Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Look at the Life of Balaam, Part 6

Leslie Basham: In the middle of the struggles of life, Nancy Leigh DeMoss invites you to rest in God's love.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The Christian life is a battle! There's a struggle between flesh and spirit. There are times when it's just hard to say "no" to your flesh. There are times when we suffer, when there is affliction, there is adversity. I think it's easy to get caught up in all the temptation and the adversity and the battle of it and forget that God loves to bless His people and that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 12, 2015.

Last week Nancy began a series on a very colorful Old Testament character. He was hired to curse God's people but ended up prophesying about the Messiah instead. And he also talked with his donkey!

Nancy picks that series back up. It's called "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam."

Nancy: It's kind of astonishing to me, though maybe it shouldn't be, how relevant this series on Balaam has proved to be in the context in which we're living. And because I don't when this program will air, I won't go into details. But anytime you could talk about in this day in which we're living, what we're seeing about the battleground between truth and error, between light and darkness, between heaven and hell—this is a battleground. 

We know the outcome, but we know that the lines are drawn and sometimes we get caught in the crossfire. The things that we're talking about here have such practical implications and application for what we're seeing in our culture and in the world around us.

And it's true not just at a macro level, but it's true at a micro level, too. I found myself over the past few weeks while I was working on this series burdened by some things that were happening around me in a more personal way. Some lines that had been drawn that were difficult and where I found myself feeling caught in the crossfire. I won't go into detail regarding what that was all about, but this passage has been so encouraging to my own heart . . . especially as I listened to a series of messages by Dr. Ligon Duncan, the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He preached a marvelous series through the Book of Numbers, and I listened to his messages on Balaam. He said something I want to share with you that is kind of a general takeaway from chapter 23 of Numbers, the passage we've been looking at.

These words were such a comfort and assurance to my own heart as I thought about the situation I was dealing with, very personal, but also in light of the big picture of what's going on in our world today. Dr. Duncan said, "The sovereignty of God in the care of His people is unquestionable." We see this in the story of Balaam.

The sovereignty of God in the care of His people—how no one can curse the people God has blessed. God is sovereign; heaven rules; God is in charge." Then he talks about the "therefore." "Therefore [because of the sovereignty of God in the care of His people] the security of God's people is unassailable. Nothing can touch them. They are secure."

Secondly, "the heritage of His people is unassailable." He talks about how God was going to give Israel the land, and He's still going to give it to them, even though Balak and Balaam and their forces would have tried to take it away from them. The heritage of God's people, what God has in mind for His people, is unassailable.

Thirdly, "the identity of God's people is unassailable"—who they are. They are God's chosen people, set apart for His kingdom purposes.

Number four, "the destiny of His people [or the ultimate outcome or end of His people] is unassailable." They will have the Promised Land; they will have God's promises fulfilled in their lives. There are moments when in the midst of this fallen broken world that we feel as though our security is being threatened, our heritage is being threatened, our identity as the people of God is being threatened, and our destiny, we feel sometimes, is being threatened. But if God really is sovereign as we say He is (and as He is), if He's sovereign in the care of His people, then all of those things—our security, our heritage, our identity, and our destiny—are unassailable.

No one and nothing can take them from us. No one and nothing can uproot us from our security, our heritage, our identity, and our destiny as the people of God. And I found myself just being strengthened and taking courage . . . realizing that no matter what anyone tries to do to hurt me, to harm me, to do damage to my security, my heritage, my identity, my destiny, they're powerless under the sovereignty of God.

That's a huge takeaway from this whole character study of Balaam, and I hope it's encouraging to you as it is to me.

Now, let's dive back into the passage. We're in Numbers 23. We've seen the first and second oracles of Balaam. Both times he was paid to curse Israel, but both times he comes and ends up blessing Israel. And Balak, the king who is paying him to curse God's people, is really frustrated.

In verse 25 of Numbers chapter 23, Balak says to Balaam, "Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all." "Just don't do anything. Stop! I brought you here to curse them. Instead, two times you have blessed them. So, just stop. Don't say anything!"

"Balaam answered Balak, 'Did I not tell you, "All that the Lord says, that I must do?"'" (v. 26). Now remember, Balaam is a false prophet. The New Testament tells us that. He uses forbidden means to get revelation, to get the Word of God. Notwithstanding the fact that he is a false prophet using means that God has forbidden, God is still sovereign.

Balaam cannot say anything that God does not let him say. "All that the Lord says, that I must do." Balaam is not in control—God is in control. In verse 27, Balak is not giving up.

Balak says to Balaam, "'Come now, I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there." This is Balak's third attempt to curse Israel. He is persistent; he is determined; he is relentless. As I say that, do you agree with me that we have a persistent, determined, relentless enemy against the people of God today? The adversary, the opponent, the opposer, Satan, at the heart of all this—always seeking to devour, to accuse, to destroy (pictured in Balak, who was really just a front for Satan).

Balak and Balaam, both of them are representing visible pictures here on earth of the plan, the designs, the schemes of Satan, who is the relentless enemy of our souls and of the church of Jesus Christ.

It struck me as I was living in this passage over the last few weeks that there's no indication that the Israelites had any idea that any of this was going on. We never hear this story from their perspective. Balaam doesn't speak in their hearing, from all that we can tell.

So you have this whole plot going on between Balak and Balaam, but it's taking place away from where the Israelites are actually camped. So Balak and Balaam can see the Israelite camp, but for all the Israelites know, they have no idea this is going on. They don't see it; they don't hear it. And I'm reminded that our enemy is unseen.

Paul says it this way in Ephesians 6:12, "We don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." That's why we need to be reminded that we do have an enemy, and there is plotting going on, and there is scheming going on.

God's Word has told us that, even if we can't see it with our physical eyes, hear it with our physical ears . . .  We think the battle is that the washing machine is broken, the kid is acting up, the husband is doing this, the money is doing this. Those are all surface, secondary, minor things in the big picture. The big picture is that the battle that's going on is unseen, but it is very real, and we need to wake up in the morning very conscious of that. We need to be putting on our spiritual armor and realizing we desperately need God's protection every moment of every day, because we do have an enemy.

Numbers 23:28–30, "So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, which overlooks the desert. And Balaam said to Balak [this is a repeat; we've already read this same thing twice], 'Build for me here seven [more] altars and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.' And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar."

So now we have twenty-one altars that have been built, twenty-one bulls, twenty-one rams that have been sacrificed. Listen, Balak is willing to spare no expense, to make a significant investment in order to get rid of the threat that he perceives Israel to be. And it's true of the forces of the darkness. It's true of those on this earth who are employees of the forces of darkness who are doing their bidding. They will go to great lengths and make great investments to undermine God's ways and His people.

Now, chapter 24 of Numbers, verse 1, "When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel [I love that!], he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens [or his means of sorcery], but [this time he] set his face toward the wilderness." He had been using witchcraft, occult practices, attempting to get information by contact with evil spirits (forbidden for God's people). He'd been trying to bring a curse on Israel.

But now he's stopped using those means and he just listened for what God would tell him. So Balaam is growing in his understanding of Israel's God and His ways, and he sees that it pleases the Lord to bless Israel. Listen! God's heart, God's pleasure, God's delight is to bless His people.

Not only does that means we are recipients of God's blessing, but it also means when you are filled with the Spirit of God you will speak words of blessing to and about God's people. Words that diminish, that denigrate, that tear down, that abuse, that destroy, they are not from God. They are from God's adversary, Satan.

Numbers 24: 2–3, "And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said . . ." And now we have Balaam's third of four prophecies, his third oracle or utterance. "The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered." So the Spirit of God comes on Balaam, and his eyes are opened to see God, to hear His words.

As a result of seeing God and hearing His words, Balaam is moved, irresistibly, to bless God's people. When you have God's Spirit in you, when you see God as He is? When you hear the Word of God, you will be moved to bless the people of God!

When I hear a Christian talking bad about the church, speaking evil of others, grumbling against other believers (when I do it myself), this is dead giveaway, a sign, that we're not filled with the Spirit; that we're not seeing God; that we're not hearing God and His Word. Because if we do, we will bless what He loves and what He desires to bless.

In verse 5 Balaam says, "How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters." He's describing Israel in this prophecy, and he sees beauty, abundance, fruitfulness for Israel.

He sees the hand of the Lord caring for, sustaining, nurturing, and blessing His people. Numbers 24:7 says, "Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters." He's saying God is going to abundantly water the land of His people and enable them to be productive.

He's saying that they will have an increased seed; they will be a numerous people. I think this is true, not just physically (it certainly was true of the expansion of the Jewish people), but also of God blessing His people with fullness spiritually, and with spiritual graces that will be in abundance in His people.

He continues, "His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted" (v. 7). Agag was the King of Amalek, as you remember, and was one of the chief kings in that world in that era. He persistently gave Israel trouble. But this prophecy is that, because God is blessing His people, Israel will be dominant over the surrounding nations' powers and kings.

And then Balaam says in Numbers 24:8 (this verse we read in the last chapter and it's repeated here), "God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows."

"He crouched, he lay down like a lion [speaking of Judah, of Israel, again] and like a lioness; who will rouse him up?" (v. 9). So with this very poetic language of this prophecy, there are blessings promised, blessings for the people of God—blessings of fruitfulness, of prosperity, of widespread influence, of stature, of position, of victory over the enemies of God.

This is all promised to the people of God through this pagan prophet to whom God gave His Spirit to speak God's words for this moment. As I read this oracle and the other prophecies and the blessing God put upon His people, it's beautiful poetry. "How lovely are your tents, like palm groves that stretch afar, like cedar trees beside the waters." I'm thinking, This is a description of how God loves to bless His people!

God desires to bless His people; God chooses to bless His people. The Christian life is a battle. There's a struggle between flesh and spirit; there are times when it's just hard to say "no" to your flesh. There are times when we suffer, when there is affliction, there is adversity.

I think that it's easy to get caught up in all the temptation and the adversity and the battle of it and forget this motif, that God loves to bless His people, and that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus!

So late last night, I just made a list as I thought through the New Testament (and this is not by any means exhaustive!). Don't try and jot all these down because you won't get them, but go to ReviveOurHearts.com and we'll have this list there with Scripture references that support each of these.

What are some of the blessings of God on His people, His New Covenant people, according to the New Testament? This is the list I was making: We're told in Ephesians 1:

  • We've been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
  • We have been declared righteous, holy, blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4). 
  • We are His beloved adopted children (Eph. 1:5, 5:1).
  • We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Eph. 1:7).
  • He has lavished the riches of His grace upon us (Eph. 1:7).
  • In Him we have an inheritance, which 1 Peter tells us, is stored up for us in heaven. It can never perish; it can never be defiled; it can never be taken away (Eph. 1:11, 1 Pet. 1:4).

Listen, this world system, the courts of this world, the false religions and systems of this world, the adversaries of God in this world, can take your property. They can take your job; they can take your reputation; they can do a lot of damage. (We read this in the latter part of Hebrews 11. A lot of saints before us have experienced these kinds of losses.) But they can never take away the inheritance that is stored up for us in heaven, kept for us by the power of God, which one day soon will be ours!

So, as the song says,

Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill,
God's truth abideth still!
 
("A Mighty Fortress" by Martin Luther)

Let 'em have this world's goods; let them have our mortal life! They can't take the inheritance that is ours in Christ!

Other blessings we have in Christ:

  • We are the beloved Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25–33)). It's a precious blessing! He's chosen us. He wooed us. He's engaged Himself to us and married Himself to us as His Bride in a covenant love.
  • He is preparing a place for us in His Father's house (John 14:2). He's coming back to take us there for all eternity.
  • The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20).

I love that promise! I love that blessing. The God of peace is a warrior God. He will soon crush Satan under our feet. You say, "When is that?" I don't know, but it's soon. You say, "Well, this is a long time coming!" Not if you're living in the light of eternity, it's not a long time. Hold onto that promise. It's one of the blessings that is promised to us as the people of God.

  • We're promised that our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).
  • We will reign and rule with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4, 6). 
  • He will grant us to eat of the tree of life in the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).
  • He will give us the crown of life (Rev. 2:11).
  • He will never blot our name out of the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5).
  • He is our shepherd who will guide us to springs of living water (Rev. 7:17).
  • He will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 7:17).
  • He will dwell with us eternally (Rev. 21:3).
  • We will be His people and He will be our God (Rev. 21:3).
  • And I love this one, that we will see His face, and His Name will be on our foreheads (Rev. 22:4).

What amazing, precious promises and blessings are ours in Christ! Balaam saw what we need to see, that it pleased the Lord to bless His people. And those are just a few. You start looking for those blessings, counting them, naming them one by one and rejoicing in the blessings that God has been pleased to give to us as His people.

Back to Numbers chapter 23, verse 9, this third oracle of Balaam. He ends by saying, "Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you." Balaam and Balak are rebuked for trying to curse God's people. Balak's plan is not working (and that would be an understatement!).

From Balak's perspective, with each successive prophecy from Balaam, the situation has gotten worse. In the first prophecy, you remember, Balaam didn't curse Israel as he was supposed to. In the second prophecy he blessed Israel. Now in the third prophecy he curses Balak! So it's getting worse and worse from Balak's perspective.

But here's my takeaway from that: If you bless God's people, you will be blessed. If you curse them, you will receive the curse you tried to place on them. That's true for us. If we speak ill of the church—the Bride of Christ—if we speak ill of another believer—we grumble against them as James says—we will receive that curse we try to place on them.

But this should be a word of hope for those of us who live in a world where Christians are the objects of cursing and vile ill-speaking and being reviled. We live in a fallen world, and we're the objects of cursing from those who reject God. Here's how Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 4:12, speaking about the fact that we are reviled, persecuted, slandered: "We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things."

That's how this world treats and views Christians many times. But here's what gives us hope. We see the power of God to turn cursing into blessing for His people. This is so huge! Deuteronomy 23:5 tells us, "The Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you."

You see the same concept in the book of Nehemiah 13:1–2, where in the Book of Moses "It was found written that no . . . Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.)" Only God can do that!

This anticipates the coming of Christ to this fallen, broken, prodigal world to reverse the curse . . . and not only for those who are already His chosen people. that is for us. He's reversed the curse and blessed us. What Satan meant for evil God is turning to good in our lives, but God goes so far (and this is amazing grace) as to turn the curse into a blessing for those who have rejected Him.

The Moabites who figure prominently in this story (the people of Balak who wanted to curse Israel) were outcasts. They were cursed. They were not to enter the place of worship. And yet, in His astonishing wisdom and love and mercy and grace, God chose a Moabitess named Ruth. He extended His love and His grace to her. He grafted her by means of a kinsman redeemer into the Jewish family and made her a part of the family line of the Messiah.

She's named in Matthew 1:5, a Moabitess, in the genealogy of Christ. A curse turned into a blessing. You see, we were that Moabite woman, under the curse of God, under the curse of the law, outcast, separated from God. But at the cross the blessed Son of the Father bore the curse for our sin so that we might be eternally blessed. Truly, our God turned the curse into a blessing.

So we sing at Christmas, but appropriately at any time of the year:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
 

Hallelujah! Amen! 

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss in the series "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam." It's so easy to read a story like this in the Bible and think, That's weird! Balaam seems like a bad guy, yet he's prophesying! But Nancy is helping us stop, dig in, really understand the story, interpret it well, and then apply it to our lives.

As we listen to Nancy unpack this story, it helps us have more of a hunger to understand God's Word for ourselves. Do you appreciate how Revive Our Hearts helps you understand more of the Bible? Do you appreciate how it helps your hunger for God's Word to grow?

Would you help Revive Our Hearts continue providing practical Bible teaching to women, so others can grow in that hunger? We can't bring Revive Our Hearts to you without the help of our listeners who catch a vision for the ministry and help fuel future effectiveness.

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To see the 2016 Revive Our Hearts calendar, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, and you can support the ministry there, as well. Or call with your gift and ask for a copy of the Cry Out wall calendar. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

Does it ever feel like the enemies of God are gaining strength? Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds you, "Don't worry." Tomorrow she'll show you how the story of Balaam demonstrates God's incredible power. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture was taken from the ESV.

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