Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Look at the Life of Balaam, Part 5

Leslie Basham: As a child of God, do you have to be afraid of evil curses or magic spells? Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When God in heaven above determines to bless you, there's no one here on earth or in hell below who can reverse it. No one!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 9, 2015.

I think every kid growing up hears about magic spells, incantations, voodoo, and curses, and those can be really scary. Once you come to faith in Christ, I don't think you should laugh those things off as harmless, but do you have to fear them? That discussion will be part of the series, "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam."

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Here's Nancy in the series, "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam."

Nancy: Well, we stopped in the middle of Balaam's first oracle, or his first prophecy. In our last session, Balaam has been brought by Balak to curse the Israelites, but we're seeing that God is in control. Heaven rules, and Balaam cannot say anything that God does not let him say. It's his intent to curse the Israelites, that's what he's being paid to do. But he can only say what God allows him to say.

So we're picking back up in Numbers chapter 23. Let's begin at the beginning of that first oracle, verse 7:

"From Aram Balak has brought me, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains :[and here's what Balak said] 'Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!'"

Now, here's what Balaam said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?" Balaam has no power against the power of God. If God wants to bless His people, Balaam cannot curse them.

Then, verse 9, he says: "For from the top of the crags I see him, from the hills I behold him." He's talking about Israel. He goes up to this high place, and he sees, not all, but a portion of those millions of Jews in the wilderness. He sees them from the top of the hills. "Behold, a people dwelling alone, and not counting itself among the nations!"

This is a picture of God's people who are set apart. They're different from the other nations. They're not like the other nations. That's what God's people are always supposed to be—different from this world and this world's system. They have a different heart. They have a different world view. They have a different mindset. They have a different Lord. They have a Savior who has redeemed them for Himself.

So we are a people who are set apart. We live in the world, but not of the world. And this is what Balaam sees about the Israelites.

And then in verse 10: "Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel?" Now, remember that God had promised Abraham in Genesis, "I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth." How many particles of dust are there on the earth? How many? Billions? Quintillions? Quadrillions? I don't know how many illions. Nobody knows. It's without number. And God said, "I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted" (Gen. 13:16).

And that's not just the physical seed of Abraham, the Jewish people, but we also get included in that as the spiritual seed of Abraham, grafted into Israel, the true Israel, those who believe Israel's God. And God said to Abraham, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them . . . so shall your seed be" (Gen. 15:5). Then in Hosea 1, "The number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered" (v. 10).

Balaam reflects all of these verses, these promises of God when he says, "Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel?"

He's saying, "If I were just to take a fraction of them, there's so many, as I'm see them through this vision God's given to me, there's so many, not even a fraction can be numbered."

And through Balaam, this foolish, false prophet, God reiterates His promise to bless and multiply Israel. God speaks through this man.

And then Balaam says, continuing in verse 10: "Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!" Like whose? Like Israel's.

Now, Balaam was sent to curse Israel, but what comes out is not a curse at all. "Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!" He's saying, "There's something desirable about these people. There's something envious, that I envy about these people." He recognizes that there's something special, different about God's people. They were upright. They were blessed.

Even in death they were blessed and secure. He envied them. He envied their end. He wanted to die the death of the righteous. He wanted to have the outcome, the blessing that he sees God bringing to their lives, but he didn't want to live the life of the righteous. "Let me have their end. Let me have their blessing. Let me have their outcome. But I want to live my self-willed life, going my way, doing my own thing."

He wanted to live for himself and partner with God's enemies and reap the rewards, the fruit, the benefits of partnering with God's enemies, but then he wanted to have God's blessings when it was time to die.

There are a lot of people today who want the eternal blessings of knowing God, belonging to Him when it comes time to die. "Spare me from hell. Give me heaven. Give me eternal life." But in the meantime, between here and there, they want to live life their own way and walk in the path of the ungodly.

Listen to this: Those who have not been made upright by Christ (He talks about Israel being "the upright ones"), those who have never been made upright by Christ in such a way that it gives them a desire for holy living, they have no hope of eternal life and blessings with Christ when they die. If they don't have a desire for holiness now, that has been put in them because God has made them righteous through Christ, then when they die, they have no hope of having eternal blessings and life with Christ.

In fact, if they did not have a holy heart and a holy life here, they would not be comfortable in heaven, because heaven is a holy place where there is no sin, and they will prefer hell to heaven when it comes to the end.

Verse 11: "And Balak said to Balaam, 'What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.'"

So Balak is disappointed. He's has gone to a lot of trouble. He's promised to pay a lot of money to get the problem of Israel dealt with—as, by the way, people have been trying to do with the problem of Israel ever since—cursing God's chosen people.

So Balak is disappointed because what he wanted to happen, exactly the opposite is happening. And Balaam, too, seems to be disappointed that he didn't meet Balak's expectations. He wants that big paycheck he's been promised. He has dollar signs floating in front of his eyes. And it's almost as if he's blessing in spite of what he really wants to do, which is do what his employer is asking him to do, and that's curse God's people.

So, verse 12, Balaam answered and said, "Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?"

He's saying, "Ultimately, try as I might, I am not in control. I have to take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth." And it's a reminder to us that we must take care to speak only words that God puts in our mouths.

Now, I think it's easy to read a passage about somebody like Balaam and distance ourselves and say, "I am so not like that false prophet." But there are aspects about that false prophet in all of our hearts. Those angry words, those critical, demeaning words spoken to or about others, posted in blogs, in Facebook comments.

Sometimes it breaks my heart to see on blogs of Christian bloggers, men and women who love the Lord and are trying to please Him, and then the things that people will post as comments afterward that are so demeaning, so ugly, so critical. Now, I'm not talking about them pointing out heresy. They're splitting hairs on things that are a matter of preference, a matter of opinion, and the way that they're saying it . . .

I had it happen to me recently. Something that was posted on social media, and somebody comes back and says, like on a rant: "Where did you get this perversion of God's Word? What translation is this?" Well then, somebody . . . I don't answer those things. Usually somebody else comes back and answers it. And somebody else came back and gently pointed out, "That's the Scripture that said that, not Nancy." And the person never said, "Oh, I was wrong. I'm so sorry. I never should have said it."

Where do we think we get this license to be so mouthy and ugly and insensitive with our words, whether they're written or spoken? How dare we curse others? You say, "I'm not cursing." Yes, you are when you speak or write words that demean and belittle. I'm not talking about defending the truth. I'm all for that.

If you've listened to this program for any length of time, you know I am outspoken about truth, and I'm outspoken about pointing out things that are deception. But we have got to be really, really careful about speaking cursing evil, demeaning, belittling words about the people of God whom He has chosen to bless.

So when you speak that way about your husband who annoyed you, and maybe he did do something really boneheaded, or maybe you were just out of sorts, and you just were reacting. Whatever it was, when you speak words about him or about one of your children or about a coworker or about somebody that God has put into a position of authority, watch what you say with your words. Don't curse those that God has chosen to bless.

Well, now we come in Numbers 23 to Balak's second attempt to curse Israel. Verse 13: "And Balak said to him, 'Please come with me to another place, from which you may see them. You shall see only a fraction of them and shall not see them all. Then curse them for me from there.' And he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam said to Balak, 'Stand here beside your burnt offering, while I meet the Lord over there.' And the Lord met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, 'Return to Balak, and thus shall you speak.' And he came to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, 'What has the Lord spoken?'"

Balak doesn't really want to know what God has spoken. What he really wants is for Balaam to say, "I'll speak what you want me to speak." But he says, "What has the LORD spoken?"

"And Balaam took up his discourse and said . . ." And now we come to Balaam's second utterance or oracle or prophecy. This oracle include some powerful theology because he's speaking under the control of the Holy Spirit. And in this oracle we see how God views His people. We see God's determination to bless Israel, that they are His chosen people. They are precious to Him, and no curse can be effective against them.

Let me read, beginning in verse 18. Here's the oracle:

"Rise, Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?"

God has been revealing Himself to Balaam as a faithful, unchanging, covenant-keeping God. God keeps His Word. If God says it, He will do it. If He speaks, He will fulfill it. And that's why Israel is safe, regardless of what anyone says or tries to do against them.

And that same faithful, unchanging God is our only hope. When the world comes up against us, when it comes up against God's ways, when it comes up against God's people, and it attempts to destroy and diminish them and wipe them out, God is our only hope, our faithful, unchanging God.

We sing about this in some of the great hymns of our faith. You know the one called "The Solid Rock," written in 1834 by Edward Mote? That hymn was originally titled, "The Immutable (or unchanging) Basis of a Sinner's Hope." You remember this stanza:

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

"God is not a man that He should lie. If He speaks, will He not do it?"

Here's another hymn we sing:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

("How Firm a Foundation" by John Rippon)

You see, this is why we are safe, eternally secure as the people of God, the children of God, because He has made us His own by means of a blood covenant, the promise of His Word to take us to Himself, to make us His children, to make us a Bride for His Son. He will not forsake us. He will bless us. And the curses of the men around us will never, ever stand against the promise and the blessing of God.

Verse 20, Balaam says, continuing in his oracle, "Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it." Or, as one translation says, "He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it."

Balaam says, "I can't do anything but bless. God has blessed them, and I can't change that." Balaam had no power to curse when God was determined to bless. And when God in heaven above determines to bless you, there is no one here on earth or in hell below who can reverse it. No one! That ought to give you confidence as we live in this broken, messed up, cursing, cursed world. Right? When God intends to bless you, no one can stand against that.

And then look in verse 21, and just for this one verse, I'd like to use the New King James Version. I think it's helpful here. Continuing in Balaam's prophecy, he says, "He [that is God] has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel."

Now, that verse says to me, "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!"

"God has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seek wickedness in Israel." Is this because Israel was sinless? Are you kidding? Again and again and again they sinned against the Lord, and yet, because they were His covenant people, God chose to see them through eyes of the righteousness of Christ the Messiah, the Savior yet to come. And when He sees them, He says, "I observe no iniquity in them. I see no wickedness in them."

How amazing is that? This is the mercy, the forgiveness, the grace of God toward us in Christ. He sees us as righteous, clothed in the righteousness of God. "Bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own." We've been made righteous, declared righteous, justified . . . just as if I had never sinned, but also just as if I had always fully obeyed the law of God. That's how God sees you if you are His child.

Wow! It's not how we see ourselves usually, is it? I know far better than you do how poor and needy I am, how sinful, how failing, how bent toward my own way, how controlled at times by this world's system rather than God's ways. And sometimes it's not others we curse. Sometimes we curse ourselves. I just find it so hard to accept God's grace, His love, His blessing. "I don't deserve it," we say. You're right. You don't. I don't. But if you are in Christ, He sees no sin in you.

You see this theme in the Old and New Testaments. I love it in the Song of Solomon where the bridegroom says to his bride, "There is no flaw in you." (Now, in the human realm of marriage, is there any woman who would look at her body and say, "There is no flaw in me"?) But the lover, the bridegroom says, "I see you through eyes of love. You are beautiful. You are perfect in my eyes."

It's a picture of God's great redeeming love. Not because He winks at sin, but because the price for our sin has been paid through the blood of Christ, and now we are in Christ, and He sees us as spotless as Christ. Christ has given us His robe of righteousness, took our robe of sinfulness, and in that great exchange, if we are in Christ, God sees no sin in us. We need to counsel our hearts according to that truth.

Then he goes on to say: "The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them." There is no greater blessing possible than to have His presence among us, among the people of God. That's Emmanuel—God with us. He is the victorious King in the midst of His people.

"The shout of a king," that's a victorious king. That's not a conquered king. Christ will never, ever, ever be conquered by all the forces of earth and hell combined against Him. He will always be victorious.

"The shout of a king is among them." That King is the Lord our God, and to be His subjects, to have Him as our King, is to be under His protection, is to be invincible from the plots and the attacks of God's enemies. "If God is with us, who can harm us?" Somebody besides me get excited, okay? This is amazing in this Old Testament prophecy, words coming out of a pagan sorcerer, God puts right words in his mouth on this occasion.

Verse 22, "God brings them out of Egypt and is for them like the horns of the wild ox." He's going to say this same exact thing in chapter 24, verse 8. What does that remind you when you read "God is for them"? Does it make you think of Romans chapter 8? "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" (v. 35).

Listen, in some parts of the world, they're seeing those things. Believers are seeing those things wielded against them. I believe we will likely yet see those things wielded against God's people in this country in our lifetime. But can any of those things separate us from the love of God? "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure [Paul says] that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [nothing!] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:37–38).

"If God be for us" he says, God is for them, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (v. 31). Can I hear an amen? What encouragement for our hearts. What hope in the midst of a world that is beating up on the people of God. God is for us. Nothing can separate us from His love.

Well, Balaam continues in verse 23, "For there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel."

It reminds me of that verse in Proverbs 26 that says: "Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight" (v. 2).

Those curses can go flying out there, but they can't alight on us. They can't take root. They can't really land on us. They can't penetrate our souls. The supernatural power of God renders all sorcery, all divination, all curses powerless when they are against the people of God. Therefore, we have no need to fear. God is with us. God is for us! We have His presence. We have His power. We have His promises. And as we sing in many of our churches:

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
In Christ Alone, I stand.

("In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)

Continuing in verse 23, Balaam says: "Now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, 'What has God wrought!'" That's the goal, for God to be glorified. Right? And then verse 24, "Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself; it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey and drunk the blood of the slain."

Here Balaam pictures God's people as powerful and victorious, prevailing over every evil power. And with that prophecy, with that promise, with that assurance stated for us many times in different ways in the New Covenant, we can be confident in Christ and Christ alone.

Father, thank You for the assurance, the precious assurance that Your promises bring to our hearts this day. If we are in Christ, we're safe. We're secure. You're a Mighty Fortress, oh God. In You the righteous take refuge. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe.

So we bless You, and we thank You for blessing us. And thank You that "no power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck us from Your hand," for we are in You, and You're in us. You are with us. You are for us. And we give You thanks, in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: You don't have to be afraid. That encouragement is from Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

All week she's been in the series, "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam." If you missed any of it, hear all the audio or watch Nancy's teaching on video at ReviveOurHearts.com. She'll pick the series back up next week.

Now, here's one crazy thing about the story: This evil prophet was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophecy about Jesus. How does that happen? Nancy will explain on Monday. Let's get back together then for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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