Have you ever noticed that after we are redeemed, temptation comes in like a flood? Think about it.
I used to smoke. I smoked over a pack of cigarettes a day. I made the decision to quit several times. It amazed me that as soon as I simply made the decision to quit, the hankering for a cigarette was overwhelming. Seriously, when smoking I did not need a cigarette every moment of every day. However, a simple decision caused my body to scream for nicotine.
So too, as a follower of Messiah, it all starts with a decision. We decide to turn away from a life of sin and follow Yeshua. That is when temptation strikes. This is not just a modern phenomenon, but something common to all mankind.
The sages say that Phinehas (Numbers 25) and the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32) are related. Both situations involve feasting and sacrifice. Both present us with sexual promiscuity and idolatry that, according to the sages, is the same thing.
Intimacy between a man and woman deepens their relationship. When we seek sexual relationship outside of marriage, it is all about self.
Worship is intimacy with God. When we worship something that is not God, we are throwing away our ability to have a real relationship with God. Instead, we are using worship as a tool to get our own way. Again, it is all about self and fulfilling our own needs.
These two acts are the same. Now does it become clear why God gets so upset over idolatry and calls it adultery? When we place something or some person above Him, when we worship it (or them) we are taking what is rightfully God’s and giving it to someone or something else.
So what else connects the sin of the Golden Calf and Phinehas?
We need to remember that these are two different generations. The first generation, at the foot of Mt Sinai, pledged to follow God. They died because of their lack of faith in God’s promise.
The second generation was trained up by God. In the story of Balak, we learn that they were following and trusting God. They were saved from Balak’s plan to destroy them. Yet as soon as they were redeemed, they fell to the same temptation as their parents – idolatry.
This is a warning to us. As people of God, we must not allow ourselves to fall to temptation. We must look for the ‘way out’ that God provides.
What is that way out?
Keep yourself pure – 1 Timothy 5:22
Among you there should not even be mentioned sexual immorality – Ephesians 5:3
Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him – Matthew 4:10, Deuteronomy 6:13
Take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah – 2 Corinthians 10:5
Guard your heart – Proverbs 4:23