In Numbers 22-24, we get the story of the pagan prophet Balaam. It is a story made for children’s Sunday School, as Balaam’s donkey is enabled to speak to him and show him the error of his ways.
And Balaam, though wanting to curse the Israelites, is not allowed to do so. Instead, God makes Balaam speak a blessing on Israel.
The story seems to end in chapter 24 with Balaam going home and King Balak being angry with him. Later, we find in Numbers 31:8 that Balaam died when Israel defeated Midian. But this does not tell us the real rest of the story.
Look at the words of Moses speaking about the Midianite women.
Numbers 31:16 – Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.
If you do not know what Moses was talking about, you would have to go back and see Numbers 25. There we see that the nation of Israel, though recently blessed by Balaam, is experiencing the judgment of God. Why? The Israelites are defying the commands of the Lord in several ways. The Midianite women have seduced the Israelite men. The Israelite men are committing sexual immorality with the women of Midian. This also draws the men to participate in the idolatry of the Midianites. And all of this results in God’s judgment on Israel. (This is no longer a good children’s Sunday School idea, by the way.)
Interestingly, in chapter 31, we learn that this happening was not by happenstance. Instead, we learn that this was a scheme of Balaam. Balaam advised Balak to send the women of Midian to tempt the Israelite men into sinning. And the scheme worked. Thus, even though the Lord would not permit Balaam to speak a curse against Israel, Israel earns the curse of God by worshipping idols and committing sexual immorality.
Now, where is a life lesson for the modern Christian? Perhaps it is found in the truth that, when our enemy cannot attack us and defeat us from without, he will move to attack us from within. Israel was shielded against the physical attacks of Midian. But Israel willingly walked into sin and brought about their own hurt.
I wonder how often this is true for churches. How often do we have things go well on the outside only to see ourselves self-destruct internally? How often are our buildings clean, our people well-fed, and our sermons solid even while our hearts, in sin, turn us against the Lord and against one another?
Note as well the specific plan. Balaam used the lusts of the men to bring judgment on them. When nothing would work externally, the enemy attacked the men with the temptation toward sexual immorality.
How many of our men in our churches are outwardly strong, but eaten up inside with sexual sin? How many of our women are in the same boat? How many men are putting on a good outward face, but are watching porn in secret and thinking all is OK? How many of our Christians are turning from the commands of God regarding sex, marriage, gender, and all the rest?
Friends, what God has said to us about sex and marriage is vital to our ability to worship him and serve him. This is not popular today. But you can be assured that, if the devil would use the strategy of sexual immorality and compromise with the neighboring culture in Numbers 31, he will certainly use it against the church today. Accepting sexual immorality was destructive in the days of Moses, and it is destructive today. May we be strengthened by the Lord to withstand these attacks from without and from within.