1 – How to Stop the People of God
“1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them.” Numbers 25:1-3 NIV
Israel was doing better. The ending of Numbers 24 and the beginning of Numbers 25 finds them nearing the end of their 40 year journey in the wilderness. Israel had earlier lost their faith in God and in His provision for them when they chose not to enter into the Promised Land. They looked at the obstacles around them and thought that victory was entirely dependant on their own abilities (or lack-there-of) and as a result they rebelled against God and were forced to wander the wilderness for 40 years. In Numbers 25, the 40 year journey is nearing a close and they are preparing for another chance to enter into God’s promises for them. They were in the home stretch, and victory was literally right over the river! There must have been a great amount of excitement and enthusiasm at this point for Israel.
Still, Israel almost missed another opportunity to enter the Promised Land in Numbers 25. It is amazing that since they left Egypt, none of attacks from the outside by their enemies could stop Israel. They seemed invincible and could not be overcome physically by the armies of their surrounding enemies.
After Balaam, a prophet hired by Balak (King of the Moab), to curse Israel had failed, Balaam gave Balak some very shrewd advice on how to take down God’s people. Since the enemy could not curse God’s people or overwhelm them by force, they could try a more subtle and shrewd attempt of attack. The way that the enemy got to Israel was when Israel fell prey to sin on the inside rather than attacks from the outside! They could not overcome God’s people by powerful army or by physical attack. Balaam told Balak a much more subtle and shrewd way to attack God’s people. Because of God’s protection, no enemy could overcome Israel from the outside, but if they allowed their hearts to stray, Israel could cause their own downfall because of their rebellious hearts the inside. Balaam offered the advice of being nice to God’s people, inviting them to parties, and seducing them into falling into sin with their (Moab’s) women.
Rather than attack with armies, they could try and get God’s people to rebel on their own!
By the way, this principle holds true for God’s people today. The greatest physical attacks of Satan can never do as much damage to the believer as our own inward sin and rebellion against the Lord. Often I think that the attacks of the enemy are always going to be dramatic and obvious. I must remember that the goal of the enemy is to turn my hearts back to Egypt, and he does not give up easily. Satan knows that I am not likely to turn to another religion or to outright deny God. As a result, he instead tries to entice me to turn away from God to satisfy my own flesh instead.
Throughout scriptures and history, the church has been faced with two types of persecution. The most spoken of and recognized persecution is when the church is violently persecuted and authorities try to physically stomp out and extinguish the church. This is happening in China and the Middle East at this time.
The more subtle persecution comes when the culture of the day tries to assimilate the church into being the same as everyone else and doing the same thing. This also happened to Daniel and his friends when they were transplanted to Babylon. This chapter shows the latter type of persecution that the American church faces today. We are told, “Blend in. Be tolerant. Enjoy. Compromise your faith. Just don’t you dare push your faith on anyone else.”
As followers of Christ, I must be aware and on guard against BOTH types of persecution that we as believers face. We’ll explore this more in the next devotion.
Heavenly Father, nothing can stop me as long as I am empowered and enabled by Your goodness and mercy. Amen.