In the previous chapters we see that the people disobeyed God and so he commands that they would be forced to wander the wilderness for 40 years, but Aaron and Moses are still on track to enter the promised land with that new generation of Israelites who would enter as the clock expired on 40 years. Well, chapter 20 removes that possibility as God tells Moses to speak to the rock so that water would come out but Moses, never one to miss an opportunity for drama, strikes the rock as if he were the one in whom the power resides to bring water from a rock. Not good, beyond not good.
We then find Israel’s wandering is filled with crossing borders of nation states that are inherently hostile and simply do not want the Israelites either in their back yard or on their front porch. God spares Israel a number of times and even destroys a number of their enemies. Then we get the interesting and amusing story of Balaam, who is able to hear the voice of God and speaks on behalf of God.
One of the kings, the king of Moab at the time, summons Balaam for the sole purpose of cursing the Israelites which would result in giving the battle over to the Moabites. Balaam refuses to go because God tells him that the Israelites are his people and he is always on their side. He tells the king no, the king sends another entourage to have Balaam come and curse the Israelites, this time God tells him to go but to only speak the words that God commands him to speak.
He gets on his donkey to go and God sends an angel to kill him because he went, even though God told him to go. The donkey takes different paths in order to avoid the angel, which apparently Balaam never sees, until he crushes Balaam foot and leg and then falls over on him. Then of all things the donkey speaks to Balaam and extols his own faithfulness. Then the angel of the Lord speaks to Balaam and says that you are lucky you have that donkey because I was about to kill you but the donkey took a separate path and it saved your life. Now go to the king, but only speak the words I give you.
He makes it to the king and three times he blesses the people of Israel instead of cursing them, just as God commands him to. As you can imagine, King Balak was not happy.
Then we get to Corinthians and a description of the sin that is present within the congregation is that a man is sleeping with his father’s wife. He tells the church in Corinth that it is better that the man is kicked out of the church rather than he influence anyone in the church, a little yeast makes the whole bread rise, which is not what you want in regards to sin.
I think the most memorable verse for me in this Scripture is 6:12 where Paul states: “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.” This is a great principle by which to live. God does not set up a barrier of rules and regulations in our lives. We are given the task to discern, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that which is beneficial to us in our lives. We can do all things, there is nothing that is unclean for us, but not all things are helpful to us. We ought to seek out those things that are helpful to us and to our relationships with God and with each other.