2017 04 23 pm Judges 17 Westminster Confession 21.1b, 3-6 I Did it My Way (is the Wrong Way)

The 2nd Commandment warns us against all wrong worship of God. Judges 17 gives us a lesson right worship from an example of wrong worship.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
There are two parts to the 2nd Commandment: We are not to make an image or a picture of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or something else to represent God, like the Israelites did with the golden calf, and we are not to bow down to or worship images. So we may not make images of God and we must not worship them.
But more is in view than just bowing down to images. WHAT IS FORBIDDEN HERE IS ALL WRONG WORSHIP OF GOD. In Deuteronomy 12:31 God warned the people of Israel about imitating the Canaanites. He said “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.”
And the principle embodied in these verses has come to be known as the REGULATIVE PRINCIPLE OF WORSHIP. God is so important and the worship of God is so important that God has regulated how He is to be worshiped, And He has done this by giving us either explicit commands or biblical principles that explain exactly how He is to be worshipped. And this is what Art 1 of ch. 21 describes when it talks about the acceptable way of worshipping God having been revealed by Himself and limited by His own revealed will.
 Sadly though, this principle is often not understood or ignored in the wider Christian world. Visit other churches and you will sometimes find all sorts of bizarre ‘worship practices’ going on, because they are entertaining for children or young people, or because they attract non-Christians, or because doing the same thing all the time is boring, etc.
 But it may also be the case that some here do not know of or understand this principle. And even if we know of this principle, do we think it is important? Do we understand where this principle is under threat today? Are we careful to avoid the trap of thinking that we are better than others because we do things ‘the right way,’ or thinking that so long as we have the right order of worship, God is not interested in where our hearts are at?

Well, what we are going to do today is to look at JUDGES 17 in order to learn some lessons about right worship from an example of wrong worship. So let’s read Jud. 17.
Most of us, I guess, will have heard Frank Sinatra sing, “I DID IT MY WAY.” Well, that line in his song is probably a good a description of what we read about here in Judges 17 as we could find anywhere. This story is not recorded as an example of Israel at her best in terms of worship. This is not an account of the people of Israel worshipping God according to the 2nd Commandment. This is not the regulative principle on display. No. This is a story of Israel at her worst in terms of idolatry. This is the 2nd Commandment being utterly ignored and broken. This is Israel singing, I did it my way. And in terms of the worship of God, that is the wrong way! Let’s see how this is so,
The first thing we see is Dysfunction in the Home.

1. As the chapter opens, we have AN IMPRESSION OF A GODLY HOUSEHOLD: Micah’s name means – Who is like Yahweh! And Micah demonstrates that he has an active conscience by confessing to the theft. And his mother’s immediate response is to say, “Blessed be my son by the Lord!” She then promises to dedicate the money to the Lord, using God’s special, covenant name, Yahweh, which we know because LORD is in capital letters. This family seems to know God.

2. So, what is wrong with this picture?
a. Well, let’s start with what is missing. A repeated refrain found throughout the last chapters of Judges is that “in those days, there was NO KING in Israel, everyone did as he saw fit.” We see it, for example, in v6. What the author of Judges is saying is that If there were a king, then this nonsense would not be happening. This is why it is believed that the Book of Judges was probably written during or after the time of King David. But of course, while some kings, like David and Hezekiah and Josiah, were godly kings that caused the people to be instructed in the Law of God, many of the kings, like Jeroboam and Ahab, were exceedingly wicked and even led the people into idolatry and immorality. So that refrain is ultimately pointing us to the Lord Jesus Christ and the time of the new covenant when each person knows the law of God in His heart by the inward work of the Holy Spirit.
b. But let’s also look a little closer at the religion of this household.
i. Micah’s confession of stealing, for example, is kind of like the child who confesses to stealing cookies only after dad threatens to call in the police and fingerprint the cookie jar. His confession arises out of a superstitious fear of his mother’s curse rather than a godly sorrow for the sin he has committed.
ii. But we also see that his mother’s response shows a casual disregard for the curse she had pronounced. We don’t know how old Micah was. But as one commentator said, it would have been quite appropriate for Micah’s mother to lay him across her lap and apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge, if you know what I mean! But she is not really troubled by any offence to the Lord that has been caused and instead pronounces the Lord’s blessing upon her son. There is an old saying that says, “As goes the home, so goes the nation.” When parents refuse to discipline their children it is only a matter of time until the nation is lawless. And that is very much what Judges 17 is saying; the lawlessness in Israel should surprise no one when this is going on in the homes.
iii. And what all this reveals is that there is a lack of knowledge about God’s law. Neither Micah nor his mother truly recognize the nature of his sin or how to deal with it properly.
1. Micah was a thief. According to Leviticus 6:1-7, he should have returned what he stole plus a fifth of its value to the owner.
2. In addition, on the day he made good, he was to present a guilt offering to the Lord at the tabernacle. Ch. 18:30 reveals that the tabernacle was located in Shiloh. Where was Shiloh? It was in the hill country of Ephraim. Where did Micah live? In the hill country of Ephraim. But the tabernacle and its place as the centre of the worship of the Lord’s people doesn’t even seem to exist in the life of this family. Instead, God’s law is ignored, whether knowingly or ignorantly. And this just paves the way for increased idolatry.

And we see this as we read next about Mother’s Visit to the Silversmith.

1. Mother’s response is to “dedicate the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image.” Revealing again the emptiness of her religious life, she disregards her earlier curse and doesn’t take the money to the tabernacle to dedicate it to the Lord’s service. No, she waltzes off to the idol factory with the name of the Lord ion her lips.

2. And then the image was installed in Micah’s home. We read in verse 5 that the man Micah had a shrine. The more literal translation of the Hebrew would read that he had a Beth Elohim – a House of gods.
a. Now, it is quite obvious from the 2nd Commandment that it was wrong for Micah and his mother to make an image and to bow down to it. But WAS IT REALLY SO BAD TO HAVE A HOUSEHOLD SHRINE? After all, it was time consuming to get along to the tabernacle all the time. And this little ‘house of gods’ could be a good witness to others of this family’s devotion to the Lord.
b. Well, listen to the command of God in Deuteronomy 12: “To the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name– there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD … Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.” So a household shrine was also a breaking of the 2nd Commandment.
c. And in addition to this, the EPHOD mentioned here was an implement that the High Priest was to use to discern the Lord’s will at the tabernacle or temple. It was never intended that individuals would make their own ephods to use them privately. So this too was a breaking of the 2nd Commandment.
d. And on top of that, v5 tells us that Micah ordained one of his sons as the family priest. The law of God, however, said that only the Levites were to serve as priests in Israel. So this too was a breaking of the 2nd Commandment.

3. Now, the writer of the book of Judges doesn’t give us much in the way of commentary. He assumes that his readers know the law of God and will recognize the list of commandment breaking on display here. The worship of God is a vital part God’s relationship with His people. And perversion of worship, wrong worship, is always a sure sign that the Word of God is no longer living and active amongst His people.
a. And we know this is the case here in Judges 17, because we have been told this earlier in Judges. Look with me at JUDGES 2:8. “And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years … And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.” And in Israel’s case, this is shorthand for the people did not know the law of God. So ignorance of the law is revealing itself in wrong worship.
b. And this CAN HAPPEN JUST AS EASILY TODAY. Perhaps you have heard this saying before: The first generation knows how to worship and why they worship as they do. The second generation does the how of worship but they don’t know the why of worship, because they were not taught it. And so, the third generation changes how they worship or stops worshipping all together. If God has regulated how He is to be worshipped in His Word, then we must read His Word to know how to worship God the right way, and teach the next generation the why and the how of right worship. And we are also blessed to have confessions of faith, like the one we have read today, that summarize the teaching of the Bible on topics like right worship. And as one further and very specific resource, let me recommend the booklet called Reformed Liturgy – available from the RCNZ website.

Well, I mentioned a moment ago that the OT people relied on the Levites to teach them the law of God. So a glimmer of hope enters this account as A LEVITE ARRIVES ON THE SCENE, from v7.

1. Will he put an end to this nonsense as he ought? Sadly. No. Instead, as we see from v10, once a favourable employment deal has been agreed, the Levite agrees to serve as Micah’s priest and is ordained by Micah.
a. Now, we mentioned a moment ago that Micah had already ordained one of his sons as his priest. But probably because Micah knows that the Levites and the priesthood go together, somehow, his son has to go on the unemployment benefit because there is a better option available.
b. So is this an improvement on the previous situation? Is this OK because the priest is now a Levite? No it is not. The Levites were to serve as priests at the tabernacle and temple. They were to be ordained there by the High Priest. And while they were to go through the country and teach the people the Law of God, they were not to function as private priests. All this is laid down by God in Exodus 38 and Numbers 1 and 3 and 8. So all of this is a further breaking of the 2nd Commandment.
c. And we are given an idea of Micah’s thinking and motives in this arrangement, from v13, where he says, “Now I know the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” And where does this sort thinking comes from? Is it from the law of God? Not at all. This is a Canaanite idea. Micah’s worship is like the nations round about. When it comes to his worship, Micah is singing, I did it my way.
d. And this Levite, whose specific calling was to keep alive among the Israelites the knowledge and service of God through the teaching of the law, is a blind man leading the blind as they stumble together further and further away from the path of obedience established by God.

2. Well, ONE LAST NOTE ABOUT THIS LEVITE, before we speak further about what all this means for us today. In ch. 18, Micah’s image and the ephod and this Levite are stolen away by the tribe of Dan. And the Levite and the idol and the ephod become a tribal shrine. And if you know your OT, you might remember that later on when Jeroboam setup some private places for worship so that the people of the 10 Northern tribes would no longer need to travel down to Jerusalem and the Temple, Dan was one of the two locations he chose. And we are seeing the origins of all this here in Judges 17. So wrong worship in a house becomes wrong worship in a tribe and eventually wrong worship in a nation. So just look with me, quickly, at 18:30. For there we are given the name of this Levite: he was Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses. It is Moses’ grandson who leads the people away from the law that God gave to the people through Moses. Remember that saying from a few moments ago about the third generation? Well, here is an example of it. If we as fathers and mothers, and as preachers and elders, and as Sunday school teachers and catechism teachers and Cadet and Gem counsellors, don’t teach the children the whole counsel of God concerning faith and life, these are the consequences that will surely follow.

Well, here we are today then. No idols here. No crucifix on the wall. And we are at worship for a second time this Sunday! Are we free from ‘I Did it My Way’ worship?
We wouldn’t be if our worship was (and some of you will recognize this list from our discussions at church camp – it comes from Rev. Peter Master’s book, ‘Worship in the Melting Pot’):
1. Personal-pleasure worship, which puts the worshipper’s enjoyment and experience in first place, rather than God and His desires.
2. Or worldly-idiom worship, which borrows the current entertainment music of the world with its rhythms, instruments, actions and showbiz presentation, forgetting all the Bible’s warnings about loving the world.
3. Or aesthetic worship, which imagines that orchestras, bands and instrumental solos and decoration and pomp are real expressions of worship, as if God is worshipped through these things, whereas Christ said — ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’
4. Or ecstatic worship, in which people work themselves into highly emotional and even semi-hypnotic states, whereas Scripture says that we must always pray and sing with the understanding.
5. Or shallow worship, which removes Psalms and hymns and replaces them with choruses conveying one or two elementary ideas that are often repeated, because solid spiritual doctrine is not wanted.
6. Or informal worship, in which casual, jokey, trivia-injecting leaders turn churches into lounges that you can walk in and out of at will, with a coffee from the on-site café, so depriving the Lord of dignity, reverence, grandeur and glory.
7. Or (and this was one I added to Rev. Master’s list) positive worship, where there is little or no mention of the law and sin and confession, because we only want grace, health and wealth, purpose, and power.
But as we said at the beginning of the service, even if we have all the right elements of worship, as they are described in the articles of our Westminster chapter, WE ARE STILL GUILTY OF WRONG WORSHIP IF WE ARE JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS.
 And it is so easy to do this, isn’t it. Very easy to sing or recite a creed or to pray or to listen to the sermon without meaning what we say or being a million miles away in our thoughts.
 God once said to the people of Israel, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” And people of God, unlike OT Israel, who only had the shadows and promises, we have the reality and the fulfillment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the meaning and motivation for our worship. We have even less excuse for heart-less worship. We sing to our Father in heaven who is our Father because of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we sing to our Saviour and Redeemer. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. We recite creeds that describe the person and work of Christ. We bring thank offerings to be used in the service of Christ. Our worship is Christian worship. Our worship has the full revelation of Who Jesus is and What He came to do at its core.
 The remedy for ‘going through the motions worship’ is a fresh realization that in worship we meet Christ. And we do so as preparation for the day when we shall see Him face to face!

But while we must read our Bibles to learn how God is to be worshipped rightly, and while we must strive to worship with our lips and our hearts, the 2nd Commandment needs to bring us from Mt Sinai but MT. CALVARY. You see, all Mt. Sinai can ultimately do is reveal our wrong worship. Mt. Calvary, on the other hand, presents us with the Lord Jesus who having obeyed the 2nd Commandment perfectly took all our sins against the 2nd Commandment on Himself that we might be forgiven.

And because we believe in Him for the forgiveness of our sins, we may be certain, as we saw this morning, that one day we shall see, face to face, the one who is the perfect image of God, the Lord Jesus. And there our worship will always and only be right worship. So the 2nd Commandment ultimately leads us to this prayer: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” And all God’s people said, “Amen!”