My performance piece this week is entitled……. No I’m just kidding, I don’t have a song this week – my sermon is much better, I don’t have to resort to silly songs… Also, as has been pointed out to me – I had a haircut, so I’ve been sapped of my strength – you would have had to be here last week to get that joke… So there I was in Shoprite the other day, with my two offspring, and I was feeling generous – so I said to them – let’s go buy something from the crazy store – they love nothing more than to receive junk plastic toys so they jumped at the chance to get some more.. and we agreed, after we were done shopping we were going to go across to the toy store and get something. Cool, deal. A meeting of the minds, and agreement – a contract had been reached. Not so, apparently, because when we got to the shoprite till to pay for the groceries, I could see my four year old starting to eye the sweets – you know they have the sweet aisle there – full of temptation – and sure as eggs, not a moment later, my pant leg was being pulled – daddy…snigger… please daddy dearest… can I have a sweetie…. So I said no... Immediately – because that’s what good parents do. And she accepted that, because I am a respected parent and my word is final…. No.. of course not, she started nagging some more….so, I decided to be reasonable, and I got down on her level and I looked her in the eye and I said NO. No, what I said to her was, OK Sylvie, let’s do this. If you want, instead of us going to the toy store just now, and getting something there, we can just buy you a sweet here and be done with it. Hmmm, so I gave Asher the same option and he, in his seven year old wisdom decided to stick with the later toy – delayed gratification – good stuff , but little Sylvie, all she could think about were the jellytots in front of her face. So she stuck with the jelly tots. Now, any decent parent worth their salt could have foreseen the danger lurking ahead and what would happen next , but no, in my ignorance and willingness to MAKE A POINT I went with it, I bought Sylvie the jelly tots, and said to her, now listen, when Asher gets a toy for the toy store, I don’t want to hear any whining - - you understand? Yes Daddy munch munch ja fine Daddy… Now, what do you think happened when we got to the toy store? Yes, you guessed it, little missy decided that she was done with the half finished packet of sweets and she handed them back to me and said, actually Daddy, I’d like a toy now instead. So, decision time Daddy… do I give in (like I so often do) and just buy the child a toy, I mean, it’s just a little thing… or, do I take a stand here – so, I was feeling brave, I put on my firm parent hat and I said in my most gentle voice, no Sylvie, my darling, remember the deal we had – you chose the sweets back in Shoprite instead of the toy, SHoooe weee, you could see the Johnson rage building up in the child her face got redder and redder, and she just exploded, and proceeded to throw the biggest vloermoer I have ever seen – she was screaming and crying and saliva was coming out of her mouth, both flared nostrils were running and of course this was while we were standing in a long queue with Asher standing smiling smugly with his new toy. Get to the till, there was a delay with the register… the kind lady trying to assist me, like really, we don’t need more help, what we need is to get out of this shop, away from all the judging eyes staring at me and my hysterical children. She howled all the way out that shop, and all the way past the rest of the shops back to the car, and all the way back home. People almost formed like a corridor - a corridor of judgement as we walked through – one of those glorious parenting moments. And I’m sure all the GOOD parents here with us this morning don’t have any similar stories involving their own kids… My 7 year old son thought that this was great, and thought it presented a good time to start telling Sylvia about consequences (he learnt all about consequences at school…) And he was dead right – Sylvia was learning that our decisions have consequences – that what you decide, what you do now – has a later effect. It always leads to something. For Sylvia, the result of her choice in Shoprite – meant a short term benefit – literally a quick sugar high, but unhappiness in the long run relative to what she could have got. As you turn to Judges 17 with me – remember that the stories contained in the book of Judges have involved many unwise decisions, that are later regretted. We’ve been looking through the rise and fall of the Nation of Israel in the time of the Judges – remember the book says – many times over, that there was no King in Israel in those days – the people did what they wanted - and so God sends the Israelites a Judge – someone to help draw the people back to God, back onto the path they should be travelling, to restore them – but you see this repeating pattern, where this seems to work for a while, but the people eventually fall away again. And we’ve seen some good judges – Deborah, Gideon, people who achieved much for the Lord, and then last week we looked at Samson – the well-known Samson – and we had a bit of fun with it, with a ahem beautiful song, and looking at some of the amazing elements of an almost unbelievable story… But, lest we take the story too lightly - the story of Samson was at its core a sad story – of a Judge who failed to live up to his potential – who fell short of the task and instruction given to him – a story of an individual who did what was right in his own eyes, and let worldly things – his pride and his ego, his desire for women, distract him from his sovereign purpose. And it leads to his downfall. Actions have consequences. Samson was the last judge mentioned in the book of judges, and immediately following we have a guy by the name of Micah – Chapter 17 - Who we are going to mention quickly this morning. Micah, sounds familiar – but, this is not the Prophet Micah you find later in your bibles. Who is this? Well, he’s some guy from the hill country of Ephraim – why does his story slot in right in after the events concerning Samson? Well let’s read and find out Micah’s Idols 17 Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim 2 said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels [ a ] of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.” Then his mother said, “The Lord bless you, my son!” 3 When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, “I solemnly consecrate my silver to the Lord for my son to make an image overlaid with silver. I will give it back to you.” 4 So after he returned the silver to his mother, she took two hundred shekels [ b ] of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who used them to make the idol. And it was put in Micah’s house. 5 Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some household gods and installed one of his sons as his priest. 6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. So, Micah is introduced - and as we read there perhaps some things jumped out at you - some red flags – this guy seems like an interesting character – is he a goodie or a baddie? The first thing to note is that this guy has seemingly stolen from his mother - 1100 shekels (a lot of money – we find later ten shekels are a yearly wage for a priest) – and he comes clean – it was me, sorry mom, I took it. So even as we start the story Micah is a criminal, but he’s fessed up to it so, let’s see where this goes. He then starts doing things, that seem right, but are actually a bit shady… Upon his mothers instruction, the money that has been returned is to be devoted to Jahweh – OK cool, give the money to God – that’s noble, right – but actually , what do they do with the shekels – they use to make an idol – bing – red flag – 2 nd commandment - you shall not make any idols. You remember it said 1100 shekels - somehow that number is reduced dramatically by the time they make the idols – now it’s only 200 shekels - Micah, where’s the rest of the cash? He sets up a priest – which is good right? Well in those days the priests were typically Levites – Micah instead set’s up his son as a priest – not a Levite. Bing – yet another red flag Which is why you have the writer immediately inserting this little footnote as verse 6 – like, just in case you weren’t picking up what was going down in the story – In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did as they saw fit. Don’t be fooled here – Micah, is actually not following God’s instructions at ALL – you can even count off the commandments he is breaking in just a few verses – not Honouring your parents), making a false idol, stealing from God to name but a few. In fact later even when he does install the right ‘type of Priest”, a levite, into his household, you get the sense that his motives are not correct. 13 And Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” Is he installing the priest because of his true worship and adoration for God – or is it really just so he can gain. Micah is out to serve himself, and does what is right in his OWN eyes. So, just like with the story of Samson in the chapter before, there is a reason for the inclusion of this short tale into the text – because we need to see what happens to followers of God who decide to do their own thing instead – we need to see that actions have consequences. Until now perhaps you haven’t seen that – Micah appears to be getting away with it – his lies, his theft, his disregard of proper Levitical priesthood – he seems to be doing alright… well, read on. In chapter 18 Micah has it all taken from him… The Danites come and take his idols, - they even take his priest out from his household. But it gets even worse. Not only has the Micah’s’ behaviour ruined his household, listen to what happen to the idols by the end of Chapter 18…. From verse 27 we pick it up 27 Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. 28 There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. 29 They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish. 30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, [ d ] and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. 31 They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh. So Micah has his idol taken from him, but the story of Micahs idol unfortunately does not end there. The Danites set up this idol – maybe they believe it is to thank for them successfully burning down this city – Verse 31 – they continued to use this Idol all the time – so this false blasphemous statue is passed on from generation to generation – Micahs great sin has an effect, and is causing chaos is contributing to false worship – further down the line. Action have consequences. The nations fall away from worship of the one true God – through people who make poor individual decisions – but these decisions have these shockwaves – these after effects. Lasting damage. Micah did what was right in his own eyes, and generations will suffer. And what I found really interesting is the context here and to contrast with the story of Samson we looked at last week – with Samson, he also follows his own desires, doesn’t follow what God has demanded of him – and gets himself in a world of trouble – his pride and his ego and his fleshly desire ruin him – but then at the end of the story you have God using him to bring about the downfall of the evil temple. And maybe you are left thinking, well, okay, cool, maybe the consequences of my wandering aren’t so bad – the Lord will pick up the slack, clean up after me, and everything will turn out fine in the end. So you’re off the hook. But then in the very next verses of our Holy Bible – BLAM you’re hit with a hectic story of selfish Micah, and the ruin his brings upon himself, and the harm that it brings to the generations after him. Your personal, individual devotion has an effect on others. It will lead to something –all the leaders mentioned in Judges, good or bad, they lead to something – the Good Judges - lead the people back to God – they lead the people to safety, they lead them to victory. Samson - and this guy Micah – lead people astray – Micah’s actions led nations to worship false God for GENERATIONS – and he wasn’t even a JUDGE – he was just some guy! So, obvious application, obvious lessons come out the text for us, obvious questions we need to ask ourselves. Are we leading people, nations, families, to God – are our actions destructive – are the things we say and doing turning people – who are maybe already against God, even further away from Him. Are we ourselves seeking out and moving towards God – or are we moving in the other direction. Look at Micah, look at Samson – it starts internally – in here – it starts small, at first it doesn’t affect anyone else – no one notices what you are up to – like Micah, you’re doing all sorts of things that SEEM right, that look right, but are actually against God. Like Micah, in the short term it’s all going well. Micah steals, is forgiven, installs the priest – things seem to be going well – but the long term result is devastating – short term gain, like Sylvie and her sweets, but long term heartbreak. He loses it all – and not only does he lose it all – the effects of what he has done affects those who come after him. This coming Tuesday – it will be 8 years, to the day, since I stood up here – this very room and said goodbye to my father – and I remember reading out a tribute to him that I had written, thanking him for the man that he was and the legacy that he had left for me to follow. I even remember, I remember reading out a portion of the eulogy that he had given at his own father’s funeral - and I commented on how his thoughts upon his father’s passing were so similar to my own thoughts about my father passing – and how grateful we were for what had been passed on to us from our fathers. We are all engineers, believe it or not, me, my father, his father, so no pressure to young Asher and Sylvie – and we all shared common interests, guitars, fishing – but it’s more than just that – it’s the kind of people you are isn’t it. What is your legacy going to be – what are you leaving for the next generations – your friends, your family – would it be cheesy for me to say – what are they going to say at your eulogy? Oh, it doesn’t matter what we do now, doesn’t matter how we live – we’re all saved by God’s grace and in his forgiveness he welcomes us all into his Kingdom. OK, cool, you made your way into the Kingdom but when you live in a Kingdom, you live subject to the rule of that King. In those days - 6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. And what about these days? I ask the question first to myself and then to all of you… You know you think about it and you look at the fall of these nations in Israels history, and especially now in the few stories we have looked at together, and you see, they’re not suffering because they’ve been overthrown by evil foreign nations – they’re not reeling because of some external danger – they have gone astray and wandered from God – because of – well, themselves – the enemy within – How do we get a people, a nation to turn back to God – well – you turn back to God first – and then you let the effects of your own – individual actions – ripple down to others – those around you, those who come after you. I sat here on Thursday night – I must say, what an excellent Holiday Club – my son, who is not easily impressed had the BEST time. And I saw a group of people – busy teenagers, who are of course the most easily distracted and wandering group of people on the face of the planet. And they had just given up a week of their time to run a programme for my kids. For our kids – for the next generation – right. And they still had energy and were even willing to carry on interacting and teaching the kids – about God. That’s what we’re talking about here. Make no mistake, the Lord will honour that. Make no mistake, that’s the sort of sacrifice that God finds pleasing – that God will use to bring his people back to him. To answer, what about these days? In these days, the mighty nation of Medway – we have a King – His name is Jesus, and everyone does as JESUS sees fit. Let’s ask God to make that statement true for our lives.