48. BAALAM CAUSES THE DEATH OF THOUSANDS
Last time we listened to blessings that came out of the mouth of Balaam when in fact he wanted to curse Israel. Why? It would have made him a billionaire.
If any one places a curse on you, remember the story of Balaam. God will turn the curse into a blessing if you are walking in His commandments
Balaam confessed that he came with the purpose of cursing Israel, but the words he uttered were directly contrary to the sentiments of his heart. He was constrained to pronounce blessings, while his soul was filled with curses.
As Balaam looked upon the encampment of Israel he beheld with astonishment the evidence of their prosperity.
They had been represented to him as a rude, disorganized multitude, infesting the country in roving bands that were a pest and terror to the surrounding nations; but their appearance was the reverse of all this.
He saw the vast extent and perfect arrangement of their camp, everything bearing the marks of thorough discipline and order. He was shown the favor with which God regarded Israel, and their distinctive character as His chosen people.
They were not to stand upon a level with other nations, but to be exalted above them all. “The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”
At the time when these words were spoken the Israelites had no permanent settlement, and their peculiar character, their manners and customs, were not familiar to Balaam.
But how strikingly was this prophecy fulfilled in the afterhistory of Israel! Through all the years of their captivity, through all the ages since they were dispersed among the nations, they have remained a distinct people.
So the people of God–the true Israel–though scattered throughout all nations, are on earth but sojourners, whose citizenship is in heaven.
Not only was Balaam shown the history of the Hebrew people as a nation, but he beheld the increase and prosperity of the true Israel of God to the close of time.
He saw the special favor of the Most High attending those who love and fear Him. He saw them supported by His arm as they enter the dark valley of the shadow of death.
And he beheld them coming forth from their graves, crowned with glory, honor, and immortality. He saw the redeemed rejoicing in the unfading glories of the earth made new.
Gazing upon the scene, he exclaimed, “Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel?” And as he saw the crown of glory on every brow, the joy beaming from every countenance, and looked forward to that endless life of unalloyed happiness, he uttered the solemn prayer, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”
If Balaam had had a disposition to accept the light that God had given, he would now have made true his words; he would at once have severed all connection with Moab.
He would no longer have presumed upon the mercy of God, but would have returned to Him with deep repentance. But Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness, and these he was determined to secure.
Balak had confidently expected a curse that would fall like a withering blight upon Israel; and at the words of the prophet he passionately exclaimed,
“What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!”
Balaam, seeking to make a virtue of necessity, professed to have spoken from a conscientious regard for the will of God the words that had been forced from his lips by divine power. His answer was, “Must I not take heed to speak what the LORD has put in my mouth?” verses 11,12
Balak could not even now relinquish his purpose. He decided that the imposing spectacle presented by the vast encampment of the Hebrews had so intimidated Balaam that he dared not practice his divinations against them.
The king determined to take the prophet to some point where only a small part of the host might be seen. If Balaam could be induced to curse them in detached parties, the whole camp would soon be devoted to destruction.
On the top of an elevation called Pisgah another trial was made. Again seven altars were erected, whereon were placed the same offerings as at the first.
The king and his princes remained by the sacrifices, while Balaam retired to meet with God. Again the prophet was entrusted with a divine message, which he was powerless to alter or withhold.
When he appeared to the anxious, expectant company the question was put to him, “What has the LORD spoken?” The answer, as before, struck terror to the heart of king and princes:
Verses 19-21 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Behold, I have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
“He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The LORD his God is with him,
And the shout of a King is among them. Verse 19-21
Awed by these revelations, Balaam exclaimed, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.”
The great magician had tried his power of enchantment, in accordance with the desire of the Moabites; but concerning this very occasion it should be said of Israel, “Oh, what God has done!”
While they were under the divine protection, no people or nation, though aided by all the power of Satan, should be able to prevail against them.
All the world should wonder at the marvelous work of God in behalf of His people–that a man determined to pursue a sinful course should be so controlled by divine power as to utter, instead of imprecations, the richest and most precious promises, in the language of sublime and impassioned poetry.
And the favor of God at this time manifested toward Israel was to be an assurance of His protecting care for His obedient, faithful children in all ages.
When Satan should inspire evil men to misrepresent, harass, and destroy God’s people, this very occurrence would be brought to their remembrance, and would strengthen their courage and their faith in God.
The king of Moab, disheartened and distressed, exclaimed, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.” Yet a faint hope still lingered in his heart, and he determined to make another trial.
He now conducted Balaam to Mount Peor, where was a temple devoted to the licentious worship of Baal, their god.
Here the same number of altars were erected as before, and the same number of sacrifices were offered; but Balaam went not alone, as at other times, to learn God’s will.
He made no pretense of sorcery, but standing beside the altars, he looked abroad upon the tents of Israel. Again the Spirit of God rested upon him, and the divine message came from his lips:
Numbers 24:5-9 “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!
Your dwellings, O Israel!
Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens by the riverside,
Like aloes planted by the LORD,
Like cedars beside the waters.
He shall pour water from his buckets,
And his seed shall be in many waters.
“His king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’
“Blessed is he who blesses you,
And cursed is he who curses you.”
The prosperity of God’s people is here represented by some of the most beautiful figures to be found in nature.
The prophet likens Israel to fertile valleys covered with abundant harvests; to flourishing gardens watered by never-failing springs; to the fragrant sandal tree and the stately cedar.
The figure last mentioned is one of the most strikingly beautiful and appropriate to be found in the inspired word. The cedar of Lebanon was honored by all the people of the East. The class of trees to which it belongs is found wherever man has gone throughout the earth.
From the arctic regions to the tropic zone they flourish, rejoicing in the heat, yet braving the cold; springing in rich luxuriance by the riverside, yet towering aloft upon the parched and thirsty waste.
They plant their roots deep among the rocks of the mountains and boldly stand in defiance of the tempest. Their leaves are fresh and green when all else has perished at the breath of winter.
Above all other trees the cedar of Lebanon is distinguished for its strength, its firmness, its undecaying vigor; and this is used as a symbol of those whose life is “hid with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3.
Says the Scripture, “The righteous . . . shall grow like a cedar.” Psalm 92:12. The divine hand has exalted the cedar as king over the forest. “The fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches” (Ezekiel 31:8); nor any tree in the garden of God.
The cedar is repeatedly employed as an emblem of royalty, and its use in Scripture to represent the righteous shows how Heaven regards those who do the will of God.
Balaam prophesied that Israel’s King would be greater and more powerful than Agag. This was the name given to the kings of the Amalekites, who were at this time a very powerful nation; but Israel, if true to God, would subdue all her enemies.
The King of Israel was the Son of God; and His throne was one day to be established in the earth, and His power to be exalted above all earthly kingdoms.
As he listened to the prophet’s words Balak was overwhelmed with disappointed hope, with fear and rage. He was indignant that Balaam could have given him the least encouragement of a favorable response, when everything was determined against him.
He regarded with scorn the prophet’s compromising, deceptive course. The king exclaimed fiercely, “flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the LORD has kept you back from honor.”
The answer was that the king had been forewarned that Balaam could speak only the message given him from God.
Before returning to his people, Balaam uttered a most beautiful and sublime prophecy of the world’s Redeemer and the final destruction of the enemies of God: “I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh:
There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.”
And he closed by predicting the complete destruction of Moab and Edom, of Amalek and the Kenites, thus leaving to the Moabitish king no ray of hope.
Disappointed in his hopes of wealth and promotion, in disfavor with the king, and conscious that he had incurred the displeasure of God, Balaam returned from his self-chosen mission.
After he had reached his home the controlling power of the Spirit of God left him, and his covetousness, which had been merely held in check, prevailed.
He was ready to resort to any means to gain the reward promised by Balak. Balaam knew that the prosperity of Israel depended upon their obedience to God, and that there was no way to cause their overthrow but by seducing them into sin.
He now decided to secure Balak’s favor by advising the Moabites of the course to be pursued to bring a curse upon Israel. He immediately returned to the land of Moab and laid his plans before the king.
The Moabites themselves were convinced that so long as Israel remained true to God, He would be their shield. The plan proposed by Balaam was to separate them from God by enticing them into idolatry.
If they could be led to engage in the licentious worship of Baal and Ashtaroth, their omnipotent Protector would become their enemy, and they would soon fall a prey to the fierce, warlike nations around them.
This plan was readily accepted by the king, and Balaam himself remained to assist in carrying it into effect. Balaam witnessed the success of his diabolical scheme.
He saw the curse of God visited upon His people, and thousands falling under His judgments; but the divine justice that punished sin in Israel did not permit the tempters to escape.
In the war of Israel against the Midianites, Balaam was slain. He had felt a presentiment that his own end was near when he exclaimed:
“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”
But he had not chosen to live the life of the righteous, and his destiny was fixed with the enemies of God. The fate of Balaam was similar to that of Judas, and their characters bear a marked resemblance to each other.
Both these men tried to unite the service of God and mammon, and met with signal failure. Balaam acknowledged the true God, and professed to serve Him; Judas believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and united with His followers.
But Balaam hoped to make the service of Jehovah the steppingstone to the acquirement of riches and worldly honor; and failing in this he stumbled and fell and was broken.
Judas expected by his connection with Christ to secure wealth and promotion in that worldly kingdom which, as he believed, the Messiah was about to set up.
The failure of his hopes drove him to apostasy and ruin. Both Balaam and Judas had received great light and enjoyed special privileges, but a single cherished sin poisoned the entire character and caused their destruction.
It is a perilous thing to allow an unchristian trait to live in the heart. One cherished sin will, little by little, debase the character, bringing all its nobler powers into subjection to the evil desire.
The removal of one safeguard from the conscience, the indulgence of one evil habit, one neglect of the high claims of duty, breaks down the defenses of the soul and opens the way for Satan to come in and lead us astray.
The only safe course is to let our prayers go forth daily from a sincere heart, as did David, ” Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip.” Psalm 17:5.
After the break we will visit the Israelites on the banks of the river Jorfdan. They were on the verge of stepping into the promised land.
But then some of them were destroyed by the most fearful enemy, called lust.
If you struggle with problem, please ask God to deliver you. Come and listen to the sad and the glad side of the story.