In July 2017, in the mountains of Europe, all was going well for the Freedom Party. Austrian political activists had done all they could to curse their right-wing enemies. But from the heights of Vienna the Freedom Party could not be touched. Adversaries could not lay a glove on them, and their leader would soon be the Austrian Deputy Chancellor.
Yet, at that precise moment, all was not going well on the European beaches. For, on a warm July 2017 evening somewhere in Ibiza, a Mercedes Maybach pulled up to a private villa, and an elegant woman in a black designer dress got out. Sea bass carpaccio was served behind closed doors; and there Heinz-Christian Strake, the leader of the Freedom Party, was seduced. Hours later the woman had him worshipping her own political gods.
Fast forward two years… and Strake’s enemies struck! Last month, on the eve of European elections, a condemning video of the lady in the black dress was released. Despite his protests of ‘abuse of privacy’ and ‘a honey trap,’ the Promised Land of greater political power for Heinz-Christian Strake (and his Freedom Party) was over.
In Numbers 22-24, Israel were on the verge of the literal Promised Land. Their enemies, also, peered over the cliff, saw their huge numbers, and were terrified. For seemingly nothing could stop these freed people. King Balak hired a pagan spin doctor (Balaam) and had told him to curse them. To figuratively go to the media outlets and ruin them. But every time this greedy sorcerer was told to curse them he could only pour forth blessings.
Accordingly, in Numbers 25, God’s people march on… except they don’t. Because whilst the brazen air strike from the mountains fails pathetically, Balaam’s devious ground attack in the woody plains creates utter devastation. His plan was simple. Balaam told the Moabite women to covertly entice the Israelites to be unfaithful to God (Numbers 31:16).
The arrow that felled Israel was, hence, the same arrow that felled the Freedom Party in Austria. The arrow was a sexual seduction that led to a scandalous defection.
The conditions in which such arrows flew was striking. In Numbers 25:1 Israel were in Shittim – literally ‘in the acacia groves.’ They are not yet in the Promised Land of milk and honey (and grapes, melons, and cucumbers) but they do enjoy the canopy of this umbrella-like vegetation. For with such trees came not only shade from the desert sun, but privacy. Feelings that one was being watched under wide desert skies (by the neighbours) no doubt started to ebb away. And so, under newfound darkness novel soldiers approach. The eyes of an Israelite boy and a Moabite girl meet. Except this is no Romeo and Juliet story of star-crossed lovers and the firing of Cupid’s arrow.
The wives and daughters of Moab put on military ‘high-heeled’ boots and the war paint of eye shadow and lip gloss. They to go into the front line to commit sexual immorality. And Israelite men forget God’s clear warning (Ex. 34:15). Soon they are sleeping with the enemy. Soon they eat sacrificed food. In fact, just days after battling bravely under the banner of the true and living God, they are now found bowing to Baal. Arrows of seduction had pierced their hearts. They no longer worshipped the one who had freed them.
The weapons employed against God’s people (both male and female) have changed little over the centuries. The arrows of the Evil One are many (Ephesians 6) – but as we look across Christian history we see that one of Satan’s most effective weapons is seductive sexual immorality. For sex is the arrow of ‘oneness’ which pins ‘two’ together. Sex is the yoke between two horses; the wooden beam that tethers two animals for work – something that sets a committed pair in a particular direction together.
Hence, one of Satan’s best methods of attack is to yoke two people who are not married. And, ideally, to yoke together a Christian (who marches with the church, and with their God, towards heaven) and a non-Christian (who walks with the world, and with their gods towards the here and now). Israel literally yoked themselves to Baal (Numbers 25:3).
Satan doesn’t fight fair… does he? Certainly, he is doomed to destruction. Certainly, the ultimate battle has been won at the cross. Certainly, we are no longer slaves to him. But in the fight on the edge of the Promised Land he will aim for our hearts!
Accordingly, we are not to be naïve to that weapon of seduction. Instead we are to be alert. We are to recognise that Satan may seek to employ such tactics at any time – at times when: we feel as though we have made it through a dry period; or when we feel untouchable (as Israel no doubt did); or when we feel at liberty to ignore God’s word and not pray ‘Lord lead me not into temptation’; or perhaps most likely when we are metaphorically under the cover of acacia trees without accountability.
The enemy aims at a private sexual seduction that ends in public scandalous defection. Guard your heart.
Jonathan Worsley is also pastor of Kew Baptist Church, London