“Execute the LORD’s vengeance”
Today’s Numbers 31 tells us about the death of Balaam and of those who accepted his counsel that the only way to combat the Israelites – was not by force – but by seducing them into immorality. They took his advice and put it into practice and it had worked! But now God acted!
Our chapter starts,
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Avenge the people of Israel …”
Leading Moses to say,
“Arm men from among you for war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD’s vengeance” (verses 1-3).
The result is the kings of Midian are slain
“and they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword”.
We then read that it was “on Balaam’s advice” (verse 16) that the Midianites had sent in women that
“caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD … and so the plague came among the congregation …”
So Balaam is killed and all those immoral leaders as Moses acted to
“execute the Lord’s vengeance”.
This “vengeance” is seen many times in the Old Testament both against Israel’s enemies and against Israel itself when they themselves lapsed into immorality. The same applies to spiritual Israel: that is, those who claim to follow Christ but whose way of life brings dishonour to Christ’s name, just as unfaithfulness by natural Israel brought dishonour to the Lord’s name. How easy it seems to be for both Jews and Christians to deceive themselves into thinking God will not deal with them when they slip into immoral ways of living. Balaam of all people, who had had such contact with God, as we read in chapters 22-24, should have had a fear of God! But ‘No’!
Sadly the history of Christianity shows too many examples of similar failures. Look back at some blunt words of Paul we read last week in Galatians!
“Do not be deceived God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:7-9).
Balaam sowed the seeds of his own destruction although he had had so much contact with the true God. A lesson to us – what are we sowing? What will we reap? What will this world reap – for his word is available in every language? It used to be read – but so few do so today – especially in the ‘western’ world. How soon now – “The Lord’s vengeance”?