40 blogs of Lent – Day 14
The compromising church
Messages to the churches – Day 11
Pergamum – Day 3
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practise sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Time to confess, I use Balaam as a screen name, and have done ever since 2003 when I discovered that my birthday had been the feast of the ass in medieval times. It was meant as a bit of a joke. The donkey avatar is part of the same joke. This passage, and others like it, can make me uncomfortable about that decision.
But on to the passage in question. To understand what is being said here we have to know who Balaam and Balak were and what they did. The story comes from late on in the Old Testament book of Numbers. The Israelites have come out of Egypt, have received the commandments, broken them and have been wandering in the desert for 40 years. The time of wandering is over, and they are now heading for the land God has promised them.
Balak is the king of Moab, one of the small countries that stand between the Israelites and their promised land, Balak does not want to let them pass, so calls on the prophet Balaam to curse them. After a scene where Balaam’s donkey speaks, Balaam blesses the Israelites instead of cursing them. Balak is not pleased.
But Balaam has another plan, and this involves sex.
What makes the Israelites strong is their belief and trust in God. So entice them with sex. Then once they are enjoying sex tell them, “we do this in out temples too.” Temple sex a fr more interesting way to worship the Gods. Compromise the Israelites religion and they will not rely on their God, You’ve got them.
There are 10 way to be a good Israelite, number 7 will amaze you.
God is all about relationships. The nations of Israel and Judah had a relationship with God through being part of a nation. Through Jesus we have access to a relationship with God ourselves and as a church. Our commitment to sexual relationships mirrors our relationship with God, which goes somewhere to explain why there is an erotic book in the bible, the Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, and why commitment in sexual relationships made it into the 10 commandments. Commitment in sexual relationships mirrors our relationship with God.
There were some in the Pergamum church who were compromising in this way. Their sex life was mirroring their spiritual life, and they were compromising in both. Not that it would be extraordinary in their society, temple prostitution was still rife, and the church was not interested in ding anything about it. Why should they? These people are no worse than anybody else.
I have this against you, you compromise
Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
The message of Jesus is clear. I have this against you, you compromise. You are compromised in your teaching, you are compromised in your morals. Because you will not discipline those who compromise I am going to come and do the disciplining myself, it will include you and it will not be pretty.
But there is a way out. With Jesus there is always a way out. Repent. Change your attitude, change our heart, change what you do.
Repentance is the way of God. It was preached by John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Christ, the Messiah; it was the first thing preached by Jesus as he started preaching the kingdom of God, repent and believe the gospel; it was what Jesus told the disciples to preach when he sent them out in pairs. Repentance was preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost. I could go on. A message to preachers, if you are not preaching repentance you are not preaching the gospel, the two are so closely tied together that you cant have one without the other. Because this is good news: It does not matter how bad you have been towards God or towards other people, you can repent, be sorry and change your way of living. There is no penalty, Jesus has already paid that, and in a relationship with Jesus you can be helped to change. God is a forgiving god, it’s in his nature to forgive.
Are you going to repent?
And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practise sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.