How far has Israel walked from God?
The story of Micah does not point to a wanderer who just takes a wrong turn and gets spiritually lost. It points to those who by habit of character demonstrate a lack of real concern for the ways of God.
Micah’s mother lost eleven hundred shekels of silver – a little over $2000 on today’s exchange but a really hefty amount in the ancient world of the Judges. She not only uttered a curse on the person who took the money, but should it ever be found, she promised to give it to the Lord (the promise may have actually come before the money was returned – not as the New International Version reads). The young man, afraid of the curse (you see his belief in witchcraft), ‘fessed up, hoping that his mother would countermand it – which she did. But then, rather than dedicate all the money to God, she only gave a fifth of it – and that not to the Lord, but for the purpose of making an idol. It wasn’t the only idol in the house – just one among many which also included a priestly garment.
Ignoring the regulations for the priesthood, Micah made his sons priests (essentially founding his own religion). But when he came into contact with a wandering Levite, probably hoping to gain credibility for his religion, he put him on retainer as his head priest. On top of it all, by simply having the priest, Micah thought he had secured for himself the Lord’s blessing.
It’s a classic case of blindly making one’s own way and believing it will be ok. After all, he is a sincere man – though also a thief.
The story is presented as simply an example of faithlessness, letting us know how far afield Israel had gone. But it is not the last one. The final chapters of Judges take us deep into the depravity resultant in the lives of all those who determine to live as they see fit.