Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A Look at the Life of Balaam, Part 7

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss knows we all get weary.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Don't you find sometimes the opposition just wears you out. It's exhausting. Listen, sooner or later, in His way and in His time, God will get you to a place of refreshment. You don't have to fight back in your own strength, with your own rules, with your own weapons and instruments. You can trust God to do that for you, and He will refresh you.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 13, 2015.

Nancy's in a series called "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam." Today she gives help to anyone who feels weary. Let's listen.

Nancy: Well, I don't know about you, but the more I get into this passage, the more I love this obscure, relatively obscure passage and story. I love what it says for us who live in a day where there's perpetual crossfire, it seems, between the people of God and the enemies of God.

And I hope you're being encouraged. I hope you're catching my sense of joy as I'm being strengthened even as I teach by the ways of God and the Word of God and the sovereignty of God. And because of His sovereignty, our security, our heritage, our identity, and our destiny are unassailable, as Ligon Duncan has said.

We see in our day that if you profess the name of Christ, if you love truth, if you believe in absolutes, if you hold to the authority of Scripture, if you believe in holiness and the sanctity of human life, and a biblical definition of marriage, if you want to proclaim the gospel, if you want to preach the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to the Father, you will be maligned. You will be misunderstood. You will be falsely accused. You will meet with resistance.

As Jesus said in Matthew 10: "You will be hated by all for my name's sake" (v. 22). And we're in good company in that, by the way.

In 1 John 15 Jesus said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (v. 18).

But here's what we need to remember: the message, maybe it's the key message of this whole Balaam story, is that God is sovereign over curses hurled at His people. God is sovereign over the curses that may be being hurled at you, sent your direction.

Now, they don't all say, "I curse you!" It doesn't always come out that explicitly. Sometimes it's just that resistance, that making you feel like you're the one who's crazy, you're the one who's foolish, you're the one who needs to get a life, you're the one who needs to bear the brunt of legal restrictions. So you can begin to feel really intimidated and overwhelmed by the darkness. But we need to remember that God is sovereign over all of that.

Now, before we jump back into Numbers 24 . . . we're going to do that in just a few moments. I want to take a little bit of a rabbit trail here and point your attention to a passage in 2 Samuel chapter 16.

It's a different account, but I think it goes well with the story of Balaam. It kept coming to mind. I couldn't quite figure out where to put it in the series, so I'm going to put it right here, right now, before we get back into the Book of Numbers. We see again this battle, the crossfire between blessing and cursing and ways of responding to cursing.

In 2 Samuel 16, remember that King David's son has tried to overthrow him and staged a coup. David is having to leave the capital city. His son Absalom is after him and has gotten a following.

When King David [he's still the king, but he's being chased out of town—out of Dodge] came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul [remember, Saul had been David's mortal enemy for years and years, and here's a man who's a descendant of Saul] whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

And Shimei said as he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! [Sounds like the kinds of things some people say about Christians today, about the people of God.] The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood."

Now, here's Shimei, who's a supporter of King Saul, who has lost his kingdom. It was given over to David. But he's coming back, Shimei is coming back to say to David, "You don't deserve this kingdom. You took it from Saul, and now your son is taking it from you." And he's cursing, and he's throwing stones, and David is on the run. He's on the defensive.

Shimei is speaking evil of David. David does not deserve this treatment. David is God's anointed king. He's God's anointed man. He's a man after God's own heart. And so we see two very different responses to this treatment that David receives at the hands of Shimei.

Verse 9, we see the first response:

Then Abishai [who I believe was a nephew of David's, if I'm not mistaken] the son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head."

That's one response to cursing. Here's a different response:

But the king said [that is King David], "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?'"

Now, I won't go into all the theological complexities and layers of this, there's mystery to this. But one thing I see in David's response that's clear, and that is, he has a view of God's sovereign control over everything—everything.

Now, does God ordain sin? I'm not going to try and explain all that right here, right now, but I will say, at some level, Shimei cursing David is under God's sovereign control, and David recognizes that.

So, verse 11: 

And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! [Let him do it!] Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to."

Again, I'm not going to try and wrap my head around that, but I'm just saying David sees that this all somehow comes in the context of God's sovereignty. The Lord has told him to.

"It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today."

He's saying, "Regardless of what happens, I'm not going to take matters into my own hands. I'm going to let God be God." He insists on trusting the Lord, not taking vengeance, waiting on God to vindicate His servant. "So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him" (v. 13).

Just picture this: David and his men are fleeing Jerusalem. They're walking on this road, and Shimei is walking along above them on this hillside that runs along the road, and he's cursing as he goes. He threw stones at him and flung dust. I mean, this is really an uncomfortable place to be. It's a hard place to be. "And [David] the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan" (v. 14).

Don't you find that sometimes the opposition to the people of God just wears you out? Listen, this may be happening in your own home. It may be a prodigal son or daughter who despises the things of God and despises you. It may be your own husband who has rejected God's truth and is uncomfortable how your life brings the presence of Christ into that marriage and into that home. Those people may walk along your side, throwing dust, throwing stones, and cursing as you go, and it's exhausting.

"David arrived weary at the Jordan." But I love that last phrase of verse 14: "And there he refreshed himself."

Listen, sooner or later, in His way and in His time, God will get you to a place of refreshment. He will take you to a place where you can be refreshed and replenish, and your weariness can be strengthened. You don't have to fight back in your own strength, with your own rules, with your own weapons and instruments. You can trust God to do that for you, and He will refresh you.

Well, let me go back to Numbers chapter 24. We've just come to the end, coming to the end in verse 10 of Balaam's third oracle, his third prophecy. And, once again, not only does he bless Israel, but he says those who curse or try to curse Israel will be cursed. So he's actually saying that Balak is going to be cursed for his efforts to undermine the people of God, and Balak is not happy.

Verse 10: "And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, 'I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, "I will certainly honor you," but the Lord has held you back from honor.'"

So Balak is saying, in effect, "Look, I hired you. You're a hired gun. You're a hit man. And you have failed to do what I hired to do. So get out of here and forget getting your paycheck. Get out of here."

Now, remember what motivated Balaam all along? It was the money. So now, all this trouble, all this time, all this effort, all this time away from his day job, and now he's having to leave with no money. So he doesn't fit in with the people of God. He doesn't fit in with Balak. He is a man without a country—and such will anyone be who tries to assail the people of God.

Verse 12: "And Balaam said to Balak, 'Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me. "If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks, that will I speak'?"

He's saying, "This is what I told you. I said I couldn't say anything God didn't let me to say. You didn't believe me. You hired me anyway. And I said the only thing I could say, which is what God let me say, what God had told me to say."

So Balaam is going back home, empty-handed. He and Balak are both frustrated. But before he leaves, before he goes back to the land from which he came, he offers one more, unsolicited prophecy—a fourth prophecy, this one Balak didn't ask him for. This time there's no preparation, no sacrifices needed for this prophecy.

Verse 14: Balaam says, "And now, behold, I am going to my people. I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days."

I'm pretty sure Balak did not want to hear this prophecy, but Balaam said, "Look, I've got something more to say." And where did he get it? The Spirit of God told him, "Before you leave, you've got to say this: 'This is what the Israelites will do to your people in the final days.'"

So here we have Balaam's final oracle, which includes a beautiful prophecy of the Messiah. You've probably heard it. You may not have know the context for it. Verse 15: "He took up his discourse and said, '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, and knows the knowledge of the Most High [He is the Most High, isn't He? Remember that. Even Balaam, a pagan prophet realized that. He knows the knowledge of the Most High] who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered."

Now, it's interesting in chapter 23 that Balaam did not see the angel of the Lord for the longest time. The passage says it three times, He did not see the angel of the Lord. But now his eyes have been opened, and he sees the Almighty. He sees the Most High. He hears the words of God.

And yet, let me just point out as Matthew Henry does in his commentary on this passage, that here's a man who's got one foot in and one foot out. He never really gets it, I'm pretty sure. So he's a man who starts to get it. He starts to have some understanding. But here's what Matthew Henry had to say about that:

He had heard the words of God, which many do who neither heed them, nor hear God in them. He knew the knowledge of the Most High. A man may be full of the knowledge of God, yet utterly destitute of the grace of God. He calls God the Most High and the Almighty. No man could seem to express a greater respect to God; yet he had no true fear of him, love to him, nor faith in him. [And then these searching words from Matthew Henry] So far a man may go toward heaven, and yet come short of it at last.

You can say a lot of spiritual words. You can know a lot of the Bible. You can know a lot about God but miss the grace of God and not ever really know Him. And I think Balaam is a picture of that kind of tragic character.

Well, in verse 17, Balaam says, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near." What's this talking about?

Well, as with other Old Testament prophets, Balaam was given the supernatural ability to see into the future. That's what Scripture calls the spirit of prophecy. He was given the ability by God to behold something that did not yet exist as if it did exist, something that had not yet taken place but one day would take place. And in this case, he's not seeing something, he is seeing Someone.

"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near." This is out in the future. This is out in the distance. "He's not here now, but I see Him as if He were here now." And what is it he sees? Well, it's a who he sees.

Verse 17: "A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel."

A star and a scepter. These are images, symbols of a ruler, a king. A great, illustrious ruler is to arise out of Israel. The star represents His glory. The scepter represents His authority. His rule that is going to be exercised throughout all the earth. And you see this as you continue in verse 17, this star, this scepter.

"It shall crush the forehead of Moab." Now, he's saying this in the hearing of the king of Moab. Balak, the king, who thinks he is so controlling, so in charge of things. Balak who wanted to crush Israel, Balaam says, "Here's what God has told me. I've seen Him. I've heard Him. And here's what He has to say."

The forehead, that's the deadly place. If it strikes you, crushes you, you're dead. "It shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed."

So these enemies of God will be overcome. They will be conquered. But look at that little phrase at the end of verse 18: "Israel is doing valiantly."

Hasn't it always been true in the Middle East that Israel is surrounded by these powers so much more powerful than they, so much more numerous than they? There's this tiny little nation—it was true then; it's true today—against all odds. They should have been obliterated years ago, decades, centuries ago, millennia ago, because all these powers around them said, "We want to get rid of them."

Egypt said that. The nations of the Middle East are saying that today to Israel. And yet, God has His hand on that place. God has His hand on His people. "Israel is doing valiantly." I love that phrase. The Church of Jesus Christ—yes, she's besieged; yes, she's surrounded; yes, people are trying to attack her and kill her and overrun her and threaten her and destroy her. But the Church is doing valiantly, thank you very much.

This is a prophecy. It's a promise of what will be. "And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities! Then Balaam looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said, 'Amalek was the first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction'" (vv. 19–20).

All these nations who think they're so great . . . What power in the world is Amalek today? Nothing! But in its day, Amalek was THE power. They thought they were so great. They thought they could destroy the people of God. They were the first, the most exalted, the pre-eminent among the nations. "But its end is utter destruction."

Who's concerned about Amalek today? Nobody! And all these nations that think they're so great and powerful today, they will be in the dust one day, under the heel, under the foot of "the one from Jacob who will exercise dominion."

Verse 21, "Balaam looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said [We've never heard of some of these nations, or if you have, they're very obscure people. He took up his discourse and said], 'Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock."

You think you're safe? You think you're secure? You think you're hiding there where nobody can get to you? "Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned when Asshur takes you away captive."

He's saying, "No matter how secure you nations of the world may feel yourself to be, there will be no place to hide when this star, when this scepter comes out of Israel and arises to take possession of the nations of the world, which belong to Him. There will be no place to hide."

Now, there's a sense in which these prophesies were fulfilled in part in King David, years later, who did ascend out of Israel, out of Judah, to take the throne and to dispossess the nations around him. But David was just a type, a picture, a figure of the Greater David, Christ the Messiah, who would fulfill these prophesies in the fullest and ultimate of sense.

He would rule over His people. He would be their shepherd-king, and ultimately, He will rule over all the nations. Remember that when it looks like evil is triumphing. ISIS will not have the final word in this world. They are very powerful right now, but their power doesn't light a candle to the star and the scepter of King Jesus. He will have dominion.

Yes, God is letting evil run its course in this world. And yes, there is havoc. And yes, at the end of time, it will be even greater havoc and greater conflict. Scripture says that in the end times, Satan himself is allowed to war against the saints. And for a time it will seem like Satan and his troops are winning the battle. But they won't win! Messiah will conquer the enemies of God's people, and He will bring judgment to the nations that reject God.

Verse 23, "Balaam took up his discourse and said, 'Alas, who shall live when God does this? But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber; and he too shall come to utter destruction.' Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way."

This says to me that God is the God of the nations. He's the God of this world. He's the God of the universe.

Psalm 9 tells us that "The wicked shall return to Sheol, and all the nations that forget God." And, by the way, this nation, the United States of America, will not be an exception to that rule. All the nations that forget God will be destroyed.

Moab and Balak and Balaam intended, tried hard to bring great damage and destruction to Israel. But in spite of their concerted, repeated, intense efforts, at the end of the day, they were powerless to curse those that God had blessed. They were not able to inflict any damage or do any harm.

Now, sometimes God does let His adversaries do harm to His people, but only in a temporary sense, not in an ultimate sense. Satan and all his hosts cannot touch those who belong to God, cannot touch you if you belong to God, cannot touch the Bride of Christ who belongs to Jesus, the one He bought with His own blood. Satan and his hosts cannot touch those who belong to God without God's permission. You are unassailable under the sovereignty of God.

And seeing this passage that God is always working in this world. You read the news, and I think what the problem is in the Church is that we don't see God in the news. We don't see God's hidden hand. We don't see God's sovereignty. And we think what is visible, what's making headlines is all that's going on.

I'm saying, "No! They're just pawns in the hands of a powerful, omnipotent, sovereign God!" God is always working in this world, and He sent Christ, the star, the scepter out of Israel to bless and to save His people and to bring ultimate judgment to those who reject His offer of salvation. He is glorified, Christ is glorified, both in salvation and in judgment.

So let us not fear. Let us not quiver. Let us not despair. Let us not be enraged at what happens in this world. But let us bow and worship before His scepter and say, "Oh Jesus, You are my King. You are the King of this world. We worship You. We honor You. We exalt You. We trust You. Thine is the scepter. Thine the throne, forever and ever. Amen."

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called, "Blessing and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam."

Listen to this quote from Nancy: "There are no human solutions to the tidal wave of evil in our world. Nothing short of divine intervention can overcome the darkness of our day."

That quote fits well with today's program, and it's part of the brand new Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is "Cry Out." So when you get the calendar, you will be reminded to cry out to God in prayer all year long.

Each month you'll read quotes on prayer from Nancy or from other friends like Joni Eareckson Tada or Shirley Dobson. The quotes have been interpreted beautifully in the calligraphy and artwork.

We'd like to send you the "Cry Out" wall calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit

Well, throughout the New Testament, God's people are warned against following the teaching of Balaam. Now, as we've been hearing, Balaam was an Old Testament false prophet, famous for talking with his donkey. What does he have to do with New Testament false teaching and with you and me? Nancy will begin to explain tomorrow here on 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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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.