Open Your Bible
Judges 17:1-13, Leviticus 26:1, Hosea 11:1-12, James 3:9-12
Scripture Reading: Judges 17:1-13, Leviticus 26:1, Hosea 11:1-12, James 3:9-12
Sometimes idolatry is easy to identify. For instance, when I find myself wanting to be more like my favorite Instagram celebrity than Jesus, I know I am idolizing the Instagram celebrity. Or, when I start prioritizing my body image over my spiritual health and well-being, I know I am idolizing how I look. But idolatry can also be stealthy, especially when it is disguised as piety. This is certainly the case for Micah, his shrines, and his priests.
Micah’s story is a slow progression down a dangerous path. It begins with an offering to the Lord—the silver he had stolen from his mother. However, part of the offering is melted down and formed into an idol, something strictly forbidden by Hebrew law (Leviticus 26:1). This idol is then joined by other idols and set up as a shrine in Micah’s household. Micah even makes an ephod, which was a garment worn only by priests, and installs one of his sons as a priest to oversee the shrine.
Slowly but surely, we see what Micah is doing: he is turning his home into a tabernacle. The transformation is complete when a young Levite shows up at his door. “Stay with me,” invites Micah, “and be my father and priest” (Judges 17:10). And the Levite stays, legitimizing Micah’s efforts. Then Micah says, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, because a Levite has become my priest” (v.13).
The elements are there—a priest from the appropriate tribe, the priestly garments, an offering of silver to the Lord—but Micah’s heart exposes his transactional relationship with God, and these motives reveal his idolatry: Now I know the Lord will be good to me.
Idolatry in the name of the Lord is often the hardest to spot and the most destructive. I can easily idolize my religion over my Savior. I can lose trust in the promise of Christ and begin trusting in my church attendance or how often I volunteer or read Scripture. These rituals in and of themselves are good, but they are meant as an avenue to commune with God, not to be my own god. What often begins as an attempt to be near God can put distance between my heart and His.
Micah did not need to turn his home into a tabernacle and his family into priests, because God was already dwelling among the Israelites. In the same way, I don’t have to idolize my religion in an attempt to be nearer to God because He has already come near to me through the person of Jesus Christ, and He remains with me by the Holy Spirit.
Micah’s story proves that the line is fine between being active participants in our religion and idolizing it. What starts as piety can quickly slip into idolatry if we’re not careful. And in our attempt to be closer to God, we actually end up turning away from true and intimate relationship with Him.
May I heed the warning in Micah’s story and honestly examine my heart: Do I worship my religion, or do I worship the Lord, my God?
Andrea Lucado is a freelance writer, Texas native, and the author of the memoir English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith. When she is not conducting interviews or writing stories, you can find Andrea laughing with friends at a coffee shop or creating yet another nearly edible baking creation in her kitchen. One of these days she’ll get the recipe right.