Numbers 31

Numbers 31 has God instructing Moses to prepare for battle.  “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites”.  God is going to clean things up.  This is one of the last things Moses will be asked to do.  God then says “Afterward you shall be gathered to your people”.  It’s been a good run for Moses as the leader of the people of Israel.  He has taught us so many leadership lessons as he has dealt with a people that struggled to follow and obey God.  Yet he never gave up, even though the reality is that he never wanted to start this leadership journey.

Moses is told to “send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war….twelve thousand armed for war”.  He sends them off and they wipe out the enemy, killing every male along with the five kings of Midian.  And the gathered their stuff as plunder along with all the women who were left and bring it all back.  “Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war”.  They hadn’t done what they were told.

It seems like a decision that would be ok – to allow the women and small boys to live.  But Moses knows better, and God had been clear.  “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord”.  They had experience that allowing outside influence among their people would pull them away from God.  And Moses doesn’t want to go there again.  So he instructs his army to finish the job and kill every male child as well as any woman who had been with a man.  Basically only young girls were to be spared.

Moses is also clear about how to handle the plunder.  “Everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean”.  It had to be purified.  Once it was they were to “divide the plunder into two parts between the warriors who went out to battle and all the congregation”.  Those twelve thousand that went to battle got half, and the rest of the people shared the rest.  The amazing thing here is that “there is not a man missing from us”.  Every fighter returned safe.  That is the power of God being on your side.  When God is for us, no enemy stands a chance!

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