We find a recapitulation of the history of the tribes up to this date in—Psalm 106:13-33.
After seeing the wonders of the Red sea and other displays of divine power, they speedily forget them all. Sinners have short memories.
It was a great sin on their part that they spoke of the heritage which the Lord promised them as either not existing, or not to be won, or as unworthy of all the toils they endured in reaching it. We must not think lightly of our eternal rest, lest we become slack in our efforts to reach the promised inheritance.
Although Balaam was unable to curse Israel, he did his worst to injure the nation. Believing that nothing but sin could deprive Israel of the protection of Jehovah, he advised Balak to seduce the people to mingle in the licentious festivals held in honour of Baal-peor. This horribly cunning advice was followed, the Moabites exhibited great friendliness, their women fascinated the men of Israel, and the people were led to unite in the dances and other orgies associated with the worship of the Moabitish idol. By this foul plot Balaam did the nation the most serious mischief, by bringing upon them the righteous indignation of the Lord.
Twenty-four thousand persons perished by this plague, which ceased not until summary vengeance had been executed upon those who had turned aside to the Moabitish idols.
Phinehas showed a holy zeal for God, and slew a bold blasphemer, who dared pollute the camp of Israel. Zeal for God, and indignation against sin are highly acceptable to the Lord. On account of the thorough decision of one single individual the plague was withdrawn; this teaches us the great value of holy and fervent spirits in the church.
He who was the meekest of men spake in anger. We have no perfect example save our Lord Jesus. He was never provoked, and never spake unadvisedly. May the same mind be in us which was in him. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God; may we be delivered from falling into it, however much we may be irritated.
Great Shepherd of Thine Israel,
Who didst between the cherubs dwell,
And ledd’st the tribes, thy chosen sheep,
Safe through the desert and the deep:
Thy church is in the desert now;
Shine from on high, and guide us through;
Turn us to thee, thy love restore;
We shall be saved, and sigh no more.