Today’s Guest Post Writer – Greg Monaco: Greg has been in ministry with Youth for Christ since 1973 and is currently the Associate Field Director for YFC/USA in the Great Lakes Region. I first met Greg in 1987 when I was with Youth for Christ. Since that time he has been my ministry director, friend, counselor and performed the wedding ceremony for my lovely wife and I. Greg lives with his wife Gayle in the USA.
Today’s Reading: NUMBERS 25:1-26:65
Yesterday we read about how Balak tried to hire Balaam to take some supernatural potshots at Israel as they gathered outside the Promised Land. To Balak, the Israelites appeared to be a colossal threat to his reign. And to top their appearances off, I am sure he had heard stories about their God and His power and protection over them that made them even more terrifying.
From the outside, Israel was intimidating. In this reading we learn they have 601,730 men of fighting age. (Numbers 26:51) They appeared such a great mass that when Balaam first saw them he said “Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel?” They were strong. They were vast. They had a Mighty God. They were a force to be reckoned with!
But appearances can be deceiving. The most beautiful girl at the dance isn’t always the one with the loveliest heart. Likewise, big biceps don’t have anything to do with strength of character. From the outside Israel looked intimidating, but from the inside, something was rotten.
I wonder if Balak suspected what their weakness was. Balaam having failed him, the next thing we read in chapter 25 is that the Israelite “men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women…” It doesn’t take a PhD to figure out that most men have a soft sin spot when it comes to lust. Maybe Balak sent in the girls? At any rate, yesterday we saw that Balaam made an a** out of himself to make a dollar, and now we see that because of lust, Israel was seduced.
And as if that were not bad enough, the rebellion did not end there. Because of their lust for sex, these sexually blinded men were led into the worship of Baal.
God was angry! Miraculous delivery; forty years in the desert, complaining, rebelling and repenting; a whole generation lost – and now this. Chosen people or not, God was going to clean house. 24,000 died. Well, 24,002, that is.
Thanks to Phinehas, who saw sin, called it sin and acted to preserve God’s honor it stopped there.
Do you ever wonder how people can be so dense? The same pattern repeats over and over again in the Bible… a cycle I find to be all too familiar in my life.
· Mankind is troubled – by sin as well as other tragedies.
· Cries for help
· God draws near
· People repent and believe
· God and his people live in fellowship and joy
· People forget what God saved them from
· They drift (or run) into sin
· And… we start over again
After this story we move to the census. To be honest, I often skim these parts of the Bible. It is fascinating to see who ends up in Jesus’ family tree, but other than that I don’t get much out of it. But there is a hidden gem in this list. Let’s look again at:
The son of Pallu was Eliab, and the sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan and Abiram. The same Dathan and Abiram were the community officials who rebelled against Moses and Aaron and were among Korah’s followers when they rebelled against the LORD. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign. The line of Korah, however, did not die out.
24,002 died in the last chapter, punished for their disobedience. Earlier in Genesis, at the rebellion of Korah, 250 died for similar reasons.
But here we see that despite the fact that their deaths were a lesson, God makes a point of saying that even though they were part of the line of rebellious sinners, in the midst of punishment, I show mercy. I show mercy not just to those who need to be warned away from sin, but even to those who are close to sin.
Like I wrote yesterday, be warned. Guard your hearts against taking God for granted, against abusing His love.
But remember how great is His mercy too.