Numbers 31:1-18 (Part 2) – God of the New Testament vs. God of the Old Testament…Is This the Same God?

Posted: November 7, 2016 in 99-Uncategorized

Numbers 31:1-18 (Part 2)

Vengeance on the Midianites


All but the virgin females were killed at the order of God himself. This sounds like something out of the great genocides of the past century – Hitler’s Germany, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and Bosnia. People were killed for just being a member of a certain ethnic group or because they were not part of the ruling elite. Why would God authorize the killing of all but the virgin females? It is passages such as this one that atheists and those who question whether there is a God or not point to as the inconsistency of God. Christians often have a hard time explaining passages such as these. Isn’t God a forgiving God? Then, why would He order the slaughter of children and women. It is often the hallmark of modern war that we try to spare women and children from the carnage of war. Doesn’t 2 Peter 3:9 tell us,


“9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”


We wonder as Christians, how we can reconcile this God in this passage to the God of the New Testament. Doesn’t Matthew 5:44 tell us to love our enemies? How do we reconcile that God to the God of the Old Testament? Many modern day Christians want to ignore the God of the Old Testament and never even read it. We don’t want to have to wrestle with this idea of the God of the Old Testament up against our conception of God as this cool dude from the 1960’s who loves peace at all cost and that would stand in front of a soldier with a drawn weapon and place a daisy in the barrel of the soldier’s rifle. We would rather think of a God who loves us no matter what we do. That’s how we reconcile our own sins that we refuse to give up. God is a God of love so how could that loving God say that my sin is damning to me. Even if we are not purposefully and willfully continuing in our sins despite Scripture, we have a hard time explaining the difference between this God and the God of the New Testament. It is a hard one to wrap our minds around and even harder to explain. When we witness, we tend to stay away from the God of the Old Testament and focus on the fact that God is a God of love who wants you to come home to Him rather than this God who kills not only the male Midianites of fighting age but all the non-combatants of their nation including all but the virgin females.


Is this the one and the same God that we worship? It just seems to our modern sensibilities that little boys, and women above a certain age (the age of sexual activity) were to be slain for just being Midianites. Yes, the methodical slaying of young boys and the execution of women who have carnal knowledge may seem to parallel the cold-bloodedness of Adolph Hitler. Many of the children slain in that day may not have even reached the age of accountability (as we call it), and may not have committed any significant sins other than maybe lying to their parents.


As we wrestle with this question, let us re-read this passage again today and think about how we can reconcile this God with the God of the New Testament:


31 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”


3 So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them. 4 Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” 5 So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. 6 Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.


7 They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man. 8 Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 9 The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. 10 They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. 11 They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, 12 and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho.


13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.


15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.


This passage reminds us that God cannot allow sin to stand. God is a God of justice as well as a God of love. Even those who do not believe in God believe that there is some type of justice accorded to those of are of bad nature, who are evil. When you press a person who does not believe in God or a believer who only wants a New Testament God, they will have to admit that they believe that there is some special justice for those who are evil, those who go to their grave with an evil, unloving heart. The truth of the matter is that God is not only a God of love but He is a God of justice. He cannot allow evil to exist in His presence. Adolph Hitler most likely never repented of his sins and was judged by God accordingly. We all have no trouble with that. However, how do we reconcile justice to the deaths of all but female virgins. We are OK with men dying at the hands of another army. Men choose to be fighters we say. We accord great honor to men who die in battle. It is considered honorable. But how can God authorize the deaths of women and all boys.


Remember, when you were in school, and someone said or did something why the teacher had her back turned and when she pressed the class to give up who did the bad deed but no one does? Then, the teacher has no choice but to punish the whole class. Not only was the teacher punishing the wrongdoer for what he/she did but the teacher was punishing the class for its silence, support, and unwillingness to stand up and identify what and who was wrong. Remember when your parents tried to determine who violated a family rule or tore up family property or whatever and you would not not roll on your brother or sister and your parents end up punishing all the children instead just the one child who did the deed. Maybe that is what is going on here?


I believe that there may be two reasons why God waged such a thorough and violent overthrow of a particular nation.  One is obvious and the other may never be revealed due to the effectiveness of the cleansing.  The first reason is because God wanted vengeance for the nation of Midian seducing the men of Israel in Deuteronomy 25, and the second may be due to the nature of their wicked culture which may have been epitomized by their evil worship activities.  We have few clues from the original story. Remember from Numbers 25:1-5 that men of Israel had been so seduced by the sexual freedom of the Midianites and that sexual intercourse was a part of their god worship that they began worshiping the Midianite gods too. The Midianites were a no holes barred nation when it came to deviant sexual practices. As well their religion called for not only licentious and uncontrolled sex, it also called for child sacrifices. Throwing children to burning flames so hot that they would burst into flames on contact with the heat much less the fire itself. They would burn children alive to appease their gods. And they would eat the flesh of the sacrifices. As you can see, the Israelites had already been seduced by this evil culture and there was no one who spoke up within the culture saying that it was wrong. Everybody just went along either because they were afraid to speak out or, as I suspect, the most of them condoned these religious practices. Some might say that they did not know any better because that was the culture in which they operated. However, are we not all imprinted with a sense of good and evil? A two year old child knows when he has done something wrong. We are all wired by God with a sense of morality even if we do not yet recognize His existence or are purposefully turning out nose up at Him. We know evil from good. God, our Creator, wired us that way. Silence in the face of evil is acceptance of evil. Ignoring that inner voice is acceptance of evil. So, if Israel had already been seduced by the sick and twisted religious and sexual practices of the Midianites, the evil had to be wiped out completely. Judgment had to be rendered completely. These practices would have survived if any remnants of this sick and twisted society had remained.


It is the same for you and me. We are sinners to the core. And God is not only a God of love but He is a God of justice also. God is also a holy God and nothing unholy can exist in His presence. Our complete annihilation is the judgment for our sin – even one sin committed is enough for us to be caste in the abyss of hell (separated from God eternally in eternal pain and suffering and darkness). When we commit our first sin, we are condemned by his righteous judgment. When we commit our first sin we are made unholy and we cannot exist in His presence. No amount of trying to make it better with good deeds can make us worthy enough to make us holy again. We are tainted by our first sin that we commit. We are forever tainted by the piles of sins that we add to ourselves after that first black mark. We are to be judged and we will be found lacking on our own merits. It is only through the perfect sinless life and sacrifice of that perfect, umblemished life on the cross in the person of Jesus Christ that we have an out. Jesus is unnecessary if God is not a God of justice. If He just let everything go and our sins were not punishable, then, we do not need Jesus. But God is a God of justice and He is holy and thus our sins, our imperfection brought on by our sin, creates our need for Jesus. Our sins condemn us under God’s perfect and holy justice. We need a pardon to release us from our sentence. Only through Jesus Christ can we receive this pardon. On our own, we are condemned. Just as the Midianites in their culture of evil undeterred deserved judgment to the last man, so too, are we condemned.


We must recognize our need for Jesus and call upon His name and believe that He died for our sins and was raised from the dead to give us victory over sin and death. Otherwise, we face the same just fate as the nation of the Midianites.


Amen and Amen.

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