September 7, 1998
Chapter 14: 7,8
14:7-8; "And they spake unto all the company of the children
of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an
exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into
this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
The text in Numbers occurs after Israel came close enough to the promised
land to send 12 spies to inspect its resources. This was just months after
they left Egypt. Ten of the spies reported the difficulty of taking the
new land. However, Joshua and Caleb gave a minority report. They said the
land was fertile and could be taken because the power of God was moving
in their favor. The people ignored the minority report. In fact they became
so angry with Joshua and Caleb that they almost stoned them for suggesting
that they could actually enter the promised land.
The journey from Egypt to the promised land took 40 years. Israel's
lack of faith in God caused them to wander. While just a few days journey
away from the promised land it took them 40 years to get there. The promised
land wasn't far in actual miles, but in terms of Israel's determination
to get there, it was at least 40 years away.
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Chapter 23: 20
23:20 Behold, I have received commandment to
bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
This text focuses on a professional prophet by the
name of Balaam who was asked by the king to curse Israel after God had
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Balaam was one of many prophets of eastern
religions who worshiped all the gods of the land. In many instances they
proved to be prophets for hire who knew the intricacies, rituals and beliefs
of all of the surrounding religious community. Many of these false
teachers had great power and influence. When they pronounced a blessing
or a curse, it was considered a true prophecy.
When Moses led his people across the wilderness
he journeyed north on the east side of Jordan where King Balak of Moab
faced the invasion of Israel. Balak sought a strategy other than battle
to stop Moses. He decided to use a prophet to curse Israel. Balaam was
chosen. Balak sent his messengers with fees to secure Balaam's services.
Balaam asked God's permission to curse Israel. Permission was refused,
but Balaam journeyed to confer further with Balak. On this journey, Balaam's
donkey talked with him as he traveled a narrow trail (Num. 22:21-30). Here
Balaam clearly understood that an angel's drawn sword enforced his obedience
to speak only God's message to Balak.
In four clear and precise messages Balaam insisted
that God would bless Israel (Num. 23-24).
The people of Israel were being blessed because
they were living godly lives. In 23:21 Balaam said God had considered the
ways of Israel and was pleased with their righteousness. Moses had insisted
that they live according to the law of God. Their righteous living
drew praise from God and resulted in a blessing that could not be reversed.
In 23:21 Balaam noted that Israel was blessed because
they were strong in their faith. The phrase "strength of a unicorn" was
another way of saying that the people were as strong as oxen. Strong faith
and dependence upon God had led them out of Egypt. It also led them across
the Red Sea and the River Jordan. Over 40 years of wandering and dependence
upon God had made them strong and bold in their faith.
Baalam concluded that the people were protected by the
blessings of God. No magic spells, enchantments or special potions could
be used against them because they were protected by the hand of God. God
was performing signs and wonders as he guided their paths. The walls of
cities were falling. The sun seemed to hang in the sky prolonging the days
of their battles. Their enemies were falling by the thousands. They were
a protected people that could not be stopped by any tricks the king hoped
to have played upon them.
Balaam could not curse Israel. However, they brought curses
upon themselves by their willingness to commingle their faith in God with
that of others around them. While Balaam could not curse Israel, he taught
the Moabites to bring the men of Israel into Baal worship with its immorality.
For this God would punish Israel. What Balaam could not accomplish
with a curse he did so through seductive means.