[Adapted from F. W. Grant, The Numerical Bible: Ezekiel, page 276. Bold Emphasis added.]
In the early chapters of the book of Ezekiel the prophet told of Israel’s abominations (e.g., Ezek. 8; 11). Many times they were referred to as rebellious. Now in chapter 44, they are called rebellious for the last time. What is now revealed is a word for the people of Ezekiel’s day, for when the new temple he is describing is built they will no longer be of this character. This shows that God intended the new order of things, which the prophet was now revealing, to have a present effect upon the ways of the people. As they learned what God purposed for the day of glory, they were to already separate themselves from past evils, which had come in through gross carelessness as to His honor and holiness. This is consistently God’s purpose in revealing the future. Those to whom the future is revealed are responsible to walk in its light.
When God reveals to us future judgment or glory, this is His call to us to conduct ourselves now in a manner consistent with this revelation. In this way, we will be witness to those around us of what we know is sure to come. Thus we know that the day of the Lord is coming upon the ungodly world. It is not only a day of judgment but also the time of established righteousness and peace which Christ will bring in, and in which we shall have our part and place with Him. We are of the day, and not of this world’s present night. Hence we are to walk now as those who are of the day, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation—salvation out of the world which goes on to wrath (1 Thess. 5). Whatever God has revealed in His prophetic Word is by no means for the gratification of curious minds, but so that he who believes it may walk with God in the present. By doing this we find practical deliverance from this present evil age, not being conformed to it, but transformed by the renewing of our minds in daily fellowship with God through His word of truth.
Balaam was made to give God’s thought concerning His people: “Behold, a people who dwells apart, and will not be reckoned among the nations. (Num. 23:9b, NASB) He it was who later did his best to accomplish their mixture with the wicked nation of Moab. He could not curse, but becoming acquainted with God’s purpose, and being an enemy, he sought their overthrow by subtlety (Num. 31:16). He snares them into evil associations, and God must deal in judgment. From this, we learn what is meant by the doctrine of Balaam, and it shows one of the great wiles of the devil against which we must be on our guard. His constant effort is to effect a mixture where God’s express mind is separation and purity.
In this connection, we may well consider Revelation 2:14. It is one of those many instances in Scripture where the things written before are written for our admonition (Rom. 15:4). Israel was caught in the snare of those friendly advances, which had behind them the enemy’s purpose to destroy the character of God’s people as called to “dwell alone,” in separation to God, whose holy ways and worship had been revealed to them. The seduction was intended to deprive Israel of her distinctive position and favor with God, which Balaam had been forced to proclaim. God’s thought was that His people should be separate from all the abounding evil of the nations. Balaam’s doctrine was that a mixture should be effected between them. Fleshly lusts and false religious activities were the instruments used.
This history has been repeated in the relations established between the Church and the world. In the apostolic period, idolatry touched every sphere of life. As a result, the early Christians of necessity withdrew largely from all the social and festive activities in which moral evil abounded, and in which they had formerly taken part (1 Pet. 4:1–4). This brought against them much persecution and evil-speaking. In those days, to partake of the idol sacrifices came to signify the recantation of Christianity.
But things changed; the world became friendly and sought association with the Church, who, like Israel, was snared into evil practices. The doctrine of mixture prevailed. This destroyed the true character and testimony of the Church in the world. Expansion by compromise with the idolatrous world became the policy of its leaders. Features and practices of heathendom were incorporated into its life, both publicly and privately. But today we do not think of this, because idolatry has passed away. Nevertheless, it has its lesson for us. With the light and knowledge we have, whatever displaces God, or represents Him as different from what He is known to be as revealed in Christ, or that changes His truth, cannot be followed without some form of moral failure resulting. Truth refused, perverted, or neglected, is accompanied in some degree with moral laxity and spiritual decrepitude.