For the week of July 7, 2001 / 16 Tammuz 5761
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 22:2 - 25:9
Haftarah: Micah 5:6 - 6:8

The Road to Depravity

While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD's anger burned against them (Bemidbar / Numbers 25:1-3).

The incident at Peor, where sexual immorality led to Israel worshipping the false god Baal, immediately follows the story of Balak and Balaam. Balak was the king of the nation of Moab. Fearful of the Israelites, he hired the false prophet Balaam to curse them.

This story is one of the more detailed stories in the Torah. God protected the Israelites by not allowing Balaam to curse them. But right after this, the Israelites turned away from God. What is not obvious at this point of the story is that Balaam was responsible for this. It is a few chapters over that we read a reference to the women who seduced the Israelite men. Moses says,

They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people (Bemidbar / Numbers 31:16).

What Balaam couldn't accomplish through divination, he did through sexual immorality.

We could ask the question, if God protected the people from Balaam's attempt to curse them, why did he not protect them from the seduction of the Moabite women? We don't know, because we are not told. But I think we can observe three things.

First, God takes care of things that are outside of our control. The Israelites had nothing to do with Balak's hiring of Balaam. They were engaging in spiritual activity that Israel knew nothing about. But God did and would not allow them to succeed against his people.

Second, God will often let us do what we want. He didn't prevent this from happening. The men did not have to give in to the overtures of these women. But they did and the whole nation suffered.

Finally, sexual immorality leads to spiritual depravity. We need to understand how destructive sexual sin is. Our society has worked hard to make us think that we do not have to take these things seriously. We think that we can treat sexual matters lightly. We need to accept that God's limits on sexual behavior are not restrictive and unnecessary. If we stray from God's directives in this area, the negative consequences might be irreversible.

God does protect his people from evil, but if we irresponsibly fail to do our part, we may end up in big trouble.

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