Read: Numbers 31:1-54
“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. Numbers 31:15 – 17
Wow! Reading this story without understanding the context makes this scripture hard to swallow. Who am I kidding, even knowing the context makes this section hard to swallow.
Here is a quick synopsis of the context. The Israelites were living next to a group of people, (the Midianites) who took part in idol worship which included sexual acts as worship. In chapter 25 of the book of Numbers it is recorded that quite a few of the Israelite men were seduced by the Midianite women and took part in this worship. Because of their actions, a plague was sent among the people.
In chapter 31, we see that God tells Moses to battle against these people to avenge Israel. So, off thousands of soldiers go to do away with these unholy idol worshippers. They have great success and kill every man but bring back all of the women and children.
In our modern understanding of war, they did the proper thing. As if anything about war seems proper to us. In our understanding of war, soldiers are killed, but innocent women and children should be kept safe.
That is a whole lot different than what we see in this scripture. You see, the women were the ones who had actively pursued and seduced the men. They were the source of the temptation that had led to great sin. Not a good idea to bring them INTO the community. It was as if the soldiers totally missed the point of the entire battle.
With the Midianite women now living among the Israelite men, the potential for debauchery was even worse. Moses wasn’t taking the chance and had all the women who were not virgins killed.
No one can ever say the Bible is rated PG or PG 13 for that matter.
I have said this before in these devotionals and I must say it again. God is serious about sin. The Israelites were called to be set apart, holy, and different than those around them. They were to be a tangible example of the holiness of God. Instead of being examples and light to their neighbors, the Israelites fell into sin under the influence of the very people they were supposed to influence. God was having none of it and had the Israelites go to great lengths to resist the temptations around them.
This incident reminds me of something Jesus says in the New Testament. In Matthew 5: 29 Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Oh, how this resonates with the church today! We are called to be salt and light, set apart, different from those who do not believe who are around us. Let us not fall into temptation and succumb to the influence of the very people God wants to save.
Do you need to go to some extreme measures to make sure you are far from temptation? Maybe you need to cancel cable or the internet. Maybe you need to get rid of your smart phone. Maybe you need to have strict boundaries with your boyfriend or girlfriend and not be alone with them. Maybe you need to have someone always help you count money at work.
Ask God to show you if you are making life harder for yourself by unknowingly bringing temptation into your life.
Father, thank you that you are so faithful and good to me. Help me to follow after you and see the temptations I face for what they are. Give me wisdom to cut things out of my life, that are only making my spiritual battle more difficult for me.