“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
This, at last, is the theme of the book and its final assessment. The people of Israel had fallen to a place where everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. When a culture reaches this point, anything goes and most of it isn’t good. We each became gods unto ourselves and everything becomes a holy crusade as we try to establish our divine fiefdoms at the expense of those around us. In the end, no one wins.
Just think about the events narrated in this chapter and the next. A man named Micah steals a pretty large sum of money from his mother, she uses a portion of the total to make a household god which she promptly gives back to him, he sets up his own little religion in his house and hires the first Levite who comes down the road as his personal priest, another group of Israelites go looking for a god they can set up in their own territory so they don’t have to travel for worship, they take Micah’s priest and god by force and do just that. And in the end, nobody really believes they’ve done anything wrong! Then, in the next chapter, things take an even darker turn.
No culture can survive long with this level of chaos constantly being unleashed within its borders. It will eventually turn on itself and destroy itself. Indeed, this is exactly where the book ends.
So, what’s the lesson here? Well, consider the worldview that is becoming increasingly dominant in our culture. Postmodernism holds that morality is relative. It believes truth is elusive and what’s right is a moving target determined at any one time by who has the ability to enforce their will. Sound familiar? In postmodernism there is only Nietzsche’s will to power. Might makes right. And everybody does what is right in their own eyes.
Friends, ours is a culture that is actively sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Now, does this mean I think we are simply doomed? Far from it. But the path we are taking is not a good one. We simultaneously tell people that they determine what is right for them and that everyone is somehow a victim. Those are not coherent positions to hold at the same time. Everyone is doing what’s right in their own eyes, and everyone is losing while doing it.
Even those who make a name for themselves by claiming a religiously motivated moral high ground are proving they are little more than artifacts of this culture in decline. The sad irony is that these revelations only serve to increase cynicism and lead us further down this path. We must wake up and find the truth–for truth really is an objective thing, contrary to what we are told–once again or we will all lose.