While reading the book of judges one theme runs throughout, “At that time Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Israel was a peculiar nation led by priests, with each person in a covenant to obey God’s law. Their King was God and they were to need no other. Yet, as we read the book of Judges we are reminded of how sinful people can be.
How bad things were is displayed in the latter chapters of the book. In chapter 17 and 18 we meet Micah. Apparently Micah had taken a sum of eleven hundred silver shekels from his mother, which he returned to her after overhearing her declare a curse upon whoever took it. She responded by declaring a blessing over her son and consecrating the silver to YHWH. So what does she do with her newly consecrated silver? Does she take it to Shiloh to give to the Lord? No. Does she donate it to a local Levite or a local priest? No. She gives a portion to a silversmith to manufacture idols. These were put in Micah’s house as a makeshift temple. Eventually they lead a Levite astray to be their personal priest.
The final example is of the Benjamites in Gibeah. We see a replay of the story of Sodom except a woman is raped to death by the crowd. This event leads to war between the tribes and the alienation and near destruction of an entire tribe. This story is hard to read and very discouraging, but starts with the same words seen throughout the book of Judges, “In those days Israel had no king.” It seems to be assumed that with a strong king Benjamin would never have ill-treated the Levite.
A similar condition can be said to be present among God’s people today. There are similarities and differences. First, we are similar in that we have no overlord in the church deciding all issues of doctrine and practice. Such was attempted at one time in the person of the pope, but this resulted in far more heresy and abuse than it was intended to stop. Lord Acton’s adage—“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”—was well proved by those sitting on the “throne of Peter.” This actually shows that a human king cannot restrain the evil within men (The papacy was a human effort to establish Plato’s Philosopher King). Today, as in their day, each man does as he sees fit—this includes both genders. As a result we find ourselves in a vile society where evil is called good and good is called evil. But there is a difference.
We are different in that the Holy Spirit comes to live, personally, within each of us who calls on the name of Christ. He teaches us; restrains us; liberates us; guides us. The Holy Spirit has been given as a seal guaranteeing our acceptance by God and as the tool making us acceptable to God. Through reliance on the Holy Spirit we can know the truth and walk in it. The next difference is the presence of God’s Word. The ancient Israelites had so few copies of the law that at one point they will discover the law while remodeling the temple (2 Kings 22) and the king, upon reading it, will be saddened to discover how far they strayed from it. Today we have the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, cheaply available. They are so available that we no longer see them as being special. Availability has bred indifference.
Today, as then, we are free to do as we see fit. No morality police reins us in; no moral courts make decisions for us. We are free to believe what we want and to live accordingly. While most of us celebrate this freedom, we must remember it can produce evil as easily as good. However, we as the church have God living in our hearts, the word of God instructs in righteousness, and our king rules from the throne room of heaven. As a result we can live a life pleasing to God and beneficial to ourselves and our fellowman. So spend time in the Word and learn to discern and listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit guiding you in life.