Day 40--Sex and Food--"A Glimpse of the Future" Numbers 22:1 -25:18
February 9, 2021, 6:00 AM

Day 40—Numbers 22:1 – 25:18

Balaam took a huge risk. He defied Balak, the leader of the Moabites over and over and over again. Balak needed to take control of the Israelite people who were advancing on Moab. Balak knew that they had already defeated King Sihon and taken possession of all his lands. Even without texting and newspapers, news traveled quickly, especially since they seem to win every battle and take possession of all the lands where they fight.

Balaam’s job is divination—using the spirit world to predict the future or to foretell events. In this case, Balaam was considered powerful enough that he could pronounce effective blessings or curses against enemies. Divination still occurs today in seances with mediums, or with psychics or fortunetellers or tarot readings. Divination is NOT harmless. Allowing spirits other than God to have influence in our lives can create spiritual chaos in our souls, and confusion about God’s role in our world. But it is attractive to think we can get a peek into our future, or communicate with a dead relative, or even curse an enemy. But such information is not necessarily dependable or even authoritative, and it can be dangerous to us because it gives us a sense of power over unseen or unknown things. In the book of James from the New Testament we read “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (1:5) Wisdom is different than fortunetelling.

In any case, God thwarts both Balak and Balaam’s plans by refusing to allow Balaam to curse the people. But of course God does it in a creative way—he lets the donkey do the talking. This is a familiar story that children love as well because it features all great characters—a kind of bad guy, Balaam, a talking animal and an angel with a sword.

The problem was Balak. He wanted to push his agenda, even though God repeatedly told him, thorough Balaam, that it would not be honored. Balaam, strangely enough, was completely faithful to God and refused to speak any words other than those given him by God.

I read an interesting commentary about this: “It is easy for us to listen for God’s voice only from sources we know. This often means listening only to those people who think like we do, belong to our social circles, or speak and act like us. This may mean we never pay attention to others who would take a different position from us. It becomes easy to believe that God is telling us exactly what we already thought.” https://www.theologyofwork.org/old-testament/numbers-and-work/when-god-speaks-through-unexpected-sources-numbers-22-24

Ouch!! That can be so true. Or perhaps the point is that we might even misconstrue God’s silence as approval for something. We know that’s not the case from the very beginning in the Garden. Free will means that we get to choose whether to follow, whether to love, whether to serve the LORD, or not.

And so we come to the verses that have really been bugging me this morning. I almost scrapped all the Balak/Balaam stuff because I can’t get this out of my head—sex and food. Chapter 25 is all about the Israelites straying in order to have sex with the Moabite women, and to eat the food being sacrificed to Baal, a pagan god. (We’ll hear more about Baal in future readings.)  

Perhaps it’s because sex and food are instinctive drives for us, key to our survival as a people group, and as a family unit. Or is it the pleasure we derive from these things, especially if they are forbidden pleasures? Sex with people from outside the camp of Israel also brings up concerns about conception, inheritance and lineage once again.

This socializing was serious enough among the Israelites that it was referred to as ‘a plague’, almost like a sickness that had taken hold of the people. And once one person crosses the line, it becomes easier and easier for the other ‘sheep’ to make their way in that direction as well. So it seems to circle around to leadership again. Because it was the ultimate, final, insulting, “in-your-face-God” example of Zimri/Israel and Cozbi/Moab waltzing into Zimri's family tent together, in full view of the leaders who were at the tent of meeting/presence of God that brought everything into focus. It was a clear showdown, a bold walk of shame that had no shame in it. And God will not abide that in his chosen people.

Like us, Zimri had a choice to make. The harder choice by far is to resist the easy pleasures and temptations—I mean, all they had was MANNA, right?

Matthew Henry is a bible commentator from the 1700’s known for his full study (or exposition) of the entire bible. One of his comments for today really stuck with me regarding this event in the lives of the Israelites:

“We must not think, that because God does not always by his providence restrain men [people] from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is not hateful to him.”

And from the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians: You say: ‘I have the right to do anything,’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:23)

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Note: I felt sort of scattered and uninspired today—my apologies. I sit under my figurative fig tree, say my prayers, do my study, and today is really the first day I can’t quite grab what I wanted, or what God wanted me to say, other than the final verses about Chapter 25. Sex and food—good gifts given to us by God, but they so easily become self-serving and distracting to us. That is staying with me.

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Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

 

 

 

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