#7 (THE "DIFFICULTIES ON THE JOURNEY" SERIES)
"DIFFICULTIES WITH BOREDOM!"
TEXT: Numbers 25:1-18
INTRO: When are Christians most tempted to sin, under what circumstances?
1. When everything is going wrong around them?
2. When finances are not good?
3. When they are overwhelmed with too many responsibilities?
4. When they are struggling with physical ailments?
5. When they are struggling with relationships?
The answer might surprise you but it is NONE of the above! It is when we are BORED that the temptation to sin is usually the greatest!
Boredom usually results when we are between 2 things … the problem and the answer, a period of time we call the "waiting" period. It is during this time of little activity that our faithfulness and commitment get the biggest challenge. It is during these "waiting" periods that we find ourselves restless and can best be challenged by temptation! The old expression, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop” has more truth to it that we care to admit.
PROP. SENT: The Bible will teach us to be cautious during waiting times in our walk with God, it is during these times we can be most prone to temptation.
I. BOREDOM'S SEDUCTIONS 25:1-3
A. Waiting! 25:la
1. Israel was camped between two realities, the desert and promise land, they were in a waiting mode!
a. This idleness became the breeding ground for a great temptation!
b. The most powerful temptations will come during such "waiting" times!
2. Israel rarely got into spiritual trouble when it was traveling with God, it was almost always when they were camped out and waiting for the next move.
a. Jesus' greatest temptations came when He was waiting in the wilderness in quiet prayer.
b. Lot's greatest temptations came when he was settled in Sodom and was bored!
c. David's greatest temptation came on one occasion when he stayed home rather than be out fighting with his troops, in his boredom he wandered onto the roof of his palace, saw Bathsheba and the rest is history, tragic history, as he yield to the temptations of lust and murder!
d. Elijah faced bravely the prophets of Baal, but after fleeing into the desert and while waiting there he became tempted to quit, he was terribly discouraged!
e. Israel only 40 years earlier had been waiting for Moses on Mount Sinai; it was during those 40 days of waiting that they made the golden calf and committed sin, they got bored waiting for Moses to return!
ILLUS: AN OVERWEIGHT MAN FINALLY GOT SICK OF HIS WEIGHT AND MADE A CONCERTED EFFORT TO LOSE WEIGHT. HIS FRIENDS HAD ENCOURAGED HIM TO STAY AWAY FROM THE BAKERY HE LOVED SO MUCH, IT HAD CONTRIBUTED TO HIS GREAT WEIGHT GAIN TO BEGIN WITH. AT FIRST HE WOULD DRIVE TO WORK BY ANOTHER ROUTE TO AVOID THE BAKERY. ONE DAY HOWEVER, HE CAME INTO WORK CARRYING A HUGE COFFEE CAKE ... FOR WHICH HIS FRIENDS SCOLDED HIM. HE REPLIED, “NO, THIS IS O.K., GOD LET ME KNOW THIS WAS A VERY SPECIAL COFFEE CAKE AND O.K. FOR ME TO HAVE THIS ONE!” HE EXPLAINED HOW HE HAD ACCIDENTALLY THAT DAY DROVE BY THE BAKERY AND NOTICED THE WINDOW WAS FULL OF GOODIES, HE FELT THAT SINCE HE HAD JUST ACCIDENTALLY DRIVEN BY THAT THIS MUST NOT BE AN ACCIDENT BUT WAS PART OF GOD'S PLAN ... SO HE PRAYED, “LORD, IF YOU WANT ME TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE DELICIOUS CAKES IN THE WINDOW PROVIDE AN OPEN PARKING PLACE RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE BAKERY.” THEN HE CONTINUED, “AND SURE ENOUGH THE EIGHTH TIME AROUND THE BLOCK, THERE IT WAS!!!” -- Source Unknown
** Soren Kierkegaard said, "Boredom is the root of all evil" ... boy was he right!
B. Weakness 25:1b-3
1. This story follows on the heel of the incident where King Balak had hired the prophet Balaam to curse Israel, an attempt which had failed!
a. However, though Balaam had failed
b. With this in mind the Moabite women invite the men of Israel to come and join them for fellowship and meals.
(1. This meant eating at the shrine of idols, something they were forbidden by God to do!
(2. While enjoying all this glorious food, like the food they had in Egypt, they were also prone to temptation in other areas as well!
(3. Yielding to one sin encourages yielding to other sins as well!
2. As they ate these sacrificial meals they also bowed before the idols of the Moabites.
3. The particular idol they bowed before was Baal of Peor, this was a Moabite fertility god.
a. This cult was celebrated with temple prostitutes.
b. Sexual immorality was part of the worship!!!
4. The Moabites were a culture that worshipped sex and fertility!
a. Not too unlike our modern culture today! Look at our TV and entertainment industry!
b. Even our merchandise is sold with sexual overtones around them!
5. This participation with ungodliness and flirting with sin was a violation of their covenant with God! God was angry with them!
II. BOREDOM'S STUBBORNNESS! 25:4-9
A. Wavering! 25:4-5
1. God instructs Moses to take drastic action lest they completely fall away, He asks Moses to kill all the leaders who allowed this to happen!
b. This is often the basis of sin today ... it is not from ignorance of knowing what is right or wrong, but our choosing the wrong!
2. Moses however does not exactly follow God's word, instead of giving orders to kill all the leaders he asks the leaders to kill only those who were involved with the sin!
a. Moses in doing this is excusing the leaders of their failure to lead correctly, and he disobeys God’s directive and excuses the leaders from responsibility!
b. It was the job of the leaders to
guide the people, they had allowed the men of
3. It is understandable why Moses might have wavered here, these leaders were the equivalent to today's cabinet ministers in a modern government. Moses might have feared the reaction of the people to killing them, or the chaos he thought might take place politically!
a. These leaders would play an important role in going into the promise land as established leaders!
b. Moses’ wavering however only allows much more suffering as a plague breaks out in Israel – Moses’ failure to deal with them as God directed brings only more suffering on all Israel!
c. We later learn that 24,000 men died in this plague, that beats the death toll from Korah's rebellion which brought 14,700 deaths!
d. This was a high price for political gain!
4. While Moses' wavering is understandable it was not justifiable!
a. Their bodies were to be left out in the open; this was a drastic action for that time for it was believed that an unburied body could not find rest in the underworld!
b. This would speak to the people of the serious nature of their sin, that it was considered by God to be a heinous act!
B. Wantonness! 25:6
1. In a display of wanton disregard for God or His Word and Covenant a Jewish man brings back into camp a Midianite woman and openly in the very midst of the people commits sexual intercourse with her.
a. This took place while the people were weeping over the deaths of so many from the plague that had already broken out!
b. Even in the midst of God's discipline this man mocks God to His face in the sight of all Israel!
2. The temptation of gluttony had encouraged the temptation of sexual immorality, which now encouraged brazen arrogance!
a. Once sin is yielded to it encourages more to come!
b. Each new sin creates a new level of hardness!
3. The man was tempted to believe he could get away with his sin! He ignored the principle in Scripture, “be sure your sins will find you out!”
ILLUS: LIKE A MAN WHO RAN A DELI. A WOMAN HAD COME INTO THE STORE AND REQUESTED A CHICKEN. THE BUTCHER REACHED DOWN INTO HIS BARREL AND GRABBED THE LAST CHICKEN HE HAD, HE BROUGHT IT UP AND FLUNG IT ON THE SCALE. AFTER TELLING THE WOMAN THE WEIGHT SHE RESPONDED, "I REALLY NEED A BIT MORE CHICKEN THAN THAT, DO YOU HAVE ANY LARGER ONES?" WITHOUT SAYING A WORD AND WANTING TO GET HOME HE PUT THE CHICKEN BACK INTO THE BARREL AND PRETENDED TO FEEL ALL AROUND IN THE BARREL. FINALLY HE PRETENDED TO GRAB ANOTHER CHICKEN, BUT REALLY HE HAD THE SAME ONE … AND HE PULLED IT UP AND PUT IT ON THE SCALE AND PROUDLY ANNOUNCED THAT IT WAS JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT HEAVIER THAN THE LAST ONE, IT WOULD BE PERFECT FOR HER. THE WOMAN THOUGHT FOR A MOMENT WHILE HE PATTED HIMSELF ON THE BACK FOR HIS CLEVERNESS AND FINALLY SHE SAID, "I'LL TAKE THEN BOTH THEN!!!" HE WAS FOUND OUT! -- Source Unknown
4. The unchallenged sins by the leaders had now shown the level of arrogance to sin by the people! Was there no one righteous enough to speak up for God?
C. Warning! 25:7-9
1. The man committing this sin was the son of a leader in Israel!! Why is this not a surprise since the leaders were not punished by Moses as God had said they should.
2. 24,000 Israelites had already perished; it was time to put a stop to this sin before more suffered!
3. A grandson of Aaron (for Aaron was dead at this point) came forward, his name is Phinehas.
a. He is so angry at the flagrant nature of this deed he runs and gets a spear, and when he returned he thrust it through the man and the woman as they engaged in their sexual act!
b. Phinehas does this out of anger for God and His word, this was a righteous anger!
Immediately the plague stops, God's anger stops because someone else
carried it and expressed it against
a. Truly “the wages of sin is death!”
b. While these two die the message of sin which is death is made, now God can turn to healing Israel, this act was meant as a warning lest they take sin lightly and experience the wages of sin which is death!
5. Unfortunately, up to this point 24,000 had already died! Sin has a high price tag!!
ILLUS: NOT LONG AGO A DAILY PRESS RAN THE STORY OF A REMARKABLE CATCH BY A FISHERMAN. HE HAD BROUGHT UP AN OYSTER AND UPON OPENING THE SHELL THE FISHERMAN FOUND ONLY A SMALL FISH ABOUT 3½ INCHES LONG SWIMMING AROUND VERY WEAKLY! IT WAS NEAR DEATH. YET INSIDE, THERE WAS NO TRACE OF THE OYSTER! THEY FINALLY FIGURED THAT THE FISH MUST HAVE SWUM INSIDE THE OYSTER WHEN ITS SHELL WAS OPEN, AND THEN THE OYSTER CLOSED IT UP OVER THE FISH. HOWEVER, THE FISH INSTEAD OF BEING THE MEAL CONSUMED THE OYSTER. THE LITTLE FISH HAD A BANQUET EATING THE OYSTER, A PRIVATE MEAL THAT NO OTHER FISH COULD GET TO! HE HAD EATEN THE WHOLE OYSTER ONLY TO DISCOVER HOWEVER THAT AFTER EATING THE OYSTER, THERE WAS NO WAY OUT OF THE CLOSED SHELL. THE VERY MEAL HE HAD CONSUMED WAS THE ONLY WAY OUT! HE HAD EATEN WELL, BUT WOULD NOW DIE A PRISONER OF HIS OWN APPETITE! THIS IS HOW SIN WORKS IN OUR LIVES TOO! WE MIGHT ENJOY THE PLEASURE OF SIN FOR A SEASON, BUT WE WILL FIND OURSELVES TRAPPED AND NEAR DEATH WITH NO POWER TO OPEN A WAY OUT! ONLY GOD CAN INTERVENE AND SAVE US THEN! -- Source Unknown
6. Thrusting the spear through their bodies in Hebrew reads, "Her stomach," in other words near the area of the body of the womb, thus it was a message also against the fertility god BaaI; God destroys the power of Baal!
III. BOREDOM'S SOLUTION! 25:10-18
A. Wholeheartedness! 25:10-13
1. Phinehas is now praised by God for his wholehearted devotion to doing what was right!
a. Phinehas did not act because he was
a leader, he wasn't one at this point in time, he did so only because he was
angry at the lax way
b. This was not motivated by political gain, it was motivated by righteousness!
2. Phinehas wasn't afraid to take a stand for what was godly!!
3. This is the heart of the righteous, to stand for what is right no matter the persecution or price!
4. This one act saved thousands, in this sense it was like Christ on the Cross, His one act of death brought life to millions!
5. The act of this sinning Israelite man with the Midianite woman was a direct mockery of God and His Word, it was done right inside the camp of God's people ... thus it required drastic action to stem the tide of sin erupting all through the people!
7. His act demonstrated the necessity to act against sin! Righteousness is not just a creed or a set of doctrines; it is truth to be practiced!
a. This requires bravery and action!
b. It meant putting himself on the line!
ILLUS: AN ENGLISH SKIPPER'S SON HAD JUST ACCEPTED CHRIST AND WAS ABOUT TO BE CONFIRMED ON A PALM SUNDAY. ABOARD HIS FATHER'S SHIP THAT EVENING THE FATHER DECIDED TO MAKE CLEAR TO HIS SON THE NATURE OF BEING A CHRISTIAN. HE ASKED HIS SON TO TAKE A CANDLE AND GO OUT OF THE CABIN AND WALK AROUND THE DECK ONCE AND RETURN. THE SON PROTESTED, "BUT FATHER, IF I GO ON DECK WITH A LIGHTED CANDLE IT WILL SURELY BLOW OUT BEFORE I RETURN!" HE TOLD HIS SON TO GO ANYWAYS! SO OUT HIS SON WENT, BUT HE WAS DETERMINED TO NOT LET THE CANDLE BLOW OUT. ON DECK HE PUT HIS BODY AGAINST THE WIND TO PROTECT THE CANDLE; AT TIMES HE CUPPED THE CANDLE TO PROTECT THE FLAME. WITH GREAT DIFFICULTIES HE MOVED AROUND THE DECK TRYING A VARIETY OF WAYS TO KEEP THE CANDLE LIT. AND SURE ENOUGH, WITH GREAT DEVOTION HE MADE IT! PROUDLY RETURNING TO HIS FATHER HE SHOWED THE LIGHTED CANDLE STILL BURNING. HIS FATHER THEN SAID, "SON, EVEN SO IT IS WITH YOUR LIFE NOW IN CHRIST, IT WON'T BE EASY AS YOU FACE THE WINDS OF FADS, OF THE OPPOSING BREEZES OF OPPOSITION TO YOUR FAITH, BUT WITH EFFORT AND CARE YOU CAN KEEP THE LIGHT BURNING!" IT WILL TAKE WHOLEHEARTED DEVOTION! -- Source Unknown
8. The act of shedding blood made atonement for Israel, just as Christ's death did for us when He became sin for us!
9. The only way to fight the temptations of sin when boredom strikes are to remain wholeheartedly committed to Christ and His Word!
B. Willingness 25:14-18
1. The “covenant of peace” God grants to Phinehas and his descendants simply mean that they would be used by God to bring peace between man and God!
2. The willingness to stand up for what is right will bring healing!
3. This is what we need today, those who are willing to stand up for what is right, that a covenant of peace might be exercised between man and God!
4. God now requires that they eliminate the source of their temptation, the Midianites are to be treated as enemies and killed!
a. We are not to flirt with those things that can induce us to sin; we are to consider those things as enemies!
b. They are to be removed from the possibility of tempting us again!
5. They are being asked to participate in the process of eliminating future sources of temptation! They must be willing! AND SO MUST WE!
a. What is it that can tempt you to sin, are you willing to eliminate it from influencing your life!?
b. Be sure you know who your real enemies are!
c. Be prepared to avoid those enemies when you are in “waiting periods” in your life lest you find yourself tempted to sin.
d. These “waiting periods” can be some of the most dangerous periods of temptation in our lives. Be strong spiritually during these times and use the time to focus on your relationship with God and not get lost or sidetracked by other temptations at this time.
CONCLUSION: One of the greatest dangers for yielding to temptation is during the boring or waiting times! These slow, waiting times can produce some of the most tempting moments of our lives. Most of Israel's failures took place after they were camped somewhere, not while they were on the move with God! Most of God’s servants got in trouble when they were bored and not active. The "idle mind can be the Devil's workshop!" Some of the greatest challenges of your life will come at the quietest times of your life, not at the most hectic, be prepared to fight the greatest temptations during these “waiting times.”