Judges 18: Lessons on How Sin Spreads Within the Body When Left Unchecked

Introduction: Judges 18 provides the conclusion to the story of Micah’s family’s idolatry in Judges 17. It also provides the origin of the tribe of Dan’s idolatry after northern Israel and Judah separated as separate countries. This story shows how the sins of one leader can corrupt first a priest, then an entire tribe, and eventually an entire kingdom. Like yeast in bread, sin quickly spreads under the right conditions. Because this sin happened within God’s community, this story serves primarily as a warning to believers and the Church as a whole. From Judges 18, God reveals seven lessons to avoid in order to prevent the spread of sin within the Church.

First, from the failure of the tribe of Dan to claim the lands that God had promised to them and instead scout out other lands, He reveals that sin spreads when your faith is lacking. Second, from the failure of both the Danite scouts and Micah’s priest to pray for God’s guidance for the tribe of Dan, He reveals that sin spreads when you fail to seek His will through prayer. Third, from the Danite leaders’ encouragement to the tribe to abandon the land that God promised to them and their poor example through their theft of Micah’s idols, He reveals that sin spreads when leaders reject His Word as sovereign. Fourth, from Micah’s priest’s joyful agreement to lead the tribe of Dan in idolatry after having his ego inflated, He reveals that sin spreads when you are filled with pride. Fifth, from Micah’s desperate attempt to recover his idols from the army of Dan, and the Danite’s extortion against him, He reveals that sin spreads when you covet the things to which you are not entitled. Sixth, from the tribe of Dan’s seizure of land that God did not appoint for them, He reveals that sin spreads when you live on your own outside of His will for you. Finally, from the priest Jonathan’s creation of a counterfeit religion at the city of Laish, He reveals that sin spreads when you openly embrace the idols of the world around you.

1. Sin Spreads When Faith is Lacking. Judges 18:1-3.

  • The scouts of Dan who searched without faith for a new homeland. After every other tribe had settled in their own territory, the tribe of Dan sent scouts looking for a home: “1 In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel. So the sons of Dan sent from their family five men out of their whole number, valiant men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to search it; and they said to them, ‘Go, search the land.’ And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.” (Jdgs. 18:1-3). The wording of Judges 18:2 is structured to parallel the account of when the spies left Joshua’s camp in Jordan and stayed at the prostitute Rehab’s house in Jericho: “Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there.” (Josh. 2:1). The similar wording is used to compare Micah’s house of idolatry to a harlot’s house. Yet, while the scouts that Joshua employed had great faith, the scouts that the tribe of Dan employed did not.

  • The failure of faith of the Danite scouts to search out the land that God had promised. While Joshua’s scouts symbolized persons with faith, the scouts of Dan symbolized the flesh. Dan was the son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Gen. 30:6). He was born out of the union between Jacob and his wife’s maidservant. He slept with her because of a jealous rivalry with Rachel and her sister Leah. Thus, Dan symbolized the flesh. Dan was also the fifth of Jacob’s sons. But his tribe was listed out of order in the census as the tenth tribe. This suggested that its lack of faith caused the tribe to fall further in God’s eyes (Nu. 26:42-43; 1:38-39). The tribe of Dan had no need to send scouts to find a homeland. Although it was the very last of the non-Levite tribes to receive an inheritance, God had already told the tribe of Dan where to settle: “40 The seventh lot fell to the tribe of the sons of Dan according to their families. 41 The territory of their inheritance was Zorah and Eshtaol and Ir-shemesh, 42 and Shaalabbin and Aijalon and Ithlah, 43 and Elon and Timnah and Ekron, 44 and Eltekeh and Gibbethon and Baalath, 45 and Jehud and Bene-berak and Gath-rimmon, 46 and Me-jarkon and Rakkon, with the territory over against Joppa. 47 The territory of the sons of Dan proceeded beyond them; for the sons of Dan went up and fought with Leshem and captured it. Then they struck it with the edge of the sword and possessed it and settled in it; and they called Leshem Dan after the name of Dan their father. 48 This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Josh. 19:40-48). Samson was from the tribe of Dan (Jdgs. 13:2, 24). Like Samson, the tribe of Dan was weak in its faith and obedience. The tribe of Dan not only lacked the faith to drive out the Canaanites, its faith was so weak that the Canaanites drove the tribe of Dan out from the land allotted to it through Joshua: “34 Then the Amorites forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley;” (Jdgs. 1:34). Being driven from their homes, they showed that they had the weakest faith of any tribe. The scouts looking for a homeland in this chapter should not have been looking in the Hill country of Ephraim for a territory. They should have been praying for God to reveal the way for them to drive out the Amorites. Indeed, Joshua previously rebuked the tribe of Dan and six other tribes for failing to seize upon their God-given inheritance: “So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, ‘How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?’” (Josh. 18:3).

  • Sin spreads when your faith is lacking. Dan’s failures provide a warning to believers. Some believers search for happiness in the wrong places. If believers will trust Jesus and seek out His inheritance, they will find true peace: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33). Conversely, if believers turn to their flesh to find fulfillment, they will only find misery. The open embrace of the things of the flesh will also allow sin to spread like a cancer in your life and among those around you.

2. Sin Spreads When You Fail to Pray for God’s Guidance. Judges 18:3-6.

  • The failure of both the Danite scouts and the priest to pray for God’s guidance. While in the hill country of Ephraim, the scouts from the tribe of Dan recognized the priest from a prior encounter during his wandering throughout Israel. While both parties should have rebuked the other, the Danite scouts instead asked the priest to discern God’s will: “When they were near the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young man, the Levite; and they turned aside there and said to him, ‘Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?’ He said to them, ‘Thus and so has Micah done to me, and he has hired me and I have become his priest.’ They said to him, ‘Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous.’ The priest said to them, ‘Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the Lord’s approval.’” (Jdgs. 18:3-6). Each party sinned in this account. The scouts did not pray for God’s will. If they had, God never would have contradicted Himself regarding the land that the tribe was to inhabit (Mal. 3:6). The Levite also sinned. He also failed to pray for God’s guidance. Moreover, he lacked the real authority of a priest to speak for God. He was not consecrated by the official Levite priesthood. Instead, Micah consecrated him to officiate ceremonies with his idols after the priest hired out his services in a mercenary act (Jdgs. 17:12). Although the NASB English translation quoted above for Judges 18:6 suggests that God approved the scouts’ mission, the actual Hebrew intentionally conveyed ambiguity: “Contrary to the NIV and many modern translations, he [the Levite] does not declare outrightly that the mission will succeed, only that, literally, ‘The course on which you are going is before the Lord.’ This could mean that it has the approval of Yahweh’s watchful eye, but it could also mean the opposite, that is, the conduct of the scouts and the Danites as a tribe is under critical scrutiny by Yahweh. In any case, the scouts interpret it positively; the Levite has uttered the words they want to hear.” (Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Judges, Ruth, Vol. 6, B & H Publishing Group 1999 p. 498). The Levite's words were in fact a misread warning. Both parties had reason to know that they were not doing God’s will. The scouts knew by their question that the Levite was not doing what he was supposed to be doing. The Levite also no doubt knew that the scouts from the tribe of Dan did not belong there.

  • Be led by the Spirit, or your flesh will lead you into sin. Paul warns believers to be led by the Spirit, not the flesh: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Ro. 8:12-14). Unlike the scouts from the tribe of Dan, you do not need to wonder where God is guiding you if you read His Word and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:19). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). If you act like the scouts from Dan, you will misread God’s will and you will be led by your flesh. This in turn will allow sin to spread in your life and possibly those around you.

3. Sin Spreads When Leaders Reject God’s Word as Sovereign. Judges 18:7-17.

  • The Danite leaders’ misdirection to the tribe and their theft of Micah’s idols. After falsely believing that they had received God’s seal of approval for their mission, the scouts returned to their home to encourage the entire tribe to abandon God’s promised territory. During their misguided adventure, they then used the tribe’s soldiers to steal Micah’s idols: “Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were in it living in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure; for there was no ruler humiliating them for anything in the land, and they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. When they came back to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, ‘What do you report?’ They said, ‘Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you sit still? Do not delay to go, to enter, to possess the land. 10 When you enter, you will come to a secure people with a spacious land; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.’ 11 Then from the family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out. 12 They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13 They passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah. 14 Then the five men who went to spy out the country of Laish said to their kinsmen, ‘Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod and household idols and a graven image and a molten image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.’ 15 They turned aside there and came to the house of the young man, the Levite, to the house of Micah, and asked him of his welfare. 16 The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the sons of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 Now the five men who went to spy out the land went up and entered there, and took the graven image and the ephod and household idols and the molten image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war.” (Jdgs. 18:7-17). The leaders from the tribe of Dan were spreading sin throughout the tribe like an unchecked virus. This caused the entire tribe to abandon the land that God had promised to them. Blinded by their own sins, the scouts mislead the people of Dan by misquoting God’s promise of endless food in the land where they were going (Jdgs. 18:10). God made this promise only in the context of His appointed inheritance for each of the tribes: “a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” (Dt. 8:8-10). The leaders further set a bad example by misusing the power of the tribe to break at least four of God’s Commandments. First, like Micah, they violated God’s Second Commandment against worshiping idols: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” (Ex. 20:4; Dt. 5:8; Lev. 26:1). Second, also like Micah, they violated the Eighth Commandment against stealing (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28). Third, also like Micah, they violated the Third Commandment by profaning God’s holy name (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). Because believers represent God, theft dishonors His holy name (Pr. 30:7-9). Fourth, also like Micah, they violated the Tenth Commandment by coveting idols (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). God had nothing to do with this journey. In the Bible, six is the number of mankind. The Danites’ 600 men symbolized their conquest without God. Their conquest was an entirely humanistic endeavor. Without God, sin spread like a virus throughout the entire tribe. This warning also applies to leaders in the western world. If western leaders reject the authority of God’s word, they will mislead the people and cause sin to spread.

Representatives from the tribe of Dan stole Micah’s idols for their worship1

  • Sin will also spread when you reject God’s Law and His Word as sovereign over you. It has become fashionable for believers to reject any application of the Ten Commandments in their lives. The logic goes that because Christ paid the price for breaking the Ten Commandments, there is no longer a need to follow them. But Christ was the “I AM” who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Horeb (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). He wants you to keep His Commandments out of love, not obligation: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15; 21). Rejecting the Ten Commandments as a standard for moral conduct will not cause you to lose your salvation as a believer in Christ. Yet, living outside the protections of the Ten Commandments places you outside of God’s protections and His blessings. “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5). If you reject the protections of the Ten Commandments, you reject His shield from the evil one as well. You will be unprotected from the devil’s fiery darts and temptations: “in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph. 6:10). Living outside God’s protections will in turn cause sin to spread like an untreated cancer or virus in your life. Even worse, like the scouts from the tribe of Dan, you will likely cause the virus or cancer of sin to spread to those around you. Are you allowing sin to spread by living outside the protections of His Ten Commandments?

4. Sin Spreads When You Are Filled with False Flattery and Pride. Judges 18:18-20.

  • The priest’s joyful agreement to lead the tribe of Dan in idolatry. The Levite at first protested when the Danites stole from his employer. Yet, he happily abandoned Micah when offered better employment with the tribe of Dan: “18 When these went into Micah’s house and took the graven image, the ephod and household idols and the molten image, the priest said to them, ‘What are you doing?’ 19 They said to him, “Be silent, put your hand over your mouth and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?’ 20 The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod and household idols and the graven image and went among the people.” (Jdgs. 18:18-20). The Levite was filled with a false sense of pride. Satan used flattery to cause him to leave Micah so that he could be used as Satan’s instrument to spread idolatry through the entire tribe of Dan.

The Levite joined the tribe of Dan with their stolen idols2

  • Flattery will also cause pride and sin to spread in your life. Satan will also seek to puff you up with pride through the flattery of mankind. Yet, when you accept such flattery, sin can quickly spread in your life like yeast in bread. When you flatter others instead of giving the credit to God, you can also cause sin to spread amongst others: “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Prov. 26:28). “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.” (Prov. 29:5). “For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.” (Ps. 36:2). “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps. 10:4). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” (Prov. 18:12). “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11). Are you accepting the flattery of others when you do your job well? Are you misleading others by flattering them when they accomplish great things instead of crediting God?

5. Sin Spreads When You Covet That to Which You are Not Entitled. Judges 18:21-26.

  • Micah’s desperate attempt to recover his idols and the Danites’ extortion against him. Micah eventually caught up to the Danites, who would have moved slowly with their woman, children, and livestock. Yet, they extorted Micah with threats to both him and his household if he did not abandoned his idols and priest to them: “21 Then they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the livestock and the valuables in front of them. 22 When they had gone some distance from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house assembled and overtook the sons of Dan. 23 They cried to the sons of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, ‘What is the matter with you, that you have assembled together?’ 24 He said, ‘You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away, and what do I have besides? So how can you say to me, ‘What is the matter with you?’ 25 The sons of Dan said to him, ‘Do not let your voice be heard among us, or else fierce men will fall upon you and you will lose your life, with the lives of your household.’ 26 So the sons of Dan went on their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.” (Jdgs. 18:21-26). Micah was desperate for his false idols. He asked the same foolish question that Laban asked of Jacob: “Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?” (Gen. 31:30). But the Danites equally coveted the false idols that they had stolen. The idols controlled each of them. They were both blinded by their covetousness: “Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame.” (Is. 44:9). Only the Danites’ threats of death to Micah and his family caused him to leave in sadness.

  • Coveting will also cause sin to spread in your life. When you give in to coveting, your desires for the things you covet will grow and spread to other areas of your life. The reason for this is that the pleasure Satan offers from coveting never lasts long (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting: “He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.” (Hab. 2:5). “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11). “Sheol, and the barren womb, earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘Enough’.” (Prov. 30:16). Coveting is so dangerous and powerful that it brought down Solomon, the wisest man in his day (1 Kgs. 4:30). His coveting led him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11:3). His lust for women also turned his heart away from God (1 Kgs. 11:4). He then began to serve other gods and did evil in God’s eyes (1 Kgs. 11:5-6). David’s lusts for Bathsheba also grew and eventually caused him to murder her husband Uriah (2 Sam. 11:14-15). If you are secretly coveting something evil, do you think you will be able to control it for long?

6. Sin Spreads When You Live on Your Own Outside of God’s Will. Judges 18:27-29.

  • The tribe of Dan’s seizure of land that God did not appoint for them. With the false blessing given to them by the counterfeit priest, the tribe of Dan then killed the people of Laish and made their city their new home: “27 Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and secure, and struck them with the edge of the sword; and they burned the city with fire. 28 And there was no one to deliver them, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone, and it was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob. And they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29 They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father who was born in Israel; however, the name of the city formerly was Laish.” (Jdgs. 18:27-29). Laish was a colony of the Sidonians that the Jews failed to conquer in Joshua’s day (Josh. 13:1, 4). Although controlled by the people of Sidon in modern day Lebanon, the city was separated from the rest of Sidon by a mountain range. It was also isolated and protected with “massive defense ramparts.” (Block p. 501). Thus, the tribe of Dan believed that Laish was both isolated and defensible if taken. This was, however, not the territory promised to Dan. Although they would defeat the people of Laish, they would live outside of God’s protection. The land that God allocated to Dan was in the central coast between Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. Living outside of God’s place where He could correct and protect them, their sin grew and they became weak without God. In approximately 734 BC, Tiglath Pileser III of Assyrian captured and deported the tribe of Dan (2 Kgs. 15:29; Block p. 513). If the tribe of Dan had stayed in the place where God had chosen for them, they would have been protected and survived the Assyrian invasion.

The tribe of Dan rejected God’s appointed inheritance for them in the Promised Land3

  • The way which seems right to mankind leads to death. The Bible warns: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). The tribe of Dan’s decision to live outside of God’s plan ultimately led to its extinction. Moreover, because it openly embraced pagan practices, this is the only tribe of Israel which is not listed in the book of Revelation as being sealed (Rev. 7:4-8). There may be people in your life that offer what seems like the perfect worldly plan for you. Yet, if the Holy Spirit has not confirmed that path for you, the path may result in misery.

7. Sin Spreads When You Embrace the Idols of the World. Judges 18:30-31.

  • The priest Jonathan’s creation of a counterfeit religion at the city of Laish. In addition to seizing a land that God had not appointed for them, the tribe of Dan set up a counterfeit religion that would later cause both the entire tribe and northern Israel to commit idolatry: “30 The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.” (Jdgs. 18:30-31). Gideon’s idolatry was a snare to the people who served him (Jdgs. 8:27). But what Dan created was an even greater snare because it was a counterfeit religion: “This was the beginning of established idolatry in Israel in the Promised Land. There was individual idolatry in Israel long before this, but this is official idolatry.” (David Guzik on Judges 18 (italics in original)).4 After Northern Israel broke away from Judah in the south, King Jeroboam turned the isolated city of Dan into a center of idolatry for the entire northern Israel with a pagan golden calf and a counterfeit priesthood: “28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. 31 And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.”’ (1 Kgs. 12:28-31). Dan’s counterfeit religion and its idolatry in turn brought God’s curse upon it: ‘“Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’” (Dt. 27:15). “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.” (Dan. 9:11).

The tribe of Dan used the stolen idols to create a false system of worship5

The tribe of Dan created an altar of idolatry that led generations of God’s people astray6

  • Satan seeks to place you into bondage to the idols of the world and sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place you into bondage and, like he did to Danites, cause you to turn away from God. God warns against turning your job and the things that you can create with your God-given talents into idols: “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man's hands.” (Ps. 135:15; same 115:4). Drugs, alcohol, money, gambling, pornography, power, or prestige can also become idols in your life: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). Satan seeks to put your flesh at war with God’s Spirit: “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8; Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). If you give in to coveting, the devil will ultimately enslave you: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). If you then fail to ask for Christ to deliver you from your bondage, He will turn you over to your addictions until you repent: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, . . .” (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). Thus, you must pick that which you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). Which master are you serving?

  • Jesus’ test for idolatry. How do you know if something you crave in your life has become an idol? Ask yourself if you would willingly part with it if Jesus asked you to do so. When Jesus asked a rich man seeking to follow Him to give up his wealth, the young man left with sadness in his heart because he was unwilling to do so: “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matt. 19:21-22; Mk. 22:21-22; Lk. 18:22-23). Is there anything you would not give up for Him?

  • Don’t squander God’s gifts and calling on the idols of the world. The names of the two primary characters in this story, along with the tribe of Dan, all symbolize the corruption of God’s gifts. Jonathan was a descendant of Moses. His name means “Yahweh” has given. Likewise, Micah’s name translates as “Who is like Yahweh.” Out of grace, God also blessed Dan through Jacob as a future tribe of mighty warriors for Him: “16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. 18 for your salvation I wait, O Lord.” (Gen. 49:16-17). Through Moses, God again blessed Dan as a tribe of mighty soldiers in His army: “22 Of Dan he said, ‘Dan is a lion’s whelp, that leaps forth from Bashan.”’ (Dt. 33:22). Out of mercy and grace, God then grew the tribe in the wilderness to prepare it for its calling from 62,700 to 64,000 fighting men (Nu. 1:39; 26:43). Yet, despite God’s mercy and grace, the tribe of Dan misused His gifts. Instead, like many believers, the tribe was only interested in the things of the flesh and not things of God. They squandered His gifts and His calling. You too have been given gifts of the Spirit and a divine calling (1 Cor. 12:7-11). Are you using them for His glory? Or, like Micah, Jonathan, and the tribe of Dan, are you misusing them on the idols of the world?