Setting the SceneJune 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 1 Comment
Tags: Balaam, Balaam's ass, Balak, Biblical miracles, false prophecy, Midian, Moab, Numbers 22, Numbers 25, prophecy
And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Numbers 25:6 (emphasis added)
God through the leadership of Moses had delivered His people from the bondage of the Egyptians. They had crossed the Red Sea into the wilderness. The plan was that they would follow the guidance of the Lord into a land which God had promised to the descendants of Abraham for their inheritance. When they had met resistance, God had won the battle for them.
And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
This was to be the staging area from which they would cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan – the promised land – the land flowing with milk and honey. They had defeated the Amalekites, the King of Arad, the Amorites, and the great and mighty Og, King of Bashan. They had lost a smaller skirmish to some Canaanites they rashly attacked outside of the will of God, but their win-loss record was 4-1, and they were on a roll. So, obviously, the
King of Moab, whose name was Balak, was afraid of them.
And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
His plan to deal with them was two-fold. First, he would form an alliance with the Midianites. Second, he would hire a famous sorcerer and (false) prophet named Balaam to put a curse on these Hebrews, so that the Moabites and the Midianites could defeat them in battle. Balak went to great expense to hire Balaam’s services.
He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
At first Balaam refused to come. Despite his status as a practitioner of divination, the true God had spoken to him and told him that he would not be able to curse a nation of people who God had blessed. Nevertheless:
And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.
Balaam ended up coming with Balak’s representatives anyway, and, although God was displeased with him, He allowed him to go. There is a very funny story about his trip, during which he rode on a donkey, if you want to take the time to read it, but I will probably save it for another lesson, except to say that perhaps the most amazing thing about Balaam’s donkey talking to him is not the fact that his donkey did in fact speak, but that Balaam does not seem to have been surprised by it in the least when it happened. Possibly Balaam was quite used to demons and evil spirits speaking to him through animals, in much the same way Satan spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden through a serpent.
God spoke through Balaam, and he gave great prophecies about God’s people. They were great because they reiterated the blessings that God had promised to the nation of Israel, but, even more importantly, they were true. God can speak through a donkey, and he can speak through an otherwise false prophet. It was not all these supernatural phenomena, nor the behind-the-scenes scheming and machinations of Balak, that ultimately brought God’s people to a place of weeping. Ultimately, it was a very mundane, a very worldly, a very no-nonsense, down-to-earth plan of action that brought God’s people into condemnation, and they had themselves to blame for it. Next time, we will see precisely why the Israelites were weeping.