Day 25

Israel Worships Baal

from the reading plan

Numbers 25:1-18, Exodus 34:10-16, Psalm 16:4, Romans 1:25, 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

My daughter recently studied the ancient Greek gods and goddesses at school. She wrote a paper, dressed up as her assigned goddess, and then read it aloud to her classmates and their parents. Each child in the class did the same, and every paper ended with the words, “This god/goddess is different from the true God because…” They studied the idolatry of the ancients but were able to recognize that idols and fake gods will never be enough.

In Numbers 25, the Israelites turned to worship the false god, Baal—a famous god who would show up repeatedly throughout the Old Testament as a tempter for God’s people. A plague fell on the Israelites because of God’s wrath, and twenty-four thousand people died. This is not a new story; it is neither the first nor the last time God’s people would seek to be filled by someone or something other than their Creator. God’s anger burned against His people—the same people He had rescued from Egypt, sustained in the desert, and already punished for rebelling before.

Even here in the wilderness, in the middle of this bleak chapter, we see a few glimpses of God’s promised plan to rescue us. God offered a way to be free of the plague—the leaders of Israel who worshiped Baal had to be killed, and this sacrifice would lead to the salvation of God’s people. Those punished were guilty, but God would later send Jesus, the perfectly righteous One, to die for the sins of all of God’s people.

Phinehas, son of Aaron the priest, was rewarded for his zeal, and God gave him a covenant of peace. God said, “I grant him my covenant of peace. It will be a covenant of perpetual priesthood for him and his future descendants, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the Israelites” (Numbers 25:12–13). A covenant of peace is referenced throughout the Old Testament, usually referring to the Lord’s giving people a place to live safely. This reflects the covenant of peace God offers to all who believe in Jesus—a future restored, a perfect dwelling place with God for all eternity with no more suffering and no more tears. We can cling to God’s promises when worldly idols tempt us or when we believe our own righteousness can stop the endless plague of sin in our lives and its impact on the world around us. And we can read these tricky passages of Scripture to remind us of God’s ancient covenants, allowing them to buoy our faith.

Written by Melanie Rainer

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