As Christians, we all must have a reason for the hope we have in Jesus. If anyone asks us why we follow Christ, then we must have an answer for them. What do we do, however, when we’re faced with someone who has an issue with following Christ because of something they’ve read or been told about, in the Bible? While I cannot address every possible issue that may arise. I can talk to you about a verse I read in Numbers that could be such an impetus for a conversation about following or not following the Lord. 

The Bible isn’t an easy read. Now, I’m not referring to the grade level it’s written in. Some translations are harder to read than others, and some water down the text for the sake of simplicity. One of the challenges we can find when we read the Bible are the incidents in the Old Testament when the enemies of the Israelites are all killed. 

In Numbers 31, the Lord tells Moses to “take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites” (Numbers 31:2 NIV). When the Moabites were taught to entice the men of Israel into committing idolatry against God at the incident of Peor, there were also Midianites who took part in the seduction (cf. Numbers 25:6). Therefore, Moabites and Midianites were both guilty of leading the men into sin at Peor. 

The Israelites send out 12,000 men against Midian. One thousand from each tribe. After defeating the Midianites, Moses was angry with them because they had only killed the Midianite men. 

“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.

Numbers 31:15-16 (NIV)

Balaam, along with the five kings of Midian was also amongst the people the Israelite forces killed. We can see why Moses directed that the women who took part in the incident at Peor be killed. However, the next verse in Numbers is one of those that could be difficult to understand.

Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man.

Numbers 31:17 (NIV)

Again, the women who were not virgins could have been counted amongst those who led the Israelite men into sin at Peor. But, why kill the boys? 

The “you killed my father” is a common trope today. However, the idea of a child growing up to seek vengeance on those who killed their family isn’t a new idea. As long as there have been people killing each other, vengeance has been right there. It makes for a popular and often exciting story when our hero avenges his family. We would haven’t such super-heroes like Batman or Spider-man, to name two, if this weren’t the case. Therefore, one reason the boys may have been killed is to prevent them from rising up against the Israelites when they grew up. 

Another reason why the boys may have been killed has to do with God’s mercy. These children were being raised in an environment fraught with sin and depravity. Perhaps they were too far entrenched in what they had learned to be able to turn away from committing such actions themselves. While they were yet young, the best way they could be spared from a life of sin was to not be allowed to walk into that sin. I’m reminded of something I heard a pastor say many years ago, shortly after I had been saved.

While I was attending my first men’s conference, a pastor was talking about the newly saved. What he said and what he did, was quite shocking to me at the time because I didn’t understand where he was coming from. I will do my best to illustrate it here from memory. This pastor said that sometimes the best thing that could happen to someone who was just saved was to die right away. He illustrated this point with the following role-play (again, this is by memory and only presented here in a feeble attempt to convey the situation):

Pastor: (to unsaved person) Do you accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior and repent of all of your sins?

Unsaved person: Yes, I do. 

Pastor: <Shoots the person in the head>

The pastor didn’t have a gun, but he did say, “BOOM” very loudly as he mimed shooting someone in the head. I was quite shocked at the time, and I think the pastor could have demonstrated his point less graphically. However, it did stick with me even though I didn’t understand it.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis gives us a fictional account from the perspective of a demon trying to turn a Christian from God. As we read through this book, we are privy to many of the doubts that assail a Believer, and anyone who is a Christian can attest to the hardships and trials we go through. I can say, without a doubt, that my life has been harder in many ways since I first believed than it was before. This, by no means, means that my life was better before I was saved. It was not. 

After fifteen years of being saved, I can say that I understand the heartache and pain that the pastor was trying to avoid for those newly saved people by (figuratively) ending their lives. However, there is a victory that I would not have seen if I had died on the day I was reborn. 

That pastor so many years ago was trying to tell us that it would be merciful if someone didn’t have to live the rest of their life dealing with everything we have to deal with as Christians. If they could just skip the rest of their life and go straight to Heaven, it would be better for them. This is one thing I see in killing the boys in Numbers 31:17. Those boys didn’t know God, but they hadn’t grown up and denied him either. Therefore, killing them was a merciful thing to do.

As I’ve said, the Bible isn’t an easy read because there are things in it that we, in our limited understanding, don’t understand. What we must understand is that God knows what he is doing. His ways are not our ways, and his ways go beyond us in our comprehension. Often when I am faced with something I don’t like, I remember this verse from Genesis.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31 (NIV)

If God saw all of his creation and he thought it was very good, then who am I to question his divine plan? 

If someone is earnest in their desire to know God and has genuine, sincere questions, about the Bible, then they will receive the answers the Holy Spirit gives to you, when you try and answer those questions with the love of God in your heart. Two verses come to mind that I would like to leave with you today. 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

John 6:44 (NIV)

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away. 

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.