college travels

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sabbatical with Balaam #5

I’ve been thinking about Balaam for some time now. Although he gets a mention in seven books, from Deuteronomy to Revelation, my thinking is focused on the so-called Balaam narratives in Numbers 22-24. The next chapter in the book does not mention Balaam, though what takes place is later connected to him. In that chapter (Numbers 25) the Israelites come perilously close to being destroyed. It is as if God has sovereignly undertaken to keep Israel safe in chapters 22-24 and having protected them against the most frightening weapons systems that the world had to offer, it is only to see them shoot themselves in the foot. It’s a sequel that didn’t need to happen.

Funnily enough, Terminator 3 (N.B see last blog for reference to Terminator!) has been referred to as a sequel that didn’t need to happen. This certainly seems to reflect James Cameron’s position. Cameron directed Terminator and Terminator 2 but declined to participate in the sequel. In T3 the new threat comes from a T-X. Played by Kristanna Loken this is not so much a he cyborg as a she. But this is perhaps where we should leave the Terminator franchise and get back to Numbers.

In Numbers 25 the new threat is not some hired assassin (Destroyer) nor the king of Moab aka. Devastator. The new threat is Israel themselves and the way they can so easily forget the things of God in the presence of sexual temptation. The Israelites forgot God’s calling on their lives and their role as his agents. They forgot how he had saved them from slavery and looked after them so long. They forgot his promises to them and the honour and privilege of being called by him to participate in his plans. The [Israelite] men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women.

We kid ourselves if we think that we are any different. That is why at College, faculty, staff and students take these things very seriously. It's why we are thankful for the support and encouragement we all experience here and for the invitation we know we have to pray together 'lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil'. As a ministry training college we have an opportunity to share together on a deep level and to participate together in making God known to a needy world. These same highs and lows are part of our students' ministry experience in their churches. These are profoundly significant things and often connected to powerful emotions and momentous experiences. But with that ebb and flow of emotion the temptation to cross a line or step over a boundary often surfaces. Numbers 25 shows how destructive this can be for everyone involved.

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