The book of Judges contains a disturbing account of a young Levite who became the priest of one man’s household hosting a shrine that was adorned with an ephod, household idols, a carved silver image and a silver idol. This family was Jewish, and the Levite was a grandson of Moses. These people were descendants of those who had been miraculously delivered out of Egypt, given the Law of God, and supernaturally aided in conquering and occupying the Promised Land. But, the death of Joshua had left a leadership vacuum; everyone did as he pleased. This happened despite God’s everlasting covenant with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai that they would be His people and He would be their God (Exodus 6:7). Now they were actively engaged in idol worship, while still purporting to be God’s covenant people.
Men from Dan, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, came upon this young Levite, Jonathan, as they were headed to conquer a peaceful group of people living in a remote area. They invited Jonathan (not qualified to be priest because he was not from the family line of Aaron), to go with them and become the priest of the whole tribe of Dan. They stole the contents of the shrine and used them to worship for years through the reign of King Saul. Even after David became king and established the proper worship of God in Jerusalem, the Danites continued in their own way about 300 years until the Assyrians conquered and deported the people of Israel. I don’t believe it is coincidental that Dan is left out of the listing of the 12 tribes of Israel in Revelation 7:4-8.
What should the modern church be gleaning from this historical account? “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” (Hosea 6:4) Are we maintaining knowledge through reading, studying, teaching, and practicing scripture? This was the first serious error of the Danites, and is also unfortunately true for a lot of the church today. Both groups have taken their pedigrees of being chosen by God and saved by Jesus as entitlement to live life as they/we choose. Although some Christ-followers are dedicated to living as Jesus taught, others cherry-pick scripture for what feels comfortable and aligns with current culture. Lack of knowledge, combined with selectively rationalizing scriptural truth to support guilt-free aberrant behavior is the dangerous pathway to believing our ways are just and right, and God’s are archaic. We step into the arrogance of being justified by our own self-righteousness, rather than the precious blood of Jesus. When man chooses his truth, man is automatically in charge. Perhaps that is the point. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
King David did his best to turn the hearts of the people back to God, and many followed his example. The church is supposed to be God’s example for today, but is it strong enough in faith, in truth, and in heart to stand against the tide of evil that calls evil good, and good evil? Truth is readily available through scripture, and faith comes through that same word. But only loving Jesus with all our hearts produces the strength that makes it unthinkable and inexcusable to compromise His precepts. He is after all “the Word made flesh,” (John 1:14) and He significantly taught, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:34)
Are our hearts aligned with Him to be conduits of His love to those in culture and in the church who are in error, drawing them away from the sin that currently has them trapped? Or do we find ourselves avoiding controversial issues in self-preservation? I’m so thankful Jesus didn’t do that. I’m praying I can be more like Him.