BEWARE of the ‘WORLDLY INFLUENCES’ in YOUR LIFE: Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel." (Numbers 25:1-3)
The Israelites had now arrived at Acacia Grove (Hebrew: Shittim), which was their last encampment before crossing the Jordan River into Canaan (Josh. 2:1). At the end of their long wilderness wanderings for 40 years, the Israelites had their first encounter with the false religion of Canaan.
Although Balaam’s name is not mentioned in this chapter, we learn in Numbers 31:16 that he was responsible for the terrible corruption of the children of Israel that is described here. All of Balak’s rewards could not induce Balaam to curse Israel, but before he left, Balaam advised Balak how to make the Israelites stumble (Num 24:14) by getting them “to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14). Balaam could not destroy Israel with his curses, but he could defile Israel with his counsel!
This resulted in many Israelites forsaking the godly way and the commandments taught by Moses and committed abominable sins following the counsel of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15). Many Israelite men accepted the invitations from Moabite women to join in their festivities at Peor (Num 23:28), and became involved with those women and with the immoral worship of Baal (Psalms 106:28–31). Often when Satan cannot succeed in a direct attack, he will launch indirect attacks through world influences that are hard to resist!
What the men of Moab could not do, the women were able to accomplish! They trapped the Israelite men in sexual immorality and false worship. We see that God punished the Israelites for breaking the 1st of the Ten Commandments, and a severe plague broke out killing about 24,000 people (v. 9; Exodus 32:35).
This incident at the Baal of Peor is a prime example of the temptations to which the Israelites were exposed by the surrounding peoples (Deut. 4:3; Josh. 22:17; Hos. 9:10). Moses had commanded the people to separate themselves from the nations around them in order to avoid their abominable religious practices (Exodus 34:10–17). However, Israel abandoned its special position, compromised with sin and disobeyed God.
When the world cannot eliminate your witness through direct persuasions, it often tries to neutralize your witness by absorbing you into the worldly entrapment. Here’s a good lesson for today: Always beware of the 'worldly influences' in your life!