NUMBERS 25: HOW ARE YOU SEDUCED?
WHAT ARE THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS?
As you dive into Numbers 25, don't just sit back and cluck your tongue at the Israelites again. Aren't we tired of doing this with the Bible text? I've heard this kind of reading so many times in Bible studies it nearly makes me want to vomit. When sinful pious people sit around and cluck about sins of others, we're double damned. We ignore our own sins, and we misread what's going on and what the Bible is meant to do. The Bible is not meant for us to stand over the top of and read down upon and judge. The Bible is meant to judge our own thoughts and actions, as the writer Hebrew says, "to cut down into the bone and marrow."
We're not supposed to place ourselves above the story but as much in the story as we possibly can. It's difficult, I know, with ancient stories, but ancient stories are about human stuff that will always exist, and this one is about stuff we know first, second, and third hand exists today in our own families, churches, and culture.
The men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods.
OK, stop there just a minute. We could take this either way. Typically we talk about wise old King Solomon and tell a cautionary morality story about how he was super wise but then got tangled up with women and they took his mind into the gutter. I didn't know I could be a male and also a feminist, but I've learned from Dr. Lisa Davison that this can be the case, so when we read morality into these stories such as "the women made them do it" and read that same idea into the Genesis 3 and blame Eve for the sin of Adam, we're misreading, doing violence to women, and inviting more of the same kind of destruction on women and men today. What am I driving at?
It's a chicken or the egg question. Did the men by their lusts indulge in sex then get interested in the Moabite gods, or did they go to their temples and worship and become interested in the women? Or is sex and worshiping false gods all just a mixed up jumble? Here's the thing: we all have what my counselor and director of Plumbline Ministries, Terry Ewing, calls a "primary sin motivation." Two people I know have the seven deadly sins on their wall, and Terry Ewing is one of them. It seems like the other one is Terry Smith in Nashville, but he or the person I know where I saw the other one can correct me if that's wrong. I'd like to get a set of these for my office wall someday!
Why focus on sin like this? Why would I want to put up seven statuettes of the seven deadly sins on my wall? Because I have come to believe strongly through testing the truth in scripture, experience, trying other views like triumphalism that pretends we can conquer sin completely, that we are all sinners, every last one of us. Paul says this in Romans 3:23. No one is without sin. Does that mean only before we meet Jesus, confess sins, and are baptized. I believe it means before and after. Being forgiven of our sins doesn't mean we won't ever sin again. God said to Cain very early on in the human story, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
As I often do in this blog, I'm going to introduce you to a couple of resources that have been and are continuing to be helpful for me. I'm not going to fully explain these but I'll keep it simple and place links to these resources below if you are ready to do some self-work. In this story in Numbers, I asked "what is seducing the men of Israel?" So now I ask you, What is seducing you? The early church fathers developed a listing of seven deadly sins, and folks who have developed what is called the "Enneagram" have added two sins (humans are pretty good at adding sins, aren't we?!) and the reason is that the nine shadow sides match up with nine personalities of the enneagram. My friend and counselor Terry W. Ewing refers to the seven deadly sins as "sin motivations" and "sin manifestations." We might have sin motivations that we can "successfully" hide and it doesn't look like there is a manifestation, but we all have deeply held sin motivations and to ignore them is to allow the sin nature to "crouch at our door" rather than becoming aware and "ruling over it."
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.