1 Corinthians 10:8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
Numbers 25:1-3 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he was speaking to a church that was surrounded with sexual immorality. The city of Corinth was a haven of hedonism where many temples hosted hundreds of prostitutes which were visited by vast multitudes of foreigners. In the ancient world, the term "Corinthianize" indicated a life of sexual promiscuity.
Paul connects the situation in Corinth with that which is found in Numbers 25. With YHVH's blessing on the young Israelite nation, the prophet Balaam was unable to obey the king of Moab's (Balak) command to curse Israel. But because Balaam was a self-serving prophet, practicing both divination (Numbers 24:1) and giving voice to the words of YHVH, he was willing to advise Balak to seduce the men of Israel with the Moabite women, causing Israel to fall into idolatry which brought God's judgment upon them. (Numbers 31:16) Balaam understood that living in holiness and sexual purity is a great protection, and that fornication and adultery would bring a curse with them.
Sexual sin is serious, and it is rampant in our time. There seems to be almost no escaping the temptation of licentiousness at every corner. But C.S. Lewis offered this advice to a friend, still worth heeding as much as possible: "We must learn by experience to avoid either trains of thought or social situations which for us (not necessarily for everyone) lead to temptations. Like motoring (driving) -- don't wait till the last moment before you put on the brakes, but put them on, gently and quietly, while the danger is still a good way off."
The spirit of Corinth is everywhere, as we all can see. The greatest protection is abiding with the Lord in our determination to reject a "Corinthian" life of hedonism (living for pleasure), and to cultivate a godly and beautiful vision of marriage and sexuality, for ourselves and our loved ones. That vision will inspire us to navigate these licentious times, avoid trouble spots, and put on the brakes gently and firmly.