One lesson that comes out in Numbers 22-24 is that, as a whole, God’s people are invincible. In those chapters, Balak, the king of the Moabites, and Balaam, a pagan seer, tried their best to put a curse on Israel so that the Moabites could then destroy them. God overruled. Every time Balaam spoke, it was a blessing instead of a curse. Incidentally, all of this was going on without the Israelites’ knowledge!
The New Testament parallel is that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ.
But overall invincibility does not imply personal invincibility. Nor does it mean that God’s people aren’t vulnerable. Quite the contrary. Numbers 25 reveals just how vulnerable we can be. The failure of many of the Israelites is summarized in verses 1-3.
The way the failure occurred probably goes something like this:
For weeks, the Israelites have been camped on the eastern side of the Jordan River in a region known for large groves of acacia trees, waiting for Moses to die so they can cross the river and begin taking possession of the land. Most recently, they were successful in defeating the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, and subjugating their territories. So they have experienced the heady thrill of great victory, but they’re stuck in a holding pattern. In the meantime, mealtime still consists of some form of manna.
The last thing Balaam did, since he couldn’t curse Israel, was offer a suggestion to the Moabites to try to entice the Israelites to worship Baal—that, he concluded, would force God to punish them severely. Acting on that counsel, young, attractive Moabite women invited the conquering Israelite army to a banquet. And what a feast this was! The fare was sumptuous; the wine poured freely; the people ate to their hearts’ content…and in the process, got drunk. The young Moabite women took the drunken men, with all inhibitions cast to the wind, to their sacred beds of worship, where they were seduced into performing sex acts of worship offered to the fertility god, Baalpeor. With this behavior, the Lord God was disgusted; His punishment would be meted out.
When all was said and done, 24,000 Israelites died under God’s chastening hand.
How could God’s people go from seeming invincibility to such degradation?
- By giving heed to the enticements of the sinners around them…
- By feeling a sense of entitlement to some merrymaking and pleasure…
- By thinking that since they had been so victorious, they couldn’t do anything that would provoke God to hurt them…
- By elevating temporal pleasure to a higher plane than personal holiness…
- By forgetting the Lord God who so graciously delivered them, preserved them, and promised them good.
In short, the same way Christians can. So keep on your toes!