The Divided Prophet Predicts a King – Numbers 22-24

The prophecy of Balaam:

20 Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. 21 “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 a King is among them.  Numbers 23:20-21 NKJV

Despite their many years of complaining and grumbling against God, the people of Israel were the apple of God’s eye.  He had forgiven them and was pleased with them, preparing to bring them into the Promised Land of Israel.  As the scripture above notes, He did not even see the sins they had committed, putting those out of His mind. The future sacrifice and resurrection of King Jesus Christ will cover sin.

34 For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:17 ESV

As the people camped in the plains of Moab, across from Jericho, the home of Rahab, the king of Moab watched from nearby and was worried.  His solution was to call down from the north a mysterious prophet named Balaam, who had a reputation of being able to place great curses on people or even nations.  Balaam was enticed by the offer of honor and money, and greatly wanted to come down and curse God’s people.

Balaam apparently had one foot in sorcery and the other foot with God Almighty.  He had a unique and personal relationship with the Lord, one only rarely seen in the great prophets of Israel.  It was a special calling.  But Balaam apparently also had other connections with dark forces.

When the king of Moab tempted Balaam to come down to curse the Israelites, he looked at the offered bounty and sought permission from God to go.  God said “No”, in no uncertain terms.  This should have been the end of the story, right?  Not so.  Like many of us, when we really want something, we will go back to God again or maybe just ignore Him outright.  I have done this, and trust me, it did not work out well.

This time, God said, OK, go if you want, but you will say what I want you to say, not what the king of Moab wants.  To emphasize the point, God brought Balaam a spine-chilling experience with his donkey and an Angel as he traveled down to Moab.  Balaam remembered that God was in charge after this.

The king of Moab took Balaam to some mountain tops to look down upon the large group of Israelites below.  They probably numbered over a million, and only a portion could be seen.  The king wanted Balaam to bring curses down upon them, to weaken them before battle.  Instead, filled with a healthy fear of God, Balaam spoke over them the blessings and prophecies that the Lord had put upon his heart.  He predicted great victories for Israel, including against Moab.  Then, he added a prophecy about a coming King.

…His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted…17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near.  A Star shall come out of Jacob, a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.  Numbers 24:7, 17 NKJV

Israel had come 450 years without a king, from the call of Abraham to their entry into the Promised Land.  God gave Balaam a prophecy about the coming kingship of Israel that will come to pass through the genealogy of Jesus, from King David through the eternal Messiah and King, Christ Himself. The prophecy ultimately points to Christ Jesus, the remedy for our sin.

As for Balaam, God protected him from the king of Moab as he honored God and spoke blessings rather than the curses the king had expected.  The king of Moab could easily have punished this defiance by striking Balaam down, but he did not.

25 So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak (the king of Moab) also went his way.  Numbers 24:25 NKJV

Unfortunately for Balaam, this was not the end of the matter.  Apparently, despite his own prophecy about its destruction by Israel, Balaam chose to return to the region of Moab at a later date, lingering at a place where God clearly did not want him to be.  He ended up getting killed when Israel did fight and defeat the king of Moab and those around him. Balaam had even been giving the king advice on how to weaken the Israelites.

20 (The people of Israel captured) Beth Peor, the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth Jeshimoth— 21 all the cities of the plain…22 The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer, among those who were killed by them.   Joshua 13:20-22 NKJV

Reflection

If we are honest with ourselves, there are places we want to go to where God does not want us to be.  These are places we enjoy but also come with temptations to commit serious sin.  Like Balaam, we often try to justify being there, and can often rationalize our behavior.

Where are we tempted to linger today that God clearly does not want us to be?

Balaam had a very special relationship with the Lord that he threw away for Man’s honor and riches. Where am I tempted to do the same?

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