March 31, 2022 - Numbers 23-25
Temptations come in many forms. It can be flattery, seduction, promotion, or finances to name just a few. Often it comes in something that looks harmless and perhaps as simple as not telling the entire truth when asked a question or taking a few minutes more for lunch than is allotted.
Israel was on the edge of the country of Moab, the size and military strength of the Israeli nation was a great concern for king Balak. Sending for Balaam is essentially Balak's acknowledgement of a God greater than the one he worshipped. His desire was to tempt Balaam to deliver a prophecy for profit. The prophet Balaam had already spoken to the king's messengers, stating he could only speak what the Lord commanded him and nothing else.
When Balaam arrived before the king, he again states that he can only speak what the Lord puts in his mouth (22:38). King Balak demands his assistance and seeks to have anathema put on the people of Israel. Five times Balak attempts to have a curse placed upon the nation of Israel and five times Balaam blesses Israel instead (Numbers 23: 1-12; 13-24; 25- 24:9; 10-19; 20-25).
Although the story ends here with Balaam leaving and returning to his home, the New Testament commentary concerning Balaam reveals that he did assist Balak in leading the people of Israel into temptation and sin. 2 Peter 2:15 and Revelation 2:14 state that Balaam taught Balak how to lead the people of God astray through idol worship and sexual immorality.
In chapter 25 we see the results of this instruction as Moses is directed to discipline the people of God after they had begun to worship Baal of Peor and "play the harlot with the daughters of Moab (25:1)." The sad ending of this failure was the death of 24,000 Israelites and hostility between the nation of Israel and the Midianites from that time forward.
One form of temptation can be avoided while another becomes a stumbling block and a deterrent to spiritual growth. We will face many forms of temptation that will require us to be wise in our speech and actions. Read 1 Corinthians 10 and note the details that Paul states how the Israelites were tempted. In verse 11 Paul then states, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:11-12). May we be wise and flee when the appearance of temptation comes before us today!