson is that both relate to the tribe of Dan, and it may be presumed were contained in the annals of that tribe. Compare the opening of the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1). Mount Ephraim; i.e. the hill country of Ephraim, as in Judges 3:27; Judges 7:24, etc.
The eleven hundred. See Judges 16:5, note. Thou cursedst. The Cethib and the Alexandrian Codex of the Septuagint read, Thou cursedst, i.e.. adjuredst me, which is a better reading. There is a direct and verbal reference to the law contained in Le Judges 5:1. The word thou cursedst here and the voice of swearing in Leviticus are the same root. It was in consequence of this adjuration that Micah confessed his guilt. Compare Matthew 26:63, when our Lord, on the adjuration of the high priest, broke his silence and confessed that he was Christ, the Son of God. In Achan's confession (Joshua 7:19, Joshua 7:20) there is no distinct reference to Le Matthew 5:1, though this may have been the ground of it.
I had wholly dedicated. It is not clear whether the words are to be rendered as in the A.V; had dedicated, expressing the dedication of them before they were stolen, or whether they merely express her present purpose so to dedicate them. But the A.V. makes very good sense. Her former purpose had been that the money should be given for her son's benefit to make his house an house of gods. Now that he had confessed, she resumed her purpose. Now therefore I restore it unto thee—that is, in the shape of the graven and molten images, as it follows in the next verse. The narrative gives a curious example of the semi-idolatry of the times. A graven image and a molten image. There is a good deal of difficulty in assigning the exact meaning of the two words here used, and their relation to one another in the worship to which they belong. The molten image (massechah), however, seems to be pretty certainly the metal, here the silver, image of a calf, the form which the corrupt worship of Jehovah took from the time when Aaron made the molten calf (Exodus 32:4, called there 'egel massechah, a molten calf) to the time when Jeroboam set up the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28, 1 Kings 12:29). And that massechah means something molten is certain both from its etymology (nasach, to pour) and from what Aaron said in Exodus 32:24 : "I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf." Here too Micah's mother gives the silver to the founder, i.e. to the fuser of metals. The pesel, or graven image, on the other hand, is something hewn or graven, whether in wood or stone, and sometimes overlaid with gold and silver (Deuteronomy 7:25). One might have thought, from the language of verse 4, and from the mention of the pesel alone in Judges 18:30, Judges 18:31, that only one image is here intended, which was graven with the chisel after it was cast, as Aaron's calf seems to have been. But in Judges 18:17, Judges 18:18 they are mentioned separately, with the ephod and teraphim named between them, so that they must be distinct. From the above passages the pesel or graven image would seem to have been the most important object, and the difficulty is to assign the true relation of the massechah or molten image to it. Hengstenberg thinks the massechah was a pedestal on which the pesel stood, and that the ephod was the robe with which the pesel was clothed, and that the teraphim were certain tokens or emblems attached to the ephod which gave oracular answers. But this is not much more than guess-work. Berthean considers the ephod, here as elsewhere, to be the priest's garment, put on when performing the most solemn services, and specially when seeking an answer from God. And he thinks that the massechah formed a part of the ornament of the ephod, because in Judges 18:18 the Hebrew has "the pesel of the ephod." The teraphin he thinks are idols, a kind of Dii minores associated with the worship of Jehovah in this impure worship. But there does not seem to be any means at present of arriving at any certainty. The massechah might be a rich gold or silver overlaying of the wooden image, possibly movable, or it might be the separate image of a calf supposed to belong, as it were, to the pesel, and to symbolise the attributes of the Godhead.
Yet he restored. Rather, so he restored, repeating what was said in Judges 17:3, and adding the consequence, that his mother took two hundred shekels and gave them to the founder. It is a great puzzle to explain why two hundred shekels only are here spoken of, and what became of the other nine hundred. Bertheau thinks the two hundred were different from the eleven hundred, and were the fifth part of the whole value stolen, which the thief, according to Le Judges 6:5, was bound to give in addition to the principal. He therefore translates Judges 6:4 thus: "So he restored the money to his mother (and his mother took two hundred shekels), and she gave it to the founder," etc. Others understand that two hundred only were actually made into the graven and molten image, and the other nine hundred were devoted to other expenses of the worship. In the house of Micah. This explains, Now I will restore it unto thee, and, for my son to make, etc; in verse 3.
And the man Micah, etc. It is impossible to say for certain whether the state of things here described in respect of Micah preceded the events narrated in the preceding verses, or was consequent upon them. If it preceded, then we have the reason of his mother's vow: she wished to make her son's "house of God" complete by the addition of a graven and molten image. If it was consequent upon his mother's vow, then we have in the opening verses of this chapter a history of the circumstances of the foundation of Micah's "house of God," which was to play an important part in the colony of Danites, whose proceedings arc related in the following chapter, and for the sake of which this domestic history of Micah is introduced. House of gods. Rather, of God (Elohim); for the worship was of Jehovah, only with a corrupt and semi-idolatrous ceremonial. An ephod. See Judges 8:26, Judges 8:27, note. Teraphim. See Genesis 31:19 (images, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); 1 Samuel 15:23 (idolatry, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); 1 Samuel 19:13 (an image, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); Hosea 3:4,to etc. They seem to have been a kind of Penates, or household gods, and were used for divination (Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2). Became his priest. One function of the priest, and for which it is likely he was much resorted to, was to inquire of God by the ephod (Judges 18:5, Judges 18:6). What his other duties might be does not appear.
There was no king. This must have been written in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah, and perhaps with reference to the efforts of such kings as Ass (1 Kings 15:13) and Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43) to put down idolatry.
Of the family of Judah. These words are difficult to explain. If the man was a Levite he could not be of the family or tribe of Judah. Some explain the words to be merely a more accurate definition of Bethlehem-judah, as if he would say, I mean Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah. Others explain them to mean that he was one of a family of Levites who had settled in Bethlehem, and so came to be reckoned in civil matters as belonging to Judah. Others, that he was of the family of Judah on his mother s side, which might be the cause of his settling at Bethlehem. But many commentators think them spurious, as they are not found in the Septuagint (Cod. Vat.), nor in the Peschito, nor in No. 440 of De Rossi's MSS. The Septuagint has Bethlehem of the family of Judah.
From Bethlehem-judah. Rather, out of. The whole phrase means, out of the city, viz; out of Bethlehem. Mount Ephraim—the hill country of Ephraim, as Judges 17:1, where see note.
Judges 17:10, Judges 17:11
A father. This is not a common application of the word father in the Old Testament. The prominent idea seems to be one of honour, combined with authority to teach and advise. It is applied to prophets (2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14), and to Joseph (Genesis 45:8). The idea is implied in the converse phrase of son, applied to those to whom the prophets stood in 'the relation of spiritual fathers (see 2 Kings 8:9; Proverbs 4:10, Proverbs 4:20, and frequently elsewhere). The abuse of the feeling which dictates the term as applied to human teachers is reproved by our Lord (Matthew 23:9). It has been freely used in the Christian Church, as in the titles papa or pope applied to bishops, abbot and abbas, father in God, fathers of the Church, etc. Here there is perhaps a special reference to the function of Micah's priest to ask counsel of God, and then give that counsel to those who came to inquire (see note to verse 5). It may be added that the idea of counsellor seems to be inherent in the word cohen or priest, as in 2 Samuel 8:18; 1 Kings 4:5, etc. Ten shekels—a little over a pound of our money, but probably equivalent to £20, when considered relatively to articles of consumption. A suit of apparel. There is great doubt as to the exact meaning of the word rendered suit in this connection. The word means anything arranged, i.e. put in a rank, or row, or order. In Exodus 40:23 it is applied to the shewbread: "He ordered the bread in order." Thence it came to mean the estimation or worth of a person or thing—some-what as we use the word rank. From this last sense some interpret the word here to mean the worth or price of his clothes. Others, including St. Jerome and the Septuagint, interpret it a pair of vestments, meaning summer and winter clothing. But perhaps the A.V; suit, meaning the whole set of under and upper garments, is after all the best interpretation. The Levite went in. The Hebrew is went, i.e. according to the common use of the word, went his way. And such is probably the meaning here. He went his way to consider the proposal made to him. The result is given in the next verse: And the Levite was content, etc.
Then said Micah, etc. We may notice this incidental proof that the Levites in the time of Micah held the religious position which is ascribed to them in the Pentateuch. I have a Levite. Rather, the Levite, meaning the particular Levite of whom it is the question. A Levite would be without the article, as in verse 7, or would be expressed as in Judges 19:1 (Hebrews), a man a Levite.
The superstitious worship of the true God.
The natural history of religion is a very curious one. There is first the broad division between worship given to false gods and that which is given to the one-true and living God, Creator of heaven and earth. The heathen of old, like the heathen of to-day, worshipped those that were no gods. Either they had no existence at all, and were the creatures of man's imagination, divinities supposed to preside over the various powers of nature and the affections of the human heart; gods of the weather, of the earth, and sea, and sky; malignant spirits supposed to influence human destiny, and requiring gifts to propitiate them: personifications of light, or death, or even of criminal human passions; or else they were beings who had indeed a real existence,—sun, moon, stars, stones, animals, angels, demons, or the spirits of dead men,—but who were not God. This worship of false gods we know from Holy Scripture, and from the annals of all nations, was prevalent over the whole ancient world, and we know that it exists in heathen lands to the present day. But that is not the form of corrupt religion to which this chapter calls our attention, nor is it that into which there is any probability of Christians falling in this nineteenth century. We turn, therefore, to the varieties of the worship offered to the one true God. And first to look at the particular case before us. The mother of Micah seems to have been in her way a devout woman. The scraping together 1100 shekels was probably not effected without considerable effort and self-denial, for it was a large sum (more than £110), eleven times the yearly wages of the Levite. She meant to consecrate it to Jehovah, the God of Israel. She seems too to have been a good mother, for she intended this consecration to be for her son's benefit, and her language and conduct, when her son confessed his guilt, were pious and forgiving. And yet we find her disobeying the express command of God, and making a graven and a molten image to be used in his worship and service. In like manner we find Micah giving signs of a tender conscience and of the fear of God in confessing his sin when adjured according to the law; we find him anxious for the favour of God, and looking to him to do him good; we find him liberal and large-hearted in providing at his own expense for the worship of God; and yet, with a strange inconsistency, we find him doing the very things which God's word forbad, and setting' up images, and teraphim, and a superstitious ephod in a "house of God" of his own devising, and under a priest of his own consecration. In like manner again we find even Aaron making a golden calf for the people to worship, and saying, or encouraging the people to say, "This is thy God, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt," and building an altar before it, and keeping a feast in its honour. We read of the golden calves of Jeroboam, and we read too of the high places and the sacrifices upon them even under the pious kings. These then are distinct examples of the superstitious worship of the true God, and lead us to the anxious question, how we are to worship God. Under the Old Testament this was not left to chance or human choice. In the nonage of the Church, before the coming of Christ, all the ordinances of Divine service were prescribed with minuteness and exactness. The sanctuary itself, the Aaronic priesthood, the Levitical ministrations, the feasts of the Lord, the gifts and offerings and devotions of the people, were all ordered by the authority of the word of God. But under the New Testament, when the fulness of the time is come, and the Church has entered into the full possession of the privileges of adopted sons, it is so no longer. Besides a few general principles and broad rules, and the institution of the two sacraments, and the Lord's Prayer, the Church has received from Holy Scripture no form of Divine service. She has to frame her rules and canons of Divine worship according to the light and wisdom vouchsafed to her by the Holy Spirit of God. In doing this she must have regard to two things.
1. The character and mind of God, so that the worship may be of a kind that will be pleasing and acceptable to him.
2. The nature and character of man, so that the worship may be of a kind to assist the worshipper to raise his heart to God, and impress him with a sense of the majesty, and holiness, and goodness of God. With regard to the first, the general intimations of him who alone knows the things of God, even the Holy Spirit of God, are very clear. "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." "To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (see too Micah 6:6-8). Every attempt to substitute costly gifts, or gorgeous ceremonies, or showy processions, or lights, or music, or gestures, or anything bodily and sensuous, for the ritual of repentance, faith, fear, love, and self-consecration—consecration of the will and affections—to the service of Almighty God can only be made in ignorance of his character and mind as revealed to us in Holy Scripture. It is as truly superstitious as were Micah's images, and teraphim, and ephod, and house of God. With regard to the second, the outward accessories of worship must be of a kind to assist the worshipper in his endeavour to draw near to God and worship him with all the powers of his soul. Under the pretence of purely spiritual worship, it is very easy so to get rid of all outward acts and circumstances as to get rid of worship itself. The light of religion in the soul cannot burn unless in an atmosphere which feeds the flame. Reverence and awe, prayer and praise, forgetfulness of the world, and thoughts of heaven need to be quickened and encouraged by the posture of the body, by the words of the lips, by sights and sounds expressive of those invisible things which the soul seeks to handle in its approaches to the throne of God. It is therefore a legitimate subject of consideration what forms of worship are most calculated to increase and heighten the devotion of the worshippers. Forms which tend merely to please the senses are worthless; forms which tend to soothe the conscience of the impenitent, and to stifle its questionings by creating a feeling of duty performed and of satisfaction made to God, are pernicious; and forms which so fill the thoughts as to the manner of performing them as to leave no room for thoughts of God are injuries rather than benefits to the soul Forms, again, which leave the soul self-satisfied, which convey a false impression of God's favour and grace being given when he is really displeased and offended, and which comfort and encourage those who ought to be horribly afraid and trembling for fear of God's judgments, are manifestly destructive of the souls of those for whose benefit they purport to exist. A faithful Church will root up all such as dishonouring to God and as very hurtful to man. One other characteristic of superstitious worship must be noted. It is compatible with vice, and with the dominion of sin in the heart. Superstition has no tendency to correct the principles of action, or to purify the thoughts and affections of the inner man. The sequel of Micah's history supplies a notable instance of this. The Danites, in their superstitious desire to possess the images of Micah's chapel, and the religious services of Micah's priest, scrupled not to break the commandments of God by stealing, and, if need were, by committing murder. Stealing sacred relics and transporting them by guile or violence from one religious house to another is a well-known form of mediaeval superstition. The brigands in the mountains of Italy have been often known to kneel before an image of the Virgin, and ask the blessing of the priest or bishop, and then return to their work of plunder or murder. Superstition is no check upon the passions, and no bar to the reckless pursuit of what men deem to be their interests or know to be their desires. There is no gulf between superstitious worship and immoral conduct. The man who mistakes the aspect of God towards superstitious vanities is prone to mistake also his aspect towards moral disorder and sin. But he who really enters into the tabernacle of God. and communes with God in spirit, comes forth with his face shining with inward righteousness, the reflection of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ. His life is a continuation of his prayers, his praise culminates in good works. In the interests of moral goodness, as well as for the honour of God, it is of supreme importance that the worship of the Almighty be free from superstition.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
The history of a man-made ministry
1. Its genesis. It belongs to the main design of the book to show how the various disruptive tendencies of a religious and social nature increased unchecked when "there was no king in Israel." The book begins with a note of unity—"the children of Israel asked Jehovah." Repeated idolatrous defections are chronicled, and mention made of the setting up of an ephod in Ophrah: the city of Gideon, and its evil consequences. In one respect the schisms from the national religion were even more dangerous than complete departure from it. The unity of Israel was thus destroyed in its chief sanction and sign, the universal sacrifice and confession at Shiloh. Another of these schismatic points of departure is here related. The description is full of realistic force, and is governed by the dogmatic purpose of exposing the immoral motives of it, and thus discrediting it in the eyes of every true Israelite. It is exposed as the private and selfish appropriation of a national blessing. As the political unity of Israel depended upon maintaining a central religious authority and a uniform ritual and priesthood, the setting up of a house of gods was in itself, irrespectively of its motives, a crime of the first magnitude. The New Testament idea of Church and ministry is different. There the unity of the Spirit is the prevailing aim. But whenever separation originates in similar motives to those here depicted, the sin of schism equally exists.
I. THE CHARACTER OF ITS AUTHORS. Avaricious mother, dishonest son. Both superstitious. Not honesty, but fear of a curse, actuates Micah to restore the "eleven hundred shekels." The getting back of the money is the chief concern of the mother, and so she straightway blesses whom she had cursed (cf. James 3:10). Only 200 shekels are actually appropriated to the end proposed.
II. ITS MOTIVES. Apparently the warding off of the curse is the first concern with both. But an equally powerful motive was the securing of the gain resulting from fees and gifts. In this way they would become rich. Where the aim is selfish and impure, the character of the worship becomes of secondary consequence, and the latent tendency towards idolatry begins to show itself. It is the motive that is of chief concern in questions of religion. Everything else will be dominated by this: "Is it for self, or is the glory of God my chief aim?" Founders of churches and religious institutions, and candidates for the ministry, should examine themselves ere they are committed to the work upon which they have set their hearts.
III. THE COMPLEXION OF THE WORSHIP. It is a "house of gods," containing a "graven image and a molten image," an ephod, and teraphim, which is the outcome of their religious or superstitious zeal. In its nature eclectic, in the crudest sense of the word, this system of religious worship is on the face of it a sacred means to a vulgar, secular end. The house became a place of irregular worship, of soothsaying and divination.
IV. THE INSTRUMENT OF THEIR DESIGNS. A son is the first expedient in the direction of a priesthood; but this is not considered sufficiently authoritative. Accident throws in the way a young Levite of Bethlehem-judah, who appears to have taken to a wandering life through discontent, curiosity, idleness, or restlessness. A shiftless, unscrupulous, easily impressible character, in a needy condition, and with the Levitical status, just the fitting occupant of such an office. The undue influence of Micah is thus secured permanently. Promising that he should be a "father and a priest," and receive clothing, board, and "ten shekels" wages, to the needy adventurer "making his way" he thus becomes patron; and the promised standing of the priest relatively to Micah is soon reversed—he "was unto him as one of his sons." The consecration too is from Micah. The good and the evil of patronage, private and otherwise, in religion; the dependence of the ministry—"like people like priest;" the question of "consecration" and "orders."
V. THE SUPERSTITIOUS PRESUMPTION OF FALSE RELIGION. There is the more care as to the external ritual, the priestly "succession," etc. in proportion to the earthliness of the underlying motive.
1. Where he heart is wrong undue reliance is placed upon externals in religion. The priest's advantage of descent was vitiated by his becoming a mercenary and a schismatic. Rites and ceremonies are multiplied in default of the "Presence" at Shiloh and its simple service. The error is in placing the virtue in the external observances instead of the reality of worship, purity of life and motive, and the presence of the Spirit of God. Romanism has been defined as "a system of position and imposition, or of posture and imposture."
2. Jehovah is supposed to countenance a religion which is essentially opposed to him. God cannot take rank or be associated with other gods. His glory must be the chief object of the worshipper, the priest, and the patron. Selfish aims, disobedience to his clearly-revealed will concerning his service and Church, can never receive his blessing. Yet observe the self-deception of Micah. He does not see all this, or the evils soon to come upon him. On the other hand, "the pure in heart" shall see God. His presence is independent of the external completeness, etc. of ritual. True priesthood is a Divine unction, and not a human monopoly.—M.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Avarice and superstition.
The story of Micah and his mother illustrates the strange blending of avarice and superstition which may be observed in those people who have lowered themselves to a worldly habit of life without entirely losing the influence of religion.
I. WHEN RELIGION SINKS INTO SUPERSTITION, ITS UNWORLDLY SPIRIT IS QUENCHED AND AVARICE IS UNRESTRAINED. The religion of Israel is now most degraded, and one result of its degradation is seen in a corresponding lowering of morality. Great devotion to a superstitious religious system is not incompatible with a very low tone of moral life.
1. This is seen in the avarice of Micah's mother,
(1) Tempting to deception, if not complete dishonesty, on the part of the son,
(2) giving rise to unseemly temper and blind cursing on her own side, and
(3) to a mean and unworthy attempt at restoring family peace by a compromise between selfish greed and religious devotion—200 shekels only are devoted to the image, and, though Micah had intended all to go to this object, the remaining 900 shekels are retained by the mother.
2. The same degradation of morality is seen in the unworthy conduct of the young man. He shows no confidence in his mother. He thinks he can honour God with the proceeds of deception. It is only under a dark religion of superstition that we can suppose the end to justify the means—a sacrificial object to excuse domestic fraud.
II. WHEN, UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A WORLDLY SPIRIT, AVARICE IS UNRESTRAINED, RELIGION TENDS TO SINK INTO SUPERSTITION. Covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). The habit of setting the affections on earthly things blinds the soul to the perception of pure spiritual truth. This is seen in the story of Micah and his mother.
1. Micah displays a dread of his mother's curse, but no consciousness of guilt. His confession and restitution are not the result of repentance, but of superstitious fear.
2. His mother shows no grief at the revelation of his conduct, but only delight at seeing the money, and a desire to remove the effect of her curse by pronouncing a blessing on her son.
3. Subsequently the young man dreads to touch the money which is affected with his mother s curse, though she offers it to him, and she feels bound to use it, or part of it, in the service of God.
4. Religious feelings do not seem to affect the moral conduct of either person, but only to incline them to image-making. Thus worldly greed drags down religion till this becomes merely a worldly habit of gross idolatry and magic spells. We may see in the present day religions of mere ritual and superstitious practices attracting the most worldly people, and not restraining, but rather shaping themselves into the mould of their low and earthly affections.—A.
The writer of the Book of Judges more than once attributes the social disorders of Israel to the want of a king. This idea has its bearings on national interests and on private conduct.
I. THE NEED OF A KING IN CONNECTION WITH NATIONAL INTERESTS.
1. A centre of authority is essential to the peace arid prosperity of a nation. As the first duty of a government is to maintain order, so the need of authority and organisation for the maintenance of order makes the establishment of a government essential to a nation. This is necessary,
(1) to punish violence and crime,
(2) to restrain the unjust encroachment of one man upon the rights of another,
(3) to arbitrate between the conflicting claims of individual men and of great classes of the community,
(4) to promote national objects which are too large for private enterprise, and
(5) to cement the unity of the nation and organise this for defence against foreign invasion.
2. When a nation is not prepared for self-government it is best for it to be ruled by one strong hand. Apart from political requisites, certain moral conditions must be fulfilled before a people can practise self-government. There must be unity of sympathy and self-control. Neither of these conditions was fulfilled by the tribes of Israel in the days of the Judges. Mutual jealousy and antagonism prevailed among them, and violent measures were too common for the minority to submit peaceably to the will of the majority. The spiritual vision of the Divine King which had maintained the unity of the nation in the days of Moses was fading away, and now that sublime and unearthly government was nearly lost, there was no hope for the people but in the establishment of a human monarchy. It is foolish to maintain in words an ideal which is too high for practice. Better confess our degeneracy and shape our conduct according to the means within reach.
II. THE NEED OF A KING IN CONNECTION WITH PRIVATE CONDUCT. The soul needs a king. We are born to obey. We need some authority above us to keep us right.
1. It is not safe for every man to do what is right in his own eyes, because
(1) we are swayed by passion and selfish greed, and
(2) in our best moments we are liable to prejudice, and are too short-sighted to see what is best. The anarchy of universal self-seeking without restraint would bring the world to ruin. For the good of all it is necessary that each should not be at liberty simply to please himself.
2. It is not right for every man to do that which is right in his own eyes. We are members one of another, and are morally bound to respect the rights, and needs, and wishes of our neighbours. We are children of the great King, and under a supreme obligation to respect his law. The Church is not a republic; it is a kingdom. The Christian is not free to follow his fancy; he is required to submit to and to obey the mind and will of Christ. Christian liberty is not found in the license of self-will, but in the willingness of obedience and the love which delights to fulfil the will of God and to do to others as we would that they should do to us.—A.
Faith in the priest.
I. FAITH IN THE PRIEST IMPLIES A DESIRE FOR GOD'S BLESSING. The priest is trusted for his influence with God. He is sought after because God's blessing is desired. So far the faith in the priest indicates good qualities. It is a sign of religious ideas, though these are vague and perverted. There is something pathetic in Micah's utterance. Now at last he may expect blessing. His mother's graven image did not secure this; his temple and its elaborate worship left him dissatisfied; but he can have no rest till he is assured that God is blessing him. He is wealthy, but wealth will not satisfy him without the blessing of God. So he presses on to find this one source of true peace. How many men are ready to mock at Micah's superstition who have no gleam of his true faith I It is better to be seeking the blessing of God, though in mistaken ways, than, while discerning the folly of these ways by the light of a cold rationalism, to be dead to any yearnings for the supreme good.
II. FAITH IN THE PRIEST IMPLIES A CONSCIOUS NEED OF AN INTERCESSOR. All priestly religions spring out of a true instinct of conscience. They are not simply the fabrications of a tyrannical priestcraft. Religion requires a priest. It is right to feel, like Micah, unworthy and unable to obtain God's blessings for ourselves, and, like him, to look for an intercessor. Christianity is based on these ideas; it is the religion of a mediator, a priest. Christ satisfies this desire to seek God's blessing through the help of another, through the work of a priest (Hebrews 6:20).
III. FAITH IN THE PRIEST IMPLIES SUPERSTITIOUS TRUST IN RELIGIOUS OFFICIALISM. The error is to be found,
(1) in choosing a merely human priest, and
(2) in placing a wrong kind of trust in him, and not simply in believing in the idea of priesthood.
1. This priestly superstition expects blessings irrespective of the character of the print. Micah has had a priest before—his own son. He has no reason to believe that the Levite is a better man. He only knows that he belongs to the sacred tribe of temple officials. This is characteristic of the superstition of priestliness. It supposes that the office sanctifies the man, not the man the office. It looks for good from the priest simply through his official functions. Christ is a priest not by reason of birth or anointing (he was not of the tribe of Levi), but by reason of nature, and character, and work.
2. This priestly superstition expects blessings apart from the religious character of the recipient. Micah believes that the mere presence of the Levite in his house will benefit him. He does not think of the Levite influencing his character for good. So there are people who imagine the priest can do them good apart from their own character and conduct. But Christ, the true Priest, only brings to us the blessings secured by his sacrifice and intercession when we submit to him so as to receive a new birth to a holy life.—A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Judges 17". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany