49. LET ME DIE THE DEATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS
The story of Baalam is a heart breaking. God did everything to turn him from his wicked ways, but without any success.
The glory of the Second Coming was revealed to him but he smarted it for earthly greed. What about you and I?
After concering Bashan Israek encamped at Jordan. They were ready to conquer Canaan they land of milk and honey.
The moabites dreaded their precneceHulle was op die grens van Moab en die mense het hulle teenwoordigheid gevrees.
The people of Moab had not been molested by Israel, yet they had watched with troubled forebodings all that had taken place in the surrounding countries.
The Amorites, before whom they had been forced to retreat, had been conquered by the Hebrews, and the territory which the Amorites had wrested from Moab was now in the possession of Israel.
The hosts of Bashan had yielded before the mysterious power enshrouded in the cloudy pillar, and the giant strongholds were occupied by the Hebrews.
The Moabites dared not risk an attack upon them; an appeal to arms was hopeless in face of the supernatural agencies that wrought in their behalf.
But they determined, as Pharaoh had done, to enlist the power of sorcery to counteract the work of God. They would bring a curse upon Israel.
The people of Moab were closely connected with the Midianites, both by the ties of nationality and religion. And Balak, the king of Moab, aroused the fears of the kindred people, and secured their co-operation in his designs against Israel by the message,
“Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.” Balaam, an inhabitant of Mesopotamia, was reported to possess supernatural powers, and his fame had reached to the land of Moab.
It was determined to call him to their aid. Accordingly, messengers of “the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian,” were sent to secure his divinations and enchantments against Israel.
The ambassadors at once set out on their long journey over the mountains and across the deserts to Mesopotamia; and upon finding Balaam, they delivered to him the message of their king:
Numbers 22:5,6 Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! 6 Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
Balaam was once a good man and a prophet of God; but he had apostatized, and had given himself up to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High.
He was not ignorant of God’s work in behalf of Israel; and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and to dismiss the ambassadors.
But he ventured to dally with temptation, and urged the messengers to tarry with him that night, declaring that he could give no decided answer till he had asked counsel of the Lord.
Balaam knew that his curse could not harm Israel. God was on their side, and so long as they were true to Him no adverse power of earth or hell could prevail against them.
But his pride was flattered by the words of the ambassadors, “he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
The bribe of costly gifts and prospective exaltation excited his covetousness. He greedily accepted the offered treasures, and then, while professing strict obedience to the will of God, he tried to comply with the desires of Balak.
In the night season the angel of God came to Balaam with the message, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” Numbers 22:12
In the morning Balaam reluctantly dismissed the messengers, but he did not tell them what the Lord had said. Angry that his visions of gain and honor had been suddenly dispelled, he petulantly exclaimed, “Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to give me permission to go with you.” Verse 13.
Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” 2 Peter 2:15. The sin of covetousness, which God declares to be idolatry, had made him a timeserver, and through this one fault Satan gained entire control of him. It was this that caused his ruin.
The tempter is ever presenting worldly gain and honor to entice men from the service of God. He tells them it is their overconscientiousness that keeps them from prosperity.
Thus many are induced to venture out of the path of strict integrity. One wrong step makes the next easier, and they become more and more presumptuous. They will do and dare most terrible things when once they have given themselves to the control of avarice and a desire for power.
Many flatter themselves that they can depart from strict integrity for a time, for the sake of some worldly advantage, and that having gained their object, they can change their course when they please. Such are entangling themselves in the snare of Satan, and it is seldom that they escape.
When the messengers reported to Balak the prophet’s refusal to accompany them, they did not intimate that God had forbidden him.
Supposing that Balaam’s delay was merely to secure a richer reward, the king sent princes more in number and more honorable than the first, with promises of higher honors, and with authority to concede to any terms that Balaam might demand.
Balak’s urgent message to the prophet was, “Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.” Verses 16,17
A second time Balaam was tested. In response to the solicitations of the ambassadors he professed great conscientiousness and integrity, assuring them that no amount of gold and silver could induce him to go contrary to the will of God.
But he longed to comply with the king’s request; and although the will of God had already been definitely made known to him, he urged the messengers to tarry, that he might further inquire of God; as though the Infinite One were a man, to be persuaded.
In the night season the Lord appeared to Balaam and said, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you, that you shall do.”
Thus far the Lord would permit Balaam to follow his own will, because he was determined upon it. He did not seek to do the will of God, but chose his own course, and then endeavored to secure the sanction of the Lord. What about you and I?
There are thousands at the present day who are pursuing a similar course. They would have no difficulty in understanding their duty if it were in harmony with their inclinations. What about us?
It is plainly set before them in the Bible or is clearly indicated by circumstances and reason. But because these evidences are contrary to their desires and inclinations they frequently set them aside and presume to go to God to learn their duty.
And I and you?
With great apparent conscientiousness they pray long and earnestly for light. But God will not be trifled with. He often permits such persons to follow their own desires and to suffer the result.
“My people would not hearken to My voice. . . . So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” Psalm 81:11, 12.
When one clearly sees a duty, let him not presume to go to God with the prayer that he may be excused from performing it. He should rather, with a humble, submissive spirit, ask for divine strength and wisdom to meet its claims.
The Moabites were a degraded, idolatrous people; yet according to the light which they had received their guilt was not so great in the sight of Heaven as was that of Balaam.
As he professed to be God’s prophet, however, all he should say would be supposed to be uttered by divine authority. Hence he was not to be permitted to speak as he chose, but must deliver the message which God should give him.
“Only the word which I speak to you, that you shall do,” was the divine command.
Balaam had received permission to go with the messengers from Moab if they came in the morning to call him. But, annoyed at his delay, and expecting another refusal, they set out on their homeward journey without further consultation with him.
Every excuse for complying with the request of Balak had now been removed. But Balaam was determined to secure the reward; and, taking the beast upon which he was accustomed to ride, he set out on the journey.
He feared that even now the divine permission might be withdrawn, and he pressed eagerly forward, impatient lest he should by some means fail to gain the coveted reward.
But “the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him.” The animal saw the divine messenger, who was unperceived by the man, and turned aside from the highway into a field.
With cruel blows Balaam brought the beast back into the path; but again, in a narrow place shut in by walls, the angel appeared, and the animal, trying to avoid the menacing figure, crushed her master’s foot against the wall.
Balaam was blinded to the heavenly interposition, and knew not that God was obstructing his path. The man became exasperated, and beating the ass unmercifully, forced it to proceed.
Again, “in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left,” the angel appeared, as before, in a threatening attitude; and the poor beast, trembling with terror, made a full stop, and fell to the earth under its rider.
Balaam’s rage was unbounded, and with his staff he smote the animal more cruelly than before. God now opened its mouth, and by “the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice,” he “forbade the madness of the prophet.” 2 Peter 2:16.
“What have I done to you,” it said “that you have struck me these three times?”
Furious at being thus hindered in his journey, Balaam answered the beast as he would have addressed an intelligent being – “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”
Here was a professed magician, on his way to pronounce a curse upon a whole people with the intent to paralyze their strength, while he had not power even to slay the animal upon which he rode!
The eyes of Balaam were now opened, and he beheld the angel of God standing with drawn sword ready to slay him. In terror “he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.”
The angel said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”
Balaam owed the preservation of his life to the poor animal that he had treated so cruelly. The man who claimed to be a prophet of the Lord, who declared that his eyes were open, and he saw the “vision of the Almighty,” was so blinded by covetousness and ambition that he could not discern the angel of God visible to his beast.
“The god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. How many are thus blinded! They rush on in forbidden paths, transgressing the divine law, and cannot discern that God and His angels are against them.
Like Balaam they are angry at those who would prevent their ruin.
And you,and I?
Balaam had given evidence of the spirit that controlled him, by his treatment of his beast. “A righteous man regards the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10.
Few realize as they should the sinfulness of abusing animals or leaving them to suffer from neglect. He who created man made the lower animals also, and “His tender mercies are over all His works.”
Psalm 145:9. The animals were created to serve man, but he has no right to cause them pain by harsh treatment or cruel exaction.
It is because of man’s sin that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together.” Romans 8:22. Suffering and death were thus entailed, not only upon the human race, but upon the animals.
Surely, then, it becomes man to seek to lighten, instead of increasing, the weight of suffering which his transgression has brought upon God’s creatures.
He who will abuse animals because he has them in his power is both a coward and a tyrant. A disposition to cause pain, whether to our fellow men or to the brute creation, is satanic.
Many do not realize that their cruelty will ever be known, because the poor dumb animals cannot reveal it. But could the eyes of these men be opened, as were those of Balaam, they would see an angel of God standing as a witness, to testify against them in the courts above.
A record goes up to heaven, and a day is coming when judgment will be pronounced against those who abuse God’s creatures.
When he beheld the messenger of God, Balaam exclaimed in terror, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” Verse 34.
The Lord suffered him to proceed on his journey, but gave him to understand that his words should be controlled by divine power.
God would give evidence to Moab that the Hebrews were under the guardianship of Heaven, and this He did effectually when He showed them how powerless Balaam was even to utter a curse against them without divine permission.
The king of Moab, being informed of the approach of Balaam, went out with a large retinue to the borders of his kingdom, to receive him.
When he expressed his astonishment at Balaam’s delay, in view of the rich rewards awaiting him, the prophet’s answer was,
“Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.”
Balaam greatly regretted this restriction; he feared that his purpose could not be carried out, because the Lord’s controlling power was upon him.
With great pomp the king, with the chief dignitaries of his kingdom, escorted Balaam to “the high places of Baal,” from which he could survey the Hebrew host.
Behold the prophet as he stands upon the lofty height, looking down over the encampment of God’s chosen people. How little do the Israelites know of what is taking place so near them!
How little do they know of the care of God, extended over them by day and by night! How dull are the perceptions of God’s people! How slow are they, in every age, to comprehend His great love and mercy!
If they could discern the wonderful power of God constantly exerted in their behalf, would not their hearts be filled with gratitude for His love, and with awe at the thought of His majesty and power?
Balaam had some knowledge of the sacrificial offerings of the Hebrews, and he hoped that by surpassing them in costly gifts he might secure the blessing of God and ensure the accomplishment of his sinful projects.
Thus the sentiments of the idolatrous Moabites were gaining control of his mind. His wisdom had become foolishness; his spiritual vision was beclouded; he had brought blindness upon himself by yielding to the power of Satan.
By Balaam’s direction seven altars were erected, and he offered a sacrifice upon each. He then withdrew to a “high place,” to meet with God, promising to make known to Balak whatever the Lord should reveal.
With the nobles and princes of Moab the king stood beside the sacrifice, while around them gathered the eager multitude, watching for the return of the prophet.
He came at last, and the people waited for the words that should paralyze forever that strange power exerted in behalf of the hated Israelites. Balaam said:
“Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram,
From the mountains of the east.
‘Come, curse Jacob for me,
And come, denounce Israel!’
8 “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?
And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?
9 For from the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him;
There! A people dwelling alone,
Not reckoning itself among the nations.
10 “Who can count the dust of Jacob,
Or number one-fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
And let my end be like his!” Numbers 23:7-10
After the break we will continue and listen to the very sad end of a man who almost made it to the kingdom of heaven.
Is there anything willfull sin in your life? God is going to help you overcome it it you will allow Him to do it for you.
Do not let anything keep you out of heaven. The loss would be too costly.