25 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. 2 They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel. Numbers 25:1-3 NKJV
Balaam the prophet and sorcerer had been called down from a land in the north to assist the king of Moab against the Israelites. The king knew of Balaam’s dark spiritual powers of sorcery, and wanted him to curse the Israelites, weakening them before battle. But Balaam also had a relationship with the Lord God, and God kept Balaam from making this fatal error. Balaam safely returned home after blessing rather than cursing the Israelites, obeying God in defiance of the king of Moab.
Unfortunately for Balaam, he decided to return to the land of the south and gave the king advice on how to weaken the Israelites: seduce the men into immoral activity tied to the worship of false gods. This would lead the men away from the source of their power, Almighty God, and without the blessing of God, the Israelites would be easily defeated.
The plan worked. Men were leaving the worship of God in droves to participate in the worship of false gods, which included sexual immorality with the women of Moab.
God was not pleased. He sent a plague amongst the people to reign them back in, which cost the lives of twenty-four thousand men. God also placed a severe judgement on Moab, except for the women who did not participate in the immoral scheme. Balaam himself fell dead to God’s judgement.
In the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus had a rebuke for the church of Pergamos, known as a compromising church:
14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak (king of Moab) to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Revelation 2:14 NKJV
Jesus had great compassion on prostitutes, adulterers and sinners, but He also instructed them to turn away from their lifestyles and turn to God. This included trying to live a moral life by God’s standards, not man’s. That is not easy in today’s world, but it pleases God when we turn to Him and seek to live in obedience. When we fail, we turn to Him for forgiveness and, with His power and grace, do our best to avoid any behaviors or habits that hinder the closeness of our relationship with God.
We want to do everything in our power to turn away from the sins of our past. While counseling a group of Israelites to keep the promises they made to God, Moses gives all of us a sobering warning to remember:
23 But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23 NKJV
What sins of my past am I tempted to return to today?
Who around us gives us evil counsel cloaked with a temptation for something we desire?
Can you think of a time in your past where God prevented you from committing a grievous sin, one that would have haunted you even to this day?