It is DANGEROUS to PLAY with the FIRE of COMPROMISE
February 19 Bible Reading: Numbers Chapters 31-33
"And they warred against the Midianites, just as the Lord commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed---Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword...But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle. And Moses said to them: "Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord." (Num. 31:7-8, 14-16)
Upon a comparative study of different passages in Numbers (31: 9, 16 with 25:1, 6), it appears that the people referred here as the ‘Midianites’ are the same as those called as ‘Moabites’ in Num. 25:1. Ironically, Moses was related to the Midianites through marriage, for Zipporah his wife was a daughter of a Midianite priest (Exod. 2:16–21). He must have found it painful therefore to engage Midian in a holy war, but God’s own justice must be paramount above all other relationships. God had commanded Moses to destroy the Midianites for corrupting His people through fornication and idolatry at Baal of Peor, following the counsel of Balaam (25:1–18). This was indeed the last battle that Moses directed before his death!
The crime against the Midianites was that they had seduced the Israelites into both idolatry and immorality, primarily following the crafty advice of Balaam. It appears that Balaam did not have a long time to enjoy whatever rewards Balak gave him because he was killed in this ensuing battle (31:8). Balaam did not “die the death of the righteous” (23:10) as he had hoped for himself! In fact, since he did not live the life of the righteous, he should never have hoped to die the death of the righteous! He had lost everything in order to gain some wealth “for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Thus, tragically, the man who blessed the Israelites three times (23:7–11, 18–25; 24:3–10) ended up bringing a curse upon everyone, including himself. Balaam provides us with an important lesson that playing with the fire of compromise can lead us to getting burnt out eventually. In fact, Balaam played with fire by listening to the tempting offers of Balak, king of Moab (22:16–17) even though he was specifically forbidden by God from cursing Israel. He devised upon a plan whereby the Israelites would bring a curse upon themselves by sinning against God. To make this happen, Balaam apparently told Balak to use Moabite women to tempt the men of Israel into immorality and idolatry (25:1–3; 31:15–16).
Balaam was not the only one to get burnt by playing with fire. Israel succumbed into sinful activities and the “anger of the Lord was aroused” against them resulting in a plague that ultimately resulted in 24,000 Israeli deaths (25:3, 8–9). Likewise, the Moabites/Midianites suffered militarily at the hands of the Israelites, and all their males were killed according to God’s commandments (25:16–18; 31:1–18).