Read Numbers 31
Focus on verse 7-8
There are things in life that are uncertain, and there are things in life that we can count on…like death… and taxes. We live in an age and culture in which we have tried very hard to insulate ourselves from death, as if we may somehow live longer if we don’t acknowledge the certainty of it. This disconnect from reality causes all manner of dysfunction. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to live a long and full life, and in some ways I already have, but even at this stage, I am in no hurry to begin making funeral arrangements.
In today’s reading the young fledgling nation of Israel goes to war quite intentionally against the Midianites. The Midianites were the folks that deceived Israel into worshiping Baal at Peor. God was not happy about this, and as a result many Israelites died of a plague. Moses was also not happy about this, and according to the text God has now instructed them to destroy the Midianites. The war is apparently considered a success when all the Midianite men have been killed along with the five kings, and the prophet Balaam who had the conversation with the donkey. In regard to the talking donkey…it is entirely possible she was among the sixty-one thousand donkeys that were taken alive as part of the plunder, but the text is not specific about this and therefore I would not consider it a critical matter. The point we are going after in this case is that for many Midianites, including Balaam, who was considered a prophet of God, life ended that day.
They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. (v. 7-8)
As I ponder this revelation that Balaam was among the slain, I am reminded that even for those who have served the Lord faithfully, there is no guarantee of a long and trouble free life on the earth. One need look no further than some of the accounts of the lives of missionaries of the early and mid 1900’s to find examples of people who heard and answered the call of God to take the message of Jesus to lost tribes in the jungles of Africa and South America only to have their lives cut short by some disease, or jungle accident. Some like Jim Elliot and Nate Saint were murdered by the very people they were trying to reach. Many died young, in the prime of their life, appearing by earthly measure to have wasted their lives.
What we sometimes miss is that those who answer the call of God on their life, regardless of where it takes them, do not measure their lives by earthly measure. Those of us who walk with God understand that life is not about the comforts and perks of the time we spend here on earth. While it is not wrong to appreciate what God chooses to bless us with some of these things along the way, the perks should never become our focus. Our focus must remain fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one who redeemed us – he is the one we serve. In light of eternity the time we spend here is really quite short, yet the choices we make in this short life determine our eternal destiny. So while this life might be short…it is critically important how we choose to spend it.