I. THE APOSTASY OF DAN
A. Gaining More Christ by His Victorious Life
Dan was the continuation of Judah, for Judah was a lion and Dan was a young lion. As the continuation of Judah, Dan was successful in gaining more Christ by his victorious life (Deut. 33:22; Josh. 19:47; Judg. 18:27-29).
B. Being Individualistic and Independent
Because Dan was successful and victorious, he became proud, individualistic, and independent. He cared only for himself, not for others. As Judges 18:30 says, "The children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image" (Heb.).
C. Setting Up a Divisive Center of Worship
and Ordaining a Hired "Priest"
Dan’s apostasy was the setting up of a divisive center of worship (Judg 18:30-31; 17:9-10; 1 Kings 12:26-31; 2 Kings 10:29). In a divisive way Dan set up a center apparently for the worship of God. Many use the matter of the worship of God as a cloak for setting up a divisive center. Some would say, "What could be wrong with doing such a thing for the worship of God? Isn’t it better to set up a center of worship than to go to a movie theater?" According to the history in the Old Testament, nothing throughout the generations was more sinful or more damaging to God’s people than Dan’s act of setting up a divisive center of worship. In Deuteronomy 12, 14, 15, and 16 the Lord through Moses charged the children of Israel at least fifteen times not to offer their burnt offerings in the place of their choice. They were commanded to go to the unique place the Lord had chosen for His name and for His habitation. Deuteronomy 12:13 and 14 say, "Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee." The Lord seemed to be saying, "When you enter into the good land, you must not offer your burnt offerings in any of the places you see. You must go to the unique place, the place I have chosen for My name and My habitation. You have no right to choose any other place. You must go to this unique center. It is this center that keeps My people in oneness." Again and again Moses, the elderly, loving lawgiver, charged the children of Israel concerning this matter. If you read these chapters, you will see that Moses charged the people concerning the unique place, the place the Lord had chosen for His name and for His habitation. The reason the Lord commanded Moses to issue this charge repeatedly was that He was concerned about maintaining the unity of His people.
After the children of Israel entered the good land, the tabernacle, the house of God, was in Shiloh (Judg. 18:31). As long as the tabernacle was in Shiloh, Shiloh was the unique center for the worship of God. As the unique center, it should have maintained the unity of God’s people. However, Dan set up another center in the north, which caused the first division among the children of Israel. In this way God’s people were divided, not by a movie theater, but by a worship center. Today Christians excuse themselves by saying, "We are doing something here for the worship of God. What is wrong with this? God is not narrow; He is omnipresent. You have Him with you in your place. Is He not also here with us in our place? Certainly God is not as narrow as you are. He is everywhere. How can you limit Him to a particular place?" Nevertheless, God enjoys being limited for the purpose of keeping the unity of His people. Most Christians today are too free. Like the Danites, they feel free to set up another center of worship.
Judges 18:30 says, "The children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image" (Heb.). Here we see that the Danites did something for themselves. They did not care for the other tribes. Thus, the source of their apostasy was not caring for their brothers. Not caring for the other parts of the Body is the source of apostasy. This apostasy crept in under the guise of the worship of God. The principle is the same today. Many Christians set up other centers, not for gambling or dancing, but for worshipping God. Although this seems so positive, it is actually done by the self and for the self. Every divisive center is established for someone’s self-interest. Such a practice causes not only division, but also competition.
If Dan had not set up another center of worship, there would have been only the unique center of worship in Shiloh. There would have been no competition. No matter how far the Israelites were from Shiloh, they had to go there to worship. But after Dan set up his center of worship in the north, he used the matter of convenience as a good selling point for his cargo. He could say, "You don’t need to travel to Shiloh. Look, we are worshipping God right here in your own neighborhood." A divisive group in New York has done something very similar. A member of this group called an elderly sister and said, "Come meet with us. We meet in Chinese and have a Chinese flavor. In America it is difficult to have some Chinese flavor. Come meet with us and enjoy this Chinese flavor." This was their method of salesmanship for their cheap, divisive cargo.
(Life-Study of Genesis, Chapter 103, by Witness Lee)