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.
Skip Heitzig: We're doing what I believe the early church did when in the book of Acts it says, "They devoted themselves to the apostle's doctrine," the apostle's doctrine. If you think about it, the apostles didn't have a Bible like you and I have. They didn't have a New Testament and a leather-bound book like we carry around. So the apostle's doctrine would be all of the teachings they knew about Christ, the ones that they had personally witnessed and followed, and they would teach, showing the early church how the Old Testament predictions and the Old Testament writings were fulfilled in this Messiah that they're now following. That must have been the apostle's doctrine that they devoted themselves to.
So the Bible, if they had a Bible, and the Bible of Christ was the Old Testament. So we, in like manner, take the old covenant, the first five books of Moses, in this case we're studying the book of Numbers, seek to make application to understand the foundation for New Testament truth. We've been studying Balaam the last few chapters and we hope to finish up chapter 24 and 25 tonight. So Balaam is one of those enigmatic, mysterious people that I told you about before in the Bible. And when I read about it, I scratch my head and go, "Hard to figure this guy out." Clearly called a false prophet in the New Testament, bad things are attributed to him.
Peter, Jude, and the book of Revelation mention him, not favorably. They speak of "the error of Balaam," "the way of Balaam," and "the doctrine of Balaam"---all in a negative way. More literary real estate is given to Balaam than Mary the mother of Jesus or any of the twelve apostles of Christ. And yet the Spirit of living God speaks through him, overriding his bad motivation, overriding his false doctrine, and miraculously uses him as a vessel. And so we scratch our heads and the only thing that gives us comfort---because we wonder, "How could God use somebody like that to speak truth through?"
I take comfort in the fact that God spoke through his donkey first, [laughter] because that prepares me to hear what he has to say through him. Once I got past, "Man, he spoke through a donkey," then I realize he can use anybody to speak through. "The eyes of the Lord," the Bible says, "go to and fro throughout the entire earth, that he might show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal toward him." So we come to the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Numbers. And I'm reminded when I read of Balaam of a story of a preacher who when his wife came home he said, "Honey, I've got some news that I want to tell you about, that I want to pray about."
"There's a church in the next town that has invited me to come and pastor. I know we're already in a church and we pastor here, but this church is larger, the congregation is richer, and the people are just a lot nicer, and they've asked me to come and pastor. So I'm going to go upstairs and talk to the Lord and pray about what the Lord wants me to do." And she said, "Well, I'll go upstairs and pray with you to find out what the Lord's will is." And he said, "Oh, no, no, no. I'll pray to see what the Lord's will is and you stay downstairs and pack." [laughter] That's what I think about when I read about Balaam. He was already packing. He already made up his mind. He had already decided.
Even though the Lord said, "Don't go with Balak," he went anyway. He was bent on going his own way because he wanted to get the financial remuneration that would come from being associated with the king of Moab. So he went and the Lord said, "Okay, I'm going to let you go, but only speak what I tell you to speak." And we saw how there were a couple of oracles, pronouncements, proclamations, prophecies given by this Balaam as Balak brought him to different locations. He brought him to one location and he says, "Okay, look at the children of Israel scattered down before you and curse them for me." And instead he blessed them, because the Lord actually spoke to him a blessing for them. Bummed Balak out greatly.
Balak moved him to another location and said, "Well, try it in this place. If that spot caused you to bless them, maybe if you see them from this angle"---you know, sort of like real estate, it's all about location, location, location---"so from this location now curse them," and he blessed them. So now we're on place number three. He takes him, Balak takes Balaam to the top of a mountain called Mount Peor, which is on the eastern side of the Jordan, eastern side of the Dead Sea overlooking the vast wilderness below. He is on Mount Peor, and I want you to remember Peor, P-E-O-R, because not only is it a mountain, but it's associated with a false god.
And the very first time we read of the children of Israel worshiping Baal will be in these chapters. It won't be the last time. It'll plague them throughout their history. But this is the first time and so this place became known as Baal Peor. Baal Peor, because there was a temple build to the god, and I'll describe who he is, Baal, to the god Baal in Peor. And the temple was built there probably because there was some event that happened that was attributed to this false god, Baal. Now who was Baal? Well, that's an important question because you will read about him throughout the Old Testament. Baal or better pronounced Ba'al [bah'al] was the storm god.
He, they thought, controlled the rain, the sun, all of the natural forces, and was responsible for bringing fertility to the land. So they will depend on Baal for rain. They were agrarian. It was an agricultural society. So whenever there was a drought in the land of Israel, they would be tempted to worship the false gods of those around them who were depending on those gods to bring them rain. Now, listen to this: it was believed that fertility, whether it was fertility in your crops or in your cattle or in your family, was the direct result of a sexual union between the gods and goddesses that reigned over you, that there was a cojoining of a god and a goddess.
And so the worshipers would seek to imitate that union or that joining. So the worship of Baal was very sexual, was sensual in orientation. There would be a priestess and men would join themselves to these temple prostitutes, these priestesses. And the idea is to emulate what Baal was doing with his cohort. And if you remember your Bibles, you Bible students, her name was Ashtoreth or Asherah in some places. You ever read Asherah in the Old Testament or Ashtoreth? The goddess Astarte was believed to have come down from heaven in a giant egg, so in the springtime on Astarte Day they would give eggs to each other, Astarte, Easter. That's why we like to say "Happy Resurrection Day."
But that worship system was all around Israel, and Balaam was a part of that culture. So, so far what Balaam has done is sort of con Balak. What he says so far is using his sorcery or divination. He says when he comes to this location that Balak takes him to, "Okay, Balak, tell you what. You prepare your sacrifice, these animals on the altars that I told you. Go stand by those sacrifices, and I'll go talk to God, and I'll see whatever word he brings back." Now, the idea was that he was conning him. It was all about sorcery, that he would make something up, some kind of a proclamation; in this case it would have been a curse. But now and in every one of those situations, he comes back and gives a blessing, not a curse.
But now there is this overwhelming, direct voice from the Spirit of God that speaks through him in a very direct and unusual manner in chapter 24. "Now," verse 1, "when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness." None of this, "Balak, stand by your sacrifice, your burnt offerings, while I go get some message from God." But he didn't even try to con Balak anymore. He just stood there facing the wilderness and will utter a prophecy. "And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. And he took up an oracle and he said"---
It might help you if you understand that in the Old Testament era and in this time that we're dealing with all the people around Israel believed in a couple of different ideas. Number one, they were polytheistic. You've heard the term "polytheism," the worship of many gods. The lakes, the rivers, the sea, the sky, the land, the mountains, the plains, they all had their own different gods. The gods were in control of the universe, the natural order. So there were many gods because there were many geographical locations. Attached to polytheism was something very unique to this era: henotheism, henotheism.
It was the belief that not only were there many gods, but that each god was assigned a specific geographical location, so that if you occupied one location and you were fighting people who occupied another location, even though you're doing battle in the human realm, it's actually a battle between the gods of those realms. Now, I bring this up because later on when we get further on in the Old Testament, in the book of Kings and Chronicles, when Israel, the northern kingdom of Israel, those ten northern tribes are fighting against Syria, and as they fight against Syria and they win the battle, the king of Syria named Ben-Hadad gives this as an explanation for the loss.
He says, "Well, their gods are the gods of the mountains, therefore they are stronger than we are. But if we would have fought this battle out in the open plains, we would have won. For their god is the god of the mountains, our god is the god of the valleys or the plains. So the reason we lost was because we fought on their territory. Their gods beat us." So there was polytheism and there was henotheism. In the middle of that was Israel, neither polytheistic or henotheistic, but---what?---monotheistic, one God, Lord over all. And all those other gods were made up. They were fig newtons of their imagination. They did not exist. They weren't gods at all. There's only one true living God.
In the midst of that polytheism and that henotheism was the monotheistic God of Israel. And Balaam is discovering that as the Lord speaks through him. So, "The Spirit of God came on him. And he took up an oracle and he said: 'The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened.' "Remember, he was called a seer, right, because he could see into the future? But his eyes have been opened. He is discovering Yahweh the true God of the Jewish nation, the God of Israel. "'The utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open.' "
In other words, "I've had an overwhelming vision that has caused me to go down on the ground on my knees or prostrate, but my eyes are wide open. I'm not asleep." By the way, there's a difference between dreams and visions: dreams happen when you're asleep; visions happen when you're awake. This was a vision. His eyes were wide open. But he was compelled to go down before the Spirit of the Lord. And he says, "'how lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!' "Now you can just---you can just see the wheels turning in Balak's head."Oh, not again, another blessing! I wanted him to blast them, not bless them."
" '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.' "So this now is the third proclamation, the third oracle, this time from Mount Peor looking down over the tents of Israel. I love this description and I want you to notice that I draw your attention to it, in verse 7, "He shall pour water from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters." Israel is pictured as a man carrying two buckets of water. Water is the source of life, the source of refreshment. And so picture the man with two buckets pouring out the waters of refreshment.
But you'll notice, "And his seed shall be in many waters." What I see in this verse is a reversal, an ironic reversal of what Pharaoh once tried to do to Israel. Israel once tried to drown the seed of Israel in the waters of the Nile River, kill them with the waters, let the abundant waters be their death. Now the imagery of the man with water is the Lord's blessing upon them. The very thing you thought would be their end, God will bless them instead, and will use the water to spread them around. Not only will they be blessed and contented, but the water, just like if seeds fell off of a tree and it was washed downstream, so Israel will grow and flourish and spread throughout the land and throughout the world.
If you look at the population of the world---today I was on the computer and I thought, "What's the population of the world today?" because it keeps going up exponentially. There's actually a clock that shows you just how many people are being born every second and the clock is spinning. It's crazy. There's over 7 billion people right now on this globe, 7 billion humans. About 13 million of them are Jewish. That's about two-thirds of 1 percent. That's it, so small, like a little seed. And, yet 25 to 33 percent of all Nobel Prizes in literature, in science, in the arts have been given to Jewish people. It's like they have become a source of great blessing.
Some examples of that: the Wassermann test for syphilis, digitalis, was discovered by a Jewish doctor, Dr. Nuslin; chloral hydrate that is used to treat convulsions discovered by Dr. Lifreich, also Jewish; streptomycin, discovered by Dr. Abraham Waksman, Jewish; polio pill by Dr. Albert Sabin, Jewish; polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk, Jewish doctor. Now look again at that prophecy and see how it fits. "And his seed shall be in many waters." Remember God told Abraham, "Not only in you will all the nations of the earth be blessed," speaking, I believe, principally of Jesus Christ the Jewish Messiah, but he said, "You will be a blessing, Abraham, you and your descendants will become a blessing."
And so God has used them. Balak's trying to curse them. Balaam says, "I can't curse them, God has blessed them." He goes on in verse 7, "'His king' "---that is, Israel's king. Now, they didn't have a king. Who was their first king? Saul. Their second king? Good, you know your history, David. "'His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.' "Now, what does that mean? What does that refer to? Because if you're a Bible student, you know that Agag was the king of the Amalekites. He won't even be born for a few hundred years. That was the king that Saul---remember Saul the first king failed to annihilate when God says, "Go out and take care of the Amalekite problem," and he didn't do it?
He came up with a flaky excuse and God tore the kingdom away from him. The king of the Amalekites was Agag, and yet he's mentioned here that he will be greater than Agag. Now, that could be a prediction of this future king, but he wasn't all that great to begin with. Probably the term "Agag" is a title, not a name. Just like the king of Egypt is---who?---pharaoh. But there are many pharaohs. It's a dynasty. It's simply a title. So you have many pharaohs, that's a title, that's a king. Or also, if you remember in Genesis, the king of Gerar was named Abimelech, and then years later another king was named Abimelech, and then another king. That was a title of a ruler, not a name specifically.
So it could refer to the king that is coming, the king of Israel is going to be greater than the one who bears the title Agag, the king of Moab, and eventually the king of the Amalekites. That would be meaningful to Balak, because that's a term he was used to. "'He will be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.' "Here's the question: Which king is Balaam referring to when he says, "his king," speaking of Israel's king? Well, I don't think it's Saul the first king, because he is rejected. Certainly, it's a possible reference to David who will subjugate many of the peoples, including this nation.
But it is probably and certainly best fits the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ, because he will truly bring refreshment. And I don't just mean spiritually. But according to Isaiah, chapter 35, the Messiah will bring in a reign that will encompass the world, and it will be like a well-watered garden on the earth in the kingdom age, in the millennial kingdom. It will be lush and verdant and filled with water around the earth. So a very real part of Messiah's reign is as described here: "He shall pour water from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters." "'God brings him out of Egypt,' " speaking of their past deliverance from Pharaoh.
"'He has strength like a wild ox; he shall consume the nations, his enemies; he shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows. "He bows down, he lies down as a lion," ' " and then notice, " ' "He bows down, he lies down as a lion; as a lion, who shall rouse him?" '" What I find interesting about this---I did a little comparison with the predictions of Jacob on his deathbed when his twelve sons were gathered around. When he gets to Judah, remember he says, "Judah is a lion's whelp . . . and the scepter will not depart from Judah until [the Messiah] Shiloh appears"? He uses the exact same wording of his son Judah when he says, "He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?"
It's as if Balaam knows of that prophecy or the Spirit of God puts that same thought on his heart and he predicts it toward the nation. And notice this, this will sound familiar to you: "'Blessed is he who blesses you and cursed is he who curses you.' "Now that sounds exactly like Genesis 12."And the Lord said to Abraham, 'I'm going to make you a blessing. And whoever blesses you, I will bless; and whoever curses you, they will be cursed.' "Some time ago we had a conference here at the church with Joel Rosenberg and some other speakers. Some of them were Jewish pastors, some of them were Arab pastors, some of them were Bible prophecy experts.
And at the Epicenter Conference one of these Jewish Israeli pastors was asked a question. We asked him: What is one thing you would like the American church to know about you or you would like America to know about you? And he said, "With all due respect, the one thing I would like America to know about us is---thank you for your support, but we don't need you." [laughter] And I thought about how profound that was. And I'll tell you why it's profound: because there's this rhetoric, I hear it in the news, even in the best of news stations, that "Israel needs America. Israel needs America to be an ally. Israel needs international support.
"Look at them, isolated with all those enemies around them wanting to throw them into the sea." It is true, they want to throw them into the sea, but they say they "need America." As I see it, it's the other way around---America needs Israel. And I think that that pastor was speaking truth and being very profound: "Honestly, thank you for your support, but we don't need you. We believe we have God and he's the only One we need even with all of our enemies that are perched and poached against us." So think about it, think about historically those nations that have attacked Israel that are no longer any world power at all. When was the last time you met an Assyrian or a Babylonian?
Egypt still exists, but under lots of turmoil. They're not a superpower. They once ruled the world. In more modern times, Spain, Germany, Russia, once great powers, now second-rate at best. And what do they have in common? They all went against God's people, the Jewish people. When I say "God's people," I'm not saying perfect people. They just happened to have a covenant with the living God. And God said to Abraham, "Those who bless you, I will bless; those who curse you, I will curse." And here read it again: "'Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you,' " probably turning to Balak and going wink, wink, "Like you, dude."
"Then Balak's anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, 'I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times!' "Three softball lobs were given to him and he missed all of them. Strike three, dude. You're out. "'Now therefore, flee to your place.' "Get out of town!" 'I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor.' "What a cheap shot."You know, I really wanted to give you some money and bless you financially, but your God or the God you're prophesying about"---Yahweh is the term, the covenant name---"he's kept you back from it."
I have several thoughts, and I don't want to spin out and lose traction here, but that is the philosophy of the world: "Oh, you could have been something, but you want to serve God so you're going to the mission field. You're really wasting your life serving the Lord. You could be in college and be somebody great." "So Balaam said to Balak, 'Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, "If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord, to do good or bad of my own will. What the Lord says, that I must speak"? And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people [Israel] will do to your people in the latter days.' "
In other words, "I will go home, but I'm not done yet. Now I have some words about you and about your people. And you're trying to curse these people? Now, let me tell you about these people in relation to your people." Now he's going far out into the future with this one, because notice what he says: "I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days." So this fourth oracle, this final, fourth prophetic utterance speaks about Israel and Moab, which became peoples east of Israel, and some of these other associated allies in the latter days further on, very, very profound.
"So he took up his oracle and he said: 'The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; the utterance of him who hears the words of God, and has the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open' "---now listen---" 'I see him, but not now.' "Who him? What "him" is he referring to? "'I see him, but, but now; I behold him, but not near.' "Someone is coming, he's not here yet. It's not right now, but he is coming. Who? Further description is given: "'A Star, a Star shall come out of Jacob.' "In Revelation 22 Jesus Christ is called "the Bright and the Morning Star."
Lucifer was a copy of that: "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" He was always an imitator of the real Star. He wanted top billing in God's movie. He's a second-rate star, a fallen star. Jesus is the real Star, the All-Star. "'A Star shall come out of Jacob,' "and notice this, "'a scepter.' "Same language as in Genesis 49. A "scepter" is the right to rule as the king and the implement that was held up that designated that you had kingship. "'A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab.' "He's going to come and get down on you. He's going to beat you up. He's going to "batter the brow of Moab." Remember this is the king of Moab he's talking to. "'And destroy all the sons of tumult.' "
Who's coming? A Star, a King, a Scepter. Well, let's see, who could that be? Let's first of all say it could be David, because David will be one who will bring Moab and defeat them and bring them into subjection, his conquest. But it is best to see this way into the future, way into the latter days when Jesus Christ will return. That's written about in Revelation, chapter 19. He will be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He will have the scepter. He will rule over the world. And he will be the Star of that final act of human history. "A Scepter shall rise out of Israel." So I see this as a prediction of Christ.
In fact, 1,500 years after this a group of stargazers, king makers, Magi they were called, came from the land of Balaam, and they came all the way down to Judea. And they came to Jerusalem naively asking Herod and his court and the Jewish eldership, "Where is he who is to be born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and we have come to worship him." What would it be that would have tipped them off, these who came from the land of Balaam to look for a star? Perhaps the words of Balaam, perhaps further accentuated and underscored by the words of Daniel, who also came and lived in that era. Babylon, it was called much later on after the Babylonians took it over.
And a group in the court of Nebuchadnezzar called Magi, the magicians of the court, who were also stargazers and prognosticators, but Daniel was better than all of them, and Daniel gave predictions of the coming Messiah. And it could be that he gave to those coworkers of his a detailed study of Daniel, chapter 9. If you know it, you know what it's about: "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for the holy city." So there will be 7 weeks and 62 weeks, 483 years from the time that the commandment goes forth to restore and build Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince.
It could be that taking the prophecies of Balaam, since they were from that area, the prophecies of Daniel, because he had be relocated to that area, that the influence was passed on through the ages and they knew about what time it was. And then there was this astronomical wonder in the sky, and they said, "This must be it. This must be God's star leading us to the Star, the All-Star. Let's go find him." And so they came. "'And Edom,' " verse 18, " 'shall be a possession.' "Edom is another piece of land to the east of the Dead Sea, east of the Jordan River." 'Seir,' "same area, "'Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, while Israel does valiantly. Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city.' "
Can I tell you a little bit about Edom, the Edomites? Edom will become bitter enemies of Israel. When King David comes on the scene, he will bring rule to that area. He will bring order to that area. He will subjugate the Edomites to himself. However, as time goes on David dies and there's a series of kings that come after him. The Edomites will rebel and attack Israel, until---here's the date---129 BC. Now when I say 129 BC, I'm dealing with the period of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament. You've heard of that? The 400 silent years we call them, the intertestamental period. That was the period when the Maccabees ruled in Israel.
You've heard of the Maccabees? They overturned the Syrian regime, Antiochus Epiphanes and all those nutcases up north. One of the Hasmonean or the Maccabean kings, rulers, was a guy by the name of John Hyrcannus. If you want to spell that and you're taking notes: H-Y-R-C-A-N-N-U-S, John Hyrcannus. He defeated the Edomites and they ceased to exist as a nation from that time on. However, the leftover Edomites lived with Jewish people intermingling with the Jews until 70 AD when the temple was destroyed, the Jews were dispersed. Edomites were never heard of again. They're gone. When was the last time you met an Edomite? You'll never meet one. They're gone. It's over. They don't exist any longer.
Interesting side note: the Greeks referred to them, the Edomites, as Idumeans. Have you ever heard of the term Idumean? Herod the Great was an Idumean. Herod the Great---the Idumean, the Edomite, one of those who was living among the Jewish people before they were totally extinct---was one who tried to kill Jesus Christ with the babies in Bethlehem; trying to do to Jesus what Pharaoh once had done to the male children of Israel, drowning them, getting rid of them. Interesting side note, I thought it might be helpful. "Then," verse 20, "he looked on Amalek, and took up an oracle and he said: 'Amalek was the first among the nations, but shall be last until he perishes.' "
The Amalekites were first; that is, they were the first ones to attack Israel when they left Egypt. Exodus, chapter 16, records it. Deuteronomy 25 tells us the way they did it is they came behind where the stragglers were. They took up the rear. So Israel marched through the wilderness, they went behind them, and those who were struggling and straggling and old and diseased and feeble, they attacked them and killed them. So they become mortal enemies with the Jews until they are destroyed. "Then"---he's not done yet. He's looking at another group. Verse 21, "Then he looked on the Kenites," and that's the group that invented the Ken and Barbie doll that was introduced to Mattel later on. [laughter]
"Really?" No. The Kenites were a group of people, Bedouin, nomadic travelers who lived among the Midianites, the Midianites who lived in the area of Saudi Arabia in the Arabian Peninsula. So this is for the Kenites. He took of this oracle and said," 'Firm is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock; nevertheless, Kain"---Kain was the forefather, the originator of the Kenite clan---" 'shall be burned. How long until Asshur carries you away captive?' "Now this nomadic group, the Kenites, they lived among the Midianites; however, they lived up in the mountains. That was their "nest." They were in a rock fortress and they thought that they were impregnable, impenetrable.
Nobody would overcome them until 722 BC. You should know that date. Bible students, what date is that, 722 BC? The Assyrian captivity. That's what the term "Asshur," it's speaking of Assyria. The Assyrians came and took them, along with all the rest of that area, captive to their land. They over---they became the big dogs on the block. They became world conquerors. "Then he took up his oracle and he said: 'Alas! Who shall live when God does this? But ships shall come from the coasts of Cyprus,' " out west, " 'and shall afflict Asshur and afflict Eber, and so shall Amalek, until he perishes,' "speaking of a western coalition.
Eventually, Philistines will come from that area and invade the land. Eventually, Greeks will come from the west. Eventually, Romans will come from the west---an incredible prediction. I'm not going to go into too much detail, except to say it's far-reaching into the future. "And so Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way. Now Israel remained in the Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab." This is a short chapter, so we will make it through no problem, but you need to know what's going on here. And if you were to just read this without reading chapter 31 of this book, you may not know.
When we get to chapter 31, we're going to understand what happened between, or at this time between chapter 24 and 25. Here's what happened: what Balak and Balaam failed to do by sorcery, they will now accomplish by seduction. What they tried by this secretive, sacred sorcery, they accomplished by sexual seduction. We discovered that Balaam gives counsel to Balak and he says, "Look, I told you, I can't curse them. God has blessed them. However, you can put them in a place where you don't have to curse them. God will curse them for you. They'll place themselves under God's curse. You see, this God is very jealous. He's, you know, monotheistic.
"So if you put them in a place where you mingle their religion with another religion, and bring idolatry into the camp, then God will curse them. You don't have to worry about it. So I'll tell you what you do---invite them to a feast. You and the Midianites gather together and have a big feast to Baal your god. And bring your young women into the camp and invite the young men of Israel to come for a feast to Baal. And as you invite them, you get these young chicks, you know, all gussied up and looking really good. And, you know, they're just kind of mingling among the young men, and they'll have their little idols with them, and lure them into the tents, cause them to commit sexual immorality with them.
"And use that since that's part of your worship system, the worship of Baal, you will introduce idolatry and God will curse them for you. So in verse 1, "They began to commit idolatry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods." Why would they do that? This ranks up there with the golden calf incident of chapter 32 of Exodus. I mean, this is, like, as bad as it gets. It will be referred to throughout their history: "Remember what happened at Baal of Peor? Remember that incident? Remember the Moabite thing?" "Yeah." Why would they do this?
"Well, they've invited us to a feast, we don't want to offend them. I know that's how they worship, and I know it's not right, but you, you can't just be so different and so out there and so other-than-they-are; you have to be sort of be like them if you're going to reach them." Ever heard that philosophy before, that compromising philosophy? That's the doctrine of Balaam. According to a writing in the Jewish Talmud, it says that Balak said to Balaam, or Balaam said to Balak, the prophet said to the king, Balaam said to Balak, "The God of this nation hates licentiousness, so in order to destroy them prepare your daughters to commit licentious acts with them."
And he counseled them to take their little gods, their little deities, their little pocket deities that they had and bring them out for worship during this episode. "They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel." We have a principle here, folks. It's Satan's principle: "If you can't beat them, join them. If you can't fight the church, join the church. Fill it full of compromised, unbelieving types who look like they're part, but they're really not a part. And get them through their lifestyle and their counsel to bring others into that compromise."
It's an inside job now, not an outside job. God has blessed them, but their putting themselves in a "cursable" position. By the way, when Jesus Christ was delivered up, it was an inside job. It was one of his own. It was Judas Iscariot who did it. That's how it all happened. "Then the Lord said so Moses, 'Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord,' " God demands immediate surgery, radical surgery, "out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away against Israel.' So Moses said to the judges of Israel, 'Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor.'
"And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman," one of these priestesses, "in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting." So here's the deal: when the judgment came down and the people realized what was happening and they're gathering, pressing together at the door of the tabernacle in the wilderness, and they're weeping and crying out to God, in the midst of that repentance session one of the children of Israel, one of these guys comes in with his prostitute, this Midianite woman who seduced him, and goes right to the door of the tabernacle while everybody is weeping.
Drags her right into the camp as like a public display of affection in this very solemn meeting. "Now," verse 7, "when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron [or the grandson of Aaron] the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand." According to First Chronicles, chapter 9, Phinehas was one of the gatekeepers of the tabernacle, so this was his job to maintain purity and order. "And he went after the man of Israel into his tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel." Again, extreme surgery, and Phinehas was there to make sure they got the point.
"And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with my zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in my zeal. Therefore say, "Behold, I give to him [my covenant of shalom] my covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and he made atonement for the children of Israel." '
"Now the name of the Israelite who was killed, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father's house among the Simeonites." So he's from the tribe of Simeon. He belongs to a prominent family, a leader's son. Perhaps, thus he thought, "Because I'm the son of a leader I have sort of special favor. I have special immunity. I can do things that other people can't do." But Phinehas took guarding the tabernacle very, very seriously: "I'm going to make sure that there is purity in God's house among God's people." "And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi the daughter of" Bill. [laughter] I mean, "Of Zur," not the daughter of Bill.
"He was the head of the people of a father's house in Midian," prominent in Midian. "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Harass the Midianites, and attack them; for they harassed you with their schemes by which they seduced you in the matter of Peor, in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a leader of Midian, their sister, who was killed the day of the plague because of Peor.' " Now, God has been criticized and the Bible is criticized because of the chapter that you and I just read, the brutality by which Phineanhas [sic]---Phineanhas?---Phinehas did what he did, making these two get the point. He's criticized because of that, that brutality.
And then God is criticized because, "Look, he's a warmongering God, and then God says go after this whole people group." Let me addresses that. Actually, God is merciful. I've known people who have gone to the doctor and the doctor examined them and said, "There's a part of your body that has to be cut out, has to be removed. An amputation must take place." "Well, that's so cruel. How can you be a good doctor? You're a quack! You should have your license revoked. You're supposed to save life, not destroy it. You took the Hippocratic Oath, it sounds like the hypocritic oath to me. Why would you do that?" He's a good doctor. If he lets that remain, it could kill the whole body.
So in taking away the cancer, Israel is saved. Not only that, but do you realize how patient God has been with the Canaanite population? Let me remind you how patient. Back in Genesis, chapter 15---Genesis, chapter 15, God speaks and he says to Abraham, "Your descendants are going to be captive, prisoners in a land not their own for four hundred years. And then after that they're going to return to this land, Abraham, after four hundred years, because"---listen---"the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Let me---let me esplain [sic]. Already when God said that in Genesis 15, the Amorites, the Canaanite population, one of those subgroups had been in the land of Canaan for already 400 years.
For 400 years God was already patient with them letting them stay there. Another 400 years would go by while Israel would be under the bondage of the Egyptians. He wouldn't let them have the land at that point until 400 more years, because God said, "I can't let you have the land now, I have to wait four hundred more years, because the iniquity, the sin of the Amorites is not yet full." In other words, God waited 800 years before he punished the Canaanites and destroyed them, and told the children of Israel, "Drive them out." He was patient with them 800 years sending warnings to them to see if perhaps they would change. They didn't change.
So there comes a point when God's wrath must eclipse God's mercy, when God's judgment must interact with man's sinfulness, because there has been no turn, no change. Because "God is not mocked; and whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap." So God was patient with them, and when he could be patient no longer, and it's as if you're filling up a tub or a vessel with water and it's not yet at the top yet. I'm going to be patient. It's not yet at the top yet. Oh, that sin is sort of getting closer and closer to the rim. Okay, now, it's at the very top. It's filled up. "The iniquity of the Amorites is now filled up and now I'm sending my people in as instruments to destroy what I have created and is mine to begin with."
And they became the instruments of God's judgment at that time. God is slow to anger. I would say 800 years is pretty slow, patient for 800 years, God is slow to anger. By the way, none of them turned in repentance, except for one person. Her name was Rahab. She was a harlot. And when the spies by Joshua were sent into Jericho, that one harlot said, "You should know that all of us, all of these people live in dread of you. We're in fear of you. We've heard what your God did to Og and the other kings." And she is the one that had that scarlet cord that was let out the window, and by her faith she was saved.
It's an illustration, if you think about it, a whole civilization, nobody turns, nobody believes, except one. Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount? He said, "Enter into the narrow gate; for narrow is the way that leads to life, and broad is the way and wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and many enter therein." The way to God is a very narrow way. "You're so narrow-minded, Skip." Absolutely! You probably have no idea how narrow I am. "Narrow is the way," Christ said it, "wide is the way that leads to destruction, and many"---many?---"few." If you think about it, all roads lead to God. They don't lead to heaven, but all roads will lead to God.
Pick any road, any philosophy, any lifestyle you want, you'll see God one day. "It's appointed for every man to die once" and every human being will stand before God to be evaluated. So if you think all roads lead to God, you're right, but it's a road you don't want to go on, because the wide part of that road leads to destruction. The narrow road leads to life, and that's the road of Christ. You say, "One way? One way? Only one way?" Yeah, only one way. But how merciful that God made a way, that he threw out the rope, that he said, "I've got a way for you."
He could have said, "Yeah, you know what? The world is hopeless. I've waited a long time, I'm slow to anger, but I'm just wiping you all out. Good night." He said, "Tell you what, I'll make a way possible. I'll put all of your sin, all of your junk, all of your nonsense, all of your crud, all of your bad attitudes on one man. I'll punish him brutally for it and let him die. The only perfect One who ever lived and never sinned, I'll put it all on him---all of it on him. So all you have to do and anyone has to do is trust in him and turn to him and repent of whatever direction you're going in and turn to him and you'll be saved." Uh, last time I checked that's a great deal!
I don't get all bent out of shape, "I can't believe there's only one way." There's a way! Can you imagine somebody dying, they're drowning in the ocean, and say, you throw a rope over. "Got any other ropes?" [laughter] "No, that's it." "Only one way? Only one rope?" "Yep. You keep talking, you're going to be dead soon. You better grab that rope." That's mercy. Argue all day long or grab the rope. Father, we begin to see with each chapter, and in this evening two chapters that help spell out some of the salient truths that we find, not in one place, but several places throughout Scripture, the lifeline Jesus Christ was predicted even there, even then.
A King shall come, a Star, the All-Star, one with the scepter, the One who will rule and reign, the King of Kings who will bring life and refreshment in his kingdom, spiritually, but one day literally to this earth as he rules and reigns. And he has provided a way, a way of salvation, a lifeline, a rope. Father, we have seen this last weekend, and the week before, a couple weeks before, many cling to that lifeline and say yes to Christ. We're so grateful for that. We remember the night or the day that we did. It's still fresh in our memory banks, but it could be that for some it's not. For some they don't remember a specific time where a decision was made, a choice was made to cooperate with your salvation, to say yes to Jesus.
They can't think of a time when there has been a turning from, what you call repentance in the Bible, a turning from and then a turning to you where it's become personal and real and authentic. And so, Father, the lifeline is out. Jesus said, "I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No man comes to the Father unless he comes through me." "Unless a man is born again, he will never see the kingdom of God." Lord, I just would pray that if anyone is gathered here or listening by radio or watching on television with HisChannel as this is going around the world who doesn't know Jesus personally, that this would be the time that changes.
If you're in this room tonight and your life isn't what it should be and you're ready to surrender and give your life to Jesus Christ, maybe for the first time, maybe you need to rededicate your life because you've been backslidden, disobedient, walking away. But you're going to be man or woman enough to admit that and say, "I need God's mercy. I need God's help. I want to grab that lifeline." You might even be a religious person, you've gone to church your whole life, maybe you even occupied a leadership position or you do now in a church, but if you look deep down in your heart, you're not a saved man or a woman. The lifeline of Christ is extended to you tonight. If you want to grab a hold of that, I want to pray for you.
I want to know who I'm praying for, so I'm going to ask you as our heads are bowed that you raise your hand up. Raise it up in the air and say, "Pray for me. I'm going to do this. I'm going to give my life to Christ right now." God bless you, toward the back, in the middle, and right up here on the side; in the front, and on my side, on the right. Yes, sir, right in the middle up front. God bless you, sir. Anybody else? A couple of you in the balcony. Anybody else? Lifeline's extended. It's not me, it's not a church, it's not a religion, it's not a denomination, it's Jesus Christ personally. Anyone else? Raise that hand up. Right on, toward the back on my left.
Father, thank you and I pray along with my brothers and sisters for each human, each person, each man or woman tonight that's here that raised that hand up, uniquely created by you, uniquely loved by you. You have a unique plan for them and I pray that they would enter into a little bit of the apprehension of that plan even tonight, and their faith would blossom, their life would blossom, you'd place a deep satisfaction and rest and peace in their hearts as they will walk away knowing "My sins are forgiven." Give them strength to walk and to follow you every day, in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand to your feet? We're going to sing this song in closing and really quickly if you raised your hand---and I saw a bunch of you around here. Jesus so often called people publicly, and we believe in that. We believe that a public declaration, amongst Christians especially, who are going to applaud for the decision you've made, goes a long way in settling that in your heart and giving you firm footing for the future. So I'm going to ask you to make a stand for Christ. If you raised your hand tonight, as we sing this song, would you just find the nearest aisle wherever you are, if you're in the balcony come down the stairs, come right up here to the front and give your life to Christ.
I'm going to lead you in a prayer, a prayer to receive Jesus. Come on this way. [worship music plays] Just stand it up here tonight. [applause] God bless you and you. You come on. If you're in the balcony, just go down those steps. I saw some hands in the very back, come on down. Come right up here. Let's make it public, make it your own, make it personal. [worship music plays] Real quickly, anybody else? Anyone else? Even if you didn't raise the hand or I didn't acknowledge you, that's right, come on down. I saw a lot of different hands go up. God bless you guys. [applause] That's right. I love it, love it. Awesome, awesome. Good move. Anyone else? Anyone else?
Hey, those of you who have come forward, I'm going to lead you in a prayer right now to receive Christ. I'm going to ask you to say these words from your heart as you turn your life over to him. This is a new beginning for you. This is a new start for you. This is a do-over. This is being born again. Let's pray. Say: Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus Christ, that he came to earth from heaven that he died on a cross, that his blood paid for my sin, and that he rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin, I turn to Jesus as my Savior and as the Lord of my life. Help me to follow you every day, in Jesus' name, amen. [cheers and applause]