Straying and paying

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Are you reading the Bible through with me? Grab your pen and journal, and get ready to write your thoughts as you journey through the Bible.

Today read Numbers 25-27. In these chapters we read of a census in preparation for war and God's pronouncement of Moses' impending death and Joshua's appointment as his successor.

The Israelites had strayed from God. The men had involved themselves in sexual immorality with Moabite women and the worship of idols, just like Balaam had hoped. Since God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel, he encouraged the Moabites to weaken the Israelites by using Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men and encourage them to bow in worship to the Moabite gods. With the one true God no longer on their side, the Israelites would be easy to defeat. So the Moabite women seduced the men, who fell for the oldest trick in the book. They turned from God and made sacrifices to Baal, the Moabite god, and then ate the meat from it. It was idolatry without question and God held both Israel and the Moabites AND Balaam responsible. Balaam would eventually get what was coming to him.

To punish them for their idolatry, God sent a plague among the people of Israel and 24,000 died. It continued until a devoted priest of God named Phineas saw one of the sinful Israelite men and his Moabite girlfriend who flaunted their forbidden relationship right at door of the tabernacle tent. Phineas was so furious on God’s behalf, that he took a spear and drove it through the man and his Moabite woman, killing them both. At that moment, God’s punishing plague stopped.

While this might sound cruel and unusual to us, it is a stark reminder to Israel and to contemporary Christians that Yahweh takes holiness very seriously - both His and ours, and He tolerates no other gods before Him. That includes anything that takes our focus off Him.

Holiness is not defined nor refined by culture. It is defined for eternity by God's word. To flaunt before the world what God calls sin is to invite His rebuke and correction. It is the most loving and gracious thing He can do for us. There might be punishment as a consequence of our sin, but with repentant hearts, He will forgive us and forget the sin. 1 Peter 2:2, 13-21.

PRAY: Holy Father God, forgive us when we take our eyes off You and look at things of the world. Help us to graciously accept Your correction and discipline, knowing that You love us and want a relationship with us.

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