Familiarity with Sin Breeds Contempt for God (Numbers 23-25)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 23-25

Our Scripture reading in the Book of Numbers continues the spiritual joust between Balak, the king of Moab, and Balaam the reluctant prophet (Numbers 23-24).

Arriving in the mountain range overlooking the encampment of Israel, Balaam was met by an anxious king who chided the prophet for not coming at his bidding (22:36-37).  Balak, king of Moab, asked the prophet, “Wherefore camest thou not unto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?” (22:37).

Numbers 23 and 24 record a contest between a king who demands Balaam curse Israel and the LORD who was determined to bless His people. Four times Balak demands Balaam curse Israel (22:41; 23:1-2, 7, 13-14, 25, 24:10-11); four times Balaam obeyed the LORD and blessed the nation (23:8-12, 18-24; 24:1-9, 15-25).

Tragedy: Israel Plays the Whore with the World (Numbers 25)

The opening verses of Numbers 25 come as a shock after the three prior chapters where the LORD exhibited His protection and loving care of Israel (Numbers 22-24). We read,

Numbers 25:11  And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.

Shittim was the staging ground for Israel before that nation crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land.  Consider three spiritual lessons on display in Numbers 25.

The first is a tragic lesson concerning the Lure of Sin, in particular, sexual immorality.

Provoking the LORD to wrath, some men in Israel had committed sexual immorality with heathen neighbors (25:1). Having become familiar with the sinful ways of the heathen, some had cast aside all moral restraint. Whoredom, offering sacrifices to idols, eating meat offered to idols, and worshipping Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull, displayed the complete moral degradation of the people (25:1-3).

The apostle Paul warned New Testament believers of the lure of sin, writing: Be not deceived [seduced; led astray]: evil [worthless; wicked; immoral] communications [companions; company] corrupt [defile] good [kind; gracious] manners [morals; character] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

A second lesson is the tragic Consequence of Sin (25:3b-5). 

The sins of the people were so egregious the LORD demanded swift justice (25:3b-4).  Rather than punish the nation, the LORD demanded His judgment fall upon the leaders, described as “the heads of the people.” These men were either party to the wickedness or had knowledge of the sins and failed to address it in the midst.  The leaders were hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:4-5).

A third lesson is the swift justice required when a faithful minister witnesses a man’s contempt for the LORD, His commandments, and the LORD’S congregation (25:6-18).

One sin led to another until one man, a prominent prince of the tribe of Simeon (25:14), openly sinned “in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).

Phinehas, the son of the priest Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the late high priest, rose up and slew the man and the Midianite woman (25:7-8).  Commended by the LORD for his zeal and swift action to stay God’s judgment, Phinehas was promised he and his family would be benefactors of the LORD’s blessings (25:10-13).

Nevertheless, twenty-four thousand “died in the plague” (25:9).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith