Bread – Power and Truth

August 18, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, August 18th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25; John 6:1-15
    Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130
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In the last Bread, we met Micah with his toys, the idols, made in his image, together with his family and purchased priest.  Today, we pick up this history with the appearance of the Danites in Judges at Micah’s doorstep.

Now the Danites were from the tribe of Dan, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and blessed by God with deliverance from bondage into the promised land.  The Danites have heard about Micah’s shrine, his idols, and his special Levite priest.  They have shown up, six hundred armed men strong, to take these things for themselves, because, I guess, Micah’s shrine, idols, and priest were quite nice, and it is easier to take something someone else has made then make it yourself.

Anyway, Micah objects, saying that, if they take his gods and priest, then "What else do I have?"  Judges 18:24.  The Danites respond by telling him to stop arguing with them because "some hot-tempered men will attack you" and Micah will lose his life.  Judges 18:25.  Micah thinks about it and decides that his life is worth more than his little shrine and lets his stuff be taken.

Concurrently, the Levite priest’s story unfolds.  The Danites ask him to join them because he is a good priest.  He initially refuses, saying that he was needed in Micah’s house (remember that he was also pulling a salary, free meals, and free room).  The Danites respond that "isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than one man’s household?"  Judges 18:19.  The priest was glad to do so, recognizing the opportunity for promotion and a pay raise.

We conclude this story with the Danites going to Laish "against a peaceful and unsuspecting people.  They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city."  Judges 18:27.

What an ugly end to an ugly story!  These are supposed to be the people of God.  They are sons of the promise, to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, blessed by deliverance from bondage, privileged to receive God’s revelation of His perfection in the Law, provided for with land which God provided, surrounded by miracles, and offered safety and security by following the Lord’s commands and living their life under His wing.  However, within a short period of time they are making idols, selling their birthright for current delight, exalting themselves, stealing other people’s property, handing over themselves as slaves to the highest bidder, and killing those people who stand in their way of taking what they want when they want it.  God’s people indeed!

What we see here is the slide from Truth, God’s truth, to power, to the imposition of man’s will upon those who disagree with him.  When Truth is gone, tyranny prevails.  When God is no longer the plumb line of truth, and man stands as the arbiter of truth, the only way to establish my truth is to conquer you, to exercise power over you.  Without allegiance to the true God, civilization becomes brutish and "peaceful and unsuspecting people" are put to the sword, even by other alleged followers of God.

Why did Micah behave the way he did?  Is it because society changed and he changed with it, or is it because he decided to worship according to his desires rather than in the Truth, following God’s revelation of proper worship?  Did society (the Danites) change because society decided to follow its own course rather than the course set by God, or did society change because it was made up of a lot of little Micah’s, doing as they please?  Does the destruction of civilization begin with them – or does it begin with me?

I think the answer to this question is in our readings from Judges.  Our story begins with the corruption of Micah, followed by the corruption of society, not the other way around.  If Micah had not built the shrine and populated it with items of false worship, what would the Danites have stolen?  If Micah had followed God rather than his own image in the mirror, might the Danites have observed and, maybe, even followed?

I just read a commentary by a an excellent Internet writer where he was bemoaning the un-Christian attacks against him, a Christian, for something he had written.*  What concerned him was that the content of these attacks, as well as their tone, was an exercise of power against him, as opposed to an exercise of love.  When we look at things from a position of power, the only view worth having is the one which agrees with me and adds to my power.  We look at things from a position of love, our standing after the disagreement becomes irrelevant.

Tell me (or tell yourself), how do you act?  Do you act with a view of what God says or what somewhat else says?  Do you substitute your idea of what to do (your truth) for God’s Truth contained in revelation?  When you do that, what do you then to bolster your opinion and standing among others?  You do things, I’ll bet, that are an exercise of power – you leverage money, relationships, position, knowledge, and intellect to "win."

If you are relying on power to establish your position, ask yourself this question today – whose truth am I working to establish?  I think you will discover something, for when God’s Truth is foremost, power plays end; when our truth is foremost, power plays have just begun.

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*The article is from S. Michael Craven and is called Politicized and Polarized, contained in his weekly e-mail "Truth in Culture."

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