James Finley

n the 25th chapter of Numbers we have the account of the Israelites who began to "commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab." God's people began to associate with the people who lived around them and as a result they began to take up some of their heathen practices and worship heathen gods. This incident led to a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites before the Lord's anger abated. At the conclusion God instructed Moses to "Vex the Midianites, and smite them: For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you..." (verses 17 & 18).

In a recent class study the statement in verse 17 caught my attention. The current day application is an interesting point to consider. Notice that the people were not instructed to defend themselves against the influence of their heathen neighbors but they were instructed to take the offensive. The word rendered smite means attack or be hostile toward. The situation, then, is that the Israelites are surrounded by heathen neighbors who will lead them away from Jehovah. Apathetic association with these people will lead to adoption of their ways. Therefore they are told that they must attack!

The current day parallel seems obvious. We are surrounded by people whose teaching ranges from an erroneous worship of God to an outright denial of his existence. If we associate with these people (we can't avoid them) and we are apathetic about their manner of life we will, without realizing it, begin to adopt their ways. Could it be that the answer is to take the offensive? I am convinced that we try too hard to get along. If we speak up and identify error when we see it, it will strengthen us. The Israelites were a physical nation and were instructed to make literal war on their enemies. We are a spiritual nation and we should also make spiritual war but our weapon is that two-edged sword, the Word of God.

Too much emphasis today is placed on getting along with our neighbors and "don't say anything that will hurt someone's feelings." I don't propose that we go out with the intention of hurting someone. All our actions should be motivated with kindness and love but we should attack! Seldom do we hear of debates today but there was a time when such was a common occurrence. Why have they stopped? There was a time when people discussed the Bible with their acquaintances. This would lead to disagreements and before long challenges were issued and debates were underway. Why do we fear these encounters? We of all people should be confident because we have God and truth with us. Indeed, the message is clear, either we will muster our courage and "vex our modern day Midianites" or we will be joined to them.