Tag Archives: Numbers 25

Human Manipulation Present and Historical

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 the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.
Numbers 25:1-3 (NIV)

One of the reasons that I enjoy being a student of history is that it so often affords me the wisdom to put current events into historical context. In the 24/7/365 world of network news and social media it is fascinating to watch people getting whipped into a frenzy by every trending story of the moment. In this past year the story about Russian interference in American elections has driven an incredible amount of airplay. The truth is that countries attempting to effect the outcome of foreign elections, or the opinions of a foreign people, has a very long and rich history around the globe and including my own government here in the United States. There are always slimy political agents willing to play both sides, or any side, for profit.

Today’s chapter is an ancient case in point.

Balaam the Seer may have appeared to be a faithful follower of God in the previous few chapters. Balaam knew God’s voice and he knew enough that it was not profitable for him to curse Israel if God was on their side. Balaam was also the prototypical double-agent. If military victory against the Israelites was out of the question, perhaps a campaign of religious and moral subversion would introduce chaos and disruption to weaken the Israelites.

So, women were sent to seduce Israelite men into joining them in the rather depraved sexual fertility rights of the local fertility god named Baal (Btw, men being easily seduced sexually for political or personal advantage is another well-documented historical pattern). It was not just a one night stand, but the narrative says the men “yoked” themselves to the Canaanite deity, which is a word picture of servitude. The disruption worked. The spiritual, moral, political, and religious struggle between God and Baal would continue for nearly a thousand years and eventually become part of the recipe that divided Israel into a long civil war.

What is fascinating is that the shadowy political operative manipulating things behind the scenes was none other than Balaam the Seer. In a few chapters (31:16) we discover that it was Balaam who instigated the Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men into Baal worship.

This morning I’m thinking about manipulation. I can be manipulated so easily. I live in a world in which the microphone on my cell phone can pick up my conversation and feed marketers the ads I’m likely to be interested in. I live in a world in which I may see only what the cameras of my news program of choice want me to see. I live in a world where relatively few inflammatory social media posts, strategically placed, can disrupt the collective thought of a nation. This isn’t new, it’s just old spiritual, commercial, political, and social paradigms discovering new and more powerful tools.

As I enter into a new work week, I’m reminded over Jesus excellent advice to His followers:

Be shrewd as a serpent; gentle as a dove.”

Have a good week, my friend.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 25

Lies

It started when the women invited the men to their sex-and-religion worship. They ate together and then worshiped their gods. Israel ended up joining in the worship of the Baal of Peor. God was furious, his anger blazing out against Israel. Numbers 25:2-3 (MSG)

I remember many years ago catching my youngest daughter in a lie. It was a small thing but I came down hard on her and she was visibly surprised by my earnestness in the matter. It wasn’t the small, isolated act but the principle that I wanted her to understand. When a child learns that lying is acceptable, then they can easily go down a path which leads to much larger deceptions and falsehoods. Pretty soon, you’ve wandered far off the path of truth.

It’s easy to read today’s chapter and scratch our heads at God’s anger and reaction to the actions of his followers. Baal worship was prevalent in those days. It started as a type of “fertility” worship which was common in ancient cultures. It morphed in a myriad of ways as it spread through middle eastern tribes and regions. What it became was an ongoing, blasphemous sexual free-for-all. And, when the Baal followers sexual “worship” produced babies, they would sacrifice the baby to Baal by burning the baby alive. Unbridled and unrestricted sex with no responsibility for the outcome. (Hmmm, the more things change…..)

Like a loving parent, God knew that Baal worship would lead His children down a tragic path that would be incredibly destructive to the entire nation. I have to believe that in this early confrontation between God and Baal, God wanted his young nation to understand how serious He was about avoiding entanglements with Baal worship.

Today I’m reminded that even when it seems that my Heavenly Father is being unfair or harsh, He knows the plans He has for me. They are plans for life and hope, and I can trust His will.

Enhanced by Zemanta