Numbers. That book in our Bible we find in between Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Many times we say we will begin a new year off by reading through the Bible. We begin in Genesis, make it through Exodus, get as far as Leviticus and our eyes begin to “glaze over.” By the time we reach Numbers, we are so ready for an “exciting book” such as Samuel. But wait! Each book has something to teach us. These were not “randomly” placed as a way to take up space.
The Book of Numbers has some very important and prophetic teachings within it’s pages. Let’s not be in haste to overlook them. In fact, the Book of Numbers covers four years of the account of the interesting and informative journey from Egypt to the Promised Land by the Israelites, led by Moses.
Numbers 22, 23, and 24 cover the story of King Balak of Moab and a gentile diviner named Balaam. The setting is in a place that is on the border where modern day Syria and Turkey are located; along the mighty Euphrates River. King Balak finds himself in an uncomfortable place. From his mountainous view, he sees three million Israelites encamped on his doorstep below him. He fears that they will attack him. Fearing that his army will not be able to defend his kingdom should they attack, he calls upon this gentile diviner to speak curses over Israel so that he will have an advantage over them. Things don’t turn out to his liking, however. The amount of theology and prophecy this account contains is astonishing. The Messianic overtones to it are undeniable.
God countermands (directly) the King of Moab’s intention by telling Balaam that he cannot curse this people (Israel) because they are blessed. What exactly does that mean that they can’t be cursed because they are blessed? This is referring back to Genesis and the covenant made with Abraham, that was next handed off to Issac, and then handed off to Jacob; called Israel. This covenant is always called a blessing and the Lord in essence is saying, 1. It is utterly impossible to curse that which He has blessed from a spiritual sense; in other words, no one can reverse what Yehoveh has determined. And 2, from an earthly physical sense to curse God’s people by means of attempting to impede or harm His blessed people will bring divine retribution upon the one doing the cursing. God’s advice: don’t do it.
Balaam had no intention of persecuting the Israelites or of doing personal harm to them. Balaam was just trying to make some money. He would do what was asked of him and then wipe his hands of the matter. Balaam was trying to be “morally neutral” kind of like the UN.
The problem is that to Yehoveh, there is no such thing as moral neutrality; that condition is a figment of men’s fertile imaginations. Further, whatever one does to impede or harm God’s people is an offense to Him no matter what role one might play in it. For God Almighty, one is either for or against; as Jesus said, you’re either with me or against me. There is no middle ground. So it is with cursing Israel: to not acknowledge Israel’s untouchable blessing is identical in God’s eyes to cursing Israel. Poor Balaam can’t do his job for Balak and then leave and absolve himself from responsibility. He became aware that he had most definitely encountered a “god” , Balaam told the delegation sent by Balak that he cannot go with them because, “YEHOVEH will not let me go with you.” That’s right; even though most of our Bibles will say, “The Lord will not let me go” or some such thing, the original Hebrew employs God’s personal formal name. The Lord told Balaam (a gentile sorcerer) His personal formal name. But understand, for Balaam this didn’t mean that Yehoveh was his only god, nor his family god, nor the only god in existence. It’s just that this particular god, who was at least one who had an interest in the Hebrews, had made it quite clear to Balaam what he must and must not do and that was good enough for him.
The story builds in tension as we find in verse 18 Balaam explaining that he is fully under the command of (and quoting the original Hebrew), “Yehoveh, my Elohim.” Verse 20 says that God indeed came to Balaam in a dream and tells him that now it’s okay to go with this contingent of men from Moab if they ask him to. Here we have a clear example of God operating within the free will of men. Balaam “though” he would do more “negotiating” with this “god.” Don’t we sometimes do that? We know full well that the Lord’s will is that we do or not do something, but we go ahead with our plan anyway? Often, we are no worse for wear, and achieved whatever it is we set out to do. At other times, things go horribly wrong and we realize that we should have listened to God all along. This is the effect of free will and our using it in a way that is not in harmony with God.
So the story continues with Balaam. We learn from this account of Balaam and his meeting with God, that sometimes it might be wise to stop and take pause when we want to exercise our will over the objections of others.
Stop and look for the Lord. It is often the case the the Lord uses others to stop something that He doesn’t want done, but you are utterly blind to it all. And He is trying to save you from either a terrible mistake that your runaway and selfish desires just cannot accept; or perhaps you’re being saved from His discipline (that some of us would rather not believe He even uses).
The Lord, the Creator of free will, allows Balaam to continue to exercise his and so says that Balaam may continue to Moab; but remember, don’t say one thing to Balak that I don’t tell you to say. Balaam is ecstatic and off he goes to meet King Balak. Balak escorts Balaam up into a high hill from which they could see some of the people of Israel at their encampment. The place they went was called Bamoth-Ba’al; this means the altar, or high place, of the god Ba’al.
The ritual we find beginning at Chapter 23 uses the number 7. The number 7 is used often in the ritual calendar of the Hebrews: 7 day weeks, 7th day Shabbat, 7th week (Shavout), 7 years (Sabbatical years), 7th month for special Biblical feasts, 7 sprinklings of the blood of the Heifer toward the Tabernacle, and so on and so on. And, why wouldn’t it be so that the number 7 as a cultist number of special significance was common throughout the Middle East: the Lord God set down 7 as an important pattern from the time He created the Heavens and the Earth. That mankind had perverted their worship, adopted false gods, and twisted and misused rituals did not mean that they had forgotten everything that had been taught to Noah and then handed down; they just used it as a foundation to fashion their own religions.
What happens is astonishing in context of this account. In spite of Balak’s attempts to get Balaam to curse Israel, instead Balaam tells Balak that even though he had brought him there to curse Israel, no man can put a supernatural curse on that which Yehoveh has blessed. As much as that must have infuriated the King of Moab, Balaam goes on to prophesy a glorious future for Israel. He, in fact, basically restates God’s promise to Abraham in that the Hebrews will multiply into uncountable numbers.
There is something else that is to be taken from this account. On numerous occasions through the Bible we see that there is Israel, and then there is everybody else. Or, as it tells us in Verse 9 of Chapter 23, “Yes, a people that will dwell alone (or apart), and not be reckoned as among the nations.” To review: it says that an ammim will dwell apart and not be reckoned as among the goyim. Here we see an important transition has been made: Israel is henceforth referred to Biblically as God’s “people,” His “ammim”; and all other people on this planet (gentiles) are called “nations” or goyim. Goyim is no longer a word that means just nations in general. It now specifically means gentiles or gentile nations. It no longer includes the Hebrew people or Hebrew nation.
So here in Numbers, is a gentile diviner who has been instructed to make it clear to all mankind that Israel is entirely different from everyone else in Yehoveh’s eyes; not better than gentiles but rather distinct from gentiles. Even the standard vocabulary of calling Israel a nation no longer applies, so separated does the Lord see His chosen from the rest of humanity. To cap it all off, Balaam says that it will be a blessing for him (and in essence for all mankind) if they can somehow find righteousness in the eyes of the Hebrew God, and die in that knowledge of blessing.
We see that some of the critical biblical principles that will be counted upon as foundational material in the holy scriptures are here, set out before us.Great lessons are laid out here including the reality that when the path of our desires sometimes seems blocked, there might well be a divine reason for it. And, the wise man will pause and look for the Lord, and not consider the one who only seems to be the roadblock as necessarily the problem. We also see that the Lord is only willing to go so far in intruding into our free will.
Therefore, we see another foundational God-principle established: the Lord will miraculously accomplish His plan working through men’s free will. This is a mystery perhaps as great as Creation or Salvation: how is it possible that the Lord can bring about His will through another’s completely FREE will, and more often than not that person’s free will is against the plan of God? Yet not only do we see it in the Bible but also as Believers we have seen it in our own lives, almost daily. As we look around us, in our incredibly short life spans, we have seen the world marching inexorably toward an end that the Lord determined in advance and told us would be and yet He uses the free will and plans of both the evil and the righteous to achieve it all, only forcefully intervening on rare occasions.
The Hebrews were given a great resource that the rest of the world did not have: direct revelation. The rest of the world, because they had given up obedience to the Creator and were in essence worshipping the Evil One, were trying by their own means to discover the will of their many gods. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has not left men who seek after Him in that position. We have the Holy Spirit within us for a direct connection to the God of the Universe; and we have His Word of Truth in our hands as we study today.
Our job is NOT to determine what is truth and what is not in our Bibles for it is all true; our job is but to accept it ALL as truth, and to obey. Our challenge is also to discover how to apply the truth to our lives and to our relationship with the Creator. We do not have to wonder how the world began, or where mankind came from, because we’re told it. We do not have to wonder at our future, either, because we’re also told that.
Certainly in the Law (the Torah) handed down on Mt. Sinai, a new and unique culture of the Kingdom of Heaven had been ordained but there was no way Israel would immediately adopt every aspect of it, and the Lord well knew it when He gave it. We as modern Believers are in a similar position. We can only grow so fast, and the Church (consisting of so many varied cultures) can only absorb so much. Thus, God reveals to us progressively when the time is right. It astounds me that the very thing Balaam pronounced 3300 years ago, and what it is that Ruth stated a couple hundred years or so later (this concept that if gentiles wanted to be included in God’s blessing of mankind it would have to be done via the Abrahamic Covenant of Israel), that only NOW is a growing but tiny segment of the Church beginning to grasp it.
Yehoveh says that our relationship with Him is based on Israel’s covenants and what sprung from them; and yet, within a few years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the Church created doctrines denying this very thing. Only now, today, with the return of Israel to her land has a movement begun within the body to undo this errant theology. But it had to wait for the Lord’s timing for our blindness to begin to be lifted.
In Numbers Chapter 24, verse 4 we harken back to before Moses; to a time before the Lord told us His personal formal name. It goes back to a time when men knew God as El Shaddai. Most Bible versions will say “almighty” or some such thing. Remember we now know (due to very recent findings) that El Shaddai means “god of the mountain”; and of course that is the exact context of our story at this point. After all this is the 3rd mountain peak Balaam has been escorted to that he might put a curse onto Israel.
The next several verses have Balaam declaring how pleased the Lord is with Israel; how powerful they are in Him. They will be even more abundant than they are now, and that the Lord will never cease to watch over them and bless them. And in verse 9 we get the message that ought to be repeated every day among the Church: Blessed are they who bless you and cursed are they who curse you. I’ve heard it said that it is a misuse of scripture to apply the “blessed are they who bless you and cursed are they who curse you” as a demand upon the Church to care for Israel and the Jewish people because it only applied to Abraham’s immediate family and Israel wasn’t even created yet. But clearly here those same words applies directly to the entire nation of Israel, does it not? There can be no doubt to whom the protected group is (Israel) and the warning is directed towards (gentiles). So, write this verse number down somewhere for the next time someone tries to dispute this with you.
The words in this rich account that come have wonderful Messianic hope in them, and are to take place well into the future. Along with it is a prophecy of Israel’s soon-coming military victories. It is a key Biblical principle that often when prophecy is pronounced it happens not once, but twice, even three times. It happens in the near future, and again in the far future, and can happen at an intermediate time; and this is especially so as pertains to prophesies concerning the coming of Messiah. And so we get words that are familiar to us: “……a star rises from Jacob, a scepter comes forth from Israel..” Kings are often referred to as stars in the ancient Middle East. This king from Jacob will inflict grave harm on the residents of Moab (today, we are speaking of the Kingdom of Jordan). Edom will be taken prisoner. Amalek will be wiped out forever.
This writer would like to conclude with a thought for us all to take from this; one that many already accept but others aren’t so sure. The saga of Balaam and Balak is a prophetic tale of the gentile church. Balaam is a gentile. He is a spiritual man; in fact he’s a God-fearer; that is he absolutely believes in and pays attention to the God of Israel. He hears from the God of Israel and knows the God of Israel. Yet he cannot bring himself to dismiss his long heritage of gentile traditions and customs that are so at odds with the Torah and other Scriptural commands of Yehoveh.
Balaam is an amazing model of the gentile dominated Church. Do you see it? The mainstream institutional Church says that Israel no longer has a glorious future, instead that glorious future now belongs to the gentile Church. The most ubiquitous and accepted Church doctrines say that God has abandoned Israel, rejected His people for all time, cursed them and blessed we gentile Believers in their stead. And the Church is so horribly wrong on this.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is utter self-destructive foolishness to think that we can do anything but work to actively bless Israel. Believers have not always had a clear-cut opportunity to do so, but we do now. Israel was not reborn as a nation until a mere 60 years ago, so there was no nation of Israel to love and defend. Obviously during the centuries of Jewish dispersion (especially prior to the rebirth of Israel) it should have been the Church’s unequivocal duty to stand with them and befriend those Jewish families when they needed us the most, but we did not.
We must never assist or lend moral support and thus strengthen Israel’s sworn enemies (as Balaam intended to do) and call it even handed or loving and kind, and think that somehow this is not cursing Israel. Balaam wasn’t going to personally harm Israel, he was merely going to assist Israel’s enemy (Moab) and then go home. God told him that if he did, He’d have to kill him.
We can’t send supplies and money to the Palestinians, or apply political pressure upon Israel on their behalf, and then somehow claim that the God of the Bible sanctions this as a worthy and holy cause. We must not join with the secular word to push Israel into dividing the land that was covenanted to them by the Lord, or insist that Israel deed to the Muslims as their capital the very place our Messiah will again set foot when He returns from Heaven, or allow Islam to maintain a pagan shrine and worship center where the Temple of God once existed and will again, and then say that because our heartfelt intent is peace therefore doing all these things must be right in Our Lord’s eyes.
If Balaam can wake up and see the light, then so can the Church. If Balaam can finally understand that Israel is not like the gentile nations, that God is not a human who changes his mind, that when he makes a promise or a covenant He will fulfill it and that the Lord Himself will curse anyone who curses His special people, Israel, then so can our brethren finally understand that. Let’s do our part to see to it that it happens, soon.
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