1. AN UNEXPECTED DEFEAT
a. While Moses was preparing to cross the Jordan River with Israel’s armies for the occupation of Canaan, why was the anger of the Lord kindled against Israel? Numbers 25:1–3.
b. Who was the mastermind behind this great evil? Revelation 2:14; Numbers 31:15, 16.
“At Balaam’s suggestion, a grand festival in honor of [the Moabites’] gods was appointed by the king of Moab, and it was secretly arranged that Balaam should induce the Israelites to attend. . . . Great numbers of the people [of Israel] joined him in witnessing the festivities. They ventured upon the forbidden ground and were entangled in the snare of Satan. Beguiled with music and dancing, and allured by the beauty of heathen vestals, they cast off their fealty to Jehovah. As they united in mirth and feasting, indulgence in wine beclouded their senses and broke down the barriers of self-control. Passion had full sway; and having defiled their consciences by lewdness, they were persuaded to bow down to idols. They offered sacrifice upon heathen altars and participated in the most degrading rites.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 454.
2. HOW WAS THE EVIL SUPPRESSED?
a. What were Moses and the judges of Israel commanded to do before God’s punishment would be removed? Numbers 25:4, 5.
“[The Moabites and Midianites’] iniquitous practices did that for Israel which all the enchantments of Balaam could not do—they separated them from God. By swift-coming judgments the people were awakened to the enormity of their sin. A terrible pestilence broke out in the camp, to which tens of thousands speedily fell a prey. God commanded that the leaders in this apostasy be put to death by the magistrates. This order was promptly obeyed. The offenders were slain, then their bodies were hung up in sight of all Israel that the congregation, seeing the leaders so severely dealt with, might have a deep sense of God’s abhorrence of their sin and the terror of His wrath against them.” —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 455.
b. What happened while the people were weeping and confessing their sins? Numbers 25:6–8, 12, 13.
“All felt that the punishment was just, and the people hastened to the tabernacle, and with tears and deep humiliation confessed their sin. While they were thus weeping before God, at the door of the tabernacle, while the plague was still doing its work of death, and the magistrates were executing their terrible commission, Zimri, one of the nobles of Israel, came boldly into the camp, accompanied by a Midianitish harlot, a princess ‘of a chief house in Midian’ (Numbers 25:15), whom he escorted to his tent. Never was vice bolder or more stubborn. Inflamed with wine, Zimri declared his ‘sin as Sodom’ (Isaiah 3:9), and gloried in his shame.”—Ibid.
c. How many perished at the hand of God in the plague? Numbers 25:9. What did the census that was taken shortly afterwards further reveal? Numbers 26:1, 2, 63–65.
“The judgments visited upon Israel for their sin at Shittim, destroyed the survivors of that vast company.”—Ibid., p.456.
3. ADDITIONAL PROTECTING MEASURES
a. As the Midianites were among the most degraded enemies of God and among the most dangerous neighbors of Israel, what was Moses instructed to do? Numbers 31:1–3, 8.
b. What will God do to them that devise mischief against His people? Psalm 94:1, 2, 20–23.
“[God] who slumbers not, who is continually at work for the accomplishment of His designs, will carry forward His own work. He will thwart the purposes of wicked men, and will bring to confusion the counsels of those who plot mischief against His people. He who is the King, the Lord of hosts, sitteth between the cherubim, and amid the strife and tumult of nations He guards His children still.”—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 121.
c. On what condition has God promised to protect His people? Deuteronomy 28:1–7.
“The church is God’s agency for the proclamation of truth, empowered by Him to do a special work; and if she is loyal to Him, obedient to all His commandments, there will dwell within her the excellency of divine grace. If she will be true to her allegiance, if she will honor the Lord God of Israel, there is no power that can stand against her. . . .
“If the church will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance with the world, there is before her the dawn of a bright and glorious day. God’s promise to her will stand fast forever. He will make her an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Truth, passing by those who despise and reject it, will triumph. Although at times apparently retarded, its progress has never been checked. When the message of God meets with opposition, He gives it additional force, that it may exert greater influence. Endowed with divine energy, it will cut its way through the strongest barriers and triumph over every obstacle.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 600, 601.
4. FOR OUR ADMONITION
a. Why should we, and especially those who have been called to take part in the work of God, study the ups-and-downs in the history of Israel? Romans 15:4. Why does the apostasy that took place at the Jordan deserve special attention?
“The Israelites, who could not be overcome by the arms or by the enchantments of Midian, fell a prey to her harlots. Such is the power that woman, enlisted in the service of Satan, has exerted to entrap and destroy souls. . . . It was thus that the children of Seth were seduced from their integrity, and the holy seed became corrupt. It was thus that Joseph was tempted. Thus Samson betrayed his strength, the defense of Israel, into the hands of the Philistines. Here David stumbled. And Solomon, the wisest of kings, who had thrice been called the beloved of his God, became a slave of passion, and sacrificed his integrity to the same bewitching power.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 457.
b. What warning is addressed to this last generation of Christians? 1 Corinthians 10:8, 11.
“As we approach the close of time, as the people of God stand upon the borders of the heavenly Canaan, Satan will, as of old, redouble his efforts to prevent them from entering the goodly land. He lays his snares for every soul. It is not the ignorant and uncultured merely that need to be guarded; he will prepare his temptations for those in the highest positions, in the most holy office; if he can lead them to pollute their souls, he can through them destroy many. And he employs the same agents now as he employed three thousand years ago. By worldly friendships, by the charms of beauty, by pleasure seeking, mirth, feasting, or the wine cup, he tempts to the violation of the seventh commandment.
“Satan seduced Israel into licentiousness before leading them to idolatry. Those who will dishonor God’s image and defile His temple in their own persons will not scruple at any dishonor to God that will gratify the desire of their depraved hearts. Sensual indulgence weakens the mind and debases the soul.”—Ibid., pp.457, 458.
5. THE WAY WAS PREPARED FOR SINNING
a. What condition (or conditions) prepared the way for the people of Israel to fall prey to the sensual temptations of Satan when they came to the Jordan River? Ezekiel 16:49, 50.
“It was when the Israelites were in a condition of outward ease and security that they were led into sin. They failed to keep God ever before them, they neglected prayer and cherished a spirit of self-confidence. Ease and self-indulgence left the citadel of the soul unguarded, and debasing thoughts found entrance. It was the traitors within the walls that overthrew the strongholds of principle and betrayed Israel into the power of Satan. It is thus that Satan still seeks to compass the ruin of the soul. A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the heart before the Christian commits open sin. The mind does not come down at once from purity and holiness to depravity, corruption, and crime. It takes time to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the satanic. By beholding we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 459.
b. What warning should we always bear in mind? 1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Peter 5:8.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Who was the mastermind behind the great apostasy that took place in Israel shortly before crossing the river Jordan?
2. How was the way prepared for the Israelites to fall on that occasion?
3. How were the most guilty punished?
4. What lesson should we learn from the fact that the Midianites had to be destroyed without making efforts to evangelize them?
5. What will a true servant of God be able to say if he or she follows the example of Paul in Philippians 4:9?