Category Archives: Idols / False Gods

What Is Mardi Gras and Should Christians Celebrate It?

What is Mardi Gras and why do so many Christians celebrate it? I grew up in a Catholic church and never could quite figure out how people could say that Mardi Gras was a “Christian holiday”. People broadly seemed to have accepted the concept that Christ wants us to embrace wild parties, drunkenness, public nudity, gluttony and other sinful behavior as a precursor to a period of repentance which follows. If it is not obvious enough that celebrating Mardi Gras is not a way to edify, honor, or lift up Christ then try a more academic exercise. Where in scripture did Jesus demonstrate or teach that we should sin greatly before a period of repentance? It’s not there. In fact, the opposite.

The call to repentance is real, but not the call to sin before it.

This does not even begin to touch on the focus that Mardi Gras puts on pagan gods associated with parades and other events.

Matthew 4:17

      17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Romans 6

      1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin.

      8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

      12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

      15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

      20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are called to righteousness and not to sin. How then can those in the church widely accept and embrace sin as a “Christian holiday”? The answer is that we have not followed the Lord’s instructions. He commands us not to learn the ways of the pagans and not to celebrate as they do. But all too often our common cultural holidays have been greatly influenced by pagan celebrations. The church has chosen to accept and blend pagan practices alongside or in place of how the Lord wants us to worship Him.

Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia.

When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mardi-gras

Deuteronomy 12:1-5

   1“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3“You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4“You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. 5“But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.

In order to choose to follow the Lord His way, which is the only true way to follow Him, then we must turn away from and reject pagan celebrations which have been blended with or replaced God’s instructions for how we are to worship Him and how we are to live. Let us not make excuses, accepting the lifestyle of the pagans as our own, no matter how long the family traditions have been established. When we start making exceptions, we often end up with things like Mardi Gras… many who claim to be Christian accept it and would defend it… but none can justify it based on scripture or God’s word. It has become part of the culture based on a historical choices and family traditions. Let us seek the Lord and the Lord’s way alone to live submitted to Him. Let us not blend with the ways of the pagans but rather turn back to our Lord wholeheartedly and without hesitation.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

Hold Fast to the Name of Yeshua and Repent from Following False Teaching

 

In the letters to the seven churches, Yeshua continues to identify Himself as the “One who has the sharp two-edged sword”, which represents the word of YHWH. It is against the word of YHWH that we are judged and encouraged or called to change.

Ephesians 6:17 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12-13 12For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

We do well to remember it is by the word of YHWH and not by the opinions of men that we are ultimately judged, and remember that not everyone who claims to teach the true word of YHWH is teaching accurately. We are to test it ourselves, not just take a pastor’s word for it.

Revelation 2:12-17

Message to Pergamum

     12“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

      13‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 17‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Pergamum must have been dealing with some serious sin to say it is where Satan’s throne is. Yeshua recognizes and encourages them for holding fast to His name even when faced with persecution and death. Yeshua then also calls them out that false teaching is amongst the church, calling them to repent and turn away from it. Repenting means to turn around, to change behavior to be more like Yeshua, it is not simply to “feel bad” about something or “say you are sorry”.

We can be sure that false teaching remains today in the church encouraging us to sin and live apart from YHWH’s word and in harmony or compromise with the world’s corrupted view.

To those of us who overcome all these challenges, we are encouraged that we will receive hidden manna and a white stone and a new name. I have not studied the symbolism here, but manna is how YHWH provided for His people in the wilderness after the exodus. It is not a stretch to say it represents YHWH’s provision for His people. White represents sin having been cleansed and forgiven. The new name seems to suggest a new beginning, whether in this life or after death. I am sure you can study further and get more thoughts or studied opinions on this symbolism and I would encourage you to do so. If you do, test more than one source to get some diversity of opinion. As we are warned in today’s scripture, there is much false teaching. We must test it for truth and reject what is false.

Let us also not overlook there are negative consequences if we refuse to repent. Yeshua mentions coming quickly to make war against them if they do not repent. Keep in mind, these are people “in the church body” who are teaching false doctrine. They are not just the pagans who happen to live there. There is a mixing and mingling of good and bad that is offensive to YHWH. All too often today, Christians seem to act and teach that Yeshua will not come in judgment against those who are not living in obedience. However, scripture indicates otherwise here (and elsewhere).

I would summarize by saying we are called to hold fast to the name of Yeshua through persecution unto death, and to study, discern, and root out false teaching to ensure we are not following man’s mixed and mingled ways (good mixed with bad).

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Annointing With Oil

The use of oil is recorded often throughout scripture. It has symbolic and sometimes physical purpose. It is used in anointing people and for funeral rites and a lot in between. Some oils have physical properties that are helpful for different uses. However, when we use oils for purposes like anointing people we should take care to remember the oil is not the source of the power. YHWH is the source of the power. Using oil does not command His power to our purpose. It is symbolic or perhaps in some circumstances following the example He recorded in scripture to try to do things His way and please Him. Do not make oil into an idol that has some power on its own from a spiritual perspective.

1 Samuel 16:1-5

Samuel Goes to Bethlehem

      1Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” 2But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3“You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.” 4So Samuel did what the LORD said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, “Do you come in peace?” 5He said, “In peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He also consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The Parable of the Two Fathers

This is not a biblical parable, but one based on biblical teaching and in fact it is a true story many times over.

In a certain town there were two fathers who were neighbors, each of whom had a son. Both men wanted to honor God. They both went to church every Sunday and prayed with their sons every night. They both read the Bible with their sons.

The first father truly wanted to submit his life and that of his family to God, even if it was difficult at times. The father was sometimes mocked for being different from those around him when he was standing up for God, and his son noticed. The father refused to lie to his son, and his son noticed this also. This father always remained clear that there is only one God, whom we can know through Jesus Christ. He taught his son that God has already defined what is good and bad and there are real consequences for sin, which is to say… rebelling against God’s instruction and authority. As the son grew older, he sometimes wondered how he could know Jesus was real since he could not “see” him or “touch” him but accepted it because his father was always honest with him. He learned to stand for Jesus even when it was hard, because he learned by watching his father.

The second father was content to continue living his life in the traditions of his parents and grandparents. It felt comfortable, most of his friends and neighbors lived their lives in a similar manner so there was no conflict. He did not feel that God really cared that much about some areas of how he and his family led their daily lives. He told his son that Jesus was the way to God, but he also liked to tell his son seemingly harmless made up stories about make believe characters. He enjoyed telling his son about the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and of course Santa Claus. He continued the stories for many years until finally his son would learn on his own that each story was not true. The father even went out of his way to provide false evidence that the stories were true… like money under the pillow for a tooth, or telling his son that the bunny hid the eggs and brought him a basket, and of course having lots of presents at Christmas… all from Santa.  He even ate cookies and milk on behalf of Santa. After all, it’s just a bit of fun. What harm can it do?

As the son of the second father grew older, he was confused. The son sometimes wondered how he could know Jesus was real since he could not “see” him or “touch” him. He loved his father, but throughout his life his father had lied to him and even gone out of his way to fake evidence in many make believe characters. He could not help  but wonder if Jesus and the Bible were like the rest of the made up stories and he had many doubts.

Ask yourself about each of the made up stories that you may tell… “Is lying to my children about this really honoring God or teaching God’s message effectively?” (To be clear, lying is when you convince your child the made up story is true… not just telling them a fictional story.) But let’s go further, beyond even lying to your children and the possible mistrust that creates for more important issues later.

Let’s take the story of Santa Claus as a representative example and see what it teaches. I will name a few, you can probably think of more.

  • The focus of Christmas, especially for kids, is “What stuff do I get?” With Santa, the story does not even focus at all on giving but rather only on getting. Trying to tell a child Christmas is about Jesus, but then overwhelming them with presents and made up stories about Santa is like telling a child to eat a carrot and then putting in front of them a table full of cookies, brownies, cakes, and ice cream. At the very least, the table of desserts is a major distraction. In most cases, the children will remember the desserts long after they forget the carrot.
  • Gifts are not received from parents out of love, but rather you receive gifts because you deserve them. You were “good”.  Rather than a sign of love and sacrifice from parents who worked to earn money and chose to spend it on presents… it is a right to get gifts.
  • Supposed accountability for “bad” behavior (e.g. coal in the stocking) never really happens. There really is no punishment for poor behavior… or perhaps we just need to do more good than we do bad… and then the bad is ok.
  • There is another person, different from God, that has god like powers. He is essentially all knowing, very powerful, and can be in many places at the same time. He is eternal. He judges who is good and bad.
  • After spending years lying to children and convincing them that Santa is real, even when they start to recognize it and ask questions, we will then tell them it was all in fun… but trust me about Jesus.

Santa is in fact accepted around the world by many because he is absolutely not pointing to God, but rather distracting attention away from God or replacing God completely. Christians and non-Christians alike  accept him. In one very recent example, Santa’s picture was used as a spokesman for a billboard campaign by atheists basically saying we can be good without need of God. “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness sake.” (link to article here). [How an atheist can define “good” while claiming there is no God is an interesting conversation for another day.]

I recognize that this is an emotional subject for many and admitting that we should change is very hard. Even if we accept it and change our behavior, there will be much difficulty among family. This is to be expected when we stand for Christ above all others. Jesus said so himself in Matthew 10:32-39.

32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’[l]

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

We each must decide whether or not we submit to God fully or hold tightly to the traditions of man. By the way… study of the new testament clearly shows that clutching to the traditions of man was the way of the Pharisees and Sadducees, not the way of Jesus.

God wants his people to be holy (set apart for God’s use) and righteous (living according to God’s commands rather than the world’s). He wants us to put Him first, above everything else.

Challenge yourself to objectively evaluate your traditions and seek first the kingdom of God. Do not dismiss this quickly but rather prayerfully seek God to show you the truth of His word and how to apply it in your life.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Key Points From 1 John In His Own Words

John summarizes and emphasizes why he wrote the letter to his audience. It is a good summary from his own perspective.

1 John 5:13-21

This Is Written That You May Know

      13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

      16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

      18We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

      21Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

Quick recap… We who submit to and follow Yeshua have eternal life. We know he hears us when we ask anything according to his will and that we will have what we request. Let us take care not to overlook the phrase “according to his will”. It is not about God being at our beck and call to deliver everything according to our will.

When we read the section about sin leading to death and not leading to death, we should remember that the penalty for all sin is death, but through Christ our sins can be forgiven and thus not lead to death… but only through Christ. John seems to be encouraging us to pray for others who we see sinning and the prayers will be answered, if it is according to God’s will. But we should take care also to remember the “unpardonable” sin Yeshua describes… this is the sin leading to death.

Matthew 12:30-32

The Unpardonable Sin

      30“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

      31“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

It is another opportunity for prayer and study to try to understand this unpardonable sin. I think it is often understood to be the continuing rejection of the Holy Spirit. When we couple this with the use of the term “brother” it seems that this is a description of seeing a brother or sister in Christ sinning, but not rejecting the Spirit. We pray for them to be forgiven of this and they will be according to God’s will.

We are encouraged again as John approaches his closing to trust in God who will keep us and we are warned that this world lies in the power of the evil one. Let us not expect righteousness and godliness from the world.  We are reminded that Yeshua came so that we could better know the Father and there is one last warning about avoiding idols.

Please prayerfully reflect on this and ask YHWH to help you gain clarity and understanding of how to apply it in your life.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The LORD Is In Control

The LORD is in control, even when we face defeat. Sometimes the defeat is more about us and our relationship with our Father than it is about the physical enemy before us. The LORD can grant victory or defeat. He wants his people to obey him and be in proper relationship with him.

Even when the ark was taken in defeat before the Philistines, YHWH seems to have a plan for how to use the situation to rebuke the Philistines and bring the ark back home. He was not surprised by the capture of the ark. As a matter of consideration, he may have even led to its capture in battle as part of disciplining Eli’s sons and possibly Israel more broadly. He also used it to show his power to the Philistines and in quite a unique way to show how powerless Dagon, whom they worshiped, remained.

1 Samuel 5

Capture of the Ark Provokes God

      1Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. 4But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

      6Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories. 7When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.” 8So they sent and gathered all the lords of the Philistines to them and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” And they said, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” And they brought the ark of the God of Israel around. 9After they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel around to us, to kill us and our people.” 11They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Lost and Lawless

Judges 18 continues to record the picture of a lost people, living lawlessly and without a ruler or clear understanding of YHWH and how to follow him. They are practically fighting over idols and a priest that is ok with idols. This is not pleasing to the LORD. I find it curious to note that in both Judges 17 and 18, scripture makes the point that there was no king in Israel. It seems an important point. It reminds us that without clear governance, people just degrade toward anarchy and “might makes right” approach at taking what they want. Of course, a government that operates to take away our freedom is not much better. What a blessing to live in a country like the USA where a constitutional republic form of government is designed to protect our freedoms, even from the government itself.

However, to close on a point, Judges 18 reminds us that it is not the nature of man to be righteous. If and when we drift away from YHWH and his instructions, we drift away from true righteousness and into lawlessness and anarchy. Just as in our society today, the law established by YHWH is intended to protect and guide us in how to live in freedom. It is not to put us in bondage.

We can also be reminded that just following a priest or leader in established religion is no certainty that we are living in a way that is pleasing to YHWH. We have to seek the truth in his word.

Lastly, I find it somewhat telling, that as we read about lawless living in Judges 17-18, we see there is no mention of YHWH acting on behalf of the people. He seems to have left them to their own depravity as they do not seem to be seeking or following him.

Judges 18

Danites Seek Territory

      1In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel. 2So the sons of Dan sent from their family five men out of their whole number, valiant men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to search it; and they said to them, “Go, search the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3When they were near the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young man, the Levite; and they turned aside there and said to him, “Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?” 4He said to them, “Thus and so has Micah done to me, and he has hired me and I have become his priest.” 5They said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous.” 6The priest said to them, “Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the LORD’S approval.”

      7Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were in it living in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure; for there was no ruler humiliating them for anything in the land, and they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8When they came back to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?9They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you sit still? Do not delay to go, to enter, to possess the land. 10“When you enter, you will come to a secure people with a spacious land; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.”

      11Then from the family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out. 12They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13They passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

Danites Take Micah’s Idols

      14Then the five men who went to spy out the country of Laish said to their kinsmen, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod and household idols and a graven image and a molten image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.” 15They turned aside there and came to the house of the young man, the Levite, to the house of Micah, and asked him of his welfare. 16The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the sons of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17Now the five men who went to spy out the land went up and entered there, and took the graven image and the ephod and household idols and the molten image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war. 18When these went into Micah’s house and took the graven image, the ephod and household idols and the molten image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19They said to him, “Be silent, put your hand over your mouth and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” 20The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod and household idols and the graven image and went among the people.

      21Then they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the livestock and the valuables in front of them. 22When they had gone some distance from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house assembled and overtook the sons of Dan. 23They cried to the sons of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you have assembled together?” 24He said, “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away, and what do I have besides? So how can you say to me, ‘What is the matter with you?’” 25The sons of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, or else fierce men will fall upon you and you will lose your life, with the lives of your household.” 26So the sons of Dan went on their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.

      27Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and secure, and struck them with the edge of the sword; and they burned the city with fire. 28And there was no one to deliver them, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone, and it was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob. And they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father who was born in Israel; however, the name of the city formerly was Laish. 30The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.

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Every Man Did What Was Right In His Own Eyes

The historical account in Judges after the death of Samson reminds me of Proverbs 29:18,

18Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,
But happy is he who keeps the law.

The account of Micah in Judges 17 is intriguing to study and reflect on. There was no clear leader or organization in Israel at the time. Every man did what was right in his own eyes. Micah appears on the surface to want to follow the LORD, but then is so lost he is building idols to do it. He seeks out a Levite as priest and he too seems ok with the idols. Idolatry is fairly basic and clear to avoid. Could it be these people really did not know to avoid idols? I suspect they had mixed and mingled with other cultures around them so thoroughly that they came to rationalize that it was right despite clear guidance from YHWH against it. The seem to be unable to see even obvious things that are displeasing to YHWH.

Let us take note that we should likewise be careful to test what is accepted in our culture against what YHWH actually says in his word. We should not simply take the word of a priest or denomination, but really test what the word says in the Bible itself, lest we, like Micah, convince ourselves that God is pleased with us because we have a priest or spiritual leader and yet we are still mixed up in worshiping him the wrong way and doing what is wrong in his sight instead of what is pleasing.

Judges 17

Micah’s Idolatry

      1Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver which were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse in my hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” 3He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, “I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.” 4So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. 5And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest. 6In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

      7Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. 8Then the man departed from the city, from Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he might find a place; and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place.10Micah then said to him, “Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance.” So the Levite went in. 11The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.”

There is a right way to live according to YHWH’s instructions. He instructed us in the Torah and the writings of the prophets. Yeshua was the word become flesh to demonstrate it for us. We have no authority then to change it and do as we please instead or to pick which elements we shall obey and which we will not, each man doing what seems right in his own eyes.

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Don’t Drift From YHWH When He Brings You Peace

We tend to be very aware of the hazards we face when at war or in conflict. It tends to actually draw us nearer to the LORD as we know we need him. We must also take great care that when he brings peace into our lives we do not drift away from him. Often it is when things are going well that we get complacent or feel self sufficient. We can become distant from YHWH.

 

Judges 8:28-35

Forty Years of Peace

     28So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.

      29Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. 31His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. 32And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

      33Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. 34Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; 35nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.

As a group or culture, people tend to have short memories for what YHWH has done for them. They just start to get lost in every day life and drift away from him. Let us be intentional and remain focused to continue walking with him, praying, worshipping, studying, and obeying. Let us remember to anchor ourselves in the singular truth that there is one God and it is YHWH. Yeshua and the Holy Spirit are one with YHWH. Let us teach our children to follow him and remember and celebrate what he has done for us in the past.

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Follow Through To Complete The Victory

Judges 8 is an action packed chapter. It follows the victory of Gideon that is so well known in which with trumpets, pitchers, and torches  and only 300 men (and YHWH of course) Israel routes Midian. The action does not stop, much like what we experience in life in general. There are some periods where things move quickly and can get complicated. We need to deal with them as they come and in some cases follow up later to get proper closure. We see also the importance of Gideon following through on the initial wins to complete the full victory. He does not leave loose ends that may come back to unravel the victory later. Sometimes finishing is very challenging and we are tempted to stop and call it “good enough”. We should take care to follow through to the end.

Gideon has just routed the Midianites and of course everyone cheers him, right? Nope. The men of Ephraim are angry with him. He must deal with them. No worries, right? Now they will get lots of support to finish the battle against Midian? Nope. The men of Succoth and Penuel refuse to help for fear Gideon does not complete the victory and they suffer at the hands of Midian again.

Even those who suffer at the hands of the wicked will not always rise up to help you defeat it. We must rely on YHWH rather than men. I suppose there is room for robust discussion on Gideon’s response to the people of Succoth and Penuel. Whether or not you agree with his approach, there is not rebuke in scripture for what actions he took, as there is clearly called out not very long after in verse 27. It is reasonable to conclude that if his treatment of the people was wrong here in the same chapter it might likewise be called out. This is likely a difficult chain of thought for most of us given the mindset of our vastly different culture some thousands of years later.

Gideon experiences a high point in refusing to become ruler over Israel like a king. He insists that YHWH remain ruler over them. This is awesome. Then, just as he wraps up all this difficulty and is about to enter into peace for 40 years, he stumbles. He takes gold and makes it into an ephod which then becomes a snare to Israel, Gideon, and his household. It is almost as if he let his guard down. We do not learn his motives in doing so. Perhaps he intended it for good. None the less, perhaps we need learn to be vigilant even as YHWH delivers victory that we not step into or create snares for ourselves and our families or people. Sometimes it is in the embracing of victory in which we fall into sin.

Judges 8:1-27

Zebah and Zalmunna Routed

      1Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they contended with him vigorously. 2But he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3“God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

      4Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. 5He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” 7Gideon said, “All right, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. 9So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I return safely, I will tear down this tower.”

      10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen. 11Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting. 12When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.

      13Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?’” 16He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. 17He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

      18Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.” 19He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.” 20So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them.” But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. 21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks.

      22Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” 23But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” 24Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25They said, “We will surely give them.” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. 26The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. 27Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.