Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Free Spirited Levites and the Conquest

In the book of Judges, the overwhelming unfaithfulness of Israel is on display along with the long suffering mercy and faithfulness of God. Israel's unfaithfulness is evidenced by the blatant idolatries and anarchic behavior (e.g. "there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes"). But this is also evidenced in clues that suggest Israel's rebellion and disobedience are like a reverse conquest.

In the conquest, Israel was commanded to tear down the shrines to the baals and asherahs and to utterly destroy those cities that refused to repent and submit to Israel and her God. By the time of the Judges, instead of tearing down the shrines, we have the story of Micah who is hiring a free spirited Levite to lead the praise band at his personal shrine (Judges 18). Not only is this a bad deal, but the times are so bad that an armed band of Danites shows up later and steals the Levite, the shrine, and on their way to build a new city come upon Laish, strike its inhabitants with the edge of the sword and burn it to the ground. Instead of destroying idolatrous cities and establishing faithful worship of the true God, Israel is establishing syncretistic worship and destroying cities of their people (apparently) to make room for their cult. This was the Old Testament reading for morning prayer this morning.

The New Testament reading was from Acts 8 where the Apostles are beginning the conquest of the New World remade through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the new and greater Joshua. And as in the old conquest, there is almost immediately those who want to turn the ship around. Achan saw the treasures in Jericho and hid them in his tent, and later its Micah and Danites buying and stealing Levites and idolatrous shrines. And as the Apostles go north into Samaria, Simon the Sorceror shows up, sees the power of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles and immediately he offers to buy this power with gold. Simon is an Achan in the new conquest of the Great Commission.

But the Micah connection also implies that the Achan/Simon instinct is ultimately a counter-conquest. It's not merely disobedience, not merely greed and lust, it's ultimately treason and treachery, a reverse conquest that has no logical end except erecting idolatrous shrines and burning cities to the ground, which as it turns out, is exactly what happens to Jerusalem in A.D. 70.


Jason Farley said...

Also, Achan's sin caused him to be a "root that beareth gall and wormwood" (Deut. 29:18), which is the same thing said of Simon in Act 8:23 "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."

Toby said...

Oh, that's really good, Jason. Good catch.