SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 22 August 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 18:1-31
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#25)
I. The Danites’ easy-going faith
II. Jonathan and Micah in worldly religion
III. The faith that submits to the King
The text we’ve just read is a story of what happened mainly to the life of the Danites and secondarily to two individuals, a Levite whose name was Jonathan and Micah the Ephraimite who had employed Jonathan as his house priest. This story took place probably around 14th century BC. So, it’s an almost three and a half millennia old story. A story none of us has any connection to it biologically or socially. What happened to them belongs to them, not to us; what happened to them affected them and their children, not us.
But, you and I must pay keen attention to this story because it is a story relevant to every believer and church in a time of spiritual anarchy. In fact, this 18th chapter of Judges portrays the reality of living in a time when there’s no King in Christ’s Church. Saying ‘there’s no King in Christ’s Church,’ I mean that Christians and churches no longer fully submit to God and Christ but partially, no longer devoted themselves to Jesus’ word fully but partially, if not disregard it as a whole. God recorded this story and gave it to us for our spiritual benefit, that is, for us to lift our heads up and look around, see and know the time, thus, seek the King, Jesus Christ, and, coming to Him, reside in Him.
I. THE DANITES’ EASY-GOING FAITH
Having this in mind, let us follow the Holy Spirit who leads us to see and find the reality of life and faith when there is no King in Christ’s Church. What happened to the tribe of Dan in Jdg. 18 is a part of their conquering war continuing since Joshua’s time. As v. 1 points out, the Danites have not yet taken the land allocated to them, and they are still in the process of searching for their land in Canaan. So, considering the Danites’ endeavour over some centuries, they seem to be doing well because they have not stopped conquering the land but are continuing their search for their inheritance. Since the time of Joshua, all twelve tribes of Israel were striving to conquer the land and the Danites seem to be faithful to that mandate even after most of other tribes have stopped. It seems commendable, don’t you think? Since the risen Lord Jesus commanded all His followers to go to the ends of the earth and baptise people and teach them all that He had taught, Christ’s Church has been engaged in this spiritual war, conquering and winning many souls – isn’t it commendable?
But, there’s a fatal flaw in the Danites’ undertaking of their task – they were looking at a false target, away from the land originally allocated to them. Simply put, the city they overtake, namely, Laish, is not where God allocated for the tribe of Dan – it was far north from the boundary of the Danite territory. Laish was, in fact, a part of the land allocated to another tribe of Israel. This means the Danites took – or stole, if you like – someone else’s inheritance. Their original allocation was a land of choice, as Jos. 19 described. But they gave up conquering that land because of the strength of the dwellers of that land who were the Philistines. So, they turned their eyes to somewhere else easier to take over, easier to manipulate with not much sweat or blood. It means their disbelief, first of all, of the promise and power of God, then, their disloyalty and disobedience.
Let me rephrase what this fatal spiritual flaw means; the Danites were after an easy-going life based on their easy-going faith. They did not like a full-blown war against their enemy; they reasoned instead and sought an easier way to accomplish their task. They thought that the Philistines were too strong for them; so they gave up challenging them, thus, lost their inheritance over to their enemy.
This was the result and fruit of their easy-going faith. Their God was too small, too weak, too mundane. Their God was too weak to accomplish what He had said and promised earlier and unable to empower them to win the battle against their enemy. So they gave up and turned their eyes to somewhere nicer and easer. Their God was too powerless, while the God of Joshua and Caleb was so powerful that even the once impregnable fortress walls of Jericho could not stand but fall!
Truth is that we of the 21st century too witness the same attitude of ‘easy-going faith and life’ within churches. God’s command for us is as clear as for the Danites and we ought to be holy as our Father is holy; we are the salt of the earth which cannot lose its taste, and the light of the world which cannot be hidden; we’re the ambassadors for Christ through whom God makes His appeal to the lost world. But, many churches have withdrawn from the word of God and His commands, and not only endorse evil way as commendable, but also walk in it! Examples of this is plenty; many churches have endorsed homosexuality as a legitimate and normal way of life; many are moving toward unification of religions of the world, etc, etc. In the midst of all these ‘easy-going faith and life’ of churches, talking about the matter of ‘women ordination’ and its theological error seems to be ‘old-fashioned’ or absurd to many people, let alone the matters of purity of worship, the inerrancy of the Word of God, upholding a firm confession of faith, and so on. Instead of head-on confrontation against the enemy of the Church, many have sought for an easy way, thus, compromised their faith by condoning or adopting various evils of the world. In this sense, our generation is not different from the tribe of Dan in the time of Judges.
The Danites sought an easy way, and ended up with a syncretic faith and life. They gave up their God-promised, God-given inheritance; on their way of stealing someone else’s inheritance, they stole idols and illegitimate priest. At last, the Danites succeeded and took possession of a tiny piece of land in Canaan, but their success was simply a rotten fruit of Canaanite paganism that had overtaken their minds. Their easy-going faith and life – their ‘disbelief’ and ‘disobedience,’ in other words – is the cause of all spiritual troubles they faced and sins they committed. In a word, there was no King, no God, in their midst. And God’s verdict on them is expulsion from the land, as recorded in v. 30. Let me read you v. 30: “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.”
Similar to Danites’ disappearance from Canaan, every unfaithful church in history, every church with an ‘easy-going faith,’ has disappeared and disappears even now, though it’s not easily visible to our eyes.
II. MICAH AND JONATHAN IN WORLDLY RELIGION
In addition to the Danites’ compromised, easy-going faith, we’re given the cases of Jonathan the Levite and Micah who were after a worldly religion. These men were on the same page in terms of their faith and life. If you remember Jdg. 17:7, we’re told that Jonathan the Levite was a young man, most probably in his twenties or if younger, then, late teens. This means, he was not suitable for serving as a priest. According to the Mosaic law, 30 and over is the age for a Levite to take the Levitical priesthood. Yet, Jonathan was sojourning the land, searching for a job – which was a clear violation and defiance of God’s law. Then, Micah found him and offered him a position in his house as a ‘house priest’ which was another violation and defiance of the law.
Later, as we’ve read from our text passage for today, this Jonathan, Micah’s house priest, met the Danite spies who were on their way to Laish. When he was asked for enquiring of God, he openly declared God’s blessing to their quest. Later on, when the main Danite army arrived and offered him a better position, that is, priesthood for a tribe, he had no hesitation to take that offer.
Considering all these, the only conclusion we get is that both Micah and Jonathan had no faith in God, nor did they fear God. They surely were ‘religious’ but, in their hearts, God the Lord and King was not present, let alone enthroned. In their hearts, God was neither Lord nor King. Instead, they themselves were kings of their own. Yet, in reality, they served Mammon the god of the worldly wealth.
Shockingly, these men – Micah and Jonathan – resemble us of the present generation in ungodliness and Mammonism or the greedy pursuit of worldly wealth. This generation is quite ‘religious’ – in a sense, more religious than any other previous generations – but the true King is hardly seen even in the life of Christians and churches, not to mention in the life of all who belong to the world. I’m saying this to myself first, before pointing it out to you or others of this generation. We’re in a great danger of living without the ‘King’ in our midst, in a great danger of being without the true King and God in our life – just like these men of Jdg. 18, Micah and Jonathan.
By the way, the name Micah means ‘Who is like God?’ But, his life meant no more than a question, that is, ‘I don’t know God; who is He?’ Jonathan means in Hebrew, ‘God has given,’ but his life recorded in Jdg. 17 and 18 speaks something like this, ‘Not God, but my boss has given me wages, and I’m after a better one!’ We’re Christians – that means, we profess belief in Jesus as our Christ, our Lord and King; we belong to Him, the Son of God, but we hear and see enough evidence that many people, many churches, many denominations in the world denounce their allegiance to Christ and His commands. Pointing this out, a renowned professor of theology published a book some years ago and its title is ‘Christless Christianity.’ That is, in another word, ‘kingless kingdom.’ What a tragedy!
III. THE FAITH THAT SUBMITS TO THE KING
This story we’ve read and meditated on today is a sad part of Israel’s history or the history of the OT church, if you like. The whole chapter is full of spiritual sadness. But all who have heard the voice of God through this story, who have heard God’s trumpet sound, warning against an evil of pursuing easy-going faith after worldliness, are blessed. In this sense, this story of the Danites and two men is beneficial and profitable to the blessed ones of God.
And the Lord’s message is that we of Christ’s Church must return to the one and true King, our Lord Jesus. We must live a life under the kingship of Christ; we must be a church under the kingship of Jesus Christ; we must uphold the faith that submits to our King and Lord, living under the ultimate authority of His Word.
This is what our King has spoken through an apostle in Eph. 4 in these words, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Every word in this saying is saturated with the blessing of Christ’s Church that submits to the true King, Jesus Christ!
May the Lord our King bless His Church so that we altogether submit to our one and true King, Jesus Christ, now and forever! Amen. ***