July 27, 2019

Religious Chaos

Judges 17

To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

—  2 Timothy 4:3

The closing chapters of Judges (chap. 17-21) show how things go from bad to worse as God’s people keep doing what is right in their own eyes—and what is evil in God’s eyes. The people fall headlong into a downward spiral leading to religious chaos.

God had set up the leadership of his people, appointing priests to serve in worship (Exodus 40:12-15). In those days the priests were to serve only at the tabernacle, the house of God in Shiloh (Judges 18:31)— and then later at the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5-6).

We read today, however, that Micah made a shrine for his own gods and installed one of his own sons as his priest. Then, even worse, a traveling Levite, who was ordained to serve at the tabernacle (Numbers 3), agreed to be Micah’s priest.

In all of this, the people and their religious leaders corrupted the system of leadership in Israel, doing what seemed right in their own eyes. Or, as we read in 2 Timothy, people set up teachers around them to say only what they wanted to hear.

Corruption like this stains biblical religion to this very day. Today we have preachers of self-esteem and prosperity—and many others who make political statements that defy the teachings of God in Christ. For Jesus’ sake, there’s no better time than now to evaluate what our eyes are eager to see and what our ears are itching to hear.

My eyes and ears are weary of seduction, Lord. Give me your light and saving words, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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