They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; they aroused the Lord 's anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them. But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come. - Psalm 106: 28-31 (NIV)
If there was ever any doubt about the rebellious nature of the nation of Israel, we simply need to read Psalm 106, which recounts the highlights of disobedience from the chosen people. One would think that which such a vast and very specific history provided for us under divine inspiration by God Himself, that the church would be watchful for making the same mistakes. Certainly it seemed more so in the past but as we have moved on in culture we have seen the church devolve into a biblically illiterate body that has been taught that Christianity is about them, instead of about Christ. It has set upon us like a plague. The Bible was not meant to be some collection of stories for us to consider:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NIV)
I know we have all heard these verses but do we realize what it is saying to us as believers? About the all-sufficiency of the Bible? That God has breathed life directly into the Words we read in Scripture? That we should use the Bible to be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained to be righteous? That God has good works for us to do for His glory that we need the Bible to prepare us for? Does any of this register anymore within the purpose driven seeker friendly churches across this country? The Bible was not meant to be used by salesmen try to persuade you that this is your best life now. It was not meant to be used by hucksters who cherry pick verses out of context to try and rob you of your money. The God we serve isn't short of cash.
I say this as a backdrop because the Bible is also provided for us to learn from. To see what Israel did right and what they did wrong. So that we can pursue the spirit of Joshua and Caleb who believed God over everything their natural senses told them instead of the spirit of the grumbling masses who do not like when their faith was tested. As such, there comes a point in Psalm 106 where the Psalmist recounts the story of a man named Phinehas and that account is found in the key verses today. Phinehas was the grandson of Aaron the High Priest. Although mentioned several times in the Bible, his main story comes from Numbers when he stood up for what was right. First we see the problem:
While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord 's anger burned against them. - Numbers 25: 1-3 (NIV)
As Moab seduced Israel the world today is seducing the church. The world today is Moab. Filled with carnality and lust and false beliefs. I think sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking idol worship must involve a carved image of stone or wood. The devil is usually more subtle than that. You are not going to walk into a church and find a statue of Nebuchadnezzar to bow down to. You may however be asked to look the other way as the leaven of the world continues to infiltrate the church. You may be asked to accept questionable doctrine under the false argument of authority. You may be asked to keep your dissent quiet under the false argument of unity. You may ultimately be forced out of ministry or asked to leave the sheep pen by the wolf guarding it. Note the language here in Numbers. Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. They did it to themselves. Sure the enemy tempts but ultimately the choice to be yoked to the false god was their choice.
What false gods has the modern church chosen to yoke itself to? We have clearly yoked ourselves to the false god of greed and mammon. Prosperity gospels draw hundreds of thousands of people to church every week. Chasing the dreams of striking it rich despite the clear biblical teaching of the dangers therein. Following charlatans selling the seed-harvest heresy goes beyond the obvious suspects like Kenneth Copeland or Mike Murdoch. That is just low hanging fruit. If we were to be truly honest, we see the same mentality play out weekly in nearly every church during the false tithing argument. Most well intended pastors will adamantly say that you cannot buy a blessing from God but then essentially say the opposite when it is time for the offering. In response to such criticism we usually hear the chorus of "are you saying God wants everyone to be poor?" My answer used to be a reflexive - no! The more I seek God for this matter however the more obvious it is that the answer is actually yes. If you are thinking about material wealth to this extent then yes - God would rather see you poor on earth and rich eternally in His kingdom. Remember, the rich young ruler was not wrong for being rich but for putting his wealth before His God. The church is money obsessed and it needs to remove that yoke.
There are other false gods we have chosen to be yoked to. We choose the god of celebrity and fame over the real God. We turn our pastors into rock stars and heaven forbid anyone dare point out problems with their preaching! Similar to Baal-Peor, the church is also yoking their youth to the gods of sexual indiscretion. Most youth targeted "worship" music is not worship at all. It is an overly sexualized version of Christ and overly eroticized lyrics. Commonly referred to as the "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs, we see a generation of youth being brought up on worshiping eroticism disguised as God. With lyrics asking God to "take me by the hand and lead me to Your chambers" there is a clear correlation to Baal Peor for those who want to see.
The last thing we need to realize from the verses explaining the problem is that the Lord's anger may certainly be burning against us. I know this flies in the face of the warm fuzzy false doctrines being preached where God is just a rainbow provider in cuddly puppy land but God does expect certain things from those who claim to follow Him. I have heard followers of the hyper grace heresy of Joseph Prince for example swear that God is never upset with us! Never! Conflating the Day of Judgment with today the doctrinal errors abound in hyper grace where all God can see is the blood so therefore we can go out and murder someone while committing adultery and apparently God will say well done my good and faithful servant! I am being ridiculous on purpose to make the point because this nonsense is being followed by hundreds of thousands of people and they are following it right into hell. God rejoices in our obedience beloved. Not when we bow the knee to prosperity, self help, motivational, new age, purpose driven, seeker friendly, hyper grace or any other heresy which draws us further away from Him and further into disobedience. Back in the story of Phinehas we see the reaction for God and one man who was willing to stand up for what sayeth the Lord:
So Moses said to Israel's judges, "Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor." Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman's stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000. - Numbers 25: 5-9 (NIV)