In the 350-year span of time in the book of Judges, there are more than 200 years of unrest in the land and in the lives of those living there. In each era, people lose their reference point of who they are because of and in God. They could not make peace happen on their own. Every soul craves a deep and profound rest, regardless of religion. This is because every soul has a single origin. We all came from God and have a longing for Him in our hearts but search for it elsewhere.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” – St. Augustine
Judges Chapters 17-12 show us what happens when the identity given to us freely by God is supplanted by the pursuit of another one. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 17:6. Moral relativism was the king of the day, but Yahweh was supposed to be their king. He gave them everything they needed, but they rejected Him in preference of whatever they wanted for themselves. This happens not only in the book of Judges but also in current society.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10
It is God’s initiative to speak this identity over us. It can never be achieved or earned on our own and does not have to be validated by others or ourselves because of who spoke it.
What or who is satisfying the longing for peace in your life? What item or person would you be devastated by losing? When things are quiet in your life, what or who do you think of? Identify the idols in your life because that is where we put our love and trust. That becomes our king. Everyone serves a king. All of which promise something but can never deliver.
In Judges, Chapter 17, Micah discovers some silver for his mom and brings it back to her. So after he returned the silver to his mother, she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who used them to make the idol. And it was put in Micah’s house. Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some household gods and installed one of his sons as his priest. Judges 17:4-5.
This shines a light on the idol of money and greed. And Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me since this Levite has become my priest.” Judges 17:13. Now it is not just about idols and money but also image and religious activity. Today this might look like living by our own morals Monday-Saturday but justifying it by attending church on Sunday.
In Judges, Chapter 18, we see the tribe of Dan, which has the idol of power. They go into Micah’s town, receive hospitality, and decide to come back and take the land for themselves. They kill everyone and burn it to the ground to start over for themselves. They have descendants of Moses and their own idols. They use these things to justify and rationalize their behaviors and decisions.
In Judges, Chapter 19, subjectivity, relativism, and convenience are the kings of the day. Here we see sexual immorality, violence, abuse, and cowardice. Then, the tribes come together to seek vengeance and almost wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin. “Lord, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?” Judges 21:3. The tribes come together to take 400 young women from another tribe and present them to the men of Benjamin. They killed the husbands and wives. Then, while young girls elsewhere are performing a religious ceremony, the Israelites kidnap them and give them to the men of Benjamin.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 21:25
Israel forgot their story. They forgot who they were and whose they were. The idols of our hearts are at war with our identity in Christ. Family expectations, packed schedules, validation from work, etc . We are not at rest and our souls are not at peace. This prevents us from loving God and loving others well if at all. These other kings will demand everything from you and give you nothing in return. Our hearts cry out for freedom. Jesus freely offers this gift. Because of the identity the Lord has spoken over us, there is nothing to earn, nothing to lose, and nothing to prove.
“Once you know who you are in God, you can turn to the world in love. But if you don’t, you’ll turn to the world looking for love. So much of our identity hinges on this ordering” –Justin Whitmel Earley