Today’s Reading: Numbers 23-36
God had a purpose for Balaam – a place he needed him to be. Because Balaam responded in obedience when God blocked his way, God was able to use him in this next story.
After forty years of wandering around in the wilderness, the Israelites were finally making their way toward the promised land of Canaan. When they came to the edge of the land occupied by the Amorites, they sent a message to the king asking for permission to travel through their land on their way to Canaan. They promised to stay out of the fields and vineyards, staying only on the King’s road and refraining from drinking from any of the wells.
The King of the Amorites refused to be generous with God’s people and instead mobilized an army to attack the people of Israel. The King obviously UNDERESTIMATED THE POWER OF GOD. The Israelites slaughtered the army sent by King Sihon and occupied the land. They moved on to Jazer and then marched up the road to Bashan, where King Og was waiting to attack them.
The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I HAVE HANDED HIM OVER TO YOU, along with all his people and his land. Do the same to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who rules in Heshbon.” And Israel killed King Og, his sons, and all his subjects; not a single survivor remained. Then Israel occupied their land. – Numbers 21:34-35
Now King Balak of Moab saw everything that happened and watched the Israelites camp across the river from Jericho. He sent for Balaam, offering him money to curse the people of Israel. Unlike King Sihon, Balaam understood the power of the Israelite’s God and replied:
Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God. – Numbers 22:18
After hearing from the Lord, Balaam traveled to King Balak but warned him, “Look, now I have come, but I have no power to say whatever I want. I will speak only the message that God puts in my mouth” (Numbers 22:38).
Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth-baal, built altars and made sacrifices in hopes that Balaam would curse Israel. Balaam went alone to the top of the hill and God met him there, giving Balaam the words to say and the message to give back to Balak – a message blessing Israel instead of cursing them.
Frustrated, Balak took Balaam to another place overlooking the Israelites. Balak asked Balaam to at least curse some of the Israelites if he couldn’t curse all of them. They built more altars and offered more sacrifices. God commanded Balaam again to bless the people of Israel. This was the message Balaam delivered:
“Rise up, Balak, and listen!
Hear me, son of Zippor.
God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!…” – Numbers 23:18-20
Balak took Balaam to a third place, hoping it would please God to curse the Israelites from there. God again blessed His people and Balak flew into a rage. God gave Balaam a final message for King Balak. Not only would he bless and not curse the people of Israel, he would use Israel to crush and destroy the nation of Moab.
I wonder if we ever communicate with God in the same way that King Balak did. Like moving from place to place to get better cell phone reception, do we refuse to listen to God’s first reply to us and continue to manipulate our circumstances to get a different result? “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?” When God gives us clear instructions, do we stall and try other methods to get what we want instead of obeying and accepting His plan?
God, this morning we have gone alone to our mountaintop and you have met us there. Show us your plan and give us direction, giving us also the strength to accept your will. Reveal if there is anything you have told us to do and we have ignored it, hoping for a different message next time we hear from you. Forgive us for manipulating our situation instead of submitting to your Lordship. Lord, may our heart’s desire to please and serve you be stronger than our own selfish desires. We love you, Lord. Amen.