Sleeping with the Enemy

September 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 1 Comment
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In a previous lesson I discussed the blessings that Phinehas somewhat surprisingly received from the Lord for his violent attack on Zimri and Cozbi. When thinking through the reasons for this it is important to remember that Phinehas, unlike so many of his compatriots, had not joined himself unto Baal, and so his thinking was not cloudy or unclear or tainted by self-interest. He was thinking like God, and therefore He had a zeal – even a violent passion – for the holiness of God

Phinehas expressed God’s wrath in an atoning way. He did not kill the offenders because Zimri had personally ticked him off. It wasn’t because he was jealous that Zimri appeared to be getting away with what he wanted to be doing. It wasn’t because Phinehas wanted to show off, or because he was a sadist who just liked a good spearing. What motivated Phinehas was his intense hatred for what Zimri’s actions said about the Lord his God, and he discerned that it was time for something extreme.

As stated in the previous lesson, though, extreme physical violence inflicted upon sinners is not commanded for New Testament Christians. A principle to be taken from Phinehas’s attitude, however, is that there is a time for something as extreme as telling the truth in actions, not just words. Too many Christians today are sleeping with the enemy – if not physically, then intellectually, practically, and even spiritually. This is seen most blatantly in the ecumenism invading Christian churches, homes, and families. An adulterated, watered-down version of the Gospel deserves pointed and harsh truth. A hybrid bastardized version of the Gospel – part Christianity and part pragmatism, right in the midst of the camp, right in the middle of a ministry that calls itself by the name of the Lord Jesus – deserves pointed and harsh truth.

When Phinehas took up his spear, it looked like it was over – like it was too late. Have we lost the battle for the truth in our culture? Is right now wrong, and wrong now right? Are there now just no such things as “right” or “truth?” This is going to sound bad, but, in a way, I hope so. I hope the battle that we’ve been trying to win in our strength is over – that we’ve lost – that it’s too late. God often comes to the rescue when all seems lost. It was too late when Phinehas stood up and executed judgment. It was too late for the Israelites, and it may be too late for us, but when it’s “too late” by our estimate, that is often when God shows up – when He sends someone with the courage and the conviction, with the disregard for popularity, to take a stand and to symbolize atonement.

Phinehas stopped the plague because God really stopped the plague. Jesus didn’t make atonement by impaling us sinners on the point of God’s wrath, although that’s what we clearly deserved. He stopped God’s wrath by offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice. Will you and I weep rightly? Will we stop creeping around with the enemy? Will we stop sleeping with the enemy? Will we get out of bed with the enemy and get on board with God? May He help us.

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Creeping with the Enemy

July 17, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 3 Comments
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And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Numbers 25:6

In a previous lesson I discussed the reason for all this weeping. The Israelite men had been seduced by Moabite and Midianite women on the plain of Moab, and had “joined themselves” unto Baal, a false pagan god, the worship of which involved fornication in order to induce supposed fertility in the crops. God was very angry about this blatant violation of His laws against idolatry, and He commanded Moses to execute the leaders, and to hang their bodies up in broad daylight.

Psalm 106 offers a commentary on this:

They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.

Psalm 106:28-29

So the people were weeping not only because of the deaths of their fathers, grandfathers, and older brothers, but because of a deadly outbreak of disease. However, before you get the idea that everyone was repentant and crying the right kind of tears, you will note the first part of Numbers 25:6: “And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman…” Apparently, some of the men weren’t through partying with these pagan women. Perhaps they were too clueless to realize that God was angry (not likely), or perhaps they were just so intoxicated with sin that they didn’t care.

Who was this man who brought his consort into the place of weeping and repentance right in the sight of Israel and all the congregation? Later on in the narrative the Bible tells us his name, Zimri, and that he was the son of a prince of one of the chief households in the tribe of Simeon. His name meant “my music” or “my song” – as in “they’re playing our song.”

What about the woman? Her name was Cozbi – which meant “a doctor of the house of Huxtable who likes jello pudding pops.”

https://i0.wp.com/www.essence.com/sites/default/files/images/2011/06/03/bill-cosby-jello-316x373.jpg

Sorry, just kidding. Cozbi was a Midanite woman, and, in fact, the daughter of one of the princes or leading families of the Midianites. Her name, instead of meaning “my song,” actually meant “my lie,” possibly because her father had sired her with someone other than his wife, and either her mother or the other woman had been forced to admit the “lie,” and gave her the name as an apology or at least a reminder.

So there they were – Zimri and Cozbi – gallivanting into the camp at the most inappropriate time. It’s tough to analogize the impropriety and impudence of such an act – maybe we could describe it as the rough equivalent of a murderer bringing a date to his victim’s funeral. And that’s not all. They went right into Zimri’s tent, a very brazen sin and a big slap right in the faces of Moses, the leaders who were weeping before the Tabernacle, and, of course, Yahweh Himself.

In the previous lesson in this series I said that there are two different types of weeping. Weeping before God with a contrite heart is good and honorable. Selfish weeping is the kind of weeping that someone who remains at enmity with God would do. Now I will show that there is also a type of creeping with the enemy that is useless at best, and harmful at worst. Zimri was not a very effective creeper if he thought he could sneak into the Israelite camp with this Midianite woman, but, at the same time, he wasn’t suicidal. He must have deceived himself into thinking that he could creep around with sin and get away with it.

But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

Psalm 106:14-15

Zimri lusted exceedingly, and when sinful lust takes over a man’s heart, there are times when God will give that man the desires of his heart. But those desires will produce leanness in his soul. They will produce a hunger for more sin and a reckless disregard for the consequences. They will bring about the loss of all good sense.

You and I have a great capacity and opportunity to creep around with sin. However, be warned: We may creep around with the enemies of God, but we will never creep past the sight of God. We may creep around with the world, our flesh, Satan, sinful practices, materialism, covetousness, laziness, and many more, but God sees all. We will no more evade His notice than did Zimri as he crept into his own tent to enjoy the pleasures of sin while the judgment of the God he was offending rained down all around him.

And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

Numbers 25:7

Phinehas’s name meant “mouth of brass.” He was not “silver-tongued.” He was plainspoken. His words were not not fancy, but they carried weight. Eleazar was the grandson of Moses’s brother, Aaron, the high priest. Phinehas picked up a spear. It was the weapon of a soldier, not a priest, and it was a no-nonsense weapon – a weapon normally used for throwing or thrusting – and he took it up with a deadly purpose.

And he went after the man of Israel into the tent…

Numbers 25:8

We don’t know precisely how Phinehas did this. Did he stride forcefully and ostentatiously? Or did, he, too, creep? Did he encounter people who inquired what he was doing as he followed Zimri and Cozbi from a distance, brushing them aside gruffly as he pursued? Or did he hang back stealthily, sneaking along like a spy following another spy through the alleys of Cold War Berlin? We just don’t know. However, I will say that there are times, when we go to confront sin in the midst of a Christian fellowship or in the lives or our friends or acquaintances, when we should use tact and discretion. There are other times when we are authorized to be blunt and direct – or maybe I should say “sharp” and direct.

And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly

Numbers 25:8

I am in no way condoning murder or even vigilantism. This was an instance of Old Testament justice under the Law of God. It is not prescriptive behavior for New Testament Christianity. If we are to imitate anything from this incident, it must be only the the principles, not the practice. However, in this particular instance:

… So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

Numbers 25:8

Whether or not Phinehas crept up on the couple before putting a stop to their sin, two things are certain:
1. It was effective. It stopped the plague.
2. It did not displease God. In fact, it pleased the Lord very much.

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

Numbers 25:10-13

Phinehas’s act seems so extreme, so violent, so primitive and brutal that you almost expect to find some qualifier to it somewhere in the Word of God – something at least a little cautionary or disapproving of it. But I could not find a single smudge on the character of Phinehas because of this action

Even Psalm 106, which gives the commentary on it centuries later, says this:

Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.

Psalm 106:30-31

If anything, the Holy Spirit has the psalmist make him sound like even more of a hero! Next time, we will look for clues as to what was going on in Phinehas’s mind and heart as he performed this act.

Weeping with the Enemy

June 22, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 8 Comments
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The Israelites were traveling as a nation. They carried their place of worship – their Tabernacle – with them. They were strangers in a strange land. They were supposed to stay separated from the pagans they encountered because God did not want the false religions and these false gods they worshiped corrupting His people.

So, instead of attacking the Israelites, the Moabites sent women into their camp – women who did not have the same standards of purity and marital fidelity that God had commanded His people to have.

And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.

Numbers 25:1-2

This was so much more effective than attacking with an army of soldiers. It caused their own God and their own earthly leader, Moses, to have to deal with this sin very harshly.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.

Numbers 25:4

God told Moses to “take the heads” of the families, which does not mean that He ordered them to be decapitated, but that He wanted the leaders and princes of the tribes – the ones who had failed to restrain their families – to be rounded up. They were to be killed and displayed before sundown – in broad daylight – so that everyone could see, and possibly so that their bodies were left hanging up, and not buried, to show that they were cursed as Covenant-violators. God also sent a plague into the camp, and people were dying by the thousands from what appeared to be disease.

And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

Numbers 25:5

Now we see why there was weeping: Israelites killing Israelites; dead bodies everywhere; God angry – fiercely angry – at His own people for their rebellion and sin, after all He had done for them. This is a brutal tableau.

Generally in the Bible there are two types of weeping. There is genuine weeping over genuine sorrow – sometimes caused by the pain of separation and even death – but often caused by sincere repentance over sin. One example is:

And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.

II Samuel 15:30

King David’s son, Absalom, had rebelled against him because of David’s own sin. David wept, though, not out of despair, and not because he thought he was getting an unfair deal. He wept because He knew His Heavenly Father was displeased, but forgiveness was still available.

Another good example is:

Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.

Ezra 10:1

As Ezra was trying to rebuild the Temple, the people fell into sin, divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women. The result was that people began weeping in confession (agreeing with God) and repentance (determined to try to make things right). God does not turn away those who are truly brokenhearted, if they are brokenhearted because they have betrayed Him.

Weeping selfishly is a sign of immaturity in babies when they do it as a means to get their own way, but it is actually a sign of maturity for Christians who finally see the depths of our sin, and the richness of God’s mercy in forgiving us.

There is also, though, a type of weeping which is useless. One example is:

For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Hebrews 12:17

The weeping of Esau was the weeping of the “I wish I had not done that, because it did not work out well for me” variety. His tears were not the tears that say, “I am sorry for what I did because it was against the God Who loved me.”

Another is example is:

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

Luke 13:23-28

This is the weeping of “it’s too late for me now” and the weeping of “I’m sorry I got caught,” not the weeping of “I was wrong and God was right. I humble myself and ask for the mercy I do not deserve.”

There is a weeping before the Lord, and these tears affect Him because they are really about Him and our relationship with Him, but there is a weeping with the enemy, too, whether that enemy is Satan, the world, or our own flesh. This weeping falls under the category of feeling sorry for ourselves, and it results in tears that wash the altar of a false little god called “me.” They are ineffectual and useless tears, and if you and I find ourselves having this kind of pity party, we don’t need a pat on the back or a soothing lullaby. We need a strong dose of Bible truth and a good Holy Spirit-shaking and slap across the face, in order to get the focus off of ourselves, and to get it on the crucified and resurrected Savior Who has the power to wipe away all tears once and for all in eternity.

Next time, we will see the results of one couple’s callous actions in the midst of all this weeping.

Setting the Scene

June 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 1 Comment
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And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Numbers 25:6 (emphasis added)

God through the leadership of Moses had delivered His people from the bondage of the Egyptians. They had crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness. The plan was that they would follow the guidance of the Lord into a land which God had promised to the descendants of Abraham for their inheritance. When they had met resistance, God had won the battle for them.

And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.

Numbers 22:1

This was to be the staging area from which they would cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan – the promised land – the land flowing with milk and honey. They had defeated the Amalekites, the King of Arad, the Amorites, and the great and mighty Og, King of Bashan. They had lost a smaller skirmish to some Canaanites they rashly attacked outside of the will of God, but their win-loss record was 4-1, and they were on a roll. So, obviously, the
King of Moab, whose name was Balak, was afraid of them.

And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.

Numbers 22:3-4

His plan to deal with them was two-fold. First, he would form an alliance with the Midianites. Second, he would hire a famous sorcerer and (false) prophet named Balaam to put a curse on these Hebrews, so that the Moabites and the Midianites could defeat them in battle. Balak went to great expense to hire Balaam’s services.

He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.

Numbers 22:5-7

At first Balaam refused to come. Despite his status as a practitioner of divination, the true God had spoken to him and told him that he would not be able to curse a nation of people who God had blessed. Nevertheless:

And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.

Numbers 22:15-18

Balaam ended up coming with Balak’s representatives anyway, and, although God was displeased with him, He allowed him to go. There is a very funny story about his trip, during which he rode on a donkey, if you want to take the time to read it, but I will probably save it for another lesson, except to say that perhaps the most amazing thing about Balaam’s donkey talking to him is not the fact that his donkey did in fact speak, but that Balaam does not seem to have been surprised by it in the least when it happened. Possibly Balaam was quite used to demons and evil spirits speaking to him through animals, in much the same way Satan spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden through a serpent.

God spoke through Balaam, and he gave great prophecies about God’s people. They were great because they reiterated the blessings that God had promised to the nation of Israel, but, even more importantly, they were true. God can speak through a donkey, and he can speak through an otherwise false prophet. It was not all these supernatural phenomena, nor the behind-the-scenes scheming and machinations of Balak, that ultimately brought God’s people to a place of weeping. Ultimately, it was a very mundane, a very worldly, a very no-nonsense, down-to-earth plan of action that brought God’s people into condemnation, and they had themselves to blame for it. Next time, we will see precisely why the Israelites were weeping.


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