While waiting for God to lead them into their new land, many Israelites succumbed to the temptations organized by the king of Moab, as recommended to him by Balaam, a corrupted prophet.
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, and God kept Balaam from making this fatal error. Balaam returned safely home after blessing, rather than cursing, the Israelites, choosing to obey God in defiance to the king.
Unfortunately for Balaam, he later decided to return to the land of the Moab 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 men away from the source of their strength, Almighty God, and without the blessing of God, the Israelites would be much more easily defeated.
The plan worked. Men were leaving the worship of God in droves to participate in the worship of Moab’s 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 judgment on Moab, excepting the women who did not participate in the immoral scheme. Balaam himself fell dead to God’s judgement when Israel defeated Moab.
We are all vulnerable to the temptation of having a divided mind and heart. In the New Testament book of Revelation, Jesus spoke a rebuke to the church of Pergamos, which was 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 old lifestyles and get closer to God. This included pursuing a moral life using God’s standards, not human ones. That is not always so easy to do, especially in today’s world, but it pleases God whenever we choose Him and seek to live in obedience. If we fail, we can turn to Him for forgiveness and, in His power and grace, do our best to avoid the old behaviors and habits which hinder our closeness with Him.
God will abundantly pardon our sins if we confess them to Him, seek to do better, and forgive those who offend us. But Moses warns us not to try to hide our sin from Him. While counseling a group of Israelites to keep the promises they had made to God, Moses gives us all a sober 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)
All people sin, but the good news is that the penalty has been paid for us at the cross of Christ. We are forgiven and redeemed through our faith in Him. God’s love for each one of us is poured out without measure, despite our many shortcomings.
What sins of my past am I tempted to return to today?
Is anyone around me giving evil counsel, tempting me away from God?
Can you think of a time in your past where God stepped in to prevent you from committing a grievous sin, one that would have haunted you to this day?
Father God, help us to grow closer to You in faith and to behold the beauty of the Lord. May Your goodness and glory keep us from chasing after worthless idols and pleasures. Forgive us for the times we have sinned against You and others. Help us to forgive others and to make amends for our past failures – we seek to walk in Your righteous paths. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Have a very blessed day today!