Summary: The ignorance of the Hebrews leads them to unfaithfulness. They are naive and think culture will not effect them spiritually. Let us overcome our ignorance and protect our faith.
The people of Israel are on the plains of Moab across the river Jordan about 10 miles southeast of Jericho, they are preparing to enter into the promise land. The Moabites want the Israelites to leave as they are afraid the people of Israel will desolate the land of produce, so their king, Balak, hires the prophet Balaam to place a curse on the Israelites to cause the Israelites to leave. However, the Lord God intervenes and reverses the situation causing Balaam to bless the nation of Israel rather than curse the nation of Israel. The king Balak is frustrated, the prophet Balaam is frustrated.
Understand, the prophet Balaam was all for cursing the people of Israel, Balaam would produce a curse in a heartbeat, but because of the intervention of God, Balaam could not place a curse, he could only bless. So Balaam stands with Balak overlooking the people of Israel, what could be done? Balaam cannot directly curse Israel…but where a direct threat could not be effective, something innocuous could be quite effective. Rev 2:14 tells us that Balaam hatches a plan that could potentially have the nation of Israel implode upon itself. Here in Numbers chapter 25 is the result of that plan.
Remember, at this point, the people of Israel are unaware that the prophet Balaam was hired by Balak to curse them, they are completely unaware that the Moabites and Midianites are plotting against them and at this point, they just as unaware that God has intervened to stop Balaam from calling upon evil spirits to go against the them. Moab will attempt to conquer by the force of culture, and they will be very effective. There are forces, both human and spiritual, that are actively working against the Israelites, however the Israelites seem completely unaware of this.
Let me stop here for a moment. Here we are this morning, living our lives - going to work, taking care of our families, going fishing, coming to church, just living our lives. At times in our lives we have great difficulties, serious difficulties – these difficulties seem to come out of nowhere and at other times we can see that our difficulties arise from mistakes or the sin in our lives. So we live our life trying to surmount these difficulties with the help of God. All that said, here is a question for you to consider this morning: Is it you, me, God against the world we live in? Or is there another dimension involved in our lives?
You bet there is.
There is a spiritual dimension behind everything we do and experience, whether we are aware of it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. Here in our passage today there is an evil at work, and it does not want the people of Israel to be successful, and if a direct attack will not work, an indirect attack will do just fine. Let us not be ignorant, let us not be fooled by the modern world we live in, let us not continue to pretend that what we deal with day to day is only what we see and touch. We live in a spiritual world, and we are spiritual beings.
Balaam, he is a man of the occult, and a man of the occult is no friend of the people of God – he will use something out of sight, something personal, an individual decision, an individual act, a diverging of loyalty, something that appears harmless to bring down an entire nation.
What happens in our passage today, is that, a thing of culture that appears to be, well, just a thing of culture, but in reality, it turns out to be an attack on biblical morality, and it has the ability to spiritually destroy. I want us to note upfront a couple of things to keep tabs on as we go through this passage. First, notice that the ignorance of the Hebrews draws them into unfaithfulness and second, notice what starts off as against the Word of God, quickly becomes a normal event – and you know what they say – the trouble with normal, is it always gets worse.
OK. So the people of Israel are camped across the river Jordan fairly close to the city of Jericho, just living their lives and….Moabite and Midianite women invite the men to worship Baal – Peor. Now they go after the Israelite men and not the Israeli woman, not because men are weak, but because the men are the head of the household. The custom of the day was the god that the head of the household worshipped – everyone in the family worshiped. So the Moabites go after the men. See, if a majority of families worship Baal – Peor then they won’t worship the God of Israel, or listen to him either. They will cease to culturally be Hebrews, and culturally become Canaanites. Balaam knows God is real, he has had a conversation with him, and has seen him in the form of the Angel of the Lord. Balaam also knows that if he can get the people follow Baal – Peor they won’t follow God and that fellow Moses and the whole nation of Israel will fall apart, they will leave, and he will get his promised money.