Archive for category Temptation
Even though Balaam could not curse Israel, he did the next best thing as far as the enemies of Israel were concerned. He taught Midian and Moab to go to war using seduction and idolatry instead of direct conflict. This story should hit all of us as coming straight from Satan’s playbook. If our faith in God can’t be defeated by direct argument, then Satan will help us fall using our own desires against us.
The women of Midian that entice Israel into idolatry and sexual immorality may be Temple prostitutes that practice sex in their rituals to Baal. You will notice the passage says the sexual immorality happened after the women had invited the men to participate in their sacrifices to their gods. They practiced sexual activity as sacrifices and offerings to their gods, especially this god which was a fertility god.
The response from God and Israel against Midian sometimes troubles people, but the planned attack on Israel by Midian was warfare of a different type and it caused 24,000 people in Israel to die. The response may seem harsh to us, but we don’t understand , as God does, the consequences of little or no action. Every action or lack of action has consequences that is impossible for us to foresee. But God has demonstrated he knows how to deliver his people, especially in Egypt.
The part of today’s reading that struck me is the story of Moses and Aaron providing water for Israel at Kadesh. Not the story itself, I remember the basics pretty well, Moses and Aaron are frustrated by the people and their constant grumbling and complaining. When the people complain again about no water, Moses hits the rock God told him to speak to. I think most of us can relate to Moses frustration because of kids, parents, work, etc.. One thing I did not remember about this incident is that it happened in the last year they were in the desert. But, that’s not the thing I found so interesting today.
I was struck by how far above us God is, and it emphasizes that God shows no partiality. Moses, we could argue, is one of the two or three most godly people to live, yet he was overcome by his anger and frustration then he displayed pride and arrogance towards Israel. When we puff ourselves up we usually do it in opposition to other people, but the reality is we puff up against God as Moses did. When God punished Moses and Aaron, he says they lacked trust (or faith) in Him and they did not honor God as holy. Even though we might not have seen this incident as a big deal, God held Moses accountable for his sin, and this ought to remind us of what James writes in chapter 3:1, that teachers shall receive a stricter judgment. Spiritual leaders need to be especially aware of anger, frustration and pride creeping into their thoughts as they work with many people like Israel, spiritually immature, often lacking faith and godliness. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as more important or better than others. I think it is the most common sin and temptation for spiritually mature people, PRIDE. And we need reminding that God is Great and Awesome, provides for all, loves all, desiring that all would come to repentance. We are not great if we become spiritually mature, God is great because we are His workmanship.
So much happens in these chapters, but the Golden Calf, made by Aaron approximately a month after Israel agrees to make no idols, highlights the nature of Israel. They appear to be ruled by the emotion of the moment, especially when it comes to fear, even their agreement to God’s covenant came after they were terrified by hearing God speak from Mount Sinai. They make the golden calf after Moses has been gone for too long by their measure.
God’s anger with Israel is expressed and we hear God describe the people for the first time as stiff-necked, which carries the idea of stubborn or rebellious. But God tells Moses he wants to destroy them and make Moses a great nation, prompting Moses to intercede on behalf of Israel. This is clearly a foreshadow of what Christ will do for all people who will trust him and come to him on the holy mountain. It’s a good thing Moses pleaded with God before he witnessed what they were doing or he might have agreed to kill them. His anger burned so hot he broke the two tablets of stone on which God had written the covenant. Unfortunately for Moses God will require him to make new stone tablets that God will write on a second time, giving Israel a chance to repent from breaking the covenant. Israel will continually break the covenant with God throughout their history, the story of the prophet Hosea will show to Israel what they have been like to God, a wife that continually is unfaithful yet her husband will show mercy and bring her back.
The glow of Moses face after witnessing the glory of God passing by him apparently does not fade away, it will glow like that for the entire 40 years in the desert which I usually forget when reading about him later on.
I have no doubt that having no water for three days would cause most of us to worry and be tempted to grumble or complain, but the circumstances tested Israel. Would they overcome the temptation to complain through faith in God? No, unfortunately they failed, they continued to accuse God of trying to kill them in the desert.
God miraculously provided water, bread every morning (manna means “what is it?”) that tasted like wafers of bread with honey (that sounds good), and meat in the evening. By the way that lasted all the years they wandered in the desert. I probably would have gotten tired of the same thing to eat everyday for 40 years but the alternatives were worse. Either no food or still a slave in Egypt. They didn’t have to work hard for any of them, yet they found more things to complain about rather than be thankful for what they did have. This is why the New Testament tells us when we pray asking God for something we do it with thanksgiving, that we never forget what we have been given even when we are asking for more.
There is another lesson for us as well. God delivers us from our bondage and takes us through the wilderness of testing, not straight to heaven. When we are delivered from the bondage of sin by Christ we will still encounter trials and temptation before we enter into the eternal kingdom. That’s why James writes in chapter 1 that we should count it joy when we fall into trials, and why 1Peter 5 tells us that after we have suffered awhile God will strengthen and establish us. Periods of trial should be expected, especially for God’s elect. However, if we continue in the faith of our Lord we will overcome and grow in strength and godly character. Then some day we will enter the promised land where God will wipe away all tears.
Fear can be a very destructive motivator, I think it’s why God tells his people so often to not be afraid. He even teaches that perfect love casts out fear in 1st John.
As Israel leaves Egypt an explanation is given why God did not take them straight up into Canaan by the Mediterranean Sea. That would have taken them through Philistine country and a war would have been likely. God tells us that they were not ready to face that possibility and they may have retreated to Egypt. Also, the way God takes them tempts Pharaoh into thinking he can destroy them in the desert, which may have been true without the power of God protecting Israel. God continued to demonstrate His power to Israel that they would put their trust in Him rather than people or false gods.
When Israel realizes that Pharaoh is coming after them, they are terrified and accuse Moses or God of trying to kill them in the desert. How ironic that their lack of faith in God will cause them to die in the wilderness. But, we learn something else from this section, they told Moses to leave them alone and they wanted to stay in Egypt even though they were slaves and treated harshly. This is not uncommon even until now, people often fear change more than the trouble they would leave behind.
Am I the only one who thinks of the candlestick maker when I read the story of the butler and the baker? Probably too many nursery rhymes still stuck in my head.
It seems to me that Joseph is the first noble character in Genesis since Abraham. Joseph’s character shines through as a slave in his Master’s house, where he flees from sexual immorality, a great example for all of us to follow when faced with temptation. Joseph’s trustworthy character is displayed by the prison keeper’s trust in him. And his ability to interpret dreams shows God’s hand with him. But why does he seem so different from his brothers? Is it due to the influence of his mother Rachel or truly loving relationship he had with his father Jacob, which his older brothers didn’t appear to have, or does it have more to do with his own personality. I don’t know but I would guess that all of these played some role in his development.
Joseph’s wisdom and trustworthy character made him the most powerful man in Egypt besides the Pharaoh himself. When Joseph took an Egyptian wife and began to have a family he named his firstborn son Manasseh, meaning forget. I assume he wanted to put his family in Canaan behind him, but as so often happens, his troubles are about to come back along with the emotional pain his brothers caused him.
Last Days of Abraham
Abraham ended up having 8 sons, though most only remember Isaac and Ishmael. The sons he had with Keturah were sent away much like Ishmael was, except that Keturah’s sons appear to leave with some wealth other than some food and water.
Ishmael’s descendants, who become known as the Arab people if I remember correctly, lived in hostility toward all their relatives from the other sons of Abraham. Has this ever changed?
Jacob & Esau
Isn’t it amazing that Jacob’s name means deceiver, it might have come to mean that because of his deception of Isaac, and he is the one that the promise of God comes through. Neither Esau nor Jacob always conducted themselves well, but it is clear that the birthright of Isaac meant much more to Jacob than it did to Esau.
Like Father Like Son
Isaac lies to Abimelech just like his father did and for the same reason, their wives were so beautiful they were afraid other men would kill them to have them. It sounds like their wife’s beauty was both a blessing and a curse to them. People often ask me if it is the same Abimelech that Abraham dealt with or could it be his son, since so many years appear to have passed. I have never found anything to answer this question, if you have any insight please comment.