Numbers 22 starts out with a man named Balak, the king of Moab, being quite afraid of the people of Israel. And truthfully, he had every right to be. The Israelites were making their way to the promised land and “taking care of” anyone who stood in their way. (And by “taking care of” we actually mean destroying). The Israelites have traveled through the plains of Moab and are camping east of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. Verses 4-6 in chapter 22 say,
“The king of Moab (Balak) said to the elders of Midian, ‘This mob will devour everything in sight, like an ox devours grass in the field!’ So Balak, king of Moab, sent messengers to call Balaam son of Beor, who was living in his native land of Pethor near the Euphrates River. His message said: ‘Look, a vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt. They cover the face of the earth and are threatening me. Please come and curse these people for me because they are too powerful for me. Then perhaps I will be able to conquer them and drive them from the land. I know that blessings fall on any people you bless, and curses fall on people you curse.”
Balak’s messengers set out to deliver this message to Balaam and pay him to place a curse on the people of Israel. Once the messengers arrived, Balaam told them to stay overnight, for in the morning he would tell them whatever the Lord directed him to say. That night Balaam and God had a conversation… Balaam gives God the low-down on what’s going on. Then verse 12 happens. “But God told Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed!” The next morning, Balaam tells the messengers that God has instructed him not to go with them, so they return to Balak. Balak is not okay with this! This time he sent “a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time.” (Verse 15) These guys deliver to Balaam another message from Balak, in which Balak is literally begging Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam replies with the most awesome response probably in the history of ever. Verse 18 says, “But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, ‘Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God.” That night, Balaam has another conversation with God. This time God tells him that he may go with them, but he is only to do that God tells him. On Balaam’s journey some craziness happens as he has a conversation with his donkey. Yes, you read that right! You can read that account in verses 21-30.
Balaam and Balak are now face to face. They build seven altars there and Balaam has another conversation with God. After he talks with God, he shares with Balak, “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I condemn those whom the Lord has not condemned? I see them from the cliff tops; I watch them from the hills. I see a people who live by themselves, set apart from other nations.” King Balak gets a little upset with this message. In verse 11 he replies, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies. Instead, you have blessed them!”
Balak is a pretty persistent guy. He reckons that if Balaam can’t curse all of the Israelites, maybe he could just curse some of them. Logical, right? (Wrong. So, so very wrong). Balaam tells him to hold his horses (paraphrase :) ) and he goes and meets with God again. Balaam then delivers another message to Balak from God. “Rise up, Balak, and listen! Hear me, son of Zippor. God is not man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it! No misfortune is in His plan for Jacob; no trouble is in store for Israel. For the Lord their God is with them; He has been proclaimed their king. God brought them out of Egypt; for them He is as strong as a wild ox. No curse can touch Jacob; no magic has any power against Israel. For now it will be said of Jacob, ‘What wonders God has done for Israel!’ These people rise up like a lioness, like a majestic lion rousing itself. They refuse to rest until they have feasted on prey, drinking the blood of the slaughtered!” (Numbers 23: 18-24) HELLO! That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?! Can you imagine Balak’s response? Take a second. Soak it in. What do you think he says?
Balak’s response is almost comical. We can imagine him saying this in a valley-girl accent. (He probably didn’t, but it’s still fun to imagine.) In verse 25 he says, “Fine, but if you won’t curse them, at least don’t bless them!” Balaam is then like look bro, I’m just doing what God has told me to do! So Balak, being the persistent fellow he is, decides to take Balaam to one more spot saying, “Come, I will take you to one more place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them from here.”
Chapter 24 is awesome! Verses 1-9 say, “By now Balaam realized that the Lord was determined to bless Israel, so he did not resort to divination as before. Instead, he turned and looked out toward the wilderness, where he saw the people of Israel camped, tribe by tribe. Then the Spirit of God came upon him, and this is the message he delivered: ‘This is the message of Balaam son of Beor, the message of the man whose eyes see clearly, the message of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who bows down with eyes wide open: How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob; how lovely are your homes, O Israel! They spread before me like palm groves, like gardens by the riverside. They are like tall trees planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their offspring have all they need. Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. God brought them out of Egypt; for them He is as strong as a wild ox. He devours all the nations that oppose Him, breaking their bones in pieces, shooting them with arrows. Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you.”
Verse 10 says that Balak flew into rage against Balaam! He was furious that not only did Balaam not curse the people of Israel, he blessed them not once, not twice, but three times. So Balaam is like dude, don’t you remember what I told you before? Even if you gave me your palace, I would be POWERLESS to do anything against the will of the Lord! He closes their time together by telling Balak what the Israelites will do to his people in the future. As you can imagine, they’re not going to be baking cakes together.
Here are a few things that stood out to us as we were studying these chapters:
1. We are reminded that God’s plan will not be thwarted. God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, and that was not going to be broken. That is such an amazing testament to God’s faithfulness to all of His people- past, present and future. God doesn’t change, so if He was that faithful to His people back then, He will be just as faithful to His people now. His faithfulness extends from generation to generation! How incredible!
2. We get a taste of God and His character. In Balaam’s second message to Balak, he says, “God is not man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!” (Numbers 23:19-20). God’s faithfulness in this account between Balaam and Balak is nothing short of the most incredible encouragement ever. He is higher than we are, wiser than we are, and more powerful than we are.
3. The entire time these events were taking place, the Israelites were camped out in their tents. They had NO IDEA this was taking place. How insane is that!! This made us think, how many times in our lifetime… scratch that… how many times in our DAY is God fighting for us? Probably more times than we could even count! In light of this, we are reminded of Romans 8:31b that says, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Seriously. Think about that. He is SO worthy to be praised!
We want to encourage you, wherever you are, whatever you are doing right now, to pause and pray. Thank the Lord for being faithful. Thank Him for His protection and provision. Thank Him for being all-knowing. Thank Him for making all things work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. Thank Him for being for us!!! How great is God!
All the love,
Kendall, Baylee, & Brelin xxx