Balaam: Part 2

Scripture: Numbers 23:1-30, Numbers 24:1-25, Numbers 25:1-18
Date: 04/16/2005 
The story of Balaam following a covetous heart teaches us how God protects His people against evil. Just as Israel was on the borders of the Promised Land, so we are about to cross over into heaven. In the end, seduction broke down Israel to worship other idols
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Today we’re going to continue a series we began last week dealing with the prophet Balaam. It's amazing for me that in my time, it's been over 20 years now as a pastor; about 11 1/2 years as pastor of this church; I've never preached on Balaam. All through the Bible, from the book of Numbers to Revelation, references are made by various Bible writers of Balaam. Jude mentions Balaam. Nehemiah mentions fail them. In our scripture reading, Rachel read Malachi mentions Balaam. He's mentioned by Peter, Moses, Joshua, Psalms. The experience was a pivotal, historical landmark for God’s people and it’s important and worthy for us to consider it. Now some of the reasons I think this is a very important study. The experience of what happened with the people of God and Balaam on the border the Jordan just before they crossed into the Promise Land has many parallels for us. We are, we believe, God's people living on the borders of the Promise Land and about to crossover, right? And it was sort of the Devil’s last plan to prevent them from taking the Promise Land. So we should pay close attention to some of these experiences. God's people have nothing to fear for the future except the ways that He has led in the past that we might forget them. If we forget the way that God has led in the past.

We're going to try to not only take up where we left off in Numbers 22. We're going to do a little bit of review. The children of Israel are about to cross into the Promise Land. They are camped opposite Jericho in the Plain of Shetim, which is this vast expanse north of the Dead Sea. And the mountains that go up from there are the mountains where the Moabites live. And the region nearby is where the Midianites live. Keep in mind, the Moabites and the Midianites are not total pagan enemies of God’s people. The Moabites were related to Israel. They were the children of Lot, of Moab. The Midianites were children from Abraham's second family. Keturah had a child named Midian. Moses married a Midianite girl. Are you with me? Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a Midianite chief. So these were relatives. But when they finally came out of the desert after 40 years, instead of welcoming them with bread and water they were threatened by them and they feared them. And instead of just letting them go and let God do His thing with them they tried to interrupt God's leading and to curse them. They figured, this is a spiritual force that is obviously with them. We're going to fight fire with fire. If God has been blessing them then we need to find somebody who can get God to curse them.

So they knew that there was the most famous prophet. If you wanted a good defense attorney, and the case looked hopeless, a few years ago, you went looking for a man named Shapiro or Johnny Cochran, right? And so, there was this prophet, who had a reputation of being in touch with God. He could really make things happen. So they went to hire this famous prophet. What was his name? Balaam. And the name means swallower or devourer. There are some interesting meanings in the names here. Balaam means glutton or devourer, swallower. He is the son of Beor, meaning destruction, and Balak, the king who hires him, means empty. So those names mean something, don't they? So he hires Balaam. First, the messengers come and the angel says, “Don’t go with them. I bless this people. Why would you even think about cursing them? They’re my people.” But he wants the rewards; he wants the honor. Balak could tell from his messengers, “He's thinking about the rewards. Maybe we didn't offer enough.” He sends more honorable princes with more money and more offers. And he says, “Well, let me pray about this tonight.” And God says, “Well, look. If they called you and you really want to go with them, go with them.” So Balaam can’t wait. The next morning he’s got his donkey saddled and he’s on his way to go to Midian to try to curse God’s people and collect this reward. He’s a hit man, if the price is enough. Now he used to be a prophet of God. But living among the pagans, they were used to paying their prophets. He started thinking more about the money than about the gift that God had given him.

Last night Karen and I turned on “Sky Angel” and Sabbath School was on and yours truly was teaching. Well I already have seen myself preach before so we changed over to another channel, Christian channel, to listen to this charismatic preacher that I will not name. And the whole sermon was about the gospel that we need to preach the world is that God wants you to be wealthy. I mean, it was just blatant. “If you’re not wealthy it’s because you don’t believe God wants you wealthy. And it serves you right if you’re poor. God wants you to be wealthy.” It was just awful. And he began to brag about all the money he had and how God had blessed him. And that was so sad. I think that’s so sad. Let me share something with you that I’ve observed. God gives gifts to people and those gifts can sometimes be abused. Sometimes gifts are abused. I know evangelists. Evangelists have a gift of not only preaching, but a special gift of persuasion. I believe that. The object of the evangelist is to persuade people to accept Christ. Now sometimes evangelists start doing public meetings, and then they begin by maybe selling outlines of their sermon—just to cover costs. They realize there’s some demand because there’s a little charisma there. And then they start selling audiotapes and then they start selling videotapes. And they start making a lot of money. And they realize that they've got this gift to persuade people, and pretty soon they're making more money in their sales than they are in their salary.

Have you seen other gifts that have been abused? Does God sometimes give people a gift for music? And they start out singing for the Lord, in church. I could go down the list, everybody from Elvis Presley to Whitney Houston. They developed their voices singing to God's glory and then pretty soon they're using drugs and all out in the world. And they often self-destruct, don't they? God gives people gifts, and the reason that He gives us these gifts is to use them for Him. Can we misdirect those gifts, if we want? God can give you the gift of persuasion. He can give you the gift of healing, and you could use it to capitalize on it for selfish purposes. You can give you the gift of music. He can give you the gift of; I could just go down the line. You name any gift. “Every good and perfect gift is from God,” the Bible says. And it could be twisted and used and abused for selfish purposes. Commit it to God, and you'll be happy. Use it selfishly, you'll never be satisfied.

Now, you might also be thinking, “How could he be a prophet of God and have his motives twisted like this?” Have you read about the prophets of God? Are there other cases in the Bible where prophets of God have maybe been prophets of God, but they've misapplied their gifts? Some of you remember somebody by the name of Jonah. Now you think I'm going to read about Jonah in the book of Jonah. Do you know, it talks about Jonah in other places? II Kings 14:25, “He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of Arabah, according to the word of the Lord of Israel, which he had spoken through His servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.” Jonah, prophesied a prophecy that came true, but what do we read about Jonah in the book of Jonah? Did he always do what God told him to do? Are prophets people, too? You remember the story in the Bible where God tells Samuel, the prophet, to pick a new king for Israel. And all the sons of Jesse are lined up except one. And the tallest, biggest, strongest son, Eliab I think his name, is standing there before Samuel and Samuel says, “Oh, he looks like a good king. Surely, the Lord’s anointed is before me.” And God says, “No, Samuel, you’re looking on the outside. You’re thinking like a man, not like a prophet. That’s not the one I’ve chosen.”

How many of you remember the story in the Bible, I Kings 13:31-32? God sends a prophet from Judah. We never hear his name. We don’t know what his name is. He goes and he prophecies against Jeroboam, who has built another false idol and golden calves and they were turned to idolatry; they’re not worshipping at Jerusalem any more. Ten of the tribes broke away. They’re creating their own religion. And this prophet from Judah goes and he pronounces a prophecy against this altar. And while he’s prophesying the king’s hand is paralyzed and the altar splits and all the ashes are poured out. And he prays for the king’s hand and the king’s hand is healed. And the king says, “Come home with me and I’ll reward you.” He says, “No. God’s told me not to go home with anybody.” On his way home another man, who was a prophet that was wayward, of Israel says, “Oh, come to my house and refresh yourself.” He says, “No, God’s told me not to.” He said, “Yeah, I'm a prophet too, just like you are and God's told me to tell you to come to my house and relax.” And he said, “OK.” Now the word of God, if God tells you one thing don't believe what someone else tells you. If God tells you one thing He’ll tell you what else. If He changes His plans He'll tell you. And that prophet should have known that.

And he went to this other prophet's house, who was another wayward prophet. And while he's eating the wayward prophet from Samaria says, “Thus says the Lord, you're not going to make it home. A lion’s going to kill you.” They’re both obviously prophets because their prophecies come true. But they’re misusing their gift of prophecy. And so he leaves. The prophet of Judah leaves the prophet of Samaria’s house. He’s killed by a lion who, by the way, doesn’t hurt the donkey. You notice that when the angel drew his sword out he didn’t hurt the donkey. He was going to kill Balaam, but not the donkey. This lion takes the prophet off the donkey, kills the prophet, doesn't eat the prophet because he is a prophet. Doesn't eat the donkey. And he parks there. People walking down the road say, “We saw something today we've never seen before.” There is a dead prophet with a crouched lion and a donkey and the donkey won’t move. Probably paralyzed with fear. Just another example in the Bible. I hope I'm not confusing you. If you're wondering if he is a prophet of God, if Balaam's a prophet of God, then how could he have such corrupted motives? He is not the first one. God gives people who accept Him gifts of the Spirit. That does not guarantee they will not abuse those gifts. We don't see too many false prophets, because it is one of the more rare gifts. These unusual relationships with the Lord like that. And even at the infancy of our message some people were given the gift of prophecy, and they misused it or rejected it.

Back to our story here. So you remember, of course, Balaam’s on his way, writing his donkey. The donkey first sees the angel; he goes out into a field. Balaam beats the donkey back into the road. And then the donkey bumps his foot against the wall and he beats the donkey again. And then the angel parks right in a narrow way. He can't turn right or left. The donkey just lays down. Balaam beats the donkey. And now does something for the donkey because it says the donkey spoke. It doesn't say God was a ventriloquist. Do animals have feelings? He gave his donkey the cognitive power to somehow speak. It wasn't a parrot. It was speaking its heart. He's saying, “All this time I've served you. Have I ever acted this way before? Don't you think maybe there's something else going on here?” And Balaam is so angry; Peter refers to the madness of the prophet. He's out of his mind. He's talking back to the donkey.

Now the most important message in this whole experience that we often save for the children is very simply this. Balaam is on his way to try to curse God's people for a reward. He thinks, “I am a prophet. God has given me the gift of prophecy. He's using me. I'm special. I'm unique. I ought to get paid better. I ought to be treated better. I don't know why God is keeping me from capitalizing on this gift that He's given me.” “I mean, He's given me the gift of music. Why shouldn't I cut a record?” I've heard these arguments before. And God is saying, “You think you're something because I speak through you. I can speak through donkeys. You think you're something because I have spoken to you. I can speak to donkeys, and I can speak through donkeys.” That is, I think, the core message God is telling us through that whole donkey experience. And the other thing is,” The donkey is listening to mean better than you are. You are a man. The donkey, I am willing to save and if it wasn't for the donkey I'd kill you.”

I ran out of time before I could cover these points. You know, it's often true in the church that there are people who may not have the greatest education. They may not have all the gifts, but they have a heart that's right. And God says, “I look on the heart.” And that donkey had a heart of surface. And He said, “I'd rather save those who are willing to obey and serve, that listen to my voice, they're watching for my guidance, than those that are doing their own selfish things.” He said, “I can do more through the donkey than you, Balaam. You think you're something.” It may be that donkey outlived his master. When we get to the end of the story you'll see what I'm saying.

Go with me to chapter 22. You know what I think is interesting here. In Numbers 22:34, “Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, I've sinned. I didn't know you stood in the way against me. Now, if it displeases you.” Notice he says, “If it displeases you, I'll turn back.” Well, the angel is killing him because he's going the wrong way. He still says if. “I sure don’t want to turn back, but if you won’t let me.” And you know what the angel says? “Go with the men.” Did God really want him to go? Or is He saying, “Look, I’m going to let you do your own thing.” Remember when Jesus said to Judas. I mean, here Jesus at the dinner says, “One of you is going to betray me tonight.” Did Judas know who it was? He said, “Lord, is it I?” Of course he knew it was him. And then finally Jesus says to Judas, “Go. Do what you need to do quickly.” Did Jesus want Judas to betray Him? Or was He saying, “I’m not going to hinder you.”

Very, very, very important truth I want to highlight right here. II Thessalonians 2:10. There are a lot of people that are going to do their own thing and they believe what they want to believe because they don’t want to believe the truth. The truth, it gets in their way. They’ll believe in prosperity preaching. They’ll believe that God’s law has been changed. They’ll believe you can talk to the dead. They’ll believe whatever they want to believe because they want to believe it. They don’t really want the truth. II Thessalonians 2:10-12, “And with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they do not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Why does God allow them to believe a lie? Because they want the reward, they have pleasure in unrighteousness, because what they believe. There are sins they enjoy; they’re not ready to give them up. And God will eventually let them go. He says to Balaam, “All right, you can go if you still think that’s the thing to do, but you’re not going to be able to curse them. You’re going to say what I say.”

So he’s on his way. Go back with me to Numbers 22:37. Finally Balak hears he’s coming. He goes off to meet him. “Did I not earnestly send to you, calling you? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I not able to honor you? And Balaam said to Balak, Look, I have come to you!” I’m here. “No, do I have any power to say anything?” I’d like to curse them, but I can’t do what I want. “The word that God puts in my mouth, that’s what I must speak. So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath Huzoth. And Balak offered oxen and sheep.” They had a big catered [?] to celebrate that they’re getting ready to curse the Israelites. “And he sent some to Balaam and to the princes that were with him.” The princes of Midian. Verse 41, they don’t waste any time. He’s traveled; this journey took maybe weeks. And the next day he says, “Let’s not waste any time. Let’s start cursing them tomorrow.”

“So it was, the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent of the people.” He takes him to the very best high point where he can see the panorama of this people. He says, “They’re going to eat up this land, like the ox. They're going to lick it all up.” He says, “Here, I want you to see what a big problem I’ve got.” So Balaam says to Balak, “All right, here's the plan.” “You build seven altars for me, and prepare for me seven bulls and seven rams.” Are they offering pigs or offering clean animals? Remember, they knew about the right sacrificial system. Nothing wrong with offering oxen on these hastily made altars. They were altars of stone, according to the Bible Offering the right kind of animals, on the right kind of altar. Seven [?], is that a biblical number for the Jews? Right number; they're trying to do everything as though they believe in the God of Jehovah, but then they're asking the God of Jehovah to do something completely contrary to His will.

Doesn’t it say in Isaiah 4:1, “In that day seven women will take hold of one man. Saying, we’re going to eat our own bread, wear our own apparel. Let us be called by your name to take away our reproach.” Are there a lot of churches that call themselves Christian? And they’ve got a lot of Christian trappings in their religion. But when it comes to something very basic like the commandments of God they do their own thing. Some little area like the law of God. And so, he does what he says. And he offers a bull and a ram on each altar. Most expensive gifts you could offer. “And Balaam says to Balak, Stand by your burnt offering, I'll go over there. Perhaps the Lord will come to me.” It was a supernatural gift. He didn't make this up. He says, “If the Lord meets with me I'll tell you what He tells me.” “And then the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth,” 23:5, “and he said, Return to Balak, and thus you will speak to him. So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering,” probably tapping his foot, with his arms folded, waiting to hear what the curse was that he had pronounced. “He and all the princes of Moab.”

And Balaam had bad news. He had hired this hit man, but instead of a bullet of cursing it became a bullet of blessing. “And he took up his oracle.” An oracle is a short prophetic utterance. “And he said, Balak the king of Moab has brought me.” Now this is the word. Your Bible may have this in italics here. “Balak the kind of Moab has brought me from Aram.” Those are the mountains near the Euphrates. “From the mountains of the east. Come, curse Jacob for me,” Israel/Jacob are synonymous, “come, denounce Israel! How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? Fro from the top of the rocks I see him. And from the hills I behold him; There! A people dwelling alone. Not reckoning itself among the nations.”

And you know, that’s really interesting, a prophecy about Israel. There is no other nation in the world like Israel, that has remained alone. Even though they are scattered all through the world. Every other nation of the world, when they become scattered they end up becoming absorbed, they amalgamate, they mix, they lose their distinct identity. But the only nation; any of you ever heard of a plant called the Wandering Jew? The only nation that has remained distinct and alone was the nation of Israel. And that's not only true of ancient Israel, but is it also true that God's church, spiritual Israel, is to remain a distinct people? We're to be in the world and yet not of the world; to be alone, in that sense. “Not reckoning itself among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob or number one fourth of Israel?” God said they'd be like the dust, like the stars, and here they are. And then notice what He says, “let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!”

Now, that's what Balaam wanted, to die the death of the righteous, but is that what he got? Many want to have their end [?] the end of God's people, the ones that God has blessed. But it takes more than just saying, “Ah, let it be.” How many times I've heard pastors pray and churches at the end, “And Lord, when you come, we pray that not one here will be missing.” How many of you have heard pastors pray, a prayer very much like that? Isn't that a nice prayer? Is it realistic? No, because many are called, but few are chosen. Typically, most people just don't listen. They want to do their own thing. It would be nice if when the Lord comes we were all ready. But even though that's our prayer, it was the prayer of Balaam, too. “Let my end be like his.” It didn't happen because he didn't surrender. If we want to have the end of God's people, spiritual Israel, we must be among those who surrender and obey.

It goes on here. Balak hears this and he says, “What have you done to me? I took you, I brought you all this way to curse my enemies, and look, you've bless them bountifully!” You've not only blessed them, you've blessed them abundantly. Didn't you understand? You've made it even worse now. “So he answered and said, Must not I take heed to say what the Lord has put in my mouth?” What a conflicted man in Balaam was. On one side of his mouth he saying, “I'd sure like the rewards.” The other side of the mouth, he's saying, “I need to obey God rather than men. I mean, you might pay me, but I'm still going to do what I'm supposed to do.” Poor guy, he just had a real internal struggle. Just like Judas. He's out there preaching that Jesus is the Messiah, and he's betraying Him. We all have a little bit of a conflict, don't we, inside? A battle between the Spirit and the flesh, the will of God and our own selfish desires. Balaam felt that.

Verse 13, “Then Balak said to him, Please come with me to another place from which you might see them.” Now this is the second oracle. That was the first oracle we read a minute ago. He says, “Come to this place from which he might see them, but the outer part. You won't see all of them. You notice in his prophecy he said, “I see this people spread across the hills.” He says, “You couldn't help but bless them because they were so impressive. Maybe if you don't see the whole tribe, you won't be as impressed and you could turn it into a curse. You won't be so overcome with awe. So let's get you a different vantage point.” Isn't it strange how men think through our superstitions we can change the word of God? I've even heard Christians talk like that, superstitions. Praying about what they're supposed to do and so they consult a fortune cookie. Trying to mix the things of God with the things of the devil. “Maybe if you don't see all of them you'll be able to curse them.” That superstitions.

So, he said, “All right.” “He brings him to the field of Zophim, on the top of Pisgah.” Oh, what a dumb place to bring him. You know what another name of Pisgah is? Nebo. He brings him to the mountain where Moses was able to see the Promise Land. Of course this is before Moses does it. And we sing of Pisgah’s lofty heights. You ever heard of that before? He brings them to Mount Nebo, Mount Pisgah, same place, so that he a curse them. But this is the mountain where God was going to meet with Moses later and bless the people. So it's all continuing to backfire. He says to Balak, Balaam says to the king of Moab, “You stay here by the burnt offering, while they are smoldering. I'll go over there and maybe the Lord will speak to me.” Don't you think Balaam should've said, “Look, we tried it. It's not working. Goodbye.” Why does he continue to court temptation? You know the Bible says we should flee temptation. But most people crawl away from temptation and they hope it catches them. And here he should've said, “Look, I tried to curse them. God insisted on blessing them. There's no need to continue trying to curse them.” Why will a man try to fight against God?

When a person starts down the road of sin, soon will make you stupid. Pardon me. I know it's not a nice word in our family. We don't let our boys even use that word. But it is a word you'll find in the dictionary. It's when your thinking is not clear. When somebody wants something bad enough, they come up with the most absurd rationalizations, where you just don't think straight. It's almost like when Jesus rises from the dead and the Roman soldiers see the angel roll away the stone. Christ has come to life. They run off and say they've seen as miracle. When the religious leaders hear it instead of saying, “I guess He was the Messiah,” they pay the soldiers to deny it and say that the body was stolen. When I see that Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead instead of saying, “Maybe He was the Messiah and maybe I'm wrong and maybe I should change,” they say, “We’d better kill Lazarus. He’s living evidence that Christ is the Messiah.” Is there something wrong with me or is that stupid thinking? The devil is not very smart. Cunning, shrewd, devious, clever, but not very smart. Because the idea that you could overthrow your Creator, is it just me or is there something crazy about that? That you could somehow bring down the one who created you and gives you your power, to bring Him down. And yet the devil is fighting against God as though he thinks he can become God.

So, he says, “Let’s go do it from a different vantage point.” And they do this and then another prophecy comes to Balaam. Here it is, verse 18, the second oracle. “He takes up his oracle and says, Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor! God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Has He spoken, and will He not make a good?” He's promised to bring them into the Promise Land. You know He gave this land through Abraham. Isn't He going to keep His word? They all knew that. They were related to Abraham. “Behold, I have received a command to bless. He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” Now the Bible says when God blesses something it is blessed forever. And he says, “God has blessed and I cannot reverse it.” God blessed marriage in the beginning. Is it still blessed? It’s set aside. It's holy. The Bible tells us the Sabbath day is blessed. That's not a Levitical, Mosaic law. That's back in Genesis, made for man. He blessed it in the beginning. Is it still blessed? We can't reverse it. We can't change it to another day. God blesses and it’s blessed forever.

If you underline in your Bible, this verse I'm going to read now is a key to understanding the whole story. Verse 21 in his oracle, “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 the king is among them.” In other words, because at this point, before they cross the holy land, the people of Israel were walking with God. They were faithful. They learned their lessons of trust. God was with them; He was going to protect them. [end side one]

There was nothing anybody could do to hurt them. When you are in God's will, you and the Lord are always a majority. You have nothing to fear. Our biggest fear is that we will step out of His will. If we are living in harmony with God. We have nothing to fear. You don't have to worry about what someone does to your body, or how they might torture you, or what they might take from you, or what they might say about you. If you are in God's will you are blessed. Now that's the key to what's going to come a little later. Verse 22, “God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel.” Do you have to worry about somebody out there that serves the devil, that says, “I'm going to put a whammy on you”? “I've got a voodoo doll. I'm going to stick pins in a voodoo doll of you, and I'm going to pins in you in effigy.” Or, “I'm going to pronounce a curse on you, or a hex, or a pox.” Do you have to worry about if you happen to not think and you walk under a ladder, and then a black cat comes across your path, and you trip and bump into a mirror, and kick over the salt? Does a Christian need to worry about that stuff? And yet, I have met professed Christians who try to co-mingle this superstition.

There is no sorcery that can hurt you. It doesn't matter what your zodiac says that day. You don't have to be afraid. If you're serving God, all of that stuff it is neutralized, it is ineffective. Is there power in voodoo and witchcraft and the occult? Yes, if you believe in it. Don't forget, there's a power in faith. And whenever Jesus heals anybody He said, “Your faith has made you whole.” And there are some who have faith in the devil. And there are certain things that the devil does for them because of that faith. And they will see some of these astrologies and these predictions. And a lot of this witchcraft and voodoo, people who believe in those witch doctors that are sticking the pins in their doll, they do get sick and die. Why? Because they’ve put their faith in it. And Jesus said, “Be it unto you according to your faith.” So if you think that people out there that are trying to curse or harm you with their words or their incantations or their sorcery, that they can do it, well that's too bad for you. But if you're in God's hands you don't have to fear any of that stuff. You don't have to consult with the zodiac section of the paper to find out if it's safe for you to do something today. I thought that was so sad. When we hear about presidents doing that. That is really sad.

“There is no sorcery or divination. And now it must be said of Jacob and Israel.” Here's that verse I preached on two weeks ago. “Oh, what has God wrought!” What has God wrought. You just look at this nation; look at what God has done to save them. It's so obvious that they're blessed. “Look, of people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; and it shall not lie down again until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.” In other words, they are going to be victorious in the battle against their enemies. “Then Balak said to Balaam, Oh no. Not again!” I’m paraphrasing. He said, “You’ve blessed them again. Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!” But you know, they're both persistent. Balak wants them cursed, and Balaam wants the reward. “So Balaam answered and said to Balak, Did I not tell you, saying that all the Lord speaks, I must do? Then Balak says to Balaam, Please, come, I will take you to one more place.” “Let's try this. Three times is the charm. Let's try one more time.” “Perhaps it will please the Lord that you might curse them from over there.” What dumb desperation.

“So Balak takes Balaam, to the top of Peor.” Now don't miss that word, Peor. That means empty. This is a mountain where they had an idol to Baal Peor. That comes up in the next chapter. “Let me take you to the top of Peor; you can overlook the wasteland. If you're not looking at them at all, but you're overlooking the salt sea, the wastelands, then you can think cursing-like thoughts, and you can curse them. Because you've got to curse the view.” He takes him there to the top; they do their same thing with seven altars and the seven sacrifices. And a goes, 24:1, “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as other times, to seek to use sorcery.” Notice, he was doing sorcery, too. He was mixing his prophecy was sorcery. Joshua calls Balaam a soothsayer. And the Bible says soothsayers were not to be allowed to live. “But he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam raised his eyes, and he saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. And he took up his Oracle and 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, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down with his eyes open wide.”

This right here describes the condition of many prophets through history in prophecy. When they are actually in vision, they often have their eyes open, they don't breathe. They see things and they're oblivious to what's happening around them. It was a real vision of God that he sought. That's why John, and revelation, he says, “I was in the Spirit.” He saw this vision and there may have been people around him who saw this and they don't know what he was seeing. His eyes were open. Verse 5, “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwelling, O Israel! Like Valley is that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters.” Balak had told Balaam, “Come cursed this people. They're like locusts. They're like an ox that's licking up the ground.” And here he says, “No, it's not like that all.”

You read earlier in the book of Numbers, and it says that when they stationed their tents around the sanctuary, there was a place for each tribe, each clan in each tribe. They were lined up with a line in order. It was one of the most beautifully symmetrical camps that you could ever see. They said that a rock followed them. I don't know how this worked, but they were still being supplied with fresh water from this rock. Water is flowing through the camps. It looks like the Garden of Eden. It was a beautiful picture. It wasn't anything like what he had seen. There was an order; there was a cleanliness to it. He had given them laws of sanitation.

And he continues, “How lovely is this. Like aloes, like cedars beside the water. She'll pour water. From his buckets, and seeds shall be in many waters. And his kingdom will be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him out of Egypt; he has strength like a wild ox; he'll consume the nations of his enemies; he'll break their bones and pierce them with his arrows. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; as a lion, who shall rouse him?” Now Balak is really upset. Oh, I don't want to miss the last part. “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.” Is that true of God's people today? Has God bless His church? Will God bless those who bless His church? He says, “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.” It is a dangerous thing to try to fight against the object of God's supreme regard, which is His bride. And anything you do to bless God's church will react in a blessing on you. In your prayers, in your influence, in your words, in your support, if you bless God's people you will be blessed. If you curse God's people you will be cursed.

The story doesn't end here. This is the third oracle. Balak does not ask for a fourth oracle, but Balaam says, “Look, I told you I had to say what God told me. I've got one more vision for you, even though we're not going to go through the seven sacrifices on seven altars anymore.” He says, “Come, I'll advise you what will be in the latter days.” “I'm going to tell you about Jacob in the future.” Now is this a prophecy of God? Can a wayward prophet give a true prophecy? It is a prophecy of God. He said, “God is telling me what to say.” By the way, when Balaam comes, and he's got the king there; when something official like this was happening in the presence of the king there was always a scribe at the king's hand that was taking a record of these events. There is a scribe who is writing down the prophecies of Balaam. That comes in handy because notice part of this prophecy says. 24:17, “I see Him, but not now.” Who is the Him? Capital H. the Messiah coming. This final prophecy’s talking about Jesus. “I behold Him, but not near.” It’s still many years away. “A Star shall come out of Jacob; and a Scepter will rise from Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.” Moab becomes a symbol for the enemies of God's people just like Gog and Magog do.

Matthew 2:1, “Behold, men will came from the East to Jerusalem saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and come to worship Him.” How did those magi, those wise man come from the East, how did they know that Star was a symbol for the King of Israel? Because Balaam was a prophet from the East. Moab was east of Israel. These prophecies of Balaam, he was famous all through that land. They had circulated and he may have had other prophecies, we don't know about, but somewhere this prophecy, the fourth oracle, was written down that said this star, this supernatural star is going to be a sign of the scepter. Who carried a scepter? A king did. The king of Israel, the Messiah, was going to come out of Jacob. So that did happen.

In verse 25 Balak basically says, “You go on home. I don't even want to look at you anymore.” He probably would like to kill Balaam. He covers his travel expense and gives him per diem, but he doesn't give him the rewards he wanted to give him. He says, “Get out of here.” Balaam, on the way home, is really upset. Not only does he have the king mad at him, he can barely cover expenses for the trip. Now here’s where you need to read into the story what happened by comparing scripture with scripture. Chapter 25:1, “Then Israel remained in the Acacia Grove.” This is the valley of Shitim that is spread out, the Acacia Grove. You’ve heard the wood that they built the ark out of was this acacia wood, called shitim wood. And they’re in this big plain here. They’ve been camped there for a long time. “And the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. And they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.” What kind of women? Moabite women. Who was the king that hired Balaam? The king of Moab. “And they bowed down to their gods. And Israel was joined to Baal of Peor.”

The word Baal means the Lord’s. These were the pagan gods. And this is supposed to be the Lord of Peor, the last place where Balaam tried to pronounce a curse. And this god of emptiness. You know why they called him the god of emptiness? That high place looked over the lowest point on earth. That high place of Peor looked over the Dead Sea and nothing grew around the Dead Sea. Have you ever seen any photographs? It’s dead. It’s just a mineral pit. And it was barrenness, emptiness. But they had a god for that. And so here, the Children of Israel begin to get involved in the worship. In a lot of the pagan worship prostitution was connected with it.

So listen to what happens here. “Then the Lord said to Moses,” verse 4, “Take all the leaders of the people and hand the offenders before the Lord, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord might be turned away from Israel. So Moses said to the judges of Israel,” the ones who were the leaders, “Every one of you kill his men, the men in your tribes, in your clans, “who were joined to Baal of Peor.” The ones who’ve gotten involved in prostitution with these women of Moab and worshipping their gods, you were to execute them. Very severe. “And indeed, one of the children of Israel,” whose name was Zimry [?],” he came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman,” whose name was Cosby [?], “in the sight of Moses in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.”

Now get this picture. The Children of Israel realized that a lot of their people had begun to fraternize with the enemy and worship their gods and they are appalled. They’ve been executing the ones who are doing this. They’re weeping before the sanctuary because of the sin among their people and at the same time one group of the church is weeping for the sin others in the church are still committing the sin. And one of these leaders, he blatantly says, “I don’t care. If you guys think there’s something wrong with this you’re too fanatical, you’re too conservative. Everybody does it. And so he brings this pagan woman into his tent, who is a harlot of Baal worship. Right in the presence of everybody. And because he was a leader nobody was going to try and stop him. He was a prince in Israel that did this. Notice what happens. “Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron.” Phinehas is the grandson of Aaron. He ends up being high priest later. “When he saw it, he rose up from the congregation,” who was praying. He says, “There’s a time for prayer and there’s a time for action.” “And he takes a javelin in his hand; and he went in after the man of Israel into the tent.” Do I need to tell you what’s going on in the tent? Or can you figure it out with verse 1 saying they committed harlotry? He goes into the tent, “and he thrusts both of them through,” shiskebobs the two of them. “Israel and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.”

Twenty-four thousand, a curse came upon them. How did this curse happen? And by the way, the Lord ends up blessing Phinehas. It says, verse 11, “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 a covenant of peace.” And he had an everlasting priesthood because of that.

Go with me in your bibles, I want to show you something here. Revelation 2:14. Where did Balak, the Moabite king, come up with the idea to send Moabite women among the Israelites? “But I have a few things against you, because you have there that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and commit sexual immorality.”

Numbers 31:16. When they finally went into war with Moab, they had asked, “Should we spare the women?” And Moses said, “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam,” of who? “To trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor,” Baal Peor, “therefore there was a plague among the congregation.” Twenty-four thousand died. Let me tell you what happened. On his way home, on his donkey, Balaam kept thinking about all the money that he was missing, all the rewards. And going home now, and he’s going have the reputation of being a failure. He tried to curse and couldn’t curse. Remember, his reputation was, “We know whoever you bless is blessed and whoever you curse is cursed.” What’s this going to do to my future marketing program? I’ve got to find someway to help satisfy the customer. And he says, “I know what to do. The reason that God is blessing Jacob is because he has not found iniquity. Remember I told you in that one oracle where God says, “I have not found iniquity in Jacob, or sin in Israel”? He said, “If I could get them to break God’s law His blessing will be withdrawn, His protection will be withdrawn and they’ll be cursed.”

He makes a u-turn on his donkey. No angel stops him. He goes back to Balak, who says, “I don’t even want to see you.” He says, “Wait, I’ve got a plan. If you want to bring them down, try to affect them with sorcery, that’s not going to work. They’re protected because they obey. God has set a hedge about them because they obey. And as long as they’re obeying their God you can’t touch them. Unless God removes the hedge, as He did in the story of Job.” He said, “But if they sin, if you can lead them into sin, it drives away those angels of protection. And then there’ll be a curse on them. Here’s what you do.” It’s the oldest sin in the world. It’s the sin where Samson fell. Did Samson misapply the gifts that God had given him? How did he get him to do it? Samson rips the gates off Hebron because he’s in there visiting a prostitute. Did God give David the gift of physical strength and prophecy and leadership? And what brought him down? He saw a beautiful woman and he wanted her, even though she was married. And what about the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon? Solomon loved many women and they drew his heart away after other gods.

And Balaam says to Balak, “Here’s a plan that never seems to fail. You get the most beautiful women, send them in among the men to entice them and get them involved by using one of the most powerful drives among man. Get them involved in worshipping other gods, their God will withdraw their protection; they’ll be cursed.” And it worked. He was able to accomplish through women what he couldn’t accomplish through arms. It’s really a very sobering thought when you consider it. He accomplished more with a seductive smile than a clenched fist, in bringing down the people of God. Now, I’m not trying to make the women in our midst feel bad, but this is what happened. It’s something to consider.

Through the rest of the history of Israel they talked about the sin of Baal Peor. Psalm 106:28, “They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices made to the dead.” That gives you a few more details. Not only were they fraternizing with the enemy, they were making sacrifices to dead people. Are there still people who claim to be Christians that think you can communicate with the dead? “They provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped.”

Is there a time for those among God’s people to say, as we’re on the borders of the Promise Land, “something is inappropriate”? What was it that the devil used to bring a plague on God’s people just before they entered the Promise Land? Sexual immorality and paganism. Now you know that even among Christians impurity, the record is not much better, according to the studies and the surveys that they’ve conducted, than it is among the world. It ought to be different, friends. Amen? There ought to be a holiness. If we want God’s protection, if we want God’s blessing, He blesses God’s people when they’re faithful. He’ll bless you with forgiveness if you come to Him just the way you are. But if you want Him to lead you all the way into the Promise Land then we’ve got to keep our eyes on the Lord.

What happened to Balaam? Did his trying to sell his services pay off? “What profit is it if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?” Numbers 31:8, finally they got into a battle, after the plague was stopped. They got into a war with Midian and Moab. “They killed Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.” How is it that they could kill Balaam and Midian? I thought he lived over by Mesopotamia. Probably bought a condo there in Moab somewhere with the rewards he got. Joshua 13:22, “The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer, among those who were killed by them.”

Balaam ran after reward. A mad prophet; misapplied his gift. Was it a good ending or a bad ending? With Christianity, the most important thing, you may have a bad start, but you want a good ending. Matter of fact, you might make all kinds of mistakes along the way in your race, but you don’t want a bad ending. The most important thing is a good ending. Some of us have had a bad start, but you want to have a good finish. He’s the author and the finisher of our faith. Balaam started out a prophet of God. Judas was called by Jesus to be an apostle. But because they would not let go of their besetting sin they had a bad ending. “What profit is it if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?”

Makes me think. Jesus spoke a parable to them. The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully, and he thought to himself, What shall I do since I have no room to store my crops, my blessings? He said, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and I’ll build bigger barns, and there I’ll store all my crops and my goods. And I’ll say to my soul, “Soul, you’ve got many goods laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you. They whose will those things be that you have provided? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, but is not rich towards God.”

Balaam thought it was worth it. Was it worth it? The bible tells us, “What profit is it if you gain the whole world and lose your soul.” A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things that you possess. The important thing is God’s kingdom. That’s what’s going to last forever. Israel crossed over. He couldn’t stop them. Moab was destroyed. You don’t find Moabites in the world today. You don’t find Midianites in the world today. Do you still find Israelites in the world today? Both literal and spiritual. And God is willing to lead us into the Promise Land, but we need to be willing to follow Him all the way.

And that’s our closing hymn. Why don’t you turn to 516? Let’s stand together and sing that. 516, All the Way, My Savior Leads Me.


We find that God gives gifts. God blesses. But He gives us the freedom to choose how we will use the gifts of the Spirit that He’s given us, and the other gifts. What we want is the blessings of God’s gifts to be blessed. And that only happens when we give ourselves. Some of us, like Balaam, maybe we felt conflicted. We want to serve God and do His will, but we also want what the world has to offer. And maybe you’ve sensed that struggle inside. This would be a good time for you to say, “I want to fix my eyes on Jesus, lay aside every weight and go all the way.” Friends, I really believe we are on the borders of the Jordan. I do believe you’re going to see things happen very fast. And He’s called this congregation in a special way with a special work. But it depends on our personal commitment. If you would like to in some way say, “Lord, I have a special need to rededicate my life today,” come as we sing the last verse together. We’ll pray together.


Father in heaven, we want to thank you for both the admonition and the encouragement we find in your word. We can all find ourselves somewhere in this story. I pray that you will give us the dedication and the courage of Phinehas to take a stand for truth when others around us might be compromising. I pray, Lord, we’ll be warned against the mistake of Balaam, of trying to serve two masters, one of them being mammon. And Lord, I pray that you’ll help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus; that we’re willing to follow Him all the way, to obey in every area of our life. That there might be no breach in that hedge of protection and blessing He’s placed around us. Lord, we want you to open the windows of heaven and bless us, but we know that promise is conditional on our obedience and surrender. Bless this church. We do believe we have a bright future, but we know it’s dependent on our personal surrender. Help us be faithful, Lord. Without you we can’t do it. Through Christ all things are possible. Bless the people who have come forward. Whatever the areas might be in their life where they’re struggling or seeking to make a total surrender, help that happen now. Thank you for hearing our prayer, because we’re coming in Jesus’ name and claiming His blood. Amen.

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