Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Would you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Numbers, chapter 22. And, our Father, we feel a sense of comfort with one another as if we have entered into a large living room in a relaxed environment, one that has been bathed in praise and worship, one in which our hearts, no matter what condition, feel received by you, comfortable to be with you. And so, Father, we just nestle in and ask your Holy Spirit who is present here to feed us, to teach us, to be our mentor, to direct our steps, to correct our bearing, to inspire us through the words of this older Testament as we see, Lord, how it meshes together with the new covenant that we are enjoying.
We pray, Father, that the net result of this meeting would be a greater knowledge and understanding of you because you said, "Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord," but I pray, Father, a responsibility with that knowledge, the application of that knowledge, that we might become mature and fruitful, in Jesus' name, amen.
Making predictions is tricky business. A lot of people claim they can tell what the trends are and what the future is. There are books written all the time on what is the next "in" thing or what is not the next "in" thing. They're not always right. In 1962 Decca Records turned down a young group called the Beatles, saying, "Their music isn't great. We don't see a future for them. And," said Decca Records executive producers, "guitar music is on the way out." [laughter] It was a horrible decision for Decca Records. EMI picked them up, Capitol Records picked them up, and then they even got their own label, Apple Records. Bad prediction.
In the late eighteen hundreds a clergyman, a reverend, a bishop by the name of Bishop Wright predicted that man never would fly, that flight was reserved for the angels that no one will ever be in the sky like birds. Several years later Bishop Wright's eldest son Wilbur Wright, [laughter] while his brother was outside making sure it worked, sat in the first powered aircraft and flew in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for 120 feet, a total of 12 seconds. Bishop Wright was dead wrong. [laughter]
We have an interesting prophet. He is a prophet. His name is Balaam. He appears in this section of Scripture. Chapters 22, 23, 24, 25, speak about Balaam. Because there was this king of Moab---Moab is that country east of the Jordan River, modern-day Jordan, at least part of it---and Balak was his name. Balak the king of Moab knew that he had real problems on his hands.
He looked out and he saw three million people massing at his border. He had heard of these people, the children of Israel, and those that they had conquered by the name of Sihon and Og, these rulers who had just been defeated. So now these people are on his border and he knows that conventional warfare will not work against them. He needs a weapon of mass destruction and he needs a spiritual weapon of mass destruction. He can't fight this conventionally, so he calls upon an internationally known prophet by the name of Balaam. Evidently, everybody knew who he was. His fame had spread throughout the ancient Near East.
And Balak summoned him to prophesy, in this case to call down a curse, a judgment, upon God's people from a vantage point. Actually there will be three or four vantage points that he looks down upon them in hopes that these people, God's people, and their forward momentum would be stopped. "Let's bring in the prophet. Let him prophesy. Let him give on oracle and stop this incursion of this people." I mentioned last time when we were together that Balaam, though he is an enigma, I just can't figure the guy out. It's hard to know where to put him. I definitely put him in the category of a false prophet, and I do that because the New Testament does that, so I'm okay in doing that.
But he's given a lot of real estate in the Scripture. Eight books of the Bible mention him: Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Nehemiah, Micah, Peter, Jude, and Revelation. Fifty-nine times his name appears. He is given more attention in Scripture, he is written about more, that is, more than Mary the mother of Jesus, more than any of the apostles of Christ. Because though he was a false prophet, God will allow him to say certain things, but turn any curse, would be curse, into a blessing, and through this man's mouth even predict God's plan into the future, redemptive plan, including the Messiah. He's a conundrum. He's an enigma.
There are several people in the Bible like that, by the way. I don't quite understand Cain. Cain was jealous over somebody else's worship and he thought, "God likes his worship better than mine. I know what I'll do, I'll kill him." What are you thinking? Judas---how do you walk with Christ three years, three and a half years, watch what he does, hear what he says, and then betray him for thirty pieces of silver? Esau---how could a person be so careless about any spiritual values that he would sell his birthright for one bowl of red chile stew? [laughter] Really? Dude, you're going to give away your birthright, your inheritance as the firstborn son and all of the spiritual advantages that come with that for red chile stew? Man, he should have taken the green, just saying. [laughter] Conflicted individual.
William Gurnall one of the ancient commentators said, "None sink so deeply into hell as those who come so near heaven, because they fall so great a distance." Such opportunities these people had, so close they came, but they fell so far. And we started chapter 22, we didn't make it very far. I'm going to pick it up in verse 10. "So Balaam said to God, 'Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, "Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and to drive them out." ' "
Now just in case you've forgotten, let me tell you who Balaam was to these people of ancient times. He would have been called a baru, a baru. B-A-R-U, if you're taking notes. Baru, a Mesopotamian---that's the area he's from---baru. That's an Acadian word in ancient language, Acadian. A baru was an oracle priest, one who gave oracles or prophecies, who gave blessings or cursing. It was believed that a baru was able to manipulate the gods by spoken words, saying words. They believed that words will unleash power. Sound familiar? You confess something and it will happen. And they would discern the will of the gods by phenomena, by signs.
So they would put drops of oil in water and notice how the oil disperses in the water and they would read that as a sign. They would notice the way clouds form, same thing, the way cattle and sheep form in flocks. But one of the interesting ways they would predict the future or tell us the will of the gods is by the innards, the entrails of animals, organs taken out of animals and plopped down on a table and cut up and they just sort of watched the way they formed and jiggle and wiggle and bleed out. And, I mean, it takes a lot of guts, you know, to do something like that. [laughter] But that's how they would discern superstitiously the will of these gods.
Evidently, Balaam a prophet, a false prophet, believed that Yahweh the true God, the God of Israel was just another deity that he was able to manipulate. Well, lo and behold, as he comes to curse these people that God actually communicates to him and will even communicate through him. Now hold that thought because we want to answer how that's possible. How do you get an unbeliever, a false prophet used by God? Don't let that surprise you, because you're going to see some---I was going to say someone else---something else being used also as a spokesman for God. "God said to Balaam," verse 12," 'You shall not go with them.' "That's pretty clear, right?"Hey, this guy asked for me."
"Don't go. Got it? Good." "'You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, because they are blessed.' "God says that of his nation Israel. "So Balaam rose"---now it's just a reminder God says they're blessed. We know they're not perfect. We know a whole generation dies in the wilderness because of their sin. We know that fiery serpents bite them and they die because of their rebellion. We know they're not perfect. We know they complain. But God says they're blessed. Why would he say that? One word, you should know it---covenant. God makes a deal with them, a covenant. And God is true to his covenant. When God says you're blessed, that's a declaration, that's not your behavior.
It's not what he notices about you: "Oh, you're just so wonderful." No. "I made a covenant with you." So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the priests of Balak, 'Go back to your land,' "that would be Moab," 'for the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.' And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, 'Balaam refuses to come with us.' Then Balak sent more princes, or again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable then they. And they came to Balaam and said to him, 'thus says Balak the son of Zippor: "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." ' "
"There's bucks in it for you, buddy. I'm going to pay you well if you'll curse them for me." "'"Therefore please come, curse this people for me.' "Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, 'Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.' "Now notice something: Balak hears a no-go from the prophet, so he ups the ante, ups the offer. But he never once mentions silver or gold, let alone a house full of it. So why does Balaam mention a "house of silver and gold"? He's playing hard to get. He's reeling him in. He's suggesting, "Even if you were to give me, say, a lot of silver and lot of gold." Hint, hint.
He's playing with him to see how much he can raise the ante all the way up. It was never mentioned by Balak, but it's mentioned by here by this prophet. Now, this should give you a little clue as to the problem of this man. It was greed. And you'll see in the New Testament those Scriptures that talk about this character, he was a man filled with greed. The Bible talks about "the way of Balaam," it talks about the "doctrine of Balaam," but this man was a greedy man. Esau was greedy. This bowl of red chile, he would rather have something physical and immediate gratification, payoff, rather than the eventual blessing from God. Judas---thirty pieces of silver---"Good enough, I want the payoff."
There is an interesting story about a prophet named Elisha, not Elijah, Elisha the guy who took over for him. Elisha had a servant; do you remember his name? Gehazi, Gehazi was the servant. He was the go-to guy for Elisha the prophet. Well, there was a guy up in Syria named Naaman. He had leprosy. And he came down because one of his servants said, "You know, if you would just go find this prophet Elisha, he'll figure out the cure. I mean, God does things through this guy." So Elisha says, "Listen, come down here and get in the Jordan River and dip in it seven times." And Naaman goes, "Oh, man." You have to understand, when you see the Jordan River, you're going to go, "This is it?"
It's sort of like when people see the mighty Rio Grande? And they look at it and they go, "That's not it, is it? I mean, there's songs about that river." And then you see this little mud puddle, and you go, "No. That can't be it." Well, the Jordan River is like that. And he looked at this and said, "I've got better water where I live, why would I come down here to go in a mud bath?" He had to go in there by faith. The prophet told him to do it. He came out completely healed. When he came out and he was healed, he did what any noble would do, he offered to give the prophet Elisha money. And Elisha said, "As the Lord lives, and as I stand before him, I will not receive anything from you."
Well, in the background guess who's listening? Yeah, Gehazi. He went, "Wow, I heard that offered. That was pretty big." So when Elisha goes home, Gehazi goes after Naaman and after a fur piece, as they say, down the road, he stopped and Naaman and his servant turned around and said, "What can I do for you?" He knew that Gehazi worked with Elisha. And Gehazi made up a story, he goes, "We have a couple young guys, sons of the prophets who have come, and, you know, if you could give us talent of silver," you know, that's only $150,000 worth of silver, "so, if you just cut us a check for 150 grand and give a couple changes of clothes, a couple nice Armani suits, we'll call it even."
The guy said, "I'll do anything you want." So he gives him a talent of silver, changes of garments, and he goes back. And when Elisha sees him, Elisha says, "Gehazi, where have you been today?" And he goes, "Nowhere." "Really? What you have been doing?" "Nothing." And then the prophet said, "Was not my heart with you when you turned back and spoke to those men in the chariot? Now is not the time to amass silver and gold and changes of clothing. God hasn't called you to that." It was the same root problem with Balaam. It's all about greed and this suggestion of what he could get out of it.
Verse 19, "Now, therefore, please, you also stay here tonight." This is Balaam saying to Balak, just camp here, spend the night. "That I may know what more the Lord will say to me"---now wait, wait, wait, wait Balaam. Why would you say, "So I can hear again from the Lord and see what else the Lord has"? Why would you even say that? He already said no. What are you going to ask him, "Did you really mean no? Is it like almost no? Maybe no? No for an hour, but yes in two hours?" But he says, "Just wait here, let me go back to God," and he's thinking, "Maybe I can manipulate this deity like I've done to so many others. "And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, '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.' "
His heart is turned. He's already been not doing what God said. God said don't go, he was wants to go, God knows it. God allows him to go but says, "Only say what I tell you to say." You know, as I was reading this and I'm thinking, God says no and now he's going to go pray about it again. Now Paul did that. He said, I prayed about this three times. The Lord three times said, "My grace is enough for you. You got a thorn in the flesh. That's the way it's going to be. All you need is my grace." But here's the principle: there's a time to pray and there's a time to move. Most of the time we move. We make the mistake of moving and not praying. Most of us we do that.
We're all about going, getting it done, move out, when we should seek the Lord and pray and get direction. I think we err most on that side. But sometimes you can pray when you ought to be moving. What Balaam should have done is moved back home, called it a day, said, "I quit," trusting in the Lord. He wasn't on that page. You remember Moses at the Red Sea? He brings the people to the Red Sea and he says, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." Evidently that was his way of saying, "Let's just be quiet before the Lord and let's pray." Now right behind him is the Egyptian army ready to pounce down on him. And he goes, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."
I've heard a lot of sermons on this, most of them don't include the very next verse. The very next verse God says, "Why are you praying? Why are you crying to me? Move! Put your rod out and the sea will open and go through as on dry land. Don't cry to me, get moving." There's a time to pray, but there's a time to move. I heard a story this last weekend that my friend told me who pastors a church down in Dallas, Texas. He was telling me a personal story about a man that was one of his mentors, the great Dr. Criswell, if you know Baptist circles, from First Baptist in Dallas. And Dr. Criswell was a character, I hear, and was quirky, and said funny things.
And you just didn't quite know what he was going to say or what he was going to do. Well, there was a pastor who was working with him on his staff and he was feeling like the Lord was telling him to go, to leave, and go pastor a church somewhere else. And what he didn't know is Dr. Criswell thought he should be going a long time before he thought he should be going. So he went to Dr. Criswell and he said, "Dr. Criswell," he was all nervous and he goes, "I think that the Lord wants me to go. And I'm going to say yes, I'm going to pastor a church. They've asked me to come and I'm going to take it. Dr. Criswell, would you pray with me to see if it's the Lord's will."
And Dr. Criswell put his hand on the young man's shoulder and says, "Let's not bother the Lord with this one. Just go." [laughter] Look, we've all---we've both known for a long time, it's time to go. Let's not even bother him with this one, just get out of here. Go." "So, Balaam," verse 21, "Rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord stood his stand in the way---took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him." Now, why was the Lord angry when he went, when it was the Lord who said go?
First he said don't go, then he said go, and then now the Lord's mad that he's going. Because he sees more than we do. He sees into the heart. He sees his motive. He knows what he's about. He knows he's all about greed. He's not about obeying God. He's not even wanting to represent God. He wants to manipulate God. And God is angered because of the motivation, I believe, that is in his heart, motivated purely by greed. So the Angel of the Lord was sent. Now verse 23 gets real fun. "Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and he went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.
"Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between vineyards, with a wall on this side and on that side. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall; so he that he struck her again." Okay, the donkey has seen the Angel of the Lord; Balaam is not seeing. Now, what's interesting is that these are barus, these oracle priests, these diviners, they were often given the name seers. You'll even notice that term in the Old Testament. A seer was somebody who could see what we couldn't see. He can see the future. He can see God's will. That's a seer. This seer can't see. This seer's donkey can see better than the seer.
You get the irony here? He's blind to this whole thing. Now, think of the Angel of the Lord, sword drawn. Does it remind you of the Garden of Eden with that sword drawn keeping them out, keeping them back. All I can say is never mess with an Angel of the Lord. In Psalm 103, I've underlined it, it says, "Bless the Lord, you his angels, who excel in strength, who do his word, heeding the voice of his word." They excel in strength. They're very, very strong. Let me tell you what just one angel can do. In Isaiah, chapter 37, Israel had a problem. The Assyrians under Sennacherib had invaded the land of Judah and was ready to attack Jerusalem. Hezekiah poured his heart out before the Lord. Isaiah the prophet was summoned in.
They prayed about this and God said, "I'm going to protect you." The next day a single angel of the Lord went through the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. One angel putting down 185K, putting 185,000 down, one angel. Now when you hear that, I want you to connect it with another Scripture. Peter in the garden of Gethsemane takes out a sword and Jesus said, "Put it away, Peter. Don't you know that I can call 72,000 angels if I want to, to defend me." If one angel can put down 185,000, what do you think 72,000 angels could do? Take over the world. Mighty. Powerful. In the tribulation period angels will be used to pour out the wrath, God's judgment, bowls of judgment, trumpet judgments.
These are all administered by angels, great power. The one Angel of the Lord and the donkey saw it. Verse 26, "The Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn right or to the left. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff." Poor donkey is getting beat up pretty bad. He's weathering a storm called Balaam. "Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey." Remember I said that God can use anybody or anything to speak? The donkey now, his mouth is opened. "Opened his mouth, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?' "
The donkey in speaking a human language, the language that Balaam could understand, this brilliant seer, this "man of the gods." You want to see how smart he is? He answers the donkey. [laughter] "And Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!' "Now, this is amazing that the donkey is speaking to Balaam. It's even more amazing that Balaam is talking back to the donkey without batting an eye. [laughter] He should have said, "Wait, wait, wait! Donkeys don't talk. This is nuts." He started saying, "Well, wait a minute, I'll tell you exactly why. I'm going to give you three reasons why I beat you." It's like, what!? [laughter]
Isn't that amaz---that's even more amazing. You want to know something even more amazing than all this? You talk to your pets. [laughter] And you think they can understand you. [laughter] "Well, mine can." Okay, you keep believing that. [laughter] "So the donkey," verse 30, "said to Balaam"---I'm sorry, it's hard to get through this with a straight face. ""Am I not your donkey?' "They're having like a domestic argument here." [laughter] "'Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? [laughter] Was I ever disposed' "---he even used that word, that's a pretty big word for a donkey---" 'to do this to you?' And he said, 'No.' [laughter] So the Lord opened Balaam's eyes."
See, this was a miracle too. It's just as much of a miracle to have God open Balaam's eyes as to have God open the donkey's mouth. "And he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed his head and he fell flat on his face." Yeah, he should have gone over and kissed his donkey. [laughter] "And the Angel of the Lord said to him, 'Why did you strike your donkey three times?' "I like this. He's into animal rights here. "'Why have you struck your donkey three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before me.' "Your way, your way is perverse before me. The New Testament refers to the "way of Balaam."
The way of Balaam: the manner in which he lived his life, his motivation, his value system. This is the way of Balaam. I'm going to read a section out of Second Peter that mentions Balaam. This is Second Peter chapter 2 verse 15, "They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet." God told him not to go. He went. God said, "Go, but only say what I want you to say." He was going to say whatever he felt like would give him the most financial gain. That was the way of Balaam.
God was trying to restrain his madness, just like any parent would restrain his child from going the wrong way. "But I want to play in the freeway, Daddy." "I'm sorry, you can't." "You don't love me." "Yeah, I really do love you, that's why you're not going to play on the freeway." Verse 33, "'the donkey saw me,' " the angel continues, this Angel of the Lord, " 'and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely I would have also killed you by now, and let her live.' And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, '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.'
"Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, 'Go with these men, but only the word that I will speak to you, that you shall speak.' So Balaam went with the princes of Balak." So what is happening here is the Lord is going to use Balaam, since he was bent and intent on going. Now he said, "No. I'll go back." Now he's going to use Balaam to not just not curse his people, but indeed speak through him a prophecy that we'll see next time, because that's where we're going to finish the whole Balaam episode, speaks of the Messiah, the coming Redeemer. "Now, when Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the border at the Arnon, the boundary of the territory.
"Then Balak said to Balaam, 'Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?' And Balaam said to Balak, '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.' So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath Huzoth," which is near Mount Nebo on the eastern side of the Jordan, at a high altitude looking down. "And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and he sent some to Balaam and to the princes who were with him. And so it was the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, and from there that he might observe the extent of the people."
High places, why high places? There was that ancient superstition that the higher you got, the closer you became to the gods; thus the more powerful was your activity on earth, because you're in closer connection with the gods. So always high places were chosen. There were groves later on, but in the most ancient times this eastern god that was prominent over this whole region, Baal was his name---we would say Baal or Baàl. Probably the right pronunciation is Baàl [bah'al]---he was honored in this place. "That from there he might observe the extent of the people." Now, there are going to be four oracles, four prophecies that are given by Balaam in the next few chapters.
The first one is to make a pronouncement about Israel's protection that God is going to keep and bless and protect this people. And that goes on into chapter 23, which we'll be able to look at. But there's just something I want you to notice. While this is happening, Balak, Balaam, God, the donkey, the angel, all this stuff going on behind the scenes, down below Israel, do they know anything about this? No. All this intrigue, this dynamic between the forces of evil and the forces of good, this desire to destroy God's people, and this vindication of God for his people, this is all happening behind the scenes and God's people don't know anything about it. That's how spiritual warfare works.
Job didn't know about the visit of Satan and the conversation between the devil and God. He didn't know about that. And as we've often said, and we've remarked on Daniel, chapter 10, this war in the heavenlies, what goes on in the heavenly realm affects what goes on in the earthly realm. There's so much happening around us, we are oblivious to it. We can't know it unless our eyes were open like this guys. So this is going on behind the scenes. God's people are completely unaware of it, but the great truth about this is that God, because of the covenant, is going to protect his people. Psalm 121, there's a great passage in that psalm that says, "He who keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps."
You don't have to wake God up. You don't have to set an alarm clock, and "Oh, oh, yeah, what is your name again?" He's got you covered. "He who keep Israel," that vast people down below. Speaking of a vast people, he looked down at the extent of that people; from that vantage point he could see a few million people. What a sight. Don't you wish they had a camera that they could have given us a shot of that? Now, as he looked down from that vantage point at the people, covenant people, you know what he would have seen? You know what it would have looked like? From that aerial view, it would have appeared like a cross.
Because if you remember in this book of Numbers, we gave you the numbers of the four camps around the tabernacle, and we noted that on the east side the camp was larger, so it extended further in one direction. The tribe of Judah was much larger. And that whole encampment, the number of the people, the sheer numbers would have brought the four camps into what would have looked like, from an aerial view, a cross. He would see the extent of the people and looking down he would have seen the covenant people in the form of a cross. Because one day another covenant, an unbreakable covenant, the new covenant would be in place foreshadowing what Jesus would do on the cross.
"Then Balaam," verse 1, "Then Balaam said to Balak, 'Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me seven bulls and seven rams.' And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered the bull and the ram on each altar. And then Balaam said to Balak, 'Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever he shows me I will tell you.' So he went to a desolate height." And going through the motions of building the altar and the sacrifices, maybe, I don't know why, maybe simply to show Balak how genuine he was, and so he goes through, you know, what he's paying me for. "He wants to see a show, I'll give him a show."
"And God met Balaam," verse 4, "God met Balaam, and he said to him, 'I have prepared seven altars that I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram. And then the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, 'Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.' "You don't have to turn to it, but keep this in mind. I mentioned eight books the Bible speaks about, speaks about Balaam in; one of those books is the book of Jude. We've quoted from Peter. Second Peter and Jude are very similar in content, by the way. They're denunciatory little books.
And the book of Jude says, "Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, they have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit," there it is again, for greed, profit, it's all about money, "and perished in the rebellion of Korah," Korah. So Cain killed his brother because of jealousy, Korah rebelled against Moses in the book of Numbers, and now Balaam was greedy and ran after profit, and they're mentioned here in the book of Jude. Now, let's just put a bow on that question. Let's answer this question. This guy's an unbeliever. He's a false prophet. Why would God use a false prophet?
Listen, because God is sovereign, just that word, that term means he reserves the right to do anything, at any time, with anyone, and has already we know in times past decided to use unbelievers for a limit purpose. Caiaphas was a high priest at the time of Jesus, an unbeliever. Didn't believe in Christ, rejected Christ, wanted him crucified. Caiaphas one day when they were having a meeting said, "It is expedient for one man to die for the people, the nation, than the whole nation would perish." John says when he said this he was prophesying. He was giving a prophecy the New Testament declares. God was using him to speak a word. He was an unbeliever. Balaam's donkey, for heaven's sakes, was speaking.
Then Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, "Many will come to me in that day and say, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?' And I will say, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who have worked iniquity!' "So even unbelievers for specific purposes by a sovereign God can be used, and God uses this man bent on greed. But God will open his mouth and give his plan in redemptive history. So the Lord as I mentioned, verse 5, chapter 23, "The Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth and said, 'Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.' "Now, he's not going to speak once, he's not going to speak twice, he's going to speak three times.
He's going to say no three times: "No, I won't curse them. No, I won't curse them. No, won't curse them. Yes, I will blesses them. Yes I will bless them. Yes, I will bless them." Now God said no once, and that wasn't good enough for Balaam. So now Balaam is going to have to say no three times. You know, we complicate what God wants to make easy. If we would just obey him to begin with, we wouldn't complicate our lives, but because we don't follow his commands, our lives become more complicated. Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, my burden is light." That's his yoke. That's his burden. We take it, we take the easy burden, the easy yoke, and we add stuff to it, and we fidget with it, and we mess it up.
We complicate what he wants to make easy and light. So it'll be cumbersome. "He returned," verse 6, "to him, and there he was standing by the burnt offering, he and the princes of Moab. And he took up his oracle and he 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!" How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? How shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? For from 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.' "Knew that they were a separated people.
"'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!' "This is the first oracle. Look more carefully at that tenth verse: "Who can count the dust of Jacob?" That brings to mind the covenant promise made to Abraham in Genesis, chapter 13. "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth." And now this prophet looking down at this enormous camp in four parts, four parts, says, "Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel?" He's looking at the camps divided in the four directions on either side of the tabernacle.
And he's in effect saying, "I can't even count one side of them, let alone the whole group; they're that large." "Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like his!" That's his desire, that he would have the same blessing that is the Abrahamic blessing in Genesis, chapter 12, "I will bless those that bless you, and I will curse that curse you." He must have known that. "And Balak said to Balaam, 'What have you done to me?' "See, he's hiring the guy to be negative, not positive."Give me a downer, don't say, 'God bless you,' to these people." "'What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you blessed them bountifully!'
"So he answered and he said, 'Must I not take heed to speak what the Lord' "---Yahweh is the word he uses---" 'has put in my mouth?' "Now here's the second oracle. And here he is, he's announcing God's determination, God's determination to bless his people no matter what they've done. Watch this: "Balak said to him, 'please come with me to another place from which you shall see them; you shall see only the outer part of them, and you shall not see them all; curse them for me there.' "He's thinking, "Maybe I'm not giving you the right place, so let's just move locations." It's all, you know, location, location, location.
"So he brought him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and he built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar." Now Mount Pisgah is where Moses will take Joshua and lay hands on him and confirm: "You're the next leader that will take this people into the land." From there he will see the land but not enter into it. "And he said to Balak, 'Stand here by your burnt offering while I meet the Lord over there.' Then the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, 'Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak.' So he came to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, 'What has the Lord spoken?' "
Maybe it's more like this: "What did the Lord speak this time?" [rubs hands together] Hoping it's going to really be negative, bad, nasty, filled with cursings. "Then he took up his oracle and he said: 'Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor! 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?' "That's good theology." 'Behold, I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.' "Now look at the twenty-first verse: " 'He [God] has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has he seen wickedness in Israel.' "Does that puzzle you a little bit?
Here's Israel, he's talking about Israel, the ones who complained and murmured and have been killed in the wilderness. "'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.' "In saying these words, Balaam does not mean these are sinless people. He does not mean God has overlooked their iniquity. God did not overlook their iniquity. He killed a whole generation and others besides, has he not? And will he not send these people when they sin into the Babylonian captivity for seventy years? God won't wink at that one; they will be punished.
So when he says, "He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has he seen wickedness in Israel," he is saying their sin, even as bad as it gets, will not weary God's mercy. Their sin, as bad as it gets, will not abrogate God's covenant with them. That's what it means. That's a way of saying that idea. In other words, God's patient. There's a great story that I've read and I've cherished over the years. Years, years, years ago, like a century or so ago in England, there was a very notorious atheist named Robert Ingersoll who loved to disrupt Christian meetings. And on one occasion he stood up in front of a group of believers and he said, "I am not a believer. I am an atheist."
"I'm going give God five minutes to strike me dead. If he's really God, if there really is a God, he can strike me dead." He defied God on stage. And then he took out his pocket watch and it was just silent. When five minutes were up, he goes, closed the pocket watch and he goes, "Well, there you have it. There is no God," and walked off. Well, after the meeting there was a buzz going on and one of Ingersoll's buddies saw a fellow believer or a believer in the group and said, "Well, you gotta admit, that Mr. Ingersoll proved a point tonight." And the believer said, "Oh, he sure did. He proved that even the most defiant sinner cannot exhaust the mercy of God in five minutes." That's all he proved. That's all he proved.
God hasn't observed iniquity. God made a covenant with them. He'll deal with it, but he'll bring them through it. "'God brings them out of Egypt; he has strength like a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, "Oh, what God has done!" Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; it shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.' "By the way, if you have a Bible like I have, a more modern translation, more modern, within the last twenty years, it is set, it's set out in a poetic fashion. It is set out from the rest of the paragraph, is it not?
It looks like it's got lines and stanzas, because it is written like ancient Semitic or Hebrew poetry was. Now, ancient poetry, including Hebrew poetry was based on a method not of rhythm and rhyme like, "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water." It wasn't dat da dat da da, with rhyming words at the end. That's our poetry. Their poetry was much more sophisticated. They rhyme thoughts, not words. It's called Hebrew parallelism. So you have a statement followed by, usually, a second statement. If the second statement agrees or adds to, it's called synonymous parallelism. If the second statement is a contrast of the first statement, it's call antithetical parallelism.
Now I say that because when you read Proverbs and Psalms and even passages like this, you'll see a statement made and then a similar statement made in the next line that sounds a lot like the first, but just sort of augments it a bit. That's Hebrew poetry. That's synonymous parallelism. And that's how this oracle is being spoken by this man. "Then Balak said to Balaam, 'Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!' "In other words, "If you can't say anything bad, shut up." [laughter] "So Balaam answered and said to Balak, 'Did I not tell you, saying, "All that the Lord speaks, that I must do"?' "Now he begins with the third oracle; and that is, a prediction of Israel's liberation.
He'll speak about the Messiah, but that'll be the next chapter, so that'll be next time we're together. "Balak said to Balaam, 'Please come, and I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God' "---please God? I think we should please God by cursing these people. "'It will please God that you may curse them for me from there.' "What a warped way of thinking."So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor." Now remember this, Peor. At Peor was a temple to Baal. Why is that important? In chapter 25 the god Baal is called "Baal of Peor." And it is at that temple, it is from that center that Balaam will be successful in seducing the children of Israel to be immoral.
And we'll discuss how Baal worship worked, so you'll understand what that is all about next time. "So he took him to the top of Peor, that overlooks the wasteland. And Balaam said to Balak, 'Build for me there seven altars, and prepare for me seven bulls and seven rams.' And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on every altar." Let's close with this thought. You have in your life enemy types. I'm not going to say enemies, because you might say, "I don't have any enemies." But you have enemy types, people who would regard you in a fashion as an enemy. You might even say, "Oh, no, no. I have, like, legitimate enemies. You can just even state that." Okay, whatever. You got something like that.
Even though you have enemies or enemy types, you would never go so far as to bring God's curse down from heaven upon them. Right? I trust. I'm thinking the highest of you all, my brothers and my sisters in Christ. [laughter] But Jesus said something very interesting on the Sermon on the Mount. He said it's not about actions, it's about attitude. "You have heard," he said, "You have heard that it was said in ancient times, 'You shall not murder.' "Now, if I were to ask you and say, "Are you a murderer?" "Absolutely not. I've never killed anyone." Okay. He said, "But I said unto you, if you are angry with your brother without a cause, you are guilty. If you call your brother a fool, you are in danger."
It's not about the outward action, as much as it is the inward attitude that would eventually or could eventually prompt the outward action. So that's where we need to check our hearts in this story of Balaam. What Jesus was doing is stripping his audience of self-righteousness, self-righteousness. "Oh, I've never done that. I've never committed adultery." Have you looked lustfully at a woman? You've done it then. "I've never murdered." Have you been angry without a cause and called your brother a fool? See you can look at somebody and go, "Man, I wish he was dead. I wish he was dead." That's murder in the heart. So we get the corollary and we get the lesson.
All of that to say, I have a hunch that every one of us is pretty guilty, and we need God's mercy, and we need his forgiveness. And the very crux and core of the New Testament is that God sent his son out of heaven to take on human flesh, come to this earth in that body, suffer, die a shameful death, bleed out, rise from the dead, and say, "If you will trust what I've done for you, I will take that act and I will make it a substitute for you. I will treat my Son like you should be treated, so that I can treat you like my Son should be treated." That's the deal that God makes with us. That's the deal, and by taking that deal, it's a package deal. You gotta know it's a package deal.
You take the deal and he forgives you for absolutely everything in your past, everything in your past. It's gone. And then you become his child. Now you're in covenant. You're in a covenant relationship with him. He makes a deal with you and he calls you his child. And that's just part of the deal. Those two things are just part of the deal. Eventually it gets better. Eventually he'll take you from earth to heaven with him forever. Now, if you say, "I don't want to go that route. I'm not going to, like, become like a Jesus freak or something." Okay, no deal. No deal. And you won't be his child and you won't be forgiven and you'll never get to heaven, ever, ever, ever.
You might find a preacher when you die who will say, "And he lived a good life and he's in heaven," and you're not. So you have a few people thinking you are, but you will know forever you're not. That's not a good deal. God's deal is the best deal. Jesus takes all the junk and gives you all the blessing because he took all the junk on himself. He took it all that he might forgive you. I don't know if you really have that kind of covenant relationship with God. If you don't, I strongly suggest, or in the words of Paul, "I implore you, be reconciled to God." Be reconciled to God. And it's as easy as, "I'll take it. I believe. I'll turn to him. "
That's called repentance. It means change your mind. And that's a choice. You could do it today, tonight. Let's close in prayer. Father in heaven, that's how the Lord Jesus taught us to talk to you: "Our Father in heaven." Your name is holy. You're exalted above all. There's none like you. You are absolutely separate and distinct from your creation, though you condescend in some form by communicating to us through the prophets through the Scriptures, but ultimately by sending your Son to step into our world, and to live it out, and to feel it out, and to die after suffering, and to rise victoriously.
And because of that one act, you are willing to take all of our fallenness, all of our willful sinfulness and place it on the cross with Jesus, and by that one act remove it far from us, placing all of the punishment on him, so that we might have the blessing. You have a desire to bless us, not curse us. But in this covenant, in this New Testament we need to choose. There needs to be a decision. "Whosoever will, let him come." As we close this service, I'm speaking to a group of people and I'm wondering is there anyone here tonight who is willing to take a step of faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'm speaking to you, if you have never done that before in your life, though you may have been a religious person or a spiritually inclined person or a good person or a well-known person in the community. Maybe you're not a person of biblical faith where you've trusted in Jesus personally to be your Savior and your Lord. Your religion can't save you, your church can't save you, only Jesus can. I'm also speaking to those who may live under the illusion that at one time in their past they felt really good because they were at this retreat or camp or church service, and they did something or said something, they don't even remember what it is, but it was really cool to be there.
But strip all that way, today you're not living for Christ, you're not walking in obedience with him, and you need to come home, to say the least. You need to come home. If either of those describes you, and you are willing to place your faith in Jesus tonight, while our heads are bowed, I want you to slip your hand up in the air. I want to see your hand. Keep it up for just a moment. God bless you. Keep it up. God bless you, and you in the back; a few of you right in the middle. I see your hands. And, again, in the back. Anybody else? Raise that hand up. Say yes to Jesus. Say yes to the Savior, sacrificed Lamb. God bless you, sir. Who else? God bless you.
Father, our prayer for those who have raised the hand indicates a desire, a choice, an act of will, cooperation, with your Spirit drawing them. Father, we do pray for each man each woman who's lifted that hand. We pray that they would see the changes in their lives as they make a step of faith, make several steps of faith and live a life of faith, that they would see changes over time. Even tonight they would go home and they know life is different, in Jesus' name, amen. Would you stand to your feet? I'm going to ask those of you who raised their hands, I'm going to ask you to do something as we close this service. I want you right now to find the nearest aisle and stand right up here.
I'm going to lead you in a word of prayer to received Christ. Jesus called people publicly, and I don't do this to embarrass you, but to welcome you into the family of God, and to leave the past behind. [applause] Make a clean break with that. So wherever you're at, we will wait for you. But I saw hands go up around this auditorium, just find the nearest aisle, stand right up here in the front. Make this the night you give your life to Christ, and you walk away a forgiven man and a forgiven woman. [worship music plays] Anybody else? We'll wait just another moment. We're about ready to close this service. Anyone else? Maybe encouraged by those who have decided to come.
Maybe you're thinking, "You know what? I know I've needed to do that for a long time." Yup, you have. Get down here. We will wait for you. Come on down. [applause] That's right, come on. No. Don't go that way, come this way. Anyone else? Anyone else? Are you sure? If you're not sure that you were to die today, tonight, you'd go to heaven, you come and be sure. Get your life right with God and walk away with assurance that your life is right with God. Anybody else? Anyone else? [applause] [worship music plays] Amen. Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord.
Okay, those of you who have come forward, I'm so excited to see each and every one of you. I'm going pray now and I'm going to pray out loud. I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud after me. From your heart say these words to the Lord as you give your life to him. Let's pray. Lord, I give you my life. I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe he died on a cross, that he spilled his blood for me, and that he rose from the dead. I turn my sin. I turn to Jesus as Savior. Help me to live for him as my Lord, in Jesus' name I pray, amen. [applause] Yeah! Congratulations.