Question: "What can we learn from the account of Micah and the idol in Judges?"
Answer: Judges 17 and 18 record the story of a man named Micah who built a shrine and worshiped human-made idols. (This man should not to be confused with the prophet Micah.) Obviously, what Micah did was wrong. The author of the Book of Judges includes the story in order to teach us some lessons.
First, it is clear that worshiping idols stands in opposition to God’s commands. The first of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
Second, external religious actions are not enough; faith in the true God is required. Micah was certainly zealous. He built a shrine, made an ephod to use in religious activities, and fashioned some household idols. He was excited to have hired his own, personal priest: “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest” (Judges 17:13). However, Micah’s actions were not based on the teachings of God’s Word. He sought to serve God the way he wanted, not the way God had commanded.
Third, false beliefs lead to false teachings. When the people of Dan inquired concerning a place to settle, Micah’s priest told them what they wanted to hear: “Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval” (Judges 18:6). Yet the Danites’ journey was a violent one that resulted in the destruction of a peaceful town.
Fourth, sinful actions by one person can have a long-term impact. The closing verses of this account leave us with these words: “The Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh” (Judges 18:30–31). Micah’s false gods led to false worship among an entire tribe of Israel for several generations. We may not think our sinful actions hurt others, yet they do. They can even leave a long-term negative impact on entire communities for years to come.
The Micah of Judges 17—18 offers an example of how not to worship God, and his story illustrates the consequences of practicing religion according what we think is best rather than according to God’s teachings. God’s Word is given to guide and protect us, as well as to bring Him glory. As 2 Timothy 3:16–17 teaches, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
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