Germany’s greatest mistake in World War II was attempting to fight a two-front war–against Great Britain and the USA in the west, and against the Soviet Union in the east. Despite their military prowess, Hitler could not muster the necessary resources to prevail on both fronts. Ultimately (and fortunately), his decision resulted in a double defeat.
All of us engage in a battle on two fronts. But between them, one battle in particular can prove to be our undoing.
Please join me as we explore this further.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 25. After Balaam refused to curse Israel, their enemies tried another approach to bring them down. Using Midianite women to seduce the men into immorality and idolatry, Israel willingly indulged.
Later in Numbers 31:8 we learn that Balaam was the mastermind behind this plot. The women who seduced the Israelite men, “followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.”
Later, in Revelation 2:14, Jesus rebuked the church in Pergamum saying, “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.”
The Bible Background Commentary adds a little insight into what occurred:
Many have believed that the cause of distress here is the practice of ritual intercourse. By bringing a Midianite woman to his family, this man was encouraging all of his male kin to participate in this forbidden ritual—even though the people were supposed to be repenting for their previous idolatry. The “chamber” (v.8) into which they enter appears to be in the sacred enclosure and therefore suggests ritual intercourse. Though the ritual may have been fertility-oriented, the Israelites are not engaging in agriculture, so it is difficult to imagine what connection that might have here.
I know what the connection was—the men wanted a little illicit sex.
Luke 2:1-20. How significant that the angels first announced the birth of Jesus to lowly shepherds! Uneducated, unkempt, and likely lacking social skills (they spent all day every day by themselves), God demonstrated to us that he cares about everyone—not just people who are socially acceptable.
Luke 2:21-30. Imagine waiting your entire life to hold the son of God in your hands. I wonder what Simon felt when he finally held Jesus in his arms.
Back in the day, Michael Card wrote a song entitled “Now That I’ve Held Him In My Arms” that still brings tears to my eyes. You can watch a video of the song on YouTube by clicking here.
Psalm 59. This is classified as an imprecatory psalm—a poem written by David expressing his desire for God to pay back his enemies that were pursuing him. The context likely comes from 1 Samuel 19 when David was on the run from Saul and his men. But notice how he concludes his it. Despite the vast array of emotions that David expresses in his psalms, they almost always end with an affirmation of God’s goodness.
Proverbs 11:14. “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” The measure of a great leader lies not in the ability to make decisions alone, but in the willingness to include outside voices before drawing any conclusions.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Reading Numbers 25 was a real eye-opener. Balaam tried to bring Israel down by speaking a curse over them. God, however, stopped him.
Then, Balaam hatched another idea: why not seduce the Israelite men into idolatry? He knew it would neutralize their formidable foes. This time, however, God didn’t stop them…until it was too late.
Everyone fights a two-front battle—one from without and one from within. For a few years, I participated in what I refer to as the “Spiritual Warfare Movement.” We constantly fought the Satanic principalities and powers that reside in the heavenly realms. I have wounds from those fights but then realized that battles on that level are best fought by Jesus and his warring angels.
At the same time, I believe in the reality of demonic attacks. I have prayed against demonic powers that torment and influence people and sensed demonic attacks on me and my family. These would qualify as battles from without, akin to Balaam’s curse.
But my greater battle involves the battle from within. My sinful nature’s ravenous appetite gets me in more trouble than any outside demonic offensive.
While God often intervenes in the battles from without, he expects us to do our part in the battle from within.
Keeping my private world in order requires constant attention and discipline. Laziness, and its evil counterpart, busyness, lower my defenses and make me susceptible to being seduced into idolatry. Although sexual promiscuity is an obvious example of our sinful nature run wild, a host of other insidious transgressions can render us equally ineffective.
Balaam’s curse became Israel’s blessing—because of God’s intervention. But Balaam’s seduction easily infiltrated God’s chosen people and nearly derailed them from entering the land of promise.
It helps to be watchful of the battle from within.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What are some examples you can name of “battles from within”?
- How do you keep your private world in order?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.