Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chronological reading Plan for Mar 4, Num 23-25

Today's readings are Num 23-25. Tomorrow's are Num 26-27. 

The strange case of Balaam continues as he and Balak offer sacrifices and the Lord speaks to Balaam in seven oracles. 

In the first oracle God makes it clear that no one will effectively curse those He blesses. His people are set apart from the nations. He blesses them and will provide for them.

In the second oracle God tells Balaam to tell Balak that His promises to Israel will not be revoked and His people will be victorious. 

The third oracle comes as the Spirit of God prophesies through Balaam saying that those who bless God's people will be blessed and those who curse God's people will be cursed. This one is actually being carried out as Balaam speaks. Even though he is not one of God's people, God is blessing Him by speaking truth through him.

Balak is getting increasingly angry at Balaam, dismissing him and telling him he could have made a lot of money if Balaam had just cursed Israel instead of blessing them. Balaam maintains that he could only say what God told him to say, money is not important. 

Balaam's parting oracle prophesies the defeat of Moab. Balaam adds an additional three prophecies concerning the nations of Canaan, all of whom will be defeated by Israel. 

Balak believes he can manipulate God into cursing Israel by using Balaam, a man who practices divination (Josh 13:21-22). God remains faithful. But, we also see that people like Balaam who are not part of God's chosen people are capable of doing good things, godly things. Those godly actions do not make them part of the God's family. Balaam, because he is not totally committed to God, even though God spoke to him and used Him, will come to a very bad end (Num 31:8,16; 2 Pet 2:15; Rev 2:14). 

This should serve as a caution to us not to immediately assume someone is from God just because they know or speak His word. Until we see godly character and a godly heart, we should be careful in assuming that godly rhetoric indicates a godly character and heavenly motivation. God spoke through Balaam but he was a pagan worshiper (Num 22:5) and a man who wanted to kill his donkey for being obedient to God. The situation with the donkey was actually quite comical but there is much to be learned from it. 

In Num 25, we see that the threat to Israel is not only external. Some of the Israelites disobey God by marrying Moabite women and, incredibly, worshiping another god, Baal. This is actually a more dangerous threat than Balak posed. God commands Moses to kill all those who are blatantly sinning against Him. More Jews die as a result of their disobedience than as a result of war with Moab! Phineas is particularly zealous in pursuing this. Through the actions of holy people and the onset of a plague that kills 24,000, God's anger is vented. 

It is made clear, once again, that death is the consequence for rebellion against God. It is far more dangerous and fatal to rebel against God than it is to fight for Him. His standards are absolute perfection in obeying His commandments. He will do whatever is necessary to eradicate sin among His children. It is also becoming increasingly clear that His children are totally incapable of being perfect. They constantly find themselves in need of an advocate, a mediator, a savior who will stand between them and the wrath of God. 

You and I are no different than Israel. We long to please God but are unable. We, like them, need a savior, even while we are experiencing God's grace and mercy. God is, indeed merciful but will not tolerate sin among His people. Since they are incapable of doing what He requires and because of His great love for His children, He provides Moses and Aaron to guide them and intercede for them. They are the ones who stand between the people and their God.


  1. I don't have the reference handy but I recall that Balaam suggested Balak entice the Israelites to sexual sin with the locals. This points more light on what Israel did and provides a stern rebuke to us. Maybe Balaam did earn his fees afterall.

  2. Balaam has been the subject of much debate among Bible scholars. Was he a bad prophet that tried to do good or a good prophet that went bad? I don;t think he was either. We hear that he was a seer and a worker of divinations (Josh 13:22). I don;t think his references to "my God" were toward the one true god if Israel but rather to a god among many other gods. God use him nonetheless. Scriptures seems to bear this out. Balaam is roundly condemned. (Num 31:8, 16; Deut 23:3–6; Josh 13:22; 24:9–10; Judg 11:23–25; Neh 13:1–3; Mic 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15–16; Jude 11; Rev 2:14)