The History of a Man-Made Ministry
Judges 17:1-13
And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.…

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.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.

WEB: There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah.

The Great Religious Want and Mistake of Humanity
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