by David Neal
We live in a very religious world. Most people are “religiously” seeking God through the means of man (the flesh). We must approach God in faith through His Spirit or we will not find Him. Faith is putting God first (foremost). Placing God foremost all the time and in all things is “walking in faith.” This study will consider what motivates many individuals in their religious endeavors.

Judges 17:1-4, “And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son. And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven (carved) image and a molten (made of melted metal, molded) image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee. Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah.” Micah’s mother showed a complete ignorance of God’s will through her actions. Micah’s mother felt him blessed of the Lord, yet Micah’s actions (though he did have a change of heart) did not honor his mother (Deut 5:16, Pv 28:24). She had two idols made in order to serve or worship God. In doing so, she violated the first two commandments. Exodus 20:3-5, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (to hate is not to obey, to disregard God’s commands, also Deut 5:7-8).” AND Exodus 20:23, “Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.” AND Leviticus 26:1, “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God (also Lev 19:4).” Was this really all that serious of an issue, after all they meant well – right? They were just trying to worship God in “their own way.” Deuteronomy 4:23-26, “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.” To become corrupt is to change from good to bad – to become defiled, polluted, allured to evil, perverted, disobedient, debase, abominable, tainted with wickedness, and infected with errors. Deuteronomy 27:15, “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.” Many will say, “well everyone’s doing it and we just want to fit in.” How does one worship God by doing the things that oppose God (transgressing God’s command)? This is the question that demands an answer from most of man’s religious systems of today and on so many levels. God had given warning to the people regarding wickedness and idolatry: Deuteronomy 18:9, “When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” God said: Deuteronomy 29:17, “And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them.” The Lord told them that they were not to do any such thing (2 Kgs 17:12). Deuteronomy 7:4-6, “For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” The Lord said these idols would be a snare (Deut 7:16). Deuteronomy 7:25, “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.” What may seem innocent in the eyes of man is not innocent in God’s eyes, but rather a great abomination (Pv 14:12, 16:25, 21:2). Micah and his mother were blending with the culture (idolatry) of the surrounding nations (world) into their worship of God and this was the snare God warned of. They made images and attributed them to God. Many in the religious world of today do the exact same thing. They become as the culture around them because they seek God through the flesh. There is nothing but reproach from the world in truly following God through the Spirit. These will take the things of the world and “Christianize” them, but quickly add, “we’re doing it for the Lord.” Religious man mostly seeks God through the flesh. This is the type of self seeking whereby all the decisions “you” make are presumed to be endorsed by God. Perhaps you occasionally consult “professed Christian” friends or “religious authorities” when making certain decisions, but the results are mostly the same. Your opinion, their opinion – everyone has one. God’s Word is usually ignored, but should govern your actions and the Spirit will lead in accordingly. Those who seek self will interpret God’s Word with fleshly intent or benefit (swayed to your will). Just look at all the religious “opinion” (denominations, doctrines) in the world. Many profess to know God, but in works they deny Him being abominable and disobedient to His truth (Ti 1:16). God’s Spirit will lead to likemindedness, unity, love (sacrifice), and conformance to the image of Christ – “one body.” When God’s Word conflicts with fleshly opinion then the truth is usually the loser. They will say, “this cannot be taken literally” or “let’s not be fanatical.” Whatever the twist man’s opinion will always prevail for those seeking self (the flesh). Nothing is pure to the unbelieving (only shades of gray or potential for self, Ti 1:15). Opinion could be characterized as “doing what is right in your own eyes” or “following the imaginations of your own heart.” After all, man did choose his will over God’s in Eden. Man says to (tells) God, “come, follow ME” in the fleshly gospel. It is never presented in just this way, but this is the deceptively hidden undertones. Just remember this: Proverbs 22:12, “The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.”

Judges 17:5-6, “And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Teraphim are idols in human shape (similitude and an object of worship). Deuteronomy 4:15-16, “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female.” Micah set up his own religion complete with a religious structure and a priest. He set up a religion that suited (agreed with) him. Religious man of today has set up religions that suit him also – sects, organizations, institutions, denominations, and religious empires which are flourishing in a religious culture that has all the attributes of fallen and rebellious man. Each particular flavor has its own doctrines, traditions, styles, baptisms, statements of faith, schools, priests, rituals, ceremonies, holy days, buildings, pomp, etc. In each there are mixtures of truth and great confusion (error). Most religion is led of man and blends the things of God with the things of the surrounding culture (and world). That which is led of man is oriented toward the flesh and this permeates (fills, saturates, is evident in) all their beliefs. They “religiously” do what is right in their “own eyes.” Which group is correct? The answer is: those who are submitted to and being led by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent from the Father to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32, Mt 7:21). Jesus Christ has one body that is led by one Spirit (Php 1:27). 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” AND Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Does this not just cut through all the religious organizations of man. Jesus is the head of this body and we are complete in him (Eph 4:15, 5:23, Col 1:18, 2:10). The Holy Spirit unifies in Christ leading in paths of righteousness to do the will of God (Ps 23:3). The Spirit forms “one body.” Man (through the flesh) divides, causes schisms and denominationalizes – “many bodies” at enmity. Christ desires to reconcile all men unto God (through the cross) in one body (Eph 2:16, Col 3:15, 2 Cor 5:19). Ephesians 2:18, “For through him (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Religious rifts are caused by men who are not submitted to the Spirit. This is a monumental problem in this end time. Christ’s body will not be found in an earthly headquarters or in a cookie cutter type franchise down the street. There will be no name in the phone book. Christ is the head of this body and man is not in control. One only joins this body through new birth from a sincere (genuine) and contrite (repentant, grieves over sin, desires reconciliation with God) heart that has surrendered to Jesus (having died to self) and is obediently led of the Spirit every day (in all situations). New birth is not through the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but God (Jn 1:13). God seals us with the Spirit in our hearts (1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5). Our invitation is to “follow;” the Lord works all the other details. Those who “follow” do not set the agenda nor choose the path (they do not control). Our “surrender” is laying down our life and following in the path of another (Jn 12:26). Matthew 16:25, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Simply put: live for self and die; die to self (for Christ) and live. Romans 6:8, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him (also 2 Tim 2:11).” When one does not fully surrender to God and die to the flesh then they continue in the flesh with perhaps a godly veneer (thin covering, manifestation, outward appearance). They are ostentatious (outward show with no inward substance, appearance only). The flesh opposes the things of God and rules the hearts of the unconverted (1 Cor 2:14, Gal 5:17). Those who seek the flesh will be blind to the spiritual (Jn 12:40, 2 Cor 2:4). They will look at God’s Word through fleshly eyes with carnal intent and interpret scripture through the desires or will of man (Rm 8:7). In doing so they may even start another religious denomination. God’s Word speaks of one body that is likeminded, loving and led of the Spirit – not a fractured mess of contradictory, often bitter, confusion. Across the board, God’s Word spells death to the flesh. Those living for self shall never understand this (1 Cor 2:14). The flesh wants to dominate and will not die easily. Those in the flesh will be man-centered with a godly façade and as such they cannot please God (Rm 8:8). Faith pleases God, but must “bypasses” the flesh to do so (Heb 11:6). One must have a change of nature and this occurs in the heart and will manifest outwardly (Jn 3:3, 2 Cor 2:3, 4:6, 5:17, Gal 6:15, Eph 4:24, Heb 8:10). Faith is walked through a willing loving heart and is God-(Christ)-centered. Faith is a denying of self (sacrifice), taking up the cross (death to self) and following (obedience, being led, submission, Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34, 10:21, Lk 9:23).

Judges 17:7-12, “And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons. And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.” Micah sought to legitimize his religion before God with an honest to goodness personal priest. This Levite was looking for a temporary residence and Micah made him an offer he could not refuse. Many of the religious men today (priests, preachers, pastors) are also employed with an offer similar to ten shekels and a suit. These are the hirelings (Jn 10:12-13). A hireling looks for the payment (reward) of his work (Job 7:2, Ez 34:2-27, Mic 3:11). Most priests (pastors, preachers, clergy, etc.) are ordained and licensed of “Man.” Their “hire” becomes their legitimacy (genuiness, realness, lawfulness) in the eyes of man. Hirelings have superficial (lacking substance or depth, shallow) love for the sheep (Jn 10:13). Like Micah, religious organizations hire these men through various committee boards to perform a certain religious function. The hireling negotiates his wages and benefits and is then beholding to the employer (man). These hirlings are expected to follow the rules of the organization or denomination and uphold the doctrines, traditions and ceremonies of the group. Those who pay the piper will most certainly call the tune. Most of these men have “earned” a religious degree from a seminary or religious college. They come out filled with the knowledge of men with a particular organization’s doctrinal leaning or emphasis. These men (and women?) are trained in the rudiments (principles) of the world (Col 2:20). They are taught humanistic psychology (with a religious leaning), public speaking (how to entertain), business principles (how to grow your church), counseling, and religious facts and doctrines (mostly devoid of the Spirit). Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” However, they are mostly if not completely, ignorant to the things of God. A true man of God would not be motivated by ten shekels of silver and a suit of clothes (parsonage, salary, 401K, benefits, position, etc.). A true man of God will come with messages of great conviction of truth that will be incredibly offensive to those living in the flesh, but will point you to God. This man will have a heart of love, but will most likely not be perceived that way through fleshly standards. A true man of God will answer to God and not man. This man (applying the gospel to modern situations) will very quickly be shown the door in most religious organizations of today. The Jews were probably the most religious men upon the face of the earth. 2 Timothy 3:7, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus said that they didn’t “KNOW” God (Mt 11:27, Lk 10:22, Jn 5:42, 7:17, 28, 8:19, 55, 1 Jn 3:1) and they proved it through their actions. They persecuted God’s Son (Jn 5:16, 15:20) who only did the Father’s will (Lk 12:50, 22:42, Jn 5:30, 6:38, 8:54-55, 18:11, Heb 10:7); they rejected Christ’s Words (they were the Father’s Words, Deut 18:18, Jn 3:34, 7:16-17, 8:26, 28-29, 38, 12:49-50, 14:10-11); they played down Jesus’ works (they were the Father’s works, Lk 2:49, Jn 5:17, 19-20, 36, 9:4, 31-33, 14:31, 17:4-5); and they ultimately killed Him (Mt 27:22, 31, Mk 15:13-15, Lk 23:21, 24:7, 20, Jn 19:6, 15, Acts 2:23, 36, 1 Thess 2:15). These very religious men who claimed to represent God said Christ’s works were of the devil and thus blasphemed the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:24, Mk 3:22, Lk 11:15, Jn 10:20). Because they did not KNOW God, they did not know what to look for in Christ (Jn 1:10, 26-27, 5:38, 42, 7:28-29, 8:19, 47, 15:21, 16:3). Because they were not submitted to God, they could not yield to Christ (Jn 5:38, 40, Rm 10:3). Consider this: God sent His Son to a very religious people full of ceremony, scripture study, observances, and holy days. When Jesus went about and chose His disciples, not one single man was chosen from the religious heirarchy. Christ called fishermen and a tax collector who had no religious training whatsoever. The religious ones once noted of them: Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Jesus was not looking for those full of the religious knowledge of man. He was looking at hearts that would be obedient in faith. The disciples that Christ selected learned by “following.” A disciple is a learner and adherent to the doctrines of another – a follower. Many people have become disciples of religious organizations and their doctrines, rather than of Christ. We are to “follow” Jesus and keep His commandments. When Jesus said to teach all nations, He qualified it by saying: Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” He was not intending to make disciples of the religion of “man” – all the things man has added (man’s doctrines). Christ is with us through His Spirit whom we are to submit to and obey. Jesus later chose a very religious man (Paul) who was a persecutor of His people for the purpose of being an apostle (commissioned to preach the gospel, 1 Cor 1:17) and taking His gospel to the Gentiles. Paul said of himself: Acts 22:3, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel (a doctor of the law, Acts 5:34), and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” Paul was fervent in his belief that he was serving God: Galatians 1:14, “And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” Paul quickly realized that all his extensive religious training (of man) was dung compared to knowing the things of God. Philippians 3:4-8, “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Paul was appointed an apostle, not of men, neither by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father – by the will of God (Gal 1:1, Eph 1:1, 2 Tim 1:1). Many in the ministry today conceived the notion to become a minister of self (called?), and are appointed of men through the teaching of man (religious degrees). These may have “legal” head knowledge, but not necessarily “heart” knowledge. Those who “know” God are those who walk in following the Lord. John 10:4, 14, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” These partake of Christ’s sufferings and personally and intimately relate to Him (2 Cor 1:6-7, Php 3:10, 1 Pt 4:3, 2 Tim 2:12). Paul, who partook of Christ’s sufferings in following the path of the cross, stated: Galatians 1:11-12, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul further stated: 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” He was concerned: 1 Corinthians 2:5, “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Any true man of God will be taught of the Spirit and live through example as he “follows” Christ (Jn 14:26). 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” Most religious organizations are following after the traditions (Romanism, Orthodoxy, Protest-ants) and doctrines of men (Calvin, Armenius, Wesley, etc.) and are not being taught and led of the Spirit. John 16:13-15, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Many are certainly not being led by the Spirit of truth when you consider all the conflicting religious doctrines in existence and disunity in what calls itself the “Christian” church. Jesus is most certainly not being glorified!

Many consecrate themselves (with perhaps a young bullock and seven rams, 2 Chr 13:9) through religious schooling to become a priest (preacher, pastor, etc.). Religious employment through the institutions of man becomes their career. These can spend a lifetime in their religious career and not know God at all. The blind can lead the blind (Mt 15:14, Lk 6:39). Their converts become twofold more the child of hell than themselves (Mt 23:15). These are the corps of the hirelings. They are paid to follow the religious denominations direction (creeds, doctrines, methodologies) regardless of what God’s Spirit may reveal. They are fleshly and flawed. The Levite was recognized and hired as a man of God, but he actually knew nothing of God and didn’t walk in His ways. This man should have had knowledge of God and understood the abomination of the idolatry in Micah’s home. The Levite should have further understood that the only tabernacle (dwelling of God) was in Shiloh. The Lord told the children of Israel that they were to serve Him in one place (Deut 12:10-19, 26). Deuteronomy 12:11, “Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD (also Deut 12:14).” The place that the Lord designated was Shiloh. Joshua 18:1, “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.” This Levite was ignorant of God’s Word and perhaps very compromising of what understanding he did have for selfish gain. In today’s religious world there is great ignorance and/or disregard for God’s Word. Religious services are now designed to entertain you in your flesh. God would have you convicted in your heart and brought to your knees in repentance. Further, God’s Spirit will work to tear down the things of the flesh. The very fleshly ever increasing entertainments that today’s religious world advocates is what the Spirit would have crucified in you. Galatians 5:24, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” This would include such things as contemporary (call it what it is: rock and roll) music, feel good non-offensive watered down “self” help messages (profane and vain babblings leading to ungodliness, 2 Tim 2:16), children’s church circus environments, dramas, most of the very elaborate “world financed (debt owed)” facilities, and pre-printed lessons, etc. Christ’s gospel has become offensive to most in the religious world. Most of what religious man thinks he has achieved for God is dung! What God requires is what He is not getting from those who “profess Him” and that is daily total submission and obedience (as your life). Christ said to love Him by obeying His commandments (Jn 14:15, 21, 23, 15:10, 1 Jn 5:2-3). Christ set the example: John 14:31, “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence (and do the same).” God has called us out of the world (1 Jn 2:15-17). The lusts of the flesh must be nailed to the cross and perish (Rm 6:6). Your righteousness is found in your faith toward Christ. Faith bypasses the flesh in every way.

Micah built a temple in his home and consecrated his own Levite priest. What was his purpose in all this? Judges 17:13, “Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.” Micah’s purpose in all this was for his glory – God’s blessings on himself. Micah was concerned about “self” and not necessarily bringing glory to God (or love toward). As previously mentioned, Man says to (tells) God, “come, follow ME” in the fleshly gospel; bless me – do me good. This has been the tremendous problem with the religion of man, it is man-centered and not God-centered. God says that man must submit to His authority and serve Him. Man says that God must serve him “unconditionally” (bless me). Who will prevail in this struggle, creature or Creator? Man generally controls that which man builds – his religious systems (buildings, organizations, rituals, ceremonies, holidays, creeds, doctrines, traditions, etc.). God reigns over that which He builds on the foundation of His Son – Jesus. That which man builds is fleshly. That which God builds is of the Spirit. To approach God, the Spirit must tear down that which is of man or the flesh (Gal 5:17). God is therefore approached through “faith” (Heb 11:6). Faith causes man to yield to God and trust beyond the flesh. Faith compels one to sacrifice the things of the flesh to please God. Following the Spirit in faith will lead one out of the things of man (flesh) to surrender and obedience to God. Faith in Christ will have you deny yourself (sacrifice) and take up your cross (die to self) and follow (trust, obey, surrender) – Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34, Lk 9:23. To stay in the flesh (things of man, perhaps religiosity) and maintain control (refuse to forsake) is to deny discipleship and not follow. Luke 14:27, 33, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross (that is die to self), and come after me (surrender and follow), cannot be my disciple. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath (all things are on the table – everything), he cannot be my disciple (person who lives based upon obedience to the authority to Christ).” You must hate your own life (in the flesh) – Lk 4:26.

Judges 18:1-4, “In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there. When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here? And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.” The Levite wasn’t so much serving God as he was serving man. He was hired to do a job and his performance was based upon the satisfaction of Micah (man). The same is true of most clergy (priest, pastors, preachers, etc.) today. They are hired to serve man whether through pleasing a religious organization/denomination or pleasing a congregation (membership). Herein lies a great problem. You cannot please man (living in the flesh) and God. Those who speak God’s Words (truth) will certainly offend the flesh. Jeremiah 23:29, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” The prophets and Jesus revealed (suffered from) how man (flesh) reacts to God’s Word. Jeremiah knew the persecution God’s Words brought and thus said (in frustration): Jeremiah 20:9, “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” God’s Word is convicting of all the flesh desires. Those in the flesh will lash out at the messenger. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God’s Spirit will teach a true man of God what to say and it will come against the flesh (1 Jn 2:27, Jn 14:26, Ex 4:12, Lk 12:11-12, 21:15). The Holy Spirit will not be bound by man’s doctrines and traditions (Mk 7:6-8, 9, 13, Mt 15:3, 8-9). Therefore, in order to keep the religious organization or congregation happy, God’s Word cannot come forth full strength or at all. These men therefore speak man’s word (wisdom of man). They stumble at the Word, being disobedient (1 Pt 2:8). They tell itching ears what they want to hear (2 Tim 4:3). Their hired job is to please man. Man’s word will placate the flesh and generate popularity and praise. John 5:44, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” Seeking the praise of men is seeking the flesh. Luke 6:26, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” The false prophet will lead you away from God into things of the flesh (yet they claim to represent God). We can easily discern whether God’s Word or man’s word is being spoken (Pv 12:17), and more importantly followed, by looking at the culture around us and then realizing that the religious culture is much the same (divorce, adultery, addictions, sensuality, covetousness, self seeking, idolatry, etc.). Those who are being led to God by the Spirit undergo a complete change of heart and their fruit will be noticeably different (Eph 5:9). God’s Word will condemn the flesh and generate persecution and reproach for the speaker (2 Tim 1:8, 3:12). Luke 6:22, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.” Most hirelings are under self-deception. They are deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13). In order to feel that they are serving both God and man they must change the truth of God to a lie. In other words, they must present God as something He is not. Romans 1:25, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature (man, the flesh) more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” So, they present (convey) God is an unconditional love God that is mostly concerned about “you” and essentially is there to serve. They do not rightly divide the Word of god and the truth is turned to fables (2 Tim 2:15, 4:4). The truth of the scripture will make us wise unto salvation, but will never be received by those in the flesh (not willing to die to – froward hearts). Now there is no denying that God is a God of love. These men just twist God’s love into something it is not. God so loved man that He sacrificed His only begotten Son so that you could be reconciled back under His authority – His will (Jn 3:16). God is a God of truth, righteousness and judgment (Is 16:5, Jer 4:2). The Lord is longsuffering that you will repent (and forsake) your fleshly ways – otherwise you will perish (2 Pt 3:9, have contrite heart). Jesus Christ secured “the way” to be reconciled to God (Jn 14:6). Reconciliation is on God’s terms and not man’s. Christ brought mercy to man and peace (or reconciliation) with God: Psalms 85:10, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” These are predicated on “truth” and “righteousness.” There is mercy for the acknowledgement (living in) the truth. There is peace and reconciliation with God through righteousness. True sincere faith is righteousness (Rm 1:17, 3:22, 4:5, 9, 4:11, 13, 9:30, 10:6, Gal 5:5, Php 3:9, 1 Tim 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22, Heb 11:7, 33, 2 Pt 1:1). Jeremiah 9:24, “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” God does not placate (appease, codle) you in your wickedness and rebellion. Many a religious man does not “know” God. So what is to be said of a true man of God? Psalms 15:2, “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” Things have become so confusing, how will we know if a preacher is a hireling? Jeremiah 23:21-22, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.” Anyone who comes for any other reason than to help you see your iniquity (depravity, sin) such that you forsake (turn from, Pv 28:13) your evil way and submit totally to Jesus Christ, is a hireling (Ez 13:22). In other words, their preaching must be turning you from sin and the things of this world (your will – darkness) to God to perform His will (His light). A true man of God will want to see Christ formed in you; meaning that you will walk as Jesus walked on your on (Col 2:6, 1 Thess 2:12). They will want to have you eating meat rather than milk (1 Cor 3:2, Heb 5:12-14). The hireling will be appeasing the people in their sin, always speaking of God’s love (in terms of looking the other way) and gaining the favor of all (God loves you no matter what – Mal 2:17). The hireling will not speak of death to the flesh in any real sense, overcoming sin, or forsaking the things of the world. They can’t speak such a message, because it will not gain them employment or popularity. They seek popularity and praise – their own honor! A true man of God does not seek his own honor, but rather to honor the one who sent him (Jn 5:30). John 7:18, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” We will either be hearing the doctrine of the man (or institution) or in the case of the true man of God, the doctrine of the One who sent him (to Whom he is faithful). A sincere man of God will feed God’s flock, not being as a Lord, but as an example (1 Pt 5:2-3).

Judges 18:5-7, “And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go. Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.” It is very doubtful that God was involved in the counsel the Levite gave the Danites. God has no regard for idolaters and will not be inquired of by them. (Ez 14:7-11, 20:3-31). God does not hear the prayer of the wicked (Jn 9:31, 1 Pt 3:12, Pv 15:29). Most likely Micah just told them what they wanted to hear. This is one of the most discernable traits of a hireling. They tell people what they want to hear to gain popularity, acceptance and benefit. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.” Often, they also want to hear what they are saying. They “pride” themselves on being diplomatic, but compromiser is a better word. Luke 14:34, “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?” A compromiser could be thought of as one who disregards the truth of God for a selfish benefit. The truth is usually the loser with them: “I could never say that” – “what would the people say” – “I could lose my job.” They love not the truth (2 Thess 2:10). They schmooze (gain favor) the people as part of their hire. Another trait of a hireling is that they tend to serve in a “legal” pharisaicical sense (making a show of religion without the Spirit) – down to earth (worldly). They do not take God’s Word (seriously) to heart and thus do not live by example. It is difficult for a hireling to talk about the forsaking of sin (overcoming) because they are equally guilty (and love the darkness) – maybe hypocritical. However, they most likely do live their word by example. The interesting thing is that the hireling will often use the word “legalism” or “pharisaicical” to describe someone who has taken God’s Word to heart and is obeying the Spirit. A hireling will most likely view faith as the strong belief that you are something that you are not (pretense) – that being “righteous.” They want to live in “their way” yet claim the nature of Christ vicariously. To be vicarious is to share-in or undergo another’s experience through “imagined participation.” Are we to “imagine” or “pretend” to conform to Christ’s image or are we to actually “do it” through His Spirit as we follow Jesus (Js 1:22)? Is following merely “observing” (as in viewing from afar, scrutinizing, watching, monitoring – without participation) and “abstract agreement” (in theory, but without action) or is it rather “walking therein?” This is a great point of diverging views or paths, with eternal consequences (Mt 7:13-14). They claim Christ’s righteousness and do not desire any of their own (Rm 13:14).

The Danites returned to their people and brought them forth to conquer the land of the Zidonians. Along the way, they stopped by Micah’s house. The Levite’s blessing seems to have made an impression on them due to their success. Judges 18:14-18, “Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do. And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him. And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?” Micah had assembled quite a house of gods and a religion that the Levite is administering. This idolatry is a form of godliness (2 Tim 3:5). There are aspects of the covenant with the true God (has an ephod and a Levite priest), but these are mixed with the idolatry of the surrounding cultures (teraphim, molten image, graven image). The Danites had not come to put an end to this idolatry, but to claim it as their own due to the perceived benefits (their prior blessing and safe journey). Today’s form of “Christianity” does the same. There is a mixing of the things of God with the things of the surrounding culture (world). There may be a Levite (pastor, priest, preacher, etc.), but they are mostly ignorant or have disregard for God’s Word and its true application. The membership (congregations, professed believers, etc.) have a form of godliness, but denying the power (Spirit), they also live as the surrounding culture (world, for the flesh). The Levite stands up to the Danites as they are taking his gods. Will the Levite lay down his life for his belief and love of Micah’s family (his flock)?

Judges 18:19-20, “And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.” The mark of a true hireling! The Levite quickly vacates his position for a better offer (a better hire). His love for Micah and his family is only superficial and quickly dispensed with. Can’t you just sense the Levite’s excitement. He is going to be the head pastor over an entire tribe of Israel. John 10:13, “The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” This same scenario plays over and over for today’s career hireling (pastor, priest, reverend, preacher, youth minister, minister of music, education director, etc.). There is no genuine care for the sheep because everything is “self” motivated now. Most big churches tend to be impersonal and superficial. The hireling is just that – performing a job for reward. Part of that job is a display of emotion (happiness, sympathy, concern, etc.) toward individuals in the church. When a better church/religious offer comes along such as an advanced position or larger church, they are quickly gone. What does “careth for the sheep” really mean? It means that you genuinely and sincerely lead others to Christ – by example (with all due sacrifice and travail) such that Jesus is formed in them (Gal 4:19, 1 Tim 4:12, 2 Cor 6:4-10, 2 Thess 3:9). This means that you preach the absolute truth of God’s Word irregardless if it offends. We are sanctified (set apart) through the belief of the truth (2 Thess 2:13). Better to offend with the truth than to deceive with a lie (compromise, twist, mislead). You lead others to die to self and the world to conform to the image of Christ. You walk as Jesus walked and do what necessary to help others come along. You are strong and enduring (stedfast, persevering) for those who are not. True love is sacrifice and laying your life down for another. John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This means laying down all your religious career dreams, popularity, and hope of reward. A true man of God would prefer to teach a couple of sincere individuals than have the largest congregation of feigned (insincere, contrived, artificial) hypocrites in town. As a matter of fact, if a true man of God preached the truth to the largest congregation in town it would quickly diminish to a small percentage of the whole – thus the truth will not come forth. John 10:12, “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.” The wolf is that of Satan. The devil takes into captivity (snares) and devours (1 Pt 5:8, 2 Tim 2:26). Just as the Levite didn’t take a stand for what he supposedly believed, neither will today’s religious man (as pressure is brought to bear).

Micah gathered help and went after the Danites to recover his religious goods (gods, Jdg 18:22-23). A true God could not be stolen or taken – only that which is man-made. The Danites asked him why he came upon them. Judges 18:24, “And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee?” When he saw they were to powerful for him, he quickly backed away and went home. Micah was not willing to lay down his life either for that which he presumably held dear (Jdg 18:26). Would today’s typical religious man lay down his life for Christ? What about for your neighbor? Micah said he made the gods. Perhaps he was a bit more honest than today’s religious organizations and denominations. They are also man-made and man led as are most of the priests. We must strongly consider if all this fractured religious confusion is of the Holy Spirit or man. Micah was offended that the Danites had stolen his gods. Many who read this article will be offended that the author has revealed the truth and exposed their gods. The shining light is Christ and the way to God is only through Him (Jn 14:6, Pv 4:18). You cannot remain in your darkness (maybe religious darkness) and know God. You will only “know” God as you read His Word, submit to the Spirit, and walk as Jesus walked. You can never truly love and identify with another until you walk as they walked (Ps 119:3, 128:1, Hos 14:9, Col 2:6, 1 Jn 2:6, 2 Jn 1:6).

Judges 18:30-31, “And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” What started out as Micah’s religion corrupted a whole tribe in Israel. The Levite’s error continued through succeeding generations. Man’s religious error has corrupted countless individuals and has continued through succeeding generations and becomes worse all the time. It’s time to come out of the religious error. It’s time to come to Jesus with your cross in hand (forsaking the world and dying to self).

 

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