"We must set ourselves against that, whatever it is, which is an occasion of sin to us, though it be a right eye or a right hand that thus offends us. This is that holy indignation and revenge which godly sorrow worketh." - Matthew Henry
"Whatever draws us to sin should be a vexation to us, a thorn in the flesh."
"God will certainly reckon with those that do the devil's work in tempting men to sin."
- both quotes are from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Midian. Midianites. Balaam. Balak. These are some names mentioned in the Bible. You are probably familiar with their story as found in Numbers 22-25.
Just in case you are not, let me give you some background material - The Midianites were a nomadic people who basically ruled Arabia because they were the dominant tribe. At first, they were friendly with Israel after their massive exodus from Egypt. However, when they saw how Israel was spreading itself far and wide in the surrounding lands, they began to panic. They immediately joined forces with Balak - the king of Moab - in a conspiracy against them. Balaam the prophet was called upon to curse Israel. But God fought him on every side. So the king of Moab dismissed him. Nonetheless, he still tarried among the Midianites, and it is supposed that it was at this time that the damage was done - an insidious plot was constructed to bring Israel to total ruin through their own sin.
The actual plan was to draw God's people into association with the Midianites in their licentious orgies - connected with the worship of their false god - Baal-Peor. The plan worked. Israel fell for their wiles. They took part in their heathen festivals and brought themselves under the curse of God. A plague immediately broke out amongst them - killing more than twenty-four thousand (24,000) people.
They went down in history as being the nation that was beguiled by the Midianites in the matter of Peor.
Numbers 25:18 spells it out for us in this way - "...wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake."
Notice a new name is mentioned at this time - "Cozbi".
Who is she? What role did she play in this whole matter?
The Scripture says that she was "the daughter of a prince of Midian" - meaning that she was the daughter of a king - King Zur (Numbers 25:18).
It was common for the eastern people of those days to call the people of their country - brothers and sisters. Hence, she was called "their sister" or country woman.
She was selected by the Midianites to prostitute herself before a prince among the Israelites - "Zimri, the son of Salu" (Numbers 25:14).
Interestingly enough, her name has many intriguing meanings which are - deceitful, My Lie, Deception, Liar, and Sliding Away. Because of this one incident, she became memorialized as a prototype of Jezebel - a prime example of deception or the allure of pagan worship.
Israel suffered severely under the chastening hand of the Lord God Almighty for their sin. And the Midianites got theirs as well.
At this point in the story, some may be wondering - what ever happened to the Moabites? Weren't they in cahoots with the Midianites in this seductive plot? Why weren't they punished by God?
Both nations confederated against Israel. However, the Midianites were the most guilty.
In Deuteronomy 2:9, God specifically instructed Israel not to contend in battle with Moab - "And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession." They were spared because of Lot and - as some commentators believe - for the sake of Ruth who was to also come from them.
This brings us now to the point of our message.
In Numbers 25:17, God gave a command to Moses and the children of Israel - "Vex the Midianites, and smite them."
The reason why?
Numbers 25:18 explains - "For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake."
"Vex the Midianites..." - In other words, harass them...trouble them... show hostility toward them...treat them as enemies...and go to war with them and kill them. They were the ones who first advised to send for Balaam. They were the ones to whom Balaam gave the wicked counsel to draw Israel into idolatry and fornication. Now they would be punished with the severest of punishments for their actions.
Each of the twelve tribes of Israel contributed one thousand men to attack the Midianites. And that they did - with the help of Almighty God. They ended up destroying all of their cities, killing their five kings along with all of the men and adult women, as well as taking all of their spoils.
It must be remembered that these enemies did not come against Israel in a warlike fashion. On the contrary, they approached them under the pretense of friendship, leagues, and kindred. They used wiles, stratagems, and cunning methods to draw them into sin.
The question is - How does all of this apply to us?
Can you see the parallel between the Israelites and the Church of today or the Christian in particular?
Can you see how Satan oftentimes uses a "Cozbi" - some form of enticement to draw the believer away from the way of holiness into sin?
We are all in a war with Satan, but he certainly doesn't want us to know it. He wants to catch us off-guard - using wiles, stratagems, and cunning methods to draw us into sin and compromise. He wants to pretend to be our friend - offering us "a Better Way" - with just a little bit of compromise of the Holy Standards of the Bible. Just twist the Word a little bit is all that he is asking.
Before long, we find ourselves as a so-called Christian nation...as the Church...or as an individual - under the chastening hand of Almighty God.
Remember - The seductress "Cozbi" is not after anybody. No, she is after the Preachers - those who are highly anointed of God.
The buzz word among the troops is - Compromise - and it is followed by the evil counsel that says - Loosen up...don't be so extreme...It doesn't take all of that sacrifice and restraint...after all, we are under grace.
What is God saying to all of this?
He is saying what He said to Israel - "Vex the Midianites...For they vex you with their wiles..." Fight the devil who is attacking your nation with floods of immorality and perversion. Attack him who is assigning "Cozbi's" to the Preachers in the land. Torment him who is tormenting the believer with all kinds of filthy imaginations and suggestions. Bind, rebuke, and cast out him who would dare to pretend to be your friend - when his whole motive is to get you to sin and turn your back on God.
It's time for a Holy War!
It's time to attack the devil who is attacking you.
Don't just sit there like a whipped puppy. Get up and fight!
Vex him! Vex him! Vex him!
Declare a Holy War on his Unholy War - directed against you and yours. Let God fill you with a holy indignation and revenge. Determine from this day forward that you will no longer give in to that sin - lust, perversion, anger, pride, envy, jealousy, greed, gossip, cursing, bitterness, lying, fear, cheating, drunkenness, gluttony, smoking, etc. From this day forward - by the help and grace of God - you are going to hate the sin that Satan is using to place you on "the outs" with God.
Harass that ole devil, and don't let up until he realizes that you are done with sin and its many enticements.
It's time for War!
God has a happy ending for you. At this very moment, He is promising you victory over your "Midianites" - especially the "Cozbi" in your life - the very thing that Satan is using to harass, deceive, or cause you to backslide on God.
It's time for war! It's victory time!