Sunday, October 16, 2016

Unwanted Dedication

Staring at the train wreck that is most of Western Christendom, it’s not hard to see one or two points of comparison with Israel’s early days in the land of Canaan in the time before God gave them a king. You know, that period the writer of Judges describes regularly with the phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”.

Hmm. That’s pretty much the tale today. The difference is that while Israel had no king, the Church has a living Head.

We are without Israel’s excuse.

1,100 Pieces of Silver

Judges 17 tells the story of an Israelite name Micah, from the tribe of Ephraim. Micah had helped himself to an early inheritance, stealing from his mother the not-insubstantial amount of 1,100 pieces of silver. But when he heard mom cursing the thief, he had second thoughts and apologetically returned what he had stolen.

We’re not told why Micah had the sudden change of heart, but it may have had something to do with the fact that in those days a curse was not merely the usage of profanity or a common expression of annoyance. Rather, a curse was understood to put the individual at whom it was directed under the judgment of God and at serious risk. After all, it was just possible God might grant the curser’s desire, as he did in the case of Gideon’s son Jotham.

Anyway, Micah returned the stolen silver and his grateful mother dedicated it to God. She paid a silversmith to fashion the silver into an idol for their household.

The whole thing starts with thievery and ends in idol worship ... yet, mysteriously, Jehovah gets name-checked three times in the process. How about that?

Getting Dedicated

That sort of thing happens a lot in the book of Judges. God gets mentioned a whole lot more than he gets obeyed.

Does that have a familiar ring to it? I wonder if, like Micah’s mom, we don’t sometimes plaster God’s name all over things he hasn’t asked for and may not even want; things that may be unrelated to his priorities or entirely contradictory to his will:
  • Perhaps it’s a huge, beautifully-appointed building with a mortgage so massive that paying interest becomes the number one financial priority of those who meet there for the next decade or more. And these days, a white elephant like that may even wind up enslaving those who own it to the arbitrary, anti-biblical whims of politically correct government functionaries.
  • Perhaps it’s a new pastor, selected by a passive congregation to fill an unbiblical role with a vision for the church that comes straight out of denominational tradition rather than the New Testament.
  • Perhaps, like the Newcastle Jets, we have dedicated our football team to God, putting us in the rather odd position of asking God that our league will release more finances so we can buy some decent players in the January transfer window.
No, I’m so totally NOT kidding.

A Gift to Whom?

Before we start associating God with our plans and invoking his name and his priorities, it would seem sensible to inquire whether the things we are dedicating to him are things God actually wants. Otherwise our “dedication” is mockery or virtue signaling: we are really only pleasing ourselves, appending God’s name to our own desires as the merest of afterthoughts.

Sure, it may not be that we are engaged in outright idolatry, like Micah’s mom with her silver image.

Then again ...

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