March 19: A Merciful Smackdown
Numbers 22:1–41; 1 Corinthians 5:1–6:11; Psalm 19:1–14
Sometimes, we’d rather not be teachable. When it comes to taking advice from people in my church community, it’s easier to keep an emotional distance than it is to listen. If I tread lightly on their sin, maybe they’ll tread lightly on mine. If we keep our problems to ourselves, we can maintain a certain understanding. This type of tolerance has deadly results.
Unrestrained sin and pride doesn’t just hurt the one who is sinning—its waves affect everyone (1 Cor 5:6). This is why Paul takes such a strong stance against it in 1 Cor 5:1–13. In Corinth, believers were using their freedom to commit all sorts of sordid sins. And instead of being broken about their sin, they were filled with pride—they were boasting about their freedom.
Paul knew he had to do something drastic to break through such thought patterns. His statement is startling for those who might practice tolerance for sin: “I have decided to hand over such a person to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5). This type of judging is not seen as casting someone to the depths of hell; rather, it is casting someone out of the Christian community with the purpose of helping them see their sin for what it is. (For Paul, the realm of Satan was everything outside of Christ; thus, everything outside of the Church was the realm of Satan.)
We aren’t called to judge people who have no claim to following Jesus. Rather, we’re called to hold accountable those who, like us, believe the good news (1 Cor 5:11). Within the bounds of authentic Christian community and trust, we need to be ready to call each other out when sin and pride creep in—and we need to do it with loving intolerance.
How are you reaching out to others who are struggling with sin? How are you making yourself approachable and teachable?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- After, the children of Israel departed and pitched in the palin of Moab on the other side of the Jordan from Jericho. Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And the Moabites were sore afraid of the people, because they were many, and Moab fretted against the children of Isarel. Therefore Moab said unto the Elders of Midian, Now shall this multitude lick up all that are around about us, as an ox licketh up the grass of the field: and Balak the son of Zippor was King of the Moabites at that time. He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor (which is by the river of the land of the children of his folk) to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which cover the face of the earth, and lie over against me. Come now therefore, I pray thee, and curse me this people (for they are stronger than I) so it may be that I shall be able to smite them, and to rive them out of the land: for I know that he, whom thou blessest, is blessed, and he whom thou cursest, shall be cursed. And the Elders of Moab, and the Elders of Midian departed, having the reward of the soothsaying in their hand, and they came unto Balaam, and told him the words of Balak. Who answered them, Tarry here this night, and I will give you an answer, as the Lord shall say unto me. So the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. Then God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor king of Moab hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, and covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse them for my sake: so it may be that I shall be able to overcome them in battle, and to drive them out. And God said unto Balaam, Go not thou with them, neither curse the people, for they are blessed. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Return unto your land: for the Lord hath refused to give me leave to go with you. So the princes of Moab rose up, and went unto Balak, and said, Balaam hath refused to come with us. Balak yet sent again more princes, and more honorable than they, Who came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Be not thou stayed, I pray thee, from coing unto me. For I will promote thee unto great honor, and will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. And Balaam answered, and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. But now, I pray you, tarry here this night, that I may wit, what the Lord will say unto me more. And God came unto Balaam by night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them: but only what thing I say unto thee, that shalt thou do. So Blaam rose up early, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And the wrath of God was kindled, because he went: and the Angel of the Lord stood in the way to be against him, as he rode upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. And when the ass saw the Angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and dashed Balaam’s foot against the wall: wherefore he smote her again. Then the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn, either to the right hand, or to the left. And when the ass saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam: therefore Balaam was very wroth, and smote the ass with a staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me now three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, which thou hast ridden upon since thy first time unto this day? have I used at any time, to do thus unto thee? Who said, Nay. And the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand: then he bowed himself, and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou now smitten thine ass three times? behold, I came out to withstand thee, because thy way is not straight before me. But the ass saw me, and turned from me now three times: for else, if she had not turned from me, surely I had even now slain thee, and saved her alive. Then Balaam said unto the Angel of the Lord, I have sinned: for I wist not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore if it displease thee, I will turn home again. But the Angel said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but what I say unto thee, that shalt thou speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. And when Balak heard that Balaam came, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, even in the utmost coast. Then Balak said unto Balaam, did not I send for thee to call thee? Wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee unto honor? And Balaam made answer unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee, and can I now say anything at all? the word that God putteth in my mouth that shall I speak. So Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto the city of Huzoth. Then Balak offered bullocks, and sheep, and sent thereof to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him. And on the marrow Balak took Balaam and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people. Numbers 22:1–41
- It is heard certainly that there is fornication among you: and such fornication as is not once named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather sorrowed, that he which hath done this deed, might be put from among you. For I verily as absent in body, but present in spirit, have determined already as though I were present, that he that hath thus done this thing, When ye are gathered together, and my spirit, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that such one, I say, by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, Be delivered unto Satan, for the destruciton of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your rejoicing is not good: know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened: for Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither in the leaven of maliciousness and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an Epistle, that ye sould not company together with fornicators, And are altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or with extortioners, or with idolaters: for then ye must go out of the world. But now I have written unto you, that ye company not together: if any that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such one eat not. For what have I to do to judge them also which are without? do ye not judge them that are within? But God judgeth them that are without. Put away therefore from among yourselves that wicked man. Dare any of you, having business against another, be judged under the unjust, and not under the Saints? Do ye not know that the Saints shall judge that world? If the world then shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge the Angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgements of things pertaining to this life, set them up which are least esteemed in the Church. I speak it to your shame. Is it so that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one, that can judge between his brethren? But a brother goeth to law with a brother, and that under the infidels. Now therefore there is altogether infirmity in you, that ye go to law one with another: why rather suffer ye not wrong? why rather sustain ye not harm? Nay, ye yourselves do wrong, and do harm, and that to you brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteousness shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor wantons, nor buggerers, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 5:1–6:11
- The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth the work of his hands. Day unto day uttereth the same, and night unto night teacheth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone forth through all the earth, and their words into the ends of the world in them hath he set a tabernalce for the Sun. Which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth like a mighty man to run his race. His going out is from the end of heaven, and his compass is unto the ends of the same, and none is hid from the heat thereof. The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart, the commandment of the Lord is pure, and giveth light unto the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, and endureth forever: the judgments of the Lord are truth: they are righteous altogether, And more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant made circumspect, and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his faults? cleanse me from secret faults. Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins: let them not reign over me: so shall I be upright, and made clean from much wickedness. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of mine heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:1–14