Apostasy of the Danites; the prayer of Jabez; Chapter 18
What we find in the book of Judges is a critique of culture, a critique of the apostate culture of Israel in contrast to the positive spiritually advancing culture of the Joshua generation who came in under the conquest and operated under the faith-rest drill in order to take the land that God had promised them. God had given an allotment to each tribe, to each family in each tribe. That was to be passed down in each generation. The family never lost their possession once they gained it, and the tribes only partially gained their inheritance in the conquest. The reason they failed to completely conquer the land was because they compromised with the pagan philosophies, pagan religion, and pagan thinking of those who inhabited the land. The more they compromised the more they became impacted in their own thinking with paganism, so that by the end of the period of the judges the apostate Jews are living, worshipping, and carrying out their lives in the same way the pagan culture surrounding them. They were virtually indistinguishable from the unbelieving pagans that they were supposed to have annihilated under God's command of holy war to take the land. This is, of course, analogous as a teaching point to the apostate believer. We live in a culture today when there is as much as much as sixty or seventy people claiming to be believers in God and claiming to be saved but don't have a clue what that means, they are doctrinally ignorant but they are religiously active. Consequently they have no discernment whatsoever. They get deceived by every sort of false teaching that comes along and get distractions into their lives which are not doctrinal. They often think that these things are good and wonderful because they have the name of Jesus attached to them, or because someone at their favorite seminary says something, and because they don't know the Bible, they don't have any doctrine, they just suck up whatever comes along no matter how unbiblical or undoctrinal it might be. This is exactly the situation Israel is in and we get a picture at the end of Judges of how the nation became apostate, because the moral problem, the political problem, and all the economic problems all were the results of a spiritual problem. The solution to a nation's problems is not found in politicians, or through legislation, because the solution is in the soul of the nation and when a nation that is comprised of apostates and operating on human viewpoint thinking it is always going to fragment and fall apart. What happens in Judges 17 is that we see the beginning, the beginning of the apostasy in Israel. It happened with Micah and his mother.
18:1, "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." Why hadn't it fallen to them? Why is it that the Danites have to seek an inheritance, don't they already have one? Well, let's do a little background work here in Joshua 19:40. There we see the allotment of the land. "And the seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families." They used lots in order to determine the apportionment of the land. "The Hebrew word for territory used here, gabul, means a border, a boundary or a territory. It refers to a delineated piece of real estate. And the seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. So they have a territory that is assigned to them that is part of their inheritance. Then the following verses go on to list the various cities that are in that inheritance, and in verse 47 we read: "And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little [proceeded beyond them—NASB] for them." That is an awkward translation, it is a difficult phrase in the Hebrew but it's basically an idiom in the Hebrew for the fact that they never quite got it, it was always just out there in front of them and they never quite gained full possession of it. It was difficult for them to take it from the Canaanites and we will see why. "… therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father." Then in verse 48, "This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages." The inheritance was the land, the real estate, that God gave them. This was their positional reality, their possession, though they didn't own it yet. They haven't taken possession but God has given it to them.
In the same way God has blessed every believer with a vast array of spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. Ephesians tells us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Those are our realities; we got it all at the cross. There is not some second act that we have to go through in the process of the Christian life, whether it is dedication, presenting your body, whatever it is in order to get what God has to give you. God gave it all to us at the moment of salvation. It is our positional reality but it is only potentially ours. It is contingent upon our spiritual growth. They are therefore called contingent blessings. There are contingent blessings in time and there are contingent blessings in eternity. They are contingent upon our spiritual growth, they are not contingent upon our obedience. What is meant by that? It means that God is not giving it to us in some legalistic fashion, that if I am obedient then God is going to give it to me. At the moment of salvation God imputed perfect righteousness to us. God blesses us on the basis of that perfect righteousness, not because of anything we do. But as we grow God is going to distribute those contingent blessings because we now have the maturity to function in those blessings and for those blessings not to destroy us. As we grow and develop capacity to enjoy those blessings God distributes us those blessings. If we don't grow those blessings remain undistributed. They are ours potentially, and we die and go to heaven we will get a glimpse of the blessings that we missed out on because of our failure to advance and grow spiritually. Notice the issue is advancing and growing spiritually, the issue is not trying to figure out what the ritual is, what the formula is. That is legalism and it is paganism. The Bible says that God distributes our blessings on the basis of our spiritual growth and maturity. They are given to us at the instant of salvation. It is based in grace, it is not who we are or what we do. The New Testament of inheritance is built on the Old Testament concept of inheritance in the land. Not all Jews had possession. The Levites did not have a possession in the land. They were in the land but did not have an inheritance or a possession in the land.
But the Danites were to have a possession in the land and they had received their inheritance. But they never claimed their inheritance. In other words, their inheritance which is analogous to our contingent blessings in time and eternity was never realized. It was their potentially, it was theirs positionally, but it was never theirs actually because they failed to trust God to give them victory over the Canaanites, they didn't follow God's methodology and they didn't believe His promise. Instead they compromised and they were defeated. This is clearly stated in the first chapter of Judges [1:34, 35]. There was no victory like there was at Jericho, Ai and other places. They were not operating on the faith-rest drill, not trusting God, they were relying upon their own strength and so there was a compromise which always brings defeat. They never realized the blessings God has for them. So the Danites failed to take possession and they had to do something about it and this is where we find ourselves in Judges chapter 18.
They were forced into the area up in the hill country. They didn't take the coastlands or the area that was more fertile and available for agriculture, and this is where we find the cities of Timnah, Zora and Eshtaol where Samson lived. So they failed to take the land, they were just restricted to a small portion of what God had given them, and what they are going to do in chapter 18 is send out some spies and look for some land that they can take. In carnality the believer says he is not willing to trust God and apply the principles and procedures that God has given him because that's too difficult, so he looks for some other methodology to get some kind of prosperity and blessing in life. The believer in carnality is always looking for a quick fix, some magic solution, some easy ritual of procedure to get involved in: "If I just say it the right way or do it the right way that somehow God is going to automatically going to bless me and prosper me. I'm not going to have to stay in fellowship, I'm not going to have to spend my time on Sunday morning and Wednesday night learning the Word of God, I'm not going to have to think, I'm not going to have to learn to evaluate my own thinking to root out the human viewpoint and exchange it for divine viewpoint, I'm not going to have to self-critique in terms of the written Word of God, I'm just going to find something that will give me spiritual blessing and then I will have everything God wants me to have." We recast God in our image rather than letting God define the issue for us. So Dan is going to leave their allotment and head north and look for some land that they can just take from somebody. They were looking for something that they could take from somebody else without having to go through the tough procedure of having to submit themselves to the authority of God and living life on God's terms. They were completely out of the will of God.
So in Judges 18:2, they sent out spies. This is reminiscent of what the Jews did at Kadesh-barnea in order to spy out the land to se how they were going to take it. "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." So they are on a reconnaissance mission to find out where they can get some easy-to-get real estate where they won't have to do it God's way. It just so happens that the first thing they do is run into the house of Micah.
Verse 3, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. The Hebrew there doesn't really mean they recognized, it means they responded to the voice of the Levite. They heard what he was teaching, thought that it sounded good, and decided to go along with him. In verse 4, responding to the Danites questions, "I am become his priest." Notice he was not a priest to God, he was Micah's priest. He and Micah have a religious scam going on. Verse 5, "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." This is how people think in human viewpoint. It is like rubbing the rabbit's foot or looking in the newspaper for the astrology column to find out if we are going to have good luck or prosperity today. And notice their concern is prosperity, getting something from God. Verse 6, "And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go." People in false religion always tell you things are going to be great and wonderful and that you are never going to have any opposition or difficulty in life, in fact you are going to discover some great thing, have wealth, a romance in your life and many children. They never tell you the adverse things. Verse 7, "Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless [safely], 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." Laish was a colony of Sidon which was on the coast, but it was separated from Laish by a small mountain range, so there is not a lot of interaction between the two cities even though Laish is an outpost or colony of Sidon. So they come up there and see this unprotected city and decide that they are just going to steal this land from the Sidonians.
Verse 10, " … for God has given it into your hands." Ever notice how people like to attach the name of God to whatever it is they are doing in order to give it legitimacy, in order to make it look good in front of everybody. "It's God's will for me to do this; I prayed about it; God told me." We live at a time when people do this all the time and it is nothing more than horse manure. They are going to use the name of God, and all through this section we see religion operating. They are not anti-God, they are not anti-religion, they love religion. But it is false, and it is going to lead the nation into tremendous apostasy. In verse 13 we are back to the religious scam of Micah.
Verse 14, "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." In other words, this guy has a great operation going here from God. . . .and God has blessed him. Maybe we can get some of this blessing too. That is this magical concept that if we just somehow do it right and have the right people associated with us, then everything is going to be good and God will bless us.
Verse 15-17, now the Danites are going to hijack Micah's false religion. Verse 18, 19, when the priest asked what they were doing he was told to be quiet, to come with them and they would give him a better deal, they would really make him prosperous. Now your going to have a crystal cathedral, a fine parsonage, a Lear jet, and everybody will know that God is blessing you because of your wonderful devotion to Him! " … 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?" Notice, this is Israel, we are God's people. False religion is loaded with religious verbiage. It doesn't make you spiritual, make you Christian, to use all that verbiage.
Verse 22, Micah got his neighbours together and went after the priest, and called after the Danites who then asked Micah why he was coming after them with such a great company. Verse 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?" Micah is whining because he has been upstaged and has lost the goose that laid the golden egg, as it were, and he is not going to have all of this prosperity any more because his god has been taken away. Notice how silly this is. In human viewpoint we reduce God to something we can control. "You have taken away my gods which I made." What kind of a god is it if you made it? But human viewpoint is blind to the truth like that. When people are in human viewpoint they will suck up any kind of false teaching that comes along, as long as it used the right verbiage and it is packaged in the right kind of phraseology.
Verse 27, "And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire." Notice that this is illegitimate violence as they are stealing this land from these Sidonians. This is not a legitimate operation under the mandates of Joshua or the Word of God.
Verse 30 and 31 give us a clue as to what the dynamics are in this whole two-chapter section. "And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh [Moses, actually], 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." Gershom is the grandson of Moses who leads the nation into apostasy and sets up an alternate worship site in Dan, an alternate tabernacle, as it were, in competition with the true worship of God that is taking place at the tabernacle down in Shiloh. So throughout Israel's history, at least up until the Davidic kingdom, there are two sites in the northern part of Israel for worship. There is the tabernacle for the true worship down in Shiloh down in the hill country of Ephraim, and then up in the north there is this apostate religion and apostate priesthood that has the name of Yahweh and the name of Moses attached to it—all the religious verbiage there to give it legitimacy. And less you had doctrine, unless you had read the Word, unless you knew the Mosaic law, it was easy for people to get deceived into thinking that this worship site, this site, was for worship of Yahweh. But it wasn't. It was forbidden by God and there was nothing legitimate about it whatsoever, and the reason people got deceived and got sucked into going up there was because they didn't know the Word of God, and even if they did know some of it they didn't have discernment. They weren't able to tell truth from error.
This is the same thing that is happening today. With some of today's false teaching it is obvious from the start, but with others it is much more subtle and we have to develop discernment to understand what is really being said and taught in many situations. This calls for critical thinking and critical thinking skills.
One of the best sellers on the New York Times best seller list has been a little book called "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson. Bruce Wilkinson is the president and founder of the "Walk Through the Bible Ministry." He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. This book has had a tremendous impact, selling in the neighborhood of five or six million copies in just a year. To give that some perspective, the average Christian book sells between 3 and 4000 copies. Some people with doctrine have been promoting this book and they ought to know better. And just shows that because you know doctrine doesn't mean you can think or exercise discernment. And that is the principle in doing this. There are a lot of people know doctrine but they can't apply it in terms of discernment. The Prayer of Jabez is a book that is based upon a little-known prayer in 1 Chronicles 4:9, 10: "And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow [We don't know the reason or the circumstances]. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested."
Jabez is asking God to bless him, but we have to understand the context. Comparing this genealogy with others what we find that this man was operating at the same time in history as that which we have been studying in Judges 17 & 18, the conquest generation. He has been given land. The Danites were given land and every family in the tribe of Dan were given land. He was give land as a portion of inheritance. We are told that he "called on the God of Israel, saying" and this is the prayer, "Oh that thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast…[KJV]" The word for coast in the Hebrew is gabul which refers to a border, a boundary, a piece of land. It refers to a piece of real estate. He is saying he has been given a piece of real estate and he wants more. He wants to establish himself and his tribe. He is operating in the conquest generation on the basis of the promise of God that God gave Israel specific real estate. So he is taking God at His word and calling on God and saying, "Bless me in terms of the promise you have given me." This is what we call the faith-rest drill; it is mixing faith with the promise of God. It is a historical situation; God promised them land; he is saying, Lord let me take the land; let me have victory over my enemies, as it were. The concept of blessing here has to do with how God is going to take care of him. He wants to be blessed in a specific way and that is by taking the territory given to him and, in fact, being able to take even more territory. "… and that your hand [power] would be with me." Hand in Scripture is always a metaphor for power. In other words, he is recognizing that he is going to have victory over the Canaanites, not on the basis of his power, his military might or his technology, but because God is going to give him the victory. God gives us the victory when we trust in Him. "… and that thou wouldst keep me from evil." In other words, in context to keep him from being defeated and destroyed by the enemy. "And God granted him that which he requested." He took the land. But that is not how it is handled in this book by Wilkinson.
The sub-title for this book is "Breaking Through to the Blessed Life." If you have any sense at all when you read that red flags ought to be going up. On the back cover it states, "Do you want to be extravagantly blessed by God? Are you ready to reach for the extraordinary? To ask God for the abundant blessings He longs to give you?" Now there is a certain element of truth in that, but remember, a glass of water is necessary for your health and sustenance of life. It maybe 99% pure but it is that drop of cyanide in there that is going to kill you. Just because there is a lot of truth in something doesn't mean that it is profitable. It goes on to read, "Join Bruce Wilkinson to discover how the remarkable prayer of a little-known Bible hero can release God's favor, power and protection." It is like, God is this machine and of you say the right formula it will release that power in your life. Now that verbiage is so typical of the whole health and wealth prosperity gospel movement among charismatics. "You will see how one daily prayer can help you leave the past behind and break through to the life you were meant to live." Your radar ought to be going off at this point.
In the preface to his book Wilkinson writes, "I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers." There will not be an exception, is what he is saying. "I believe it is the key to an extraordinary life with God." In other words, what he is saying is, "You can read the rest of the Bible but if you don't understand the prayer of Jabez you will never have what God intends for you to have in your spiritual life. This is the secret key to success in the spiritual life." Beware of anybody who says there is one key, there is one step, there is one thing that you need after salvation, in order to experience all that God has for you. That is the holiness theology error, that is the charismatic error, that is part of many Keswick teachers' error in the last century, that is salvation you got salvation grace but at some time after salvation there needed to be a second work, whether they called it yieldedness, dedication, baptism of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, or all kinds of labels for it, it is the Christian two-step—you get one step at the cross and a second step after the cross. And this is the same kind of thing. It is saying that the reason you don't have what you think you ought to have in your life is because you haven't prayed the prayer of Jabez. The claim in the book is that if we just pray the prayer of Jabez word for word then God's power will be released in our lives.
1) The implication is that if we just get the right formula, go through the right ritual, say it the right way, that God will prosper us. That is what they did in the fertility religions in the ancient world. As long as they had sex with the right temple prostitute they would get blessing from God.
2) It is a quick-fix solution for prosperity or blessing. You don't need doctrine, spiritual growth, fellowship. There's no mention of the fact that before we pray to God we need to be in fellowship, just say the words verbatim over and over again all through the day. No need to be in fellowship, no need tot hink biblically, no need to think at all, just recite it.
3) It panders to an apostate society's yearning for blessing and validation from God by diluting and destroying the meaning of blessing. That is what everybody wants: quick superficial solutions so that we can get on with our lives and not have to do anything like renovate our thinking. He redefines miracles so that a miracle can mean anything. Principle: If anything can be a miracle then nothing is a miracle. A miracle is when God works to abrogate the natural scientific laws and does something in contrast to that. For example, when Peter is walking on the water; when someone is born blind and Jesus and then Jesus heals them and they are no longer blind. But that is not what is written in this book, it says to pray for larger borders is to ask for a miracle, it's that simple.
4) He uses metaphysical language common to charismatics. It's too tough to study God's word and be in Bible class twice a week, I just want something quick and simple.
5) It violates the Scripture method for prayer. For example, in Matthew 6:7 Jesus says, "When you are praying, don't use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do."
6) It operates on speculation. Over and over again throughout this book he speculates about what Jabez was thinking, what he was doing as he prayed, or the details about his birth or what his mother was thinking, and none of that is in the Bible. Then he builds doctrines on speculation.
7) He uses success stories to validate his method.
8) He completely divorces his application from the historical exegetical context of 1 Chronicles chapter four. He takes it out of context, twists it and distorts it in order to make it teach what he claims it teaches.