Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way.
While Israel lived in Shittim, . . . [the daughters of Moab] invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor. Numbers 24:25-25:3, 16-18a ESV
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, together with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every male. . . . And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.
Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.”
Numbers 31:1-7, 8b, 15-16 ESV
And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Luke 4:8 ESV
Water is good to drink, and without water we couldn’t live. Having a safe water supply is very important, and it’s a real blessing to have safe drinking water available. Sometimes things go wrong with a water supply. Toxic chemicals such as lead or arsenic can get into the water. Both of these are poison and can cause health problems for people who drink the contaminated water. If the water becomes too contaminated, some people might even die. There are men and women who work very hard to test and keep people’s water supply safe from poison.
Balaam was a very foolish man. He knew and respected the true God, and God was able to speak the truth through him. God even used him to give a beautiful prophecy about the promised Savior. But he also worshiped the false god Baal. Worshiping a false god along with the true God is like drinking poisoned water. Balaam even advised the people of Israel to join him and the women of his country in worshiping Baal! This caused plague and death to God’s people, and a war with Balaam’s people, and in the end Balaam was put to death. God needed to judge and punish his people for poisoning themselves with false gods, and also to punish the people who were responsible for teaching them to do it.
Sometimes even today people think it’s possible to know and respect the true God, but to also worship false gods. It might be the gods of a different religion that people include in their worship. But it can also be gods like money or power or popularity that people trust in along with the true God. Poisoning themselves with other gods can cause people to lose faith in God and to put too much hope in things that can’t really help them. The saddest thing is that sooner or later people who put their faith in other things usually lose sight of Jesus and what he did for them on the cross. Losing Jesus is the greatest tragedy possible. Only Jesus can forgive our sins and save us, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us keep on trusting him.
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to save us. Please help us to always worship you only. Amen.