Again, it’s been a while since I posted one of these, but I’m getting there, I promise.
I’ve had to read this chapter several times through to really make sense of it. On the face of it, it just seems to stand out strangely against the rest of the book of judges. What we have here is this bloke called Micah.
Now Micah’s Mum, apparently, had a fair bit of cash – 1100 shekels of silver – in today’s terms, around about $10,000 worth – which went missing. Ruing the loss of her silver, she curses, and Micah suddenly shows up with it, saying that he was the one who took it.
When I was a kid, I stole money out of Mum or Dad’s wallets … not regularly, per se, but a fair few times. One one occasion, I thought it would be really clever to hide it in my sock, like a shin guard, just pressed up against my leg with the sock pulled up over it. It wasn’t necessarily my best idea. As I’m asking Mum if I can go out and play (read, spend money on lollies and chocolates), she notices this little blue patch peeking out over my sock and asks what it is. Let’s just point out, there’s not a lot of things that can be substituted for a $10 note sticking out of your footwear. I was sprung, and boy, did I get in trouble.
I certainly didn’t get blessed – well, unless you’re Eliphaz in Job.
Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. ~ Job 5:17
Micah’s Mum, though, responds when her son brings back her silver, with, “The LORD bless you, my son!”
Not only that, she then decides to consecrate it to God, and asks Micah to make a cast image, an idol, out of it. Which Micah does, not only that, but he finds a wandering Levite and invites him to come and live in the house and be his own personal priest – he’ll get a salary, clothing, food and a roof over his head. Sounds like a sweet deal, really.
So hence my confusion over this chapter. Everythign seems to be working nicely.
And Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” ~ Judges 16:13
Then I was reading through it the third time, and finally something jumped out at me.
In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. ~ Judges 16:6
Isn’t this kind of like the world today? We’ve built this society that becomes more and more about doing what we see fit. As long as I’m not harming anyone else, then what do my actions matter? If it feels good, do it. Or even the one that I stood and lived by for several years: An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.
And for a humanistic form of morality, this is fine. If there is no God, then this is actually perfect. In fact, morality of this level still demonstrates that there is something more to us than just the physical need to survive, because in reality, without God, without something beyond what the physical, there’s no need to even concern ourselves with the harm of anyone else. Do as you see fit becomes simply do what’s best for yourself. Really, without any higher purpose, why should I even be concerned with inflicting pain, suffering or death on anyone else if it best serves my purposes?
And if you want to argue it, I’ve seen more than a few times, the meme come up on Facebook saying something along the lines of, “Like this if there are people alive today just because you don’t want to go to jail.”
That’s not about not harming others, it’s about keeping yourself safe. I don’t think there are many people in the world who haven’t at least thought once in their life that something would be good to do if it weren’t for the negative consequences they would potentially suffer.
Without leadership, the Israelites built this culture of everyone doing as he saw fit, but that left the door wide open for corruption to come in – not only to evey day you and me, but as this shows, even the priests could be corrupted against some of the clear instructions that God had given: like no idols.
There is a higher morality than what we come up with. There is a higher morality than the whims of society. We shouldn’t all just act as we see fit, because we don’t see clearly.
We’ve been here before.
Actually, we’ve been through most of this before. Deuteronomy’s a bit like revision before the final exam. Go back, recap the important pieces of what has been learned so far, so that it’s fresh in the mind when you go into the most important part of the semester. The Israelites are just about ready to enter the promised land, so just before they do, here’s a last revision just to keep them fresh and revitalised before that.
The ten commandments.
It’s pretty straight forward, when you think about it. These commandments, above all the rules and regulations, are the primary things that God laid out for an ethical and moral life.
The sermon at church last weekend was about happiness, and reporting two main definitions of happiness.
These weren’t the verbatim examples used at church; but if I go to my old favourite of Merriam Webster, we find the following two definitions:
1. A state of well being or contentment
2. A pleasurable or satisfying experience
There was a little more detail on the weekend. We had the hormone and endorphin rush that comes with pleasure; and we had the philosophical definition of leading an ethical and moral life.
Certainly, I don’t necessarily think that the ten commandments are the be all and end all of a moral and ethical life. Actually; what I do think sums that up is the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbour as yourself. This, though, is a great place to start.
I personally believe that true happiness is that moral and ethical life. It’s the first definition that comes from the two options above: a state of well being or contentment.
See, in our society today, we’ve gotten caught up in too much science and physical. Even in the days when I refused to acknowledge God, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that there was more out there. The trouble is, though, today so many people are caught up in the science of it. Happiness is just a chemical reaction in our brains that comes from a release of pleasure hormones; or of endorphins.
What a load of rubbish.
Anyone who has experienced the fullness of joy that comes from actually meeting the God of heaven can tell you that there’s such a difference between pleasure and happiness.
And therein lies the difference. Pleasure.
We’ve come to a point where the two are now synonymous. The chemical reaction that is pleasure is also what we equate to happiness. This isn’t the case. Pleasure is physical, but happiness is a state of mind; it’s spiritual and much deeper than just the physical sensation that comes about through hormones and endorphins.
Contentment and happiness are where we can relax. It’s a place of peace, of comfort, of satisfaction.
If more people could get hold of the fact that true happiness isn’t through the release of chemicals, endorphins and hormones; then our society would be a very different place.
I wanted a creative title for this post, but I really couldn’t come up with anything other than The Ten Commandments.
Tonight I did the first step in a five week course called “Christian Essentials” which goes through a lot of the foundations of Christianity, and it was really good, but at times, a little tough to stay focussed and patient on.
See, one of the biggest problems that led me away from God in the first place was pride. I was lucky, I guess you might say, to grow up in a Christian household. I was educated at a Christian school, I went to church and Sunday school pretty much my whole life. The problem was, though, that when I started getting too analytical and looking at Christianity (not God, but the religion of Christianity) with an intellectual mindset, my pride set in, and I’d tell myself that I already knew the answers to all of these questions that I was facing, but those doctrinal answers didn’t settle with me – hence I started exploring other paths of spirituality.
There were a few times tonight where I really felt that pride starting to raise its head again, and I fought against just tuning out or anything because once again that mindset of already knowing everything kept coming back.
Funnily enough, though, as I pushed that down, and opened myself to God’s input, there were things that he was able to say to me through the teaching.
We’re never going to know all of God, and we’re never going to have all the answers in this life, it’s just impossible. As many people who know me will know, I don’t have a problem with tackling the tougher questions – and I know that God isn’t afraid of being asked the tough questions either, but we’re never going to get the answer to everything.
The ten commandments.
Wow, I’m not exactly sure how to tackle this. I believe that one thing God’s really saying to me about these, is that there’s a reason they are first, separate and in part, independent of the rest of the law in the old testament. It’s almost like these ten commandments encompass the moral code.
There are a few things that God’s really pointing out to me in this passage.
Firstly comes God’s priority in our lives. I know that God’s challenged me repeatedly to ensure that he’s the number one priority in my life; and I do try, but being human, it’s so easy to let other things slide into place above him. For me, it’s even something as simple as studying the word, writing this blog – a few times of late I’ve let myself get caught up with my friends to the point where I’m out so late, when I get home all I want to do is go to sleep and I don’t spend any quality time with God. God’s certainly not telling me not to have a social life, not by a long shot, but he expects to be number one in my life – and in everyone else’s life too.
Secondly, somethign else really stood out to me, and that was about the sabbath. This ties back to the early stages of Genesis. I had a brief conversation last night about whether you can be a Christian and also accept/believe in the theory of evolution. To be honest, I’m starting to wonder whether I really can do both. I’ve said over recent months when it’s been raised, that I think you can, because the story of creation is allegorical, and in the long run, doesn’t change the foundational facts of Christianity that I went through last night.
Reading this passage again, though, for the first time in probably quite a few years, leaves me questioning that. God states quite clearly in the ten commandments, that he created the Earth in seven days, hence why we keep the sabbath holy.
One big question evolutionists like to ask creationists, of course, is that if God did create the Earth in seven days, then why is it 14 billion years old? Why all the evidence for evolution? Cosmological, archaeological, palaeontological, genetic, etcetera.
Well one thing’s standing out to me at the moment, and that is to live a life that is trusting in God, regardless of what the world says. God is beyond the physical, the natural and the scientific – and when it comes down to it, I still bring my faith back to those core beliefs, of God’s truth, of Jesus’ death and resurrection, of salvation through grace and faith.
That’s all I have on that topic at the moment, but I feel it might be coming sooner than later, that God’s going to start reopening my intellectual mind, and we can start going over some of those bigger questions. We’ll see, I’ll trust in him, but watch this site, because there could be some more discussions coming soon.