But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, with the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, who had come from the battle. And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately. (Numbers 31:14-18)
When the nation of Israel came to the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho, Balak, king of Moab, sent for Balaam to prophesy against the Hebrews. Thwarted by the word of God, Balaam was unable to curse the people. As Israel camped in Acacia Grove, the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. Twenty-four thousand would die from the plague brought on by the anger of God. After forty years of leading the Israelites through the wilderness, the Lord instructed Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. They had brought about Israel’s seduction to follow after Baal of Peor. The Midianites were responsible for the Israelites going after the Moabite women and adulterating themselves with pagan worship. Zimri, the son of Salu, a leader from the tribe of Simeon, brought Cozbi, the daughter of Zur, head of the house of Midian, before all Israel to commit adultery with her. Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, took a javelin and thrust both through, killing them. Because of the action of Phinehas, the plague devastating Israel stopped.
God’s wrath was not finished with the people of Midian as the Lord instructs Moses to destroy them. Gathering 12,000 armed men, Phinehas warred against the Midianites, killing all the males, including the kings of Midian. Balaam, the son of Peor, was also killed with the sword. The army of Israel took Midian captive women, with their little ones along with cattle, flocks, and goods. They also burned with fire all the cities and all their forts. When the captains presented their plunder before Moses and Eleazar, the priest, Moses became very angry. He was astonished the captains of the army had kept all the women alive. These were the cause of the harlotry of Israel. All the captains’ reasoning did not change the will of God to destroy the influences of evil that cost Israel 24,000 lives.
Moses tells the army to kill every male child (the little ones) and kill every woman who was not a virgin. They could keep the virgins for themselves. The Midianites’ influence was a danger to the people of God, and He demanded them to set themselves apart from them. This is a severe separation, but it was the sanctification of righteousness against unrighteousness. It is hard to imagine the soldiers going through the captives and killed all the little boys and then turning upon all the women killing all that were not virgins. The cries must have been incredible, and the fear among the people unmistakable. There was a certain message indelibly marked upon the hearts of the Israelites: sanctification to God can be severe.
Stories like this permeate holy writ and are given as examples of God’s wrath against ungodliness and the need to separate righteousness from unrighteousness. Satan has never feared the believer in God as he continues to attack them, seeking to draw them away. While his evil desire is the destruction of every man’s soul, his greatest victory is the destruction of righteous souls. Sanctification is the channel that keeps the darkness of unrighteousness away from the hearts of righteousness. This requires separation, and sometimes that separation can be severe, and need be severe. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor, but the man refused. Too harsh. Many are unwilling to give up a spouse, although they know they have an unlawful marriage. God is asking too much. Keeping the commandments of the Lord is viewed as archaic and out of step with modern philosophy. Too strict.
Severe sanctification is often how purity is attained in the lives of God’s people. Jesus left the eternal glory of Heaven to come to earth and be killed. This is the greatest example of severe sanctification and thank God He was willing to suffer so that we could be drawn to the Father. There may be things in life that we must take drastic action against to preserve our souls’ salvation. Are we willing to pay the price? Would you be able to be a soldier who obeyed the word of the Lord against the Midianites? Take stock. Severe. Sanctification. Righteousness.