Let Nothing Stand in the Way
Numbers 23:1 to 24:17
Today, in our verses, we're introduced to a man named Balaam. He's really infamous, you might say, in the history of Israel. He's not Hebrew at all. He's from Mesopotamia. We're going to meet him, because he plays a very important role in the history of Israel. What has been happening now is this, Israel is in the wilderness, but they are very near entering into the promised land.
They couldn't go directly through because the Edomites, who control the trade routes, would not let them pass. They had to go around, all the way to the south, all the way around to the other side of the Dead Sea. As they're moving up then to the north, they encountered the Amorites who attacked them without provocation. They defeat them. King of Bashan is defeated.
Then they encamped in the plains of Moab, immediately across the Jordan from Jericho. Now, when we were in Israel on our last trip, just a couple of months ago, we actually went to Mount Nebo, where you can look over the plains of Moab and see the City of Jericho, just across the way. It is an amazing thing to sit there and realize, this is the place where all of this unfolded.
What had happened was, he's in the plains of Moab and so the Moabite people are very concerned now, because of the great army that is amassed in their land. They realized that they cannot defeat them militarily. The king of Moab, his name was Balak, he decides on spiritual attack, spiritual warfare.
He decides to hire a man named Balaam, thus we're introduced to Balaam, to bring a curse, to curse these people, Israel, because they're too mighty in battle. There is some debate whether Balaam was a prophet of God. Clearly, God did speak to him, but he certainly had a wrong heart. In fact, when the Scriptures refer to this unfolding story, they call it the error of Balaam.
Balak, the king of the Moabites, he offers to pay Balaam, "Come and bring a curse." He sends emissaries, he sent some elders from Moab and Midian, both, to Balaam. God actually says to him, "No, you're not going, because you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed."
That's a very important principle that comes out of this, he whom God has blessed is blessed indeed and they cannot be denounced. They cannot be cursed. Now, Balak, king of Moabite people, he doesn't like this answer. He doesn't take, no, very well. He sends more emissaries with more money and he says, "I will honor you richly, but you've got to come, and you got to curse these people."
Now, this time God did allow Balaam to go, but with a firm warning, "You will speak only the words that I give you to speak." That gives us a hint of the trouble that is to come. Balaam is an important figure in the Bible. He's mentioned more than 60 times in the Bible. He's mentioned three times in the New Testament and never in a good light.
There's three parts to this story that I want us to take note of. Firstly, Balaam knows that he must say only what God tells him to say. He also knows that Israel is blessed of God and therefore cannot be cursed, but he wants the riches. He wants these riches offered by Balak and so he makes this journey with the elders of Moab and Midian, to see what opportunities might arise.
Thus, we get a hint of a problem of character. The second part of this story has to do with the fact that Israel is blessed of God and cannot be cursed. This is a key for us. Yes, they grumbled, yes, they complain, yes, they had bitterness in their heart at times, but nevertheless, they were God's people and he whom God blesses is blessed indeed.
In fact, one of the blessings poured out on Israel is this declaration that we see several times in Scripture, "He who blesses Israel will be blessed. He who curses Israel will be cursed." I suggest that, that promise for Israel is still very much true today and should inform our public, our foreign policy as a nation, when it comes to our relationship to the people of Israel.
Still today is that promise relevant, "He whom God blesses is blessed indeed." Third lesson comes at the end of the story where Balaam, he does go with the elders of Moab and Midian and God only gives him blessings, so he speaks blessings over Israel. He's hired to curse. He's hired to curse, but he can't do it, but Balaam wants the riches.
He counsels Balak, "Here's what you do, put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel." He knows that Israel cannot be cursed, but he knows that if the people of Israel can be tempted into sinning against God, that a wedge would be driven between the people and their Lord and thus, great troubles would come against them.
There's a lot of lesson here. Let's read it. We're in Numbers 23. We'll begin in verse one. Balaam, at this point in the story, he has come with the elders of Moab and Midian and he's standing there overlooking the camp of Israel. Balaam said to Balak, "Now build seven altars for me here. Prepare seven bulls, seven rams for me here."
Balak did as Balaam spoke and he offered up a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said to Balak, "Now stand beside your burnt offering and I will go, perhaps the Lord will come to me and whatever he shows me, I will tell it to you." He went on to a bare hill. God met Balaam and he said to him, Balaam said, "I have set up seven altars. I've offered a bull and a ram on each altar."
The Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth, and He said, "Now, return to Balak and speak thus." He returned to him and behold; he was standing beside the burnt offering and all the leaders of Moab were there. He took up his discourse and this is what he said, "From Aram, Balak has brought me, Moab's king from the mountains of the East, "Come curse Jacob for me," he said, "and come denounce Israel."
But how shall I curse whom God has not cursed and, how can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? I see, as I see from the top of the rocks and look at him from the hills, behold, a people who dwells apart and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob? Who can count the number of the fourth part of Israel." Then he says something amazing. He sees Israel.
He's overtaken by the Spirit and he recognizes this blessing of God. He actually says something amazing and astounding here. He says, "I want to die the death of the righteous. I want to die like that. Let my end be like his." Well, Balak said to Balaam, "What is this that you have done? I hired you to curse my enemies and behold, you bless them."
He answered and he said, "Must not I be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?" Balak then said, "Please come with me to another place, from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them and will not see all of them. Curse them for me there."
He took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, built seven altars, offered a bull and a ram on each altar. He said to Balak, "Stand here beside your burnt offering, while, I, myself, meet the Lord yonder." The Lord met Balaam and He put a word in his mouth, and He said, "Now, return to Balak and thus you shall speak."
He came to him and behold, he was standing beside the burnt offering and the leaders of Moab were there with him and Balak said to him, "What has the Lord spoken?" He took up his discourse and this is what he said, "Arise, Oh, Balak and hear. Give ear to me Oh son of Zippor. God is not a man that He should lie, He's not a Son of Man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do it?"
I love this statement here, "Has He not said, and will He not do it? Has He spoken and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless and when He has blessed, I cannot revoke it. He has not observed misfortune in Jacob, nor has He seen trouble in Israel. The Lord, his God is with him and the shout of a king is among them."
"God brings them out of Egypt. He's for them like the horns of a wild ox. There is no omen against Jacob, there is no divination against Israel and at the proper time, it shall be said to Jacob and to Israel what God has done. Behold, a people rises like a lioness and like a lion lifts itself up, it shall not lie down until it devours the prey and drinks the blood of the slain."
Balak said to Balaam, "Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all." But Balaam answered and said to Balak, "Did I not tell you? Whatever the Lord speaks, that I must do?" Balak then said to Balaam, "Please come. I will take you to another place. Perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there." Then he does it again the third time, the discourse and the third time, it's prophetic.
It's amazing. We won't read that one today. I want to read this and look at them to apply them to our lives. There's a lot you can learn from Balaam, having to do particularly with the character. The lesson for us to apply is to strengthen the character within. You can learn from the error of Balaam. This is Spiritual Warfare.
Balak realizes he cannot defeat the enemies of Israel, so he offers Balaam money to bring a curse, a spiritual curse. This is a very definition of spiritual warfare. I suggest that there's a lot to apply, because we are in spiritual battle today. We are in spiritual warfare. In fact, I think anyone with spiritual discernment can sense there is trouble in this world.
There is something very dark that is rising amongst the nations of this world. There is a storm cloud on the horizon. Does anybody sense and agree with what I'm saying?
There is something that is happening not seen for many, many years that's arising. We are in a time of spiritual battle. However, it also must be seen individually, personally, the enemy would like very much to defeat you.
I. Strengthen the Character Within
If he can get you to compromise your character, he will have won a key battle. The idea is to make this personal, because every person must decide the course of his life. Each person must decide the course of his life, so he gives his principles. For example, one of the principles that comes out of the story is this, listen when God warns. One of the great lessons is out of this story. God gives a clear warning.
A.Listen when God warns
God warns Balaam before he leaves with the leaders of Moab, you will speak only the word that I give you to speak. In other words, you don't add or take away from what I tell you. God warns him again when the angel of the Lord met him along the way, because the Lord knew the motives of his heart, why he was going. Numbers 22:22- 35 tells us, God was angry because he was going.
The Angel of the Lord took a stand in the way as an adversary against him. Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, "Go with these men but you will speak only the word that I tell you to speak." Now, Balaam does not heed the warning. He cannot curse what God has blessed, but he adds. He gives Balak counsel of how to put a stumbling block in front of Israel.
If God gives a warning, you would be very wise to heed it. In fact, I would like to do this, I would like to do a show of hands this morning. If you, this morning, have ever sensed in your life a time when you know that God was warning you in advance, will you raise your hand? I know God has warned, just raise your hand.
I've sensed it, I know God warns in advance. See, that's the Holy Spirit. That's the Holy Spirit moving, prompting, giving you that warning. It's part of God's grace that he gives a warning in advance, because he's giving opportunity for life. He's giving opportunity to choose character, to choose integrity.
Like this out of Deuteronomy 32:46-47 famous speech by Moses, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today. Which you shall command to your sons to observe carefully. Even all the words of this law for it is not an idle word for you." When God gives a warning, that is not an idle word for you. Indeed, it is your life.
By this word, you will prolong your days in the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. It's a word of great blessing when He gives that. See, the Holy Spirit will often give a lack of peace when you need to be alerted to spiritual danger. He's warning you to be watchful. You know, every harbor in our country has a harbormaster.
The responsibility of the harbormaster is to warn when a storm is impending. You may not even see anything on the horizon, but when the harbormaster puts out a warning, you'd be wise to heed it. That's the same idea. Jesus gave us this word to believers today, we are instructed to watch for the signs of the times.
B.Good character is of great value
To watch and be ready to observe and be careful. The signs that are happening in the world of what God is doing, but also watch for what the enemy is doing. Be spiritually alert. He's speaking not just in regard to the nation, to your own life and thus there's a great application. Good character is of great value. It is a tremendous value in your life.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, the Scripture says. Balaam is tempted by the riches that Balak has offered him. He hires him to curse Israel and he goes with these men, knowing full well that if God's blessing is on Israel, they cannot be cursed so why is he going? He's been hired to curse, but he knows fully well they cannot be cursed.
Why is he going? 2 Peter 2:15 tells us, "Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor who loved the wages of unrighteousness." There's a problem in the character. There's a problem in the deepness of this flaw of his character.
Jude 1:11, "Woe to them," he said "Woe to them, they've gone the way of Cain and for pay they rushed headlong into the error of Balaam and perished in the rebellion of Korah." Man, he's picked some of the tragedies of character of the Old Testament there. He knew that God would not curse Israel but, in his heart, he wanted something different.
Here's the lesson out of it, the heart will eventually make a convert of the mind. The heart will eventually make a convert of the mind. That's why it's so important to guard well that the heart have the pure water of a well from which you can draw. It's a beautiful picture. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, I love quoting this verse because it applies directly to our own character, our own life, our own soul.
Jesus said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. The evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil, for his mouth speaks." In other words, the life is lived from that which fills the heart. When the heart is good the treasure of the heart, you live well. The course of your life is lived from what dwells in the heart.
Maybe you've heard an old saying. It goes something like this, "So-and-so is so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good," the saying goes. I can assure you that God is not the author of that quote. I know a lot of people who are so earthly minded that they're no heavenly good.
C.Die the death of the righteous
If you are heavenly minded, you are most certainly earthly good, for out of that well of the heart that's good comes forth a blessing to you, to those around you, it is good. The course of your life is set in order by that which God brings into the character. Then we see this insight. It's very, very interesting and powerful. Die the death of the righteous.
Godly character, God's favor, will not only transform how you live, I suggest it will transform how you die. Balaam makes a profound statement in verse 10, he sees that Israel is blessed of God. He sees the favor of God. He knows that he cannot denounce who God has not denounced and if God blesses it was surely stand. He knows this is true.
He sees this and he says, I want to die like that. Let me die the death of the righteous. Let my death be like his. This is a profound thing. I suggest that we do not see death the way God sees death. I think our perspective on death is very different than God's. We often see death as a tragic end. A tragedy. God sees it as a great homecoming, a grand day in which He welcomes His servants home.
It's a very different thing. Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master. In fact, it says in Psalm 116:15, "A precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones." It's a very different perspective. See, dying the death of the righteous is the way that most people would like to die. The problem is that they don't want to live the life of the righteous.
I was remembering a story told by Gil Earl when he spoke in here several times. He was teaching at the Bible College some young pastors. He was teaching them about funerals and memorial services and such. As to make it more compelling, he had someone making a pine-coffin and he would have, each class, he would have a different student get in the pine-coffin while one of the younger students gave his Eulogy.
This is a great way to learn how to give a Eulogy. He said it was eye-opening for the person in the box. To lay in the pine box and to hear your Eulogy makes you think, makes you stop, think about your life. For one day you will look back on your life. Wouldn't it be glorious to say, "I lived the life that God asked me to live?" I'm not saying that anyone is perfect.
No one will live the perfect life, but I do believe it's very possible to say, “I lived the life that God asked me to live. I walked in the course that he had for me." Moses wrote in Psalm 90 versus 10 and 12, "As were the days of our life that contain 70 years, or if due to strength 80, yet their span is but labor and sorrow and soon it is gone and we fly away, so, teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom."
Teach us to number our days. Teach us to value our days. This world is filled with troubles and people in their discouragement often think that if they could just obtain something out there, if they could just have this thing in the future, then life would be worth living. This starts out when you're young. When you're young, you look forward to graduating in high school.
When I graduate from high school, then life can be lived. Then I'll start to really live my life, or maybe, when I get finished with college, or whatever it is, then I'll start to live my life. Then after that is, if I could just be married, then I'll start to live my life. Then after that, as well, if we could just have kids. If we could have kids, then we'll live. It's always out there. It's never here.
It's always out there somewhere. It's never here. Yes, this world is filled with troubles, but Jesus said, “In me, you can have peace”. John 16:33, "These things I've spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you'll have tribulation but take courage I've overcome the world." You can have peace right now. Jesus said, “I have come that you would have life and have it to the full”.
Live life to the full right now. It's not out there. It's not out there. It's here. It's today. It's the overflowing of the presence of the Holy Spirit now. Live life to the full now, as someone once said, “I wish someone would have told me that someday these will be the good old days”. Now, live life. See, it's the fullness of life, now. The course of your life is chosen.
When you choose to offer God your heart and say, “God, fill me with the presence of the Spirit”. Godly character and God's favor will not only transform how you live, it will transform how you die. Voltaire once said, “I will destroy in one day the edifice that the 12 apostles took years to build up”, but on his deathbed, he had something very different to say, "Doctor," he said, “I'm abandoned by God”.
The skeptic Hobbes on his deathbed said, “I'm about to take a fearful leap into the dark”. In contrast, St. Francis of Assisi, one day was working in his garden on his hands and knees and a young student came up and asked him and he said, “If you knew that you were going to die in 10 minutes, what would you do?”
St. Francis of Assisi said, “If I knew I was going to die in 10 minutes, what would I do? I'd finish this row. That's what I would do”. In other words, there's nothing more I need to do. It's all settled with me. I'm at peace. God is in my heart. I'm at peace. This is such an important thing. It's not out there, it's here in the fullness of the Spirit, now. Many of you know my story. I’ve mentioned my father.
My father may have wasted most of his life as an alcoholic, but when he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it not only transformed how he lived, it transformed how he died. When he recognized that he had wasted his life, he has moved away, separated himself from everyone, but then he realized that he wasted his life, come to faith in Christ and it transformed how he lived but I suggest it transformed how he died.
For there around his bed was all of his children and his wife, my mother, whom he had divorced, who he had separated, whom he had abused, but now who has forgiven and become friends. It changed his life and it changed his death. For the moment that he breathed his last, I closed his eyes and then I said, “Father, into your hands, I commend his spirit”.
Then when we had his service, I'll never forget a beautiful scene that unfolded, because there was my mother standing at the end of the coffin, just greeting people as they came to give their final respects. When they had all left, she came around, leaned into the coffin, gave him a kiss, “I love you, Cecil”. It changed his life; sit changed his death.
II.God is Faithful in His Favor
Balaam says something amazing here, I want to live the life of the blessed. Let my death be like his, there is something honorable, there's something glorious. Choose the course of your life well. He gives us a great insight into what that means, how to do this. He's showing us a great point. God is faithful in his favor. You can build your life on this.
Balak is furious when Balaam gives a blessing rather than a curse, “Try from another mountain”, he says, but God answers with the irrevocable promises of God. Verse 20, "When he has blessed, I cannot revoke it." There is a great spiritual truth in this because it applies to you and to me. When God is blessed, it cannot be revoked.
A.God is faithful in His promises
His favor is upon you. when he says that I love you as a Father will love His son, you are now adopted as a son and His love for you knows no end. You can stand on this. It will change the course of your life when you take hold of this, because this is the truth. God is faithful in his promises. It will change the course of your life when you take hold of it. I love the words of verses 19 and 20, "Has he said, and will he not do it?"
When God has said it, he will do it. It speaks powerfully to the heart of God in His faithfulness a blessing your life and the favor that He puts upon you. Notice Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold fast," which is to say, hold on to the confession of your hope and do it without wavering, because He that promise is faithful. Now, that's something you can build your life on.
That's something that will change the course of your life. Choose well. Habakkuk 3:19, I love this verse, "The Lord God is my strength. He has made my feet like hind's feet and he makes me walk on high places." It's a great declaration. It's a great statement.
B.His gifts and calling are irrevocable
The Lord God is my strength. He's made my feet like hind's feet, made me walk in high places. Do you know what a hind is? A hind is a doe, a deer, a female deer.
I thought it too but in Israel, they have these like these ibexes, and you look up unto the hills of these rocks and is like, what is that? You realize these are surefooted, the ibex. They are your surefooted. They're moving in the highest places on the rocks of the cliff. He writes this powerful statement; the Lord God is my strength. He made my feet like that.
You're very sure-footed when the Lord God is your strength. You're very sure-footed and you could walk on high places, the course of your life. Choose well the course of your life, because he gives us a great truth, the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Stand in this Scripture, the blessings of God. Verse 20, "When He has blessed, I cannot revoke it." He cannot denounce whom the Lord has not denounced.
It's true for Israel and it's true for you. By the way, it's still true today for Israel. Let me give you a new testament verse that speaks to the same truth. Romans 11:28-29, from the standpoint of God's choice, "They are beloved for the sake of the Fathers, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Now, that's a great truth for you and me. When God blesses, you are blessed indeed.
C.Walk as children of light
When He says that you're loved as your father, you can stand on that truth. When He says that His favor is upon you, you can absolutely stand on that truth. With great confidence, you can know that His love never fails, that His grace has no boundaries known under men, because He's showing us a great truth. Choose well the course of your life. Choose well the course of your life.
Walk therefore as children of light. Balak was so angry at the blessings that Balaam gave that he essentially said, "If you can't say anything bad, then don't say anything at all". Obviously, his mother did not teach him very well, but most unfortunately Balaam did give a word, gave him counsel that harmed Israel greatly.
He told him, [sighs] "Bring the women. Bring the women of Moab and Midian so that they can play the harlot with Israel". Balaam knew. Balaam knew that no weapon formed against them would stand, but if they could be drawn away from God, God would discipline, God would correct, God would rebuke. This is exactly what the enemy would want to do today.
He knows very well if he can drive a wedge in your life, if he can drive a wedge between you and the Lord, if he can draw you away from God, he will have accomplished a great destructive thing. The key; choose well the course of your life. Choose to dwell in the nearness of God and the shadow of the Almighty. The course of your life is set when you draw near to the Lord, the blessings of God, the favor of God.
It will change how you live, and I suggest it will change how you die, "Precious in the sight of the Lord, the death of His godly ones." Choose well, because it's not out there. There's nothing out there. It's here. It's here in the presence of the Lord. The overwhelming, overflowing Spirit that fills the life. That's where life comes from. There's nothing out there. It's in the life of the Lord. It's here.
Would you say today, "I will choose my course and I want You to bless it Lord. I want You to bless because I want your life. I want Your Spirit. I want the overwhelming presence of God". Father, thank you so much for everyone here today. You move upon us by Your Word. You move upon us by Your Spirit. You stir us up, you draw us to yourself and you show us great truths.
Church today, would you say to the Lord as we are all present before the Lord as we're praying, our hearts are open to the Lord? Would you say to the Lord. I see. I see. There is nothing out there that will satisfy my heart. It's here. It's in the presence of the Living God. It's in the overwhelming and overflowing of the presence of the Spirit, moving.
I want the fullness of life and I want that which You bring by Your Holy Spirit. I choose the course of my life. I want to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Would you say that to the Lord today? I want to be filled to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I want the life that moves. There's nothing out there. It's in the presence of God that I'm filled. That's where life is found. I choose You, Lord. I choose life. I choose Your way.
I choose the course by which the blessings of God will be flowing in power. Church, would you say that to the Lord? Is that your heart? Would you ask God for that? Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and say it with boldness, God, it's not out there. It's here. It's in the overflowing of the Spirit. I'm asking today, would You fill me by Your Holy Spirit?
I want the life that comes from Your Spirit in me. Would you just raise your hand in boldness even now?
Father, thank You for everyone who's touched of the Lord, moved of the Spirit. You are amazing. We give You honor. We give You thanks for all You're doing in us today in Jesus name. And everyone say--.
Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor. Amen. Amen.