By Matt Capps
There is a subtle but deadly danger lurking in modern Christianity. It is found in a false religion that masquerades as true faith. This false faith seeks to control or tame God, recreating Him into a more palatable God we are comfortable with. It is found in the hearts of those who ignore or reject the commands of God. Too many people would rather have a god who does not contradict them or say “no” to their desires. This is idolatry, plain and simple. The mirror of Micah’s narrative in Judges is a haunting reminder of this.
Judges chapter 17 opens with a thieving son (Micah), an unjustly forgiving mother, and both of them committing apostasy together. In the discussion between the two, it is revealed that some of the stolen silver is used for pagan purposes—namely, to violate God’s explicit command against making idols. Micah created a personal shrine apart from God’s tabernacle, and established his own priesthood apart from God’s directed system. This was the homemade worship of a homemade god. Remember these words of warning from Leviticus: “Do not make idols for yourselves … for I am the LORD your God” (26:1).
The devastating truth of this text is that Micah is attempting to worship God as he pleases. However, this is a form of worship that does not please God. It is the essence of idolatry. An idol is not necessarily a statue; it is most readily a posture of the heart. Idol worship reveals that we do not want to submit to the one true God as He is. Therefore, we depict God as we like and worship Him as we please. In the end, we will find that we are not worshiping the real God, but rather an idol that cannot express the full range of God’s glory, and cannot deliver the full force of God’s power. Idols can never deliver on their promises.
In verse 8 of Judges 17, the narrative takes another turn toward idolatry. Micah meets a Levite who had departed from Bethlehem in Judah in order to find a place to stay. This priest was dissatisfied with God’s arrangements for his life, and Micah was all too happy for this priest to legitimize his idolatrous shrine and homemade religion. So the priest found his place, and Micah wrongly thought he had secured the Lord’s blessing by hosting the priest.
Micah wanted a proper Levitical priest to justify his rebellion. The priest wanted to live out his role according to his own desires. Both Micah and the Levite were shifting their lives, even their convictions, to do what was most comfortable for themselves. They rebelled against the one true God, and made a god of their own.
This is what happens when you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibilities and crosses your will. If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, you will never have a God who can contradict you, only one who suits your desires. The emptiness of a Micah-like religion is shown when you try to recreate God in your own image. The God of the Bible has revealed Himself as He is. You either believe in Him, trust Him, and turn to Him in submission, or you pursue the detestable false idol of self-made religion.
Written by Matt Capps