A Tale of Two Sinners (Numbers 31)

I’m going to tell two stories. See if you can point out the differences between them.

Story A

It all started when God commanded the Israelites to go get revenge on the Midianites. These are the same Midianites who had tried their best to sabotage the Israelites. Remember how they hired that wizard? (He dies, by the way [verse 8].)

So, for cursing the Israelites and tempting them away from the true God (verse 16), God ordered that they be destroyed.

And they were. All their cities were burned to the ground. All the men, even the young boys, were put to death. Even all the women were killed – except those who weren’t virgins.

Everyone else – virgin women, young girls, and all the animals – became the spoils of war. They were divided equally among the Israelites who fought, although a percentage was set aside for God.

And they lived happily ever after?

Story B

It all started when God commanded you to go get revenge on…you know what. That addiction. That gross habit. That enemy, that time suck, that thing that you love because it feels good but hate because of the havoc it wreaks on your relationship with God.

That sin. It was hurting His baby. It was stealing joy and peace from the love of His life. God wanted it destroyed.

So it was. All of it. From the most blatant, obvious sins to the sneaky, quieter sins like pride and apathy. He went deep, ripping out the sins at their roots and setting fire to the soil that let them grow in the first place. Nothing was left behind.

Nothing…except for the spoils. The trust that developed when you had to sacrifice everything. The faith that strengthened when you allowed God to purge your entire life. The love that grew when you realized that He really was doing this, all of this, for your good. The recovered finances, the recovered health, the brand new hopes and dreams that sprung up in what once was a wasteland destroyed by sin.

All these beautiful presents, just for you! But you set a percentage aside just for God. Because you can trust Him now – with your life and your heart and your most valuable possessions.

God’s Message: “I’m about to change your entire life…if you’ll let Me.”

What’s the difference between these two stories? One’s an analogy and one’s the real thing? One is easier to swallow and the other is easier to sweep under the “God is love” rug?

The stories are the same.

These stories reveal to us how God deals with sin. He sees it as a curse. He sees it as poison, slowly sucking the life out of everything around it. He has to kill it.

But the Midianites and the other nations that would be destroyed by the Israelites weren’t just symbols of sin, they were sinners. Sinners that God tried to save. The Israelites had been camped near them for ages. Balaam had prophesied to them about the true God. God had given the Midianites time. He had given them evidence.

But they still rejected Him. So He destroyed them. And He’ll do it again and again, and one day, for the very last time. All to stop the spread of sin.

Why did God spare the virgin young women? I don’t know for sure. But why does He spare you and me? He knows what I’ve done. He knows what you’ve done. But He also knows whether or not there’s hope. He knows whether or not this latest rejection of Him was our last rejection of Him. He knows if victory is on the horizon. He knows if there’s still a chance we’ll surrender.

And He knows that if we do surrender, then everything will change. Suffering will be replaced with overflowing blessings. We’ll taste and see the spoils of war.

Will we fight against God like the Midianites? Or will we welcome with open arms the spoils of His war against our sin?

Think about what sin really is and all it causes. Think about slavery and the Holocaust. Think about child abuse and murder. Think about racism and capitalist greed. Think about corrupt governments and manipulative scammers.

And then think about the only Person who will stop at nothing to save you from all of this. And then tell yourself that He will prevail, that He will save you.

If only you let Him.


What do you think? How does this story make you feel? Comment below.

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