Numbers 31:1–2: “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.'”

November 9th, 2019 by Pastor Ed in devotional

This is a challenging chapter because it describes God’s command to the Israelite men to virtually destroy a people group called the Midianites. The Midianites were one of two groups that had caused great sin in the camp of the Hebrews. We find in this story of their destruction one of the rare occasions when God displayed His judgment within human history. Although there are only a handful of similar encounters in the Old Testament, each one is sobering and should make us pause and consider our own standing before God Almighty.

God is the God of both mercy and justice. Throughout much of Scripture we see His mercy at work. That doesn’t mean the seriousness of sin or its consequences are lessened, but it is usually His mercy that we see being poured out. So when we encounter what seems to be more justice and judgment than mercy, like the Midianites, it’s shocking. There are many long and detailed philosophical discussions on the moral and ethical issues this kind of historical judgment by God raises, but at the end of each argument is a finger pointing back to our own personal guilt before a holy God. As Paul said, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10).

This must disturb any rational, thinking person because the fact is we are all guilty of sin against God. We all deserve the kind of destruction the Midianites received, and yet we are offered mercy. If we refuse that mercy, refuse to surrender our lives to God, then we will face His justice and the judgment for rejecting His free gift of life. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But our great hope, our only hope, is Jesus. He was the perfect sacrifice, and as John tells us, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). And even though the wages of sin are death, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). All we have to do is come to Him, believe in Him, and throw ourselves on His grace.

“LORD, we throw our lives on You and confess our sins here and now so that You can extend mercy to us now and into eternity.”