This week’s Torah Portion includes events from Numbers 25:10-31 which had actually begun to unfold in previous chapters and culminates in the beginning of this portion in scandal and shock.
The Gentile prophet Balaam had a great idea for King Balak who had hired him to curse the nation of Israel. After Balaam was unable to curse Israel and poured out blessing instead, he advised – send your most attractive women and suggest friendship, parties, and show them a god that isn’t concerned about restrictions and boundaries. Show them that with Baal Peor, there is ‘real freedom’. Do not worry about cultural or moral restraints, and there’s no need for self-discipline and acting for the greater good (Numbers 31:16). A deceptive message that is still persuasive today.
God spared His people from being placed under a curse, but they sadly forgot the blessings He so recently promised through the mouth of Balaam despite the prophet’s opposite intention. They were blind to the danger of accepting evil as good, and eagerly joined themselves to idolatry and its accompanying degradation. When a son of a tribal leader blatantly committed sinful actions in sight of all, Pinchas, Aaron’s grandson and a priest, swiftly acted with zealousness for God and His righteousness. Killing the Israelite and the Midian princess could have placed his life in danger or least forfeit the priesthood because it involved bloodshed. But it turned away God’s judgement which had already begun, and restored the relationship between God and His people and God honoured him for it (Psalm 106:28-31).
In a world of deception, evil comes wrapped in all sorts of attractive packages. Standing for righteousness when others are led astray is not easy. Philippians 2:15 exhorts Believers to live in a way that they will be: “…children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
May we be constant in prayer for our families and our nation to be aware of the danger of accepting that which rejects the righteousness of God.
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Left: the park in 2018 following attacks. Right: recent restoration efforts showing beauty again.
ICEJ Australia National Director