Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Numbers 25, 26, 27

The Jordan River and "Kfar-Hanasi" b...Image via Wikipedia
Remember how in the movie Star Wars, just before the Death Star exploded you saw a small space ship fly off from it?  You just knew that Darth Vader was coming back.

So, in Numbers 24 we read that, King Balak, after failing to get the most powerful wizard/prophet of his country to curse Israel, went his own way.  Really? King Balak was beyond irate that Balaam could not pronounce curses to override God’s blessings on Israel.  And Balaam, who was on King Balak’s side, wanted to curse Israel but was unable to do so because God prevented him. I'm sure that they passionately sought a way  to get back at Israel.  I don't believe that these two quietly went away, never to resurface.  I can picture them as being as devious as Darth Vader.

When  the Moabites first saw Israel, they were determined to destroy them. However,  the clever Moabites understood that if they could not curse Israel it was also unlikely that they would win in a battle against them.  So, it was time for Plan B.  I believe that King Balak and Balaam masterminded a plan to pry Israel away from the protection God afforded them.  They probably perceived some level of discontent in the Israelite camp.  Acting on that, they decided to appear to be friends or at least, friendly.  After all, they never openly attacked Israel.

In Numbers 25, we read that the Israelite men were seduced by the Moabite women.  Now how could that happen?      

At this point the nation of Israel had spent forty yeas wandering in the desert as they buried the generation that rebelled against God.  Israel collected manna every morning and ate it throughout the day; no country was their own; they were always on the move. I would imagine that there were many un-happy campers in Israel who were dissatisfied with Moses’ leadership and with God’s plans.  And, many, I’m sure many were bored with the lack of variety in their food. 

Scripture states that the Moabite women invited the men of Israel to the sacrifices to their gods, where they worshipped and feasted.  Many in Israel accepted this invitation. As the men of Israel happily ate barbequed meat and joined in the festivities, they fell into sexual immorality and spiritual bankruptcy. 

As many of Israel’s leaders thus rejected God and truly began to worship Baal, they effectively told the rest of Israel that all gods are equal; that the Moabites have a good form of worship; that it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you believe, as long as you believe in some kind of Higher Power. By taking Moabite women into their homes, they also stated that the Moabites were no different from Israel.  The men who turned away from God were setting the stage to destroy the nation God cultivated over the past forty years. 

The toxic doctrine they perpetrated was more efficient in decimating Israel than the battle with Moab would have been.

Scripture says that as God’s anger burned against Israel, a plague that killed 24,000 people was released in the Israelite camp.  Only when Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ran a spear through one of the most notable offenders, did the plague stop.  God said that His anger was turned away because Phinehas had as much zeal for God’s holiness as God did. 

As one person in Israel stood up for God’s holiness, for his knowledge of God, it sent a powerful enough message throughout the camp that God is real and that there is no other god like Him.  The plague was stopped and Israel understood that God intended for them to be a holy people, set apart from the other nations, only engaging in worship that God sanctioned.

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