Introduction: Many years ago I knew an honored and important man who
was the president of a university. He fell into sexual sin, lost
his job, his reputation, and who knows what else. Have you been
blessed by God, and then managed by some silly sin to defeat God’s
blessings? Our lesson this week picks up on the topic on which we
closed our study last week: how to mess up God’s blessings. Let’s
plunge into our study and learn what not to do!
- Snatching Defeat Out of the Jaws of Victory
- Last week we learned that Balak and Balaam could not
curse Israel. All they were able to do was to bless it.
Balaam, however, thought that he could get around God’s
blessings by enticing the Israelites to sin. Balaam
should know a thing or two about human weaknesses!
- Read Numbers 22:1. Where is Israel at this time? (It is
ready to cross over into Canaan. The long-awaited goal of
the exodus from Egypt is now in sight. They need only
cross the Jordan river to be home.)
- Read Numbers 25:1-3. How safe and secure are the
Israelites? (They had defeated several nations and Moab
was terrified of them. God not only protected them, He
was arranged for their enemy to bless them! Full of
blessings and under the protection of God they were ready
to reach their life’s goal.)
- How dangerous are “good times” when it comes to sin?
- Are you presently experiencing “good times?” Times
of blessing and peace?
- Can you sympathize with any part of the sin of the
Israelite men? Anything like this in the news today?
(Since I’m a man, it is not hard for me to imagine
why Israelite men engaged in sexual immorality with
Moabite women. Recall that Revelation 2:14 reveals a
plan for the Moabite women to entice the Hebrew men.
No doubt these were attractive women and it was
their government’s idea.)
- But, why worship their gods? What is the
attraction of their gods? (Wycliffe Bible
Commentary explains that spring festivals
celebrated the mating of Baal of Beth-peor with
the goddess of fertility. According to
archaeological discoveries, prostitution was
part of the worship service.)
- Imagine that you are looking for a new church.
In church A they kill animals as part of the
worship. In church B, they have sex as part of
the worship. What is your guess as to the
relative popularity of those two churches?
- I’m not aware of any churches in my area
(or even my nation) in which sex is part
of the worship, but is this idea of
choosing a church based on whether the
worship service pleases you an issue
- Numbers 25:3 says “the Lord’s anger burned against them.”
Put yourself in God’s place. Why is He angry? (What the
Israelite men are doing is wrong on so many levels. It
is disloyal to their God, their wife and their family. It
shows no allegiance to God who brought them to the border
of the promised land. It violates God’s rules on sexual
conduct. It is even disloyal to their nation.)
- Read Numbers 25:4-5. Does God care about our conduct?
- Notice that the disloyal men had “leaders.” What
does that tell us? I thought it was a few drooling
men who sneaked over to the Moabite camp! Is that
true?(Like almost all sin, we try to justify it.
Some must have claimed this was a superior means of
worship to a superior god. They lobbied others to
join the group. This was a movement, not a lapse.)
- Read Numbers 25:6. Israel is “weeping” before God. Why?
(Consider the emotion of this. Some have friends and
family who were part of the Moabite sin and now have been
publicly executed. Others are saddened because of the
offense to God. Others are concerned about dying from the
plague. Others are discouraged about the way things are
going when they are so close to victory. The good news is
that they all are coming to God for help.)
- Read Numbers 25:6-9. We just discussed that the nation is
weeping, what is this “Israelite man” doing? How do you
explain his conduct? (While the nation is repenting, and
a plague is raging, this man is so bold and reckless in
his sin that he brings a Midianite woman into his tent in
the sight of everyone. This bolsters my earlier
conclusion that this was a movement, not just a few men
skulking around in the dark.)
- Is hypocrisy under-rated? (At least hypocrites
acknowledge the proper course of conduct. Surely
advocating wrong and doing wrong is not superior to
advocating the truth but doing wrong. Hypocrites
just look bad, they don’t have converts.)
- What do you think about the actions of Phinehas, the
future High Priest? Does this sound like the right
thing to do, or does this sound like the Taliban?
(The account suggests that the couple were having
sex, otherwise it would be a real trick to drive a
spear through both of them. The boldness of the sin
is matched by the boldness of God’s servant to fight
- Read Leviticus 20:10. Is Phinehas acting outside the
law? (No. This is not just some wild deed. Phinehas
is executing the well-known judgment on this
- Wait a minute. The woman did not know about the
rule, right? (Wrong. Recall that this was part
of the Moabite plan to entice Israel to be
disloyal to their God. She knew about the
- Read Numbers 25:10-13. What does God think about the
motives of Phinehas? (It says that he was “zealous” for
the honor of God.)
- Notice Numbers 25:13 says Phinehas made “atonement”
for the Israelites. How is that true? I thought
atonement was made when the priest sacrificed an
animal, not humans? (The animal was a symbol of
Jesus who atoned for our sin. He died in our place.
If we reject Jesus, we will die for our sins just as
surely as this couple died in the midst of their
- Read Psalms 106:30-31. How does this act “credit”
Phinehas with righteousness? What happened to
righteousness by faith? Has it been replaced with
righteousness by spear? (I think it was boldly
standing for God, boldly choosing God, that credited
Phinehas with righteousness. This fits the comment
in Numbers 25:11 that Phinehas was protecting God’s
- We don’t have to look far to see sexual sin in our
culture. When it comes to your own actions, do you
boldly stand for God? How do others view you when it
comes to sexual purity?
- Notice both in Numbers 25:8 and Psalms 106:30 that the
plague was checked as a result of Phinehas’ action. Let’s
jump ahead and read Numbers 31:22-23. This is a reference
to plunder taken from the Midianites. What does this
suggest about the origin of the plague? (This suggests
that the Midianites had some disease to which the
Israelites had no immunity. These men introduced the
plague into the Israelite camp. God stopped the plague as
a result of the righteous action of Phinehas.)
- A book I’m reading made the passing remark that for a
nation of Christians, the citizens of the United States
like their vengeance a whole lot. We see this in our
movies, books and national actions. Read Numbers 31:1-2.
What has been done to Israel that deserves vengeance?
(The plotting of Balak and Balaam that resulted in the
- What do you think about Moses’ last act being one of
- Do you believe in vengeance? (How about the last
movie, play or book you read where you cheered the
demise of the “bad guy?”)
- Read Romans 3:5-6, Romans 12:19-21 and Hebrews
10:30-31. Is vengeance a good or bad thing?
- Should Phinehas have given them a cup of cold
water instead of the spear?
- What is our role in vengeance? (We are to leave
vengeance to God. The instructions to Moses
and the action of Phinehas show that the
government is sometimes God’s instrument for
- Friend, devotion to God is important. Will you determine
today to be serious about honoring God with your life?
Will you be faithful in the area of sexual purity even
when others plot against you?
- Next week: The Second Generation: Admonitions.