The Book of Numbers – Half- hearted Obedience

Numbers 31 constitutes the war declared by the Lord against the Midianites. This war was the Lord’s vengeance, because of the wickedness of the Midianites, who caused the seduction of the Israelites in the pagan worship of Baal of Peor (Num 25). The second generation of Israel, now poised in the plains of Moab were to be instruments of God’s vengeance. This was to be Moses’s last assignment before he would die.

Moses promptly obeys what God calls him to doand says to the people, “Arm some of yourselves for war, and let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the LORD on Midian. A thousand from each tribe of all the tribes of Israel you shall send to the war. So there were recruited from the divisions of Israel one thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.” (verses 3-5)

The Israelite men kill all the Midianite men, including the five kings and Balaam, who devised the plan for the Midianite women to seduce the Israelites. They return back, taking the women and children as captives and the herds and goods as plunder. Upon seeing this, Moses is angry and commands them to not spare the women and children except for the young virgins. Reading this section of scripture can always feel challenging, as a God who exacts vengeance and allows for women and children to be killed clashes with our perspective of a God of forgiveness and love.

The Midianites were a people who sinned against God, were immoral, practised idolatry and were instrumental in leading the Israelites down a similar path at one point. After this incident God says in Numbers 25:16-17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”

And we read in Numbers 33:55-56 ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

The Midianites led the people once before into sin and would probably do so again. God warns that their presence would be a barb in their eyes and a thorn in their sides. And there was no compromise to be made in the extent of the Israelites obedience in following God’s command. The Israelites probably thought that once they killed the men, the danger was abated, but as we saw before, it was the women who played a role in seducing them and the young boys would probably grow up to attack the Israelites and exact their revenge. We might not always see why God works a certain way but we can be rest assured that he is doing what is good and right. This does not mean that God is not grieved with sin and death. We know that it is the Lord’s greatest desire for all to repent and turn to him. But when people keep on spurning his grace and take for granted his patience, God brings to judgement their actions.

Self-Reflection: This passage reminds us to not trifle with temptations, we can often allow certain behaviours or habits in our lives that may seem harmless at the moment or what seems to be not as grave a sin to remain in our lives, but if all it does is lead us to grieve our heavenly Father, may we reconsider and reflect.

Romans 6:23, Jesus says, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body go into hell.”

May we treat temptations with the same seriousness as God does. Although temptations as such are not a sin unless we engage in it, being exposed to it constantly can desensitise us to the severity of where it can lead. The chances of being bitten by a snake is significantly higher if we harbour one in our home in comparison with coming across one otherwise.

Self- Reflection: Is there any habit/ sin in your life that God is calling you to put to death. Have you struggled with letting go of it.  And as God called the Israelites to complete obedience in eradicating the people and their idols from the promised land before they took possession, is there any area where you are half-heartedly obeying God when he instead is calling you to complete obedience.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for loving us and sending your son so that we can be made righteous. Lord, you have provided a way for us to be redeemed and restored and in response to your grace may we strive for holiness, may we put to death the sin that so easily entangles and anything else that hinders and persevere to walk in righteousness. Lord, we may not always understand your ways but may we always rest our gaze on your faithful and trustworthy character and know that you are a good God who works all things for the best for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Amen.

God Bless.

17 thoughts on “The Book of Numbers – Half- hearted Obedience

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  1. Their tolerance of what God told them not tolerate became a barb in their eyes and a thorn in their life.

    Anything that God considers a hindrance in our relationship with him becomes a barb to our eyes and a thorn to our side if we don’t remove it.

    We can ignore it but soon enough the pain and heartache it brings into our lives forces us to purge it out.

    This is not God’s punishment, it’s His grace for us!

    Manu loved how you likened sin to the Midianites! May God grace us to deal with sin like an enemy in our lives.

    Blessings 💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So very true. When we choose to ignore what God says we should say no too, it does bring pain.
      I love the way you say this – May God give us grace to deal with sin like an enemy in our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a great reminder to give God our whole hearts. Don’t allow any temptations to sneak in. Sometimes the enemy can make something seem like it’s “not a big deal.” I think that is why so many today compromise in ways they shouldn’t. Everyone else is doing it, so it seems like it’s okay to our culture. But we have to be carful to abide by the Lord’s terms. He loves us and only wants what is best for us. I’m so thankful He is there to guide us down the right path. Thank you for this message. I pray you have the best weekend! 🤍🦋


  3. Thank you for emphasizing that it is vital to not let sin remain in our lives. Sin when full grown will lead to death, as the Bible tells us. As you also mentioned, we may not always understand how God is working but we can rest knowing, His ways are always good and right. We must be quick to repent when God shows us sin. I’m glad He helps us to overcome, we don’t have to do it alone. Thank you Manu 💕🙏🏿

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As you said, we might not always see why God works in a certain way, but we can rest assured that he is doing what is good and right. Our role is to listen and obey.
    I love your photo, is the flower on linen?
    Have a great week, Manu! 💖🦋🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jeanne. May we always choose to trust him even in moments we struggle to.
      Yes, it is on linen.
      Have a blessed week too 💙💐


  5. This story of the Midianites and the Israelites really illustrates how important it is to fully obey God and not compromise. It is so easy to say to oneself that I am obeying God when I have compromised and disobeyed. It really is important to fully trust God and not lean on my own understanding!

    Liked by 1 person

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