March 3 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them.” ~Moses, Numbers 31:3

God gives Moses his final assignment in Numbers 31: eliminate the Midianites. Our modern minds struggle with this edict, but we must recognize God’s intent. War is one means of bringing an end to a destructive culture, and Midian defines the term destructive. The nation is renowned among its contemporaries for its violent practices (like child sacrifice) and its immoral ways.  Even more alarming is what this chapter reveals about Israel’s growing affection for the Midianites.  When King Balak of Midian paid Balaam to curse God’s people, the seer couldn’t do it so he suggested a better strategy for defeating Israel, seduction. If you can’t beat ‘em, entice ‘em to join you! The tactic worked so well that Israel was reluctant to completely destroy the Midianites in war, in spite of the fact that they were severely punished for their previous liaison with the culture (Num. 31:16).

There are lessons here about the seduction of culture, any culture. Culture, the behaviors and beliefs shared by a particular social, ethnic, or age group, is not itself sinful. God created the desire for connection and shared identity in human beings.  However, sin is found within every culture, and the biblical narrative teaches us that some cultures are inherently more sinful than others. That’s certainly not a politically correct statement, but it is true, and it’s also why God dealt with some nations and people groups so severely.  The existence of sin in every culture means that we must use both discernment and self-discipline as we live within our own culture. The Evil One can twist cultural mores and practices to either oppose God’s people or seduce them if they are not wary. We must live in our culture, but we must not accept its morals, values, and worldviews without question or critical thought. Not everything in our culture is sinful, but neither is everything neutral (e.g., attitudes toward money, success,  divorce, sexuality, power, authority, religion).

It’s important for all of us to be aware of culture’s power to seduce.  Are you an uncritical participant in your culture?  Or are there times when you say to yourself, “That isn’t right, and I’m not participating”? The trick of drawing people slowly into sin by swaying their mindset, then their actions, is an old one. Don’t fall for it, or you’ve handed culture and Satan the power to destroy your faith.

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.