Bible Readings for August 6th
When all Israel arrives to inquire into what has happened in Gibeah, neither the Levite nor the tribe of Benjamin comes off looking good. Conveniently, the Levite leaves out the fact that he had pushed his concubine out the door to face the violence of the men of Gibeah: “They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead” (Judg. 20:5). But even worse, the Benjaminites shockingly refuse to give up the criminals in their midst (Judg. 20:13), and because of their refusal, the rest of Israel declares war against Benjamin.
Tragically, Yahweh uses this to bring judgment on all Israel. The people of Israel inquire of Yahweh whether they should go up against Benjamin, and Yahweh sends the eleven tribes of Israel up against Benjamin twice to be slaughtered before giving Benjamin into the hands of the Israel (Judg. 20:18–28). In this civil war, the eleven tribes lose 40,000 men in the first two battles (Judg. 20:21, 25), and Benjamin loses 25,100 men in the final battle (Judg. 20:35).
The chief problem in the way Israel handles this wicked event is that they fail to recognize how their false worship has led directly to the horrific events in Gibeah. Throughout the book of Judges, Israel has believed that worshiping Yahweh was unrelated to their peace and prosperity. So, they never understood the connection between worshiping the false gods of their surrounding nations and the subjugation by those nations that would follow.
And in Judges 17–18, the full consequences of this situation are illustrated vividly in the story of the Levite. He had been ordained falsely as a priest, even though he was not of the line of Aaron but of Moses. Furthermore, he was commissioned as a priest-for-hire, rather than serving Yahweh in the temple. And even worse, the worship he led for his employers was the false worship of household gods, carved images, and other abominations that Micah had originally created from the silver coins that he had stolen from his own mother.
What this demonstrates to us is that our worship is never disconnected from our morality. The idea that one’s religion is a private, personal matter is an absolute lie. We become what we worship.1 If we worship Yahweh, we become conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29), but if we worship the false gods of money, sex, pleasure, comfort, or power, we become enslaved to those idols, and they disfigure our behavior so that we pursue them at any cost, no matter who might get hurt in the process.
Whom (or what) are you worshiping today? As Paul writes: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Audit your worship, because your worship will shape your behavior, your habits, and ultimately, your character.
1 I take this line from the title of a book by G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.