In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. [Judges 17:6 (NLT)]
Although God passed along some very detailed commands, the people of Israel frequently refused to obey them and, in Judges 17-18, we see what happens when people do whatever seems right in their own eyes. After stealing 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother, Micah hears her curse the thief. Fearful of her curse, he confesses and returns the money. After blessing Micah to remove the curse, his mother dedicates the money to the Lord. In honor of her thieving son, however, she gives 200 of those coins to a silversmith for the fashioning of an image (a figure carved from wood overlaid with silver) and an idol (a figure cast from molten silver). Micah then sets up a shrine for the prohibited items, adds some household idols of his own, makes an ephod (a priestly garment), and installs his son as his own personal priest. This was wrong in so many ways: not only were people expressly forbidden from making either carved images or molten idols but only a Levite could serve as a priest!
A Levite who seems to have no better grasp of God’s instructions than Micah stops at his house. Thinking the Levite’s presence will bring him prosperity and give legitimacy to his shrine, Micah buys the Levite’s services as his own personal priest. Wrong again! A Levite was to serve God only in the tabernacle but the man accepts and serves Micah in an idolatrous shrine.
The story continues with the arrival of five scouts from the tribe of Dan. Unable to conquer the land originally given to them, the Danite scouts are in search of easier pickings in Israel’s northern frontier. Finding the unprotected town of Laish, they return with 600 warriors. After stopping at Micah’s, where they steal his shine, ephod, image and idols, they offer the Levite a position as priest to their entire tribe and he accepts their offer. Although Micah protests the theft of idols and priest, he’s outnumbered, admits defeat, and returns home empty-handed while lamenting that he has nothing left.
The Danites easily defeat the town of Laish and rename it Dan. Micah’s pagan shrine is worshiped there for another 200 years. When the Kingdom divides, Jeroboam places a golden calf there for Israel’s worship while the Levite’s family continues to serve Dan until Israel’s exile.
Not once did any of these people consider God in their actions. Saying she dedicated the money to the Lord, Micah’s mother didn’t use it to honor Him. She used it to honor her larcenous son and what began with a son stealing from his mother evolved into idolatry. Micah wanted to worship the god he created rather than worship the God who created him. God made man while Micah’s gods were made by man. God is truth and righteousness but Micah’s gods came from deception and deceit. The tribe of Dan was too strong for Micah and his gods but nothing and no one is too strong for God. Unlike Micah’s gods, God can’t be stolen from us.
Without a king, the people did whatever seemed right to them but, sadly, as seen in Kings and Chronicles, they did little better with an earthly king. An earthly king may prevent social anarchy but only a Heavenly King can prevent spiritual anarchy. Without God as their King, people do only what is right in their own eyes. We have a King in Jesus; may we always do what is right in His eyes!