This is the fifth and final installment of “Is Homosexuality Sinful?” Framed around a graphic that proposes a line of logic that supposedly reveals the conservative Christian disposition towards same sex marriage as being antiquated and foolish, this series of articles looks at the verses that are referenced in the graphic and shows how the conclusions being drawn by those that sneer at Christianity are neither biblically based nor are they logical.
A conquered nation
Finally, the advocates of same sex marriage want to point to the way in which female prisoners of war were betrothed to the soldiers who had conquered their nation.
You see an example of this in Numbers 31, but again, when you take the time to study what was going on, you walk away with a much different conclusion then what you would have if you had simply glossed over the text.
The Midianites were a nation that had sought to destroy Israel’s by aligning themselves with Moab in Numbers 22:1-7. These two nations had agreed that in light of what Israel has accomplished by so completely devastating their Amorite foes in Numbers 21, they were a serious threat. Though Israel had no plans to attack Moab or Midian, the combined forces of Moab and Midian launched an aggressive campaign designed to eliminate God’s people.
It began by the hiring of Balaam, a pagan priest, who was employed for the sake of cursing Israel. While military action might seem more effective, bear in mind that these two nations were convinced that the use of force would only be met with failure in light of Israel having already proved herself so capable in destroying her enemies. Hence a spiritual strategy was chosen. Balaam, however, was astute enough to realize that you cannot hope to curse who God has chosen to bless and after four attempts that backfired, Balaam then recommended that Moab and Midian attempt to compromise Israel by enticing the Hebrew males to worship Baal in the context of engaging in Canaanite fertility rites.
Thought that might seem like a weak plan, it proved very effective in that many men did have sex with the Moabite women and subsequently engaged in idolatry.
Idolatry is more than it might appear to be on the surface, given the casual regard our culture has for, “religion.” The fact of the matter is that what you worship determines the way in which you process yourself and the world around you. While the word, “worship” isn’t used a great deal outside faith-based circles, it nevertheless describes the very practical and universal approach that people use in the way they engage life.
One of the definitions of worship is, “an extravagant respect or admiration.” What you perceive as important shapes the way you prioritize your time and your resources. In other words, what you worship dictates your ambitions, your priorities, your values – everything that figures into the way you approach your existence.
This is why God was, and is, so adamant in the way in which He instructs His people to worship Him. It’s not because He’s starving for validation as much as He knows that by focusing on Him, His Word and His Direction, the resulting existence is characterized by significance, fulfillment and purpose. Otherwise, it’s a collection of distractions that prevent true success and inevitably reduces the individual to a self-serving destiny characterized by a perpetual feeling of frustration in that they can’t possess what they desire and / or they’re dissatisfied by the hollow brand of contentment provided by what they do have.
And it’s more than just dissatisfaction or disillusion, it’s death. Ignoring God and placing yourself on the throne of your life has eternal consequences because you can’t hope to rate being admitted into Heaven apart from being morally blameless (see Matt 5:48; Romans 6:23; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 1:16). Moral perfection, while impossible for a human standpoint, is nevertheless the spiritual status you and I are awarded when we accept that Christ’s sacrifice was for us and not some noble act that was accomplished in a general sense. It’s when we accept Him as our personal Savior that the blameless dynamic of God becomes ours by virtue of Christ’s Spirit living in us. Still tainted and distracted by sin, yes, but rather than being slaves to our sinful nature, now we have the power to choose and our failures are atoned for wherever we fall short.
It’s an amazing exchange – to hand over our weakness and be given strength in return. To surrender our inability and receive the Power and Identity of God – that goes beyond generous. That’s why they call it, “amazing grace.”
The life we live in this world is illustrated either by wandering in the dark or walking in the light. One scenario is searching, the other is advancing. One of those situations is fulfilled and confident, the other is forever exasperated by a cup that can never be filled and a sense of self that can never be completely validated.
It’s in Christ where you’re able to not only understand that you were created to make a difference and not just an appearance, it’s through Him that you’re able to live out that purpose using the gifts and abilities He’s given in the context of the situations you recognize as instances He has orchestrated.
But it’s all for naught if the person who stands to receive this gift chooses to worship something or someone other than God, and that’s why God is so understandably aggressive when He says to worship Him only because it’s only by focusing your attention on Him that you’re able to avoid those things that would otherwise result in your demise.
God puts up guardrails in your life to prevent you from wandering over into the median. In some cases, He puts up a fence. You cross that line and there will be consequences. In other situations, He puts up a concrete barrier. You insist on driving over that kind of obstacle and you have life altering consequences to contend with. In some cases, you lose your life.
Anything that God has defined as a capital offense is one of those concrete barriers He has established as a way to say that on the other side of this line is a world of hurt that is substantial enough to justify this kind of guardrail. If you lie, you have sinned and God has put up a metal guardrail to identify that kind of behavior as wrong (see Proverbs 12:22 [The Message]). When you look at God’s moral law where adultery, murder and homosexuality is concerned, you’ve got concrete to consider. While Christ’s death and resurrection provide a way around the death penalty, the fact that those infractions have been categorized as those that justify concrete guardrails indicate the potential damage that those kind of behaviors produce.
Worship is another example of a concrete guardrail in that God decreed that if you were to engage in some of the more heinous types of idol worship, you were to be put to death. For example, Israel was commanded to put all witches to death when He said in Exodus 22:18, “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” If you were foolish enough to engage in the worship of Molech, the god of the Ammonites, which included the sacrifice of your children, that was another instance where you to be put to death (see Leviticus 20:1-5 and sidebar).
But look at this:
58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring upon you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. (Dt 28:58-61)
Did you see that in verse 61? Israel as a nation would be destroyed if it insisted on maintaining a lifestyle characterized by idolatry and rebellion. Mind you, this wasn’t missing church on Sunday or failing to do your quiet time that morning where you were running behind. This is a pattern of rebelliousness where you’re enthusiastically embracing everything that is contrary to God, and God doesn’t play that game.
For those that are thinking: “You’re telling me that if I don’t worship God, He’s going to put me to death? That doesn’t sound like a loving God!”
There are two things that need to be considered when you’re questioning God’s apparent disposition in Deuteronomy 28: Divine Direction and Practical Reverence.
God delivers you from Egypt, He accomplishes phenomenal military victories through you by allowing you to defeat enemies that are infinitely more powerful and capable than you, He sets up a system of laws and guidelines that allow you to live and prosper in a way that far exceeds even the grandest aspirations of your pagan counterparts and all you need to do in return is stay focused on Him. Why is it so important to obey Him and worship Him? Because it’s through the counsel you receive from Him that you’re able to avoid all of those things that would otherwise limit and ultimately destroy you. It’s the Divine Direction that He provides that while it doesn’t always make sense, is nevertheless completely accurate.
Israel was surrounded by alluring influences that were, in fact, lethal compromises. From a human standpoint, what can appear logical and even healthy, is actually the exact opposite when viewed from a perspective that can see into the future as well as view the inner workings of a man’s heart.
All of those things that we contend with on a day to day basis that cannot be accurately forecasted or controlled are known and subject to God’s Authority. We lament the way in which the random winds of life sometimes do us harm and all the while God stands at the ready to either calm the storm or provide the strength we need in order to endure. But we have to be willing to accept His Help and the wisdom He would impart to us. We have to be willing to obey and that’s what God was communicating to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28. If you want the Direction that is guaranteed to accurately direct and deliver you, than you’ve got to listen and obey what it is that God’s telling you.
That’s the Divine Direction piece. As far as the Practical Reverence dynamic is concerned, here’s what you’ve got to bear in mind: You were created by God. Whether or not you believe that is irrelevant in that it is true. You had a beginning prior to your birth in that God knew you before you made your entrance into this world (Ps 139:14-16; Jer 1:5). God made you because He loved you. You see that in 1 John 4:19. Take a look at Matthew Henry’s Commentary on that verse:
His love is the incentive, the motive, and moral cause of ours. We cannot but love so good a God, who was first in the act and work of love, who loved us when we were both unloving and unlovely, who loved us at so great a rate, who has been seeking and soliciting our love at the expense of his Son’s blood; and has condescended to beseech us to be reconciled unto him. Let heaven and earth stand amazed at such love! (Matthew Henry Commentary on 1 John 4:19)
As part of the way in which He loves us, He gave us specific gifts and skills that manifest themselves in actions and accomplishments that we are uniquely qualified to execute. Ephesians 2:10 talks about how we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do.
He’s your King, your Creator and your Redeemer. To respond to those Truths by not only ignoring Him, but to spit in His face by running after every act and disposition that opposes Him is the height of arrogance. And that indignant dynamic is further compounded by the way in which many will insist that God has no claim or right to who they are. They don’t see themselves as created or in need of being redeemed. Rather they perceive themselves as a self-sufficient enterprise whose only purpose is to gratify every whim, desire and appetite that they can come up with.
This is the person that Paul describes in Romans 3:10-18. It’s a prideful and irreverent brat that’s being described and what’s disconcerting is that every one of us fits that description. To say that we’re, “not that bad” is to overlook the fact that sin, while there are varying depths of depravity, when you’re comparing yourself to the Perfection of God, the absence of scandalous transgressions doesn’t change the fact that you are still sinful. And that sin incurs a debt that must be paid and exerts an influence that cannot be overcome (see Rom 6:6, 23). Apart from Christ, you’re ultimately restricted to a temporary existence that never truly satisfies and an eternal residence characterized by pain and despair (Ecc 5:10; 6:7; Lk 13:27-28).
That’s why worship is so important. If your focus is on anything or Anyone other than Christ, then you’re missing the very thing that defines life and fulfillment. Everything else is a goal post that never stops moving and a grave that never stops devouring. It’s true today and it was true back when Moab and Midan conspired against Israel by enticing her to worship other gods.
In so doing, they declared war on God and His people. Israel could have stood up to their attacks but chose not to and that resulted in being severely disciplined by God when He said in Numbers 25:4-5 that all of the leaders in the community who engaged in worshipping Baal were to be put to death and their corpses were to be put on display.
Pretty stiff penalty, yes?
And it didn’t stop there. In Numbers 25:6, we read about some guy who decided to thumb his nose at God and the recent display of His wrath by taking a Midianite woman into his tent to have sex with her and he did this right in front of Moses, and the whole assembly of Israel. Pause here for a moment and realize just how belligerent you would have to be in order to flaunt your complete disregard for your God by engaging in the very thing that was currently being punished via a plague and a public execution of those leaders who were guilty of idol worship. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, took a spear and pierced the arrogant Hebrew and his Midianite partner simultaneously. At that point, the plague that God had sent into the Israelite community was stopped. 24,000 Hebrews had died and more would’ve passed away had it not been for the zeal of Phinehas (see Psalm 106:30). But that gives you an idea as to the severity of Israel’s crime before the Lord by aligning themselves with another god. Hosea 1:2 describes idolatry as spiritual adultery and Israel was up to her neck in it.
Given the way in which Israel is punished, you can imagine God’s disposition towards those who led Israel in their wrongdoing. Moab and Midian had declared war on God and they were subsequently dealt with. Midian is destroyed in Numbers 31. Moab wouldn’t be destroyed because the Moabites and the Israelites were related through Lot. Abraham was Lot’s uncle and in Deuteronomy 2:9 you read how God had resolved to set aside some land for his descendants and although the Moabites and the Israelites would quarrel often and sometime violently, they were never the object of God’s wrath like what you see with the Edomites or the Amalekites who were both completely wiped out (1 Sam 15:3; Jer 49:17-18). However, as a result of their having led Israel into idolatry, Moab was prohibited from ever being a part of congregational worship (Dt 23:3).
The Midianites were not so fortunate. Those that lived in the region were completely destroyed in Numbers 31 with the exception of those women who had never engaged in the idolatrous sexual practices that had been the reason for Israel getting disciplined back in Numbers 25.
It’s important to note that when Israel attacked the Midianites, they were not inspired by a lust for power, as much as they were specifically instructed by God to destroy them for what they had done in terms of leading Israel into idolatry. In other words, Midian was not a military target as much as it was the object of a holy war and that is why every man, boy and woman was executed.
From a human perspective, we can see it as being potentially reasonable that every man be killed because of the possible threat they represent as one who take military action against you. It’s difficult, however, to see why you would put a woman to death. At least it’s hard until you read in Numbers 31:15 that the women were guilty before the Lord because it was they who had led Israel into sin. It was their actions and not their gender that warranted the death penalty and that is why they were slated for destruction.
Numbers 31:17 has Moses commanding that all the boys be killed. As a father of an eight year old boy, that bothers me. Why would you put a boy to death? Surely they are innocent.
The dilemma is present because of the way in which I see a child. I see a youngster and the last thing I see is a threat. But that’s because I don’t see what that child will become, I simply see them for what they are at the moment.
God, on the other hand, sees what a human being cannot. The fact of the matter is, a child has within them the scaffolding of that which will shape their view of themselves and the world around them at a very young age.
Consider the words of Adolph Hitler:
“These boys and girls enter our organizations [at] ten years of age, and often for the first time get a little fresh air; after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht [German armed forces] will take care of that.”5
Saint Francis Xavier, a prominent Catholic missionary in the sixteenth century, once said, “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterward.”6 Both the tyrant and the saint understood that, even at a very young age, you have the infrastructure in place that will shape the way in which that young person will process and approach life.
The fact is, the Midianites were not the only ones whose children were destroyed alongside the adults. The flood waters that carried Noah’s ark to Mount Ararat were not selective in all that was destroyed. Every living thing was wiped out according to Genesis 7:21-23. Joshua 6:21 chronicles how everyone in the city of Jericho– men and women, young and old – were put to the sword. Sodom and Gomorrah were both completely destroyed in Genesis 19.
As an aside, the complete extermination of a nation or a community was not typical. In Deuteronomy 20:14, the Israelites are given, “Rules for Warfare” for those nations outside the boundaries of the Promised Land.
• When you march up against a city, make an offer of peace
• If they agree, assimilate them into your community as forced labor
• If they don’t accept your offer of peace, put every man to the sword, but spare the women and children as plunder
Bear in mind that the Israelites were not marching on these cities the way we might envision an invading force descending on lands they wish to inhabit and claim as their own. The conquest of the Promised Land was first and foremost a judgement against the Canaanites who were living there at the time. In Deuteronomy 9:5, God says as much to the Israelites in order to remind them that their ability to dislodge the Canaanites from their land was not due to Israel’s military superiority or even their being God’s chosen people. Rather, it was the idolatry and the over-the-top perversion that had been so enthusiastically embraced by the Canaanites that had made them ripe for judgement.
And it’s not like God enjoyed carrying out His Justice. God was grieved by man’s sin in Genesis leading up to the flood in Genesis 7. Sodom and Gomorrah’s perversion is defined by God as, “grievous” in Genesis 18:20. You see the same kind of thing in Ephesians 4:29-32 where we’re admonished to not grieve the Holy Spirit by engaging in any kind of sin.
But while God didn’t enjoy it, He does not, nor will he ever, hesitate when it comes to dispatching Justice. Sodom and Gomorrah received their punishment at the Hands of a Just God. And while neither Moab nor Midian were slated to be destroyed as part of the campaign to secure the Promised Land, they too were justly punished because of the way they chose to flaunt their complete disregard for God.
That’s the thing: God was being Just! The Canaanite nations, along with Moab and Midian, were being justly punished by God and not merely attacked. Men, and those who would grow up to be men, received the death penalty from the One Who could see what they were and who they would become. Those women who had voluntarily participated in the religious rites that were not only idolatrous but were also used as a way to bring about the destruction of Israel also received the death penalty. That’s not ruthless, that’s Justice. It’s tragic, but when you have a God Who is perpetually issuing a loving invitation to live and prosper in the context of honoring the One Who most deserves your allegiance and worship, and the response is arrogant, belligerent and even cruel – why be shocked or surprised by an act of Divine Discipline?
These folks deserved to be put to death. Those that were left alive were being treated mercifully.
The only way a spectator could survey the landscape of these passages and walk away thinking that God is a brutal Deity that doesn’t deserve any real consideration due to the supposed lack of compassion and decency exhibited by His actions is to overlook two things: First, He is the manifestation of Perfect Love (see 1 Jn 4:16). That is the starting point for the way in which you must define God. Provided you have that as your basis, you can then survey the judgement that God has dispensed throughout history as being just. Secondly, He is more than worthy and deserving of your obedience and worship. His attributes are enough to support that statement. Perfect Power, Love, Strength, Wisdom – He is holy, which means total Perfection.
Remember that not only was Moab a descendant of Lot – Abraham’s nephew – Midian was Abraham’s son born to him by Keturah. God was apparently willing to leave them be, yet they chose to attack Him both militarily and by violating any and every moral Absolute that God had authored. The result was a judgement that while it appeared harsh, upon closer inspection is revealed as fair and even gracious.
Yes, children were put to death and that makes us squirm because from a human standpoint, children are incapable of the kind of evil that would justify that kind of punishment. But, again, God sees who they are as well as what they will become, hence His judgement can be better understood when perceived from that perspective.
The pro homosexual crew cites this whole situation outlined in Numbers 31 as being demonstrative of how God included marriages that coupled women belonging to conquered nations, such as the young Midianite ladies, with Israelite males as being acceptable. If such a union that compelled girls who had just witnessed the execution of their families and countrymen to wed and / or serve their captors was being Divinely endorsed, how then could homosexual unions be condemned?
In light of what’s been discussed as far as the severity of the attack the Midianites leveled against God and His people, the fact that everyone was to be put to death reveals the fact that anyone who was allowed to continue breathing was merciful and not ruthless. These young ladies who were given the opportunity to live were assimilated into everyday Hebrew life as domestic servants. Mind you, the age of many of these girls was such where they had to be cared for. They were pre-pubescent so that puts them between the ages of 0 and 11 with the average age being around 5. That’s not an age suitable for marriage, so to suggest that the Israelites were marrying all these girls is ridiculous. Furthermore, to assert that they were being used as sex slaves is to say that the Israelites were pedophiles which is not supported by the text and it also goes against the grain of God’s command in Leviticus 19:33 that says that you were to treat foreigners living with you kindly.
So while many might envision a parade of young Midianite women being led before a group of cheering Israelite soldiers, forced to smile as they’re being handed over to a sweaty Hebrew with blood on his hands and a twinkle in his eye, is a far cry from what actually occurred. That being the case, the pro homosexual argument is revealed as less than compelling because the dynamic of how the Israelites assimilated captured women into their nation is something very different than then the abusive and cruel practice they wish to hold up as yet another reason to dismiss the Old Testament’s commands pertaining to homosexuality.
What reveals a particular behavior or lifestyle as being either noble or decadent is the way it aligns with the moral Absolutes that apply. Personal preferences and social norms change which is why you want to appeal to a Reference that you can know is as correct as it is permanent.
And the thing that makes it especially appealing is that there are a considerable number of benefits attached to being obedient to God’s commands. Just look at Joshua 1:8 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Yet, those that dismiss God’s Word as antiquated and irrelevant are missing out on something that goes beyond the advantages represented by godly living. When a person insists on separating themselves from God by living a life of indifference to His commands, they’re like a piece of paper in a tornado, no anchor, no direction and any sense of control is pure fiction. Solomon articulated that throughout Ecclesiastes. On the other hand, Purpose, Peace and Power is what characterizes the person who’s handed over the keys to his Heavenly Father and allowed Him the access and the Authority that belongs to Him in the first place.
Go God, boo devil!
1. Wikipedia, Shatnez, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shatnez#cite_note-0, accessed August 16, 2012
2. MacArthur Study Bible, note on Leviticus 11:1-47
3. “LDS Scripture Citation Index”, “Journal of Discourses”, http://scriptures.byu.edu/jod/pdf/JoD05/JoD05_0022.pdf, accessed September 18, 2012
4. Wikipedia, “Fanny Alger”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Alger, accessed October 21, 2012
5. “Holocaust Encyclopedia”, “Indoctrinating Youth”, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007820, accessed October 24, 2012
6. “Quotes”, “Famous Quotations That Start With G”, http://www.quotes.net/quotes/G/99999, accessed October 24, 2012