Judges 17:1-6 records an incident that took place in the hill country of Ephraim when Israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit. This incident involves a young man named Micah and his mother who is not named. Micah’s mother had eleven hundred shekels of silver stolen from her, and when she found out that her silver was gone, she pronounced a curse on the thief who had taken it. Well, it just so happened that her son was the one who stole the silver. When he heard the curse that she spoke, he must have felt guilty, and promptly told her, “The eleven hundred shekels 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.”
Micah’s mother did not get angry at him. She only said, “The Lord bless you, my son!” And she promised to consecrate all of the silver to the Lord.
But after Micah returned the silver to his mother, she only consecrated two hundred shekels of silver and kept the other nine hundred shekels of silver for herself. And instead of giving the consecrated shekels to the Lord as she had promised to do, she gave it to a silversmith who used the shekels to make an idol. Micah took this idol and put it in a shrine in his house, alongside some other cult objects. He then made one of his sons priest over his household shrine.
From this incident, we see that Micah and his mother were both aware of the one true God, but they mixed their belief in Him with other idolatrous worship – some thing which we as Christians should not do. Micah’s mother gives us two things that we can learn from her.
1. Micah’s mother forgave her son; however, she did not rebuke his wrong behavior. When Micah confessed that he had stolen from his mother, she did not become angry. She did not even wish on him the curse she had pronounced earlier. Instead, she wished him a blessing. When someone does us wrong, we should have a similar type of spirit. It does us no good to remain bitter at whoever has done us wrong or to hold a grudge against them or to try to get back at them in some way. We are to bless those who curse us and pray for those who hurt us. Additionally, Christ says we are to forgive those who do us wrong “up to seventy times seven,” which means we offer unlimited forgiveness.
However, forgiveness of wrong behavior does not mean we approve of that wrong behavior. Yes, Micah’s mother should have forgiven him, but she also should have rebuked him for stealing from her in the first place. By not pointing out the wrongness of his actions, it is as if she approves of it. It is as if she is saying, “The Lord bless you, my son, for stealing my shekels from me.” No good mother smiles on her child for stealing, and God certainly doesn’t approve of those who steal. Through His Son, Jesus the Christ, God has forgiven all people, but He does not approve of our sin. We too should forgive others, but we should also encourage them to forsake wrong behavior and do right.
2. Micah’s mother tried to worship the one true God and other false gods at the same time. From the first three verses of Judges 17:1-6, it appears as if Micah’s mother was a godly woman. She wished for the Lord to bless her son, and she promised to consecrate her silver to the Lord. But then in verse 4, that appearance of godliness changes. Did she consecrate all her silver to the Lord? No. She only consecrates two hundred shekels of silver, and not to the Lord either, but to a silversmith so he can make an idol. She keeps the other nine hundred shekels of silver for herself, and she says nothing when her son puts the idol in his own house and makes her grandson a priest, thus engaging in idolatry.
The behavior of Micah’s mother shows that she was not a dedicated follower of God. She was not wholly surrendered to Him. She was trying to worship the true God and various other gods at the same time. As true followers of Christ, it is impossible to do this. We cannot serve God and something or someone else. There are many “idols” that vie for our attention today – the idol of fame, the idol of money, the idol of power, etc. But we must be careful to stay away from anything that threatens to take God’s place in our hearts. Our hearts only hold one throne, not two. Either God will sit there or some other idol, but both cannot reign.
In Luke 4:8, Jesus reminds us that the Scriptures say, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” There can be no simultaneous worship for those who are truly dedicated to God, only singular worship.