Numbers 22 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 31 secs

Balaam and the Will of God. Numbers 22.


NKJ Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;


For the last three weeks or so we have been studying the issue of divine guidance.  How do you know God's will?  We are coming to the end of this study.  Last week we got very close, but we didn't have enough time to go into the last illustration that I wanted to use from the Old Testament which is one of the more unusual episodes in the Old Testament.  It incorporates all three kinds of divine will that we have spoken of.  But when we come to this question of divine guidance, as I pointed out, most Christians have bizarre views of how to know God's will. They come up with all kinds of mystical ways to discern God's will.


Somebody sent me an illustration of this the other day that I have to share with you because it's so personal.  After starting a new diet the old lady in the cartoon says, "I altered my drive to work to avoid passing my favorite bakery.  I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and as I approached there in the window was a host of goodies.  I felt this was no accident so I prayed, "Lord, it's up to you.  If you want me to have any of those delicious goodies, create a parking place for me directly in front of the bakery.  And sure enough on the eighth time around the block there it was.  God is so good." 


We are so silly sometimes in the way we try to figure out what God wants us to do and the way we try to get God to conform His will to our will.  We aren't a whole lot different from Gideon as we saw in our study of Gideon a couple of weeks ago. 


So tonight I want to look at another instance of someone who tries to resist God's will.  In the Balaam episode in Numbers 22 we have an example of three different kinds of divine will.  Remember I talked about the fact that we have the decreed will of God or the sovereign will of God which includes God's permissive will.  The sovereign will of God is God's decree for what will take place in human history according to His foreknowledge.  So we have the sovereign will of God.  We don't know what it is until it happens.  It includes good and it includes evil.  That is why as a subcategory of God's sovereign will, we have the category of God's permissive will – what He allows man to do in terms of exercising his volition.  But even when man has freedom to exercise his volition, that is under the sovereign will of God so that you may want to exercise your volition freely in X direction and God just isn't going to let you.  Have you ever noticed that before?  Some of you who have a predilection towards carnality at one time or another in your life have known that you really wanted to do something that you knew you shouldn't do and God just wouldn't let you do it.  That is called the God's overriding will of God.  So we have God's sovereign will; we have God's permissive will; we have God's overriding will. We also have God's decreed or moral will – what He tells us specifically to do.  So those are really four kinds of divine will - God's sovereign will which includes His permissive will, His sovereign will, His overriding will, and His decreed will. 


We see all of these in this episode of Balaam.  The episode of Balaam covers a lot of territory.  It covers Numbers 22-24 and then even though we don't know it until later on, it really is the backdrop to what happens in Numbers 25.  When you realize that in the book of Numbers you have 4 chapters that are related to Balaam the son of Beor and there are only 36 chapters in the whole book of Numbers and 5 of them are dedicated to Balaam, you see that God the Holy Spirit seems to emphasize this event over above everything else that is going on in Numbers.  He doesn't spend that much time on Kadesh Barnea.  He doesn't spend that much time on Miriam and Aaron's rebellion against Moses.  He doesn't spend that much time on Moses' sin of disobedience where he got angry at the people and struck the rock for water instead of speaking to it as God commanded.  All of which were sins that were determinative for the history of Israel.  But then all of a sudden we come to Numbers 22 in this bizarre character of Balaam. Some people think he is demon possessed.  Other people thought that he was a rebellious believer.  The rabbis thought he was almost the devil embodied.  Some of the ways in which they describe the things that went on here boarder on the bizarre. I am not even going to explain some of them.  They boarder on pornography. That will give you a little bit of an idea. Now your imaginations are going to run wild and I have distracted you for the rest of the hour.


Numbers 22 gives us the story of Balaam.  Balaam is a diviner. He is not called a prophet here.  He is a diviner.  He is not a Jew.  He is a cousin.  He is from the land of Aram back where Abram's descendents lived in the area that we studied in our study of Genesis.  In Numbers 22 we come to a situation where the Jews have come around from Kadesh Barnea and they are about to enter into the land. 


Just off the map is the location of Kadesh Barnea.  As the Jews came to Kadesh Barnea for the second time in preparation for going into the land, they come across the southern part of Israel known as the Negev, cross south of the Dead Sea and God instructed them to completely go around Moab and Amon because God had guaranteed their inheritance.  So they had to go all the way to the east side of Moab and go completely around Moab as they came back after they went north of Moab and Amon and came back to the west to cross the Jordan River to go into the land of Canaan. 


They did battle with Sihon and with Og.  Sihon was the king of the Amorites.  Og was the king of Basham.  They defeated them in two battles that secured for the Jews all of the trans-Jordan. That is the land across the Jordan on the east side of the Jordan.  It literally put the fear of God into the Moabites.  Twice it mentions the fear and the dread that they felt. They were only 40 years removed from the Exodus.  And they had heard all the stories about what the God of the Jews had done to the Egyptians with the ten plagues and then the complete and massive destruction of the Egyptian army.  In fact you don't hear anything about the Egyptian army for about 200-300 years in Scripture because the culture was decimated as a result of God's judgment on them.  This put fear into the hearts of all of the Canaanites.  That is one of the weird little ironies that you get into here.  When the Jews went to Kadesh Barnea and were sending the twelve spies into the land the ten spies came back saying, "We can't do this.  We are scared to death.  There are giants in the land.  There are way too many people.  They have fortified cities.  We can't do it." 


You know the story.  Joshua and Caleb stood firm.  They said, "We can trust God." 


But here you have these 10 spies who are scared to death and they don't realize that the Canaanites had all heard the stories of what had happened a year or two before.  They are more afraid of the Jews and what their God is going to do to them than the Jews are.  They had this tremendous opportunity to take advantage of that and to defeat them.  Because they failed to trust God they had to spend another 38 years wandering around in the wilderness before the next generation would be allowed to make that crossing into Jordan. 


This is the setting for Numbers 22.  The Jews have now come to the plains of Moab which is just to the east of the Jordan River just north of the Dead Sea.


It is there that Moses gives his parting speech to them.  It is his last sermon which is the book of Deuteronomy.  That comes after the events that we area talking about.  As they approach the plains of Moab, the king of Moab is scared to death.  He decides that he is going to do something to destroy the Jews.  He knows that he can't defeat them naturally.  He doesn't have the power to.  Of course they must have this powerful God. So what he is going to do in typical pagan manner, he is going to get some kind of magic or supernatural power to counter whatever the supernatural power is that the Jews had.  So he is going to go to a diviner who lives up in the area of Aram and bring this hit man in from outside to put a curse on the Jews to destroy them.  In the background of this you have divination and you have magic and you have the true form of prophecy versus a false form of prophecy.  A lot of things we have studied in the last few months come together in this situation.


NKJ Numbers 22:1 Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho.


NKJ Numbers 22:2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.


NKJ Numbers 22:3 And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel.


Notice the double emphasis there on the fear factor. 


NKJ Numbers 22:4 So Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.


That would be Balak the king of Moab. 


There are so many he is afraid they are going to devour all of the food and all of the resources.  By the presence of 2-3 million Jews on the boarder, they were going to wipe out all of the natural resources for food.


NKJ Numbers 22:5 Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: "Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me!


Before we get started, let's address a question that always comes up.  Is Balaam a believer?  If you don't know the story what happens in Balaam is presented as a diviner, as someone who has this magical power to bless and curse.  This is expressed in verse 6.


In his invitation, Balak says…


NKJ Numbers 22:6 "Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."


Notice the pagan reliance upon magic and power there.  It is sort of New Age mysticism in an old age format.


Does that verbiage sound familiar to anybody?  That is the same verbiage we have in the Abrahamic Covenant. I think that the writer puts it that way so that we recognize that parallel there.

Is Balaam a believer?  What he is going to do is have three or four episodes.  Finally God is going to let him come.  He is going to try to curse Israel.  He is not going to be able to curse Israel.  Every time he opens his mouth a legitimate revelatory prophecy from God comes out that doesn't fit the pattern of typical divination.  You have all kinds of divination that was used at this particular time.  It doesn't fit any of those patterns.  It is unique because God's way of revealing Himself and communicating to man is always categorically different from the pagan way of doing things which we will see. 


In the midst of this we have the episode with Balaam and his talking ass because God performs this miracle and God allows the donkey to talk to him when he is abusing him and mistreating him.  He uses that to create a teaching moment in the life of carnal Balaam. 


So the question is, Is Balaam a believer?  There is a tremendous amount of debate over this.  You have one group that looks at Balaam who is referred to and used three times in the New Testament as an illustration of evil. In fact we have seen him a couple of times in Revelation 2 where he is compared to the Nicolaitans, this group of people who were promoting false doctrine in the early church in Pergamum and Thyatira.  So because he is used that way in Revelation 2 and he is used that way in Jude as an example of evil, many people think automatically that he wasn't a believer.  However there are some things we need to pay attention to in the text. First of all in Numbers 22:18, Balaam refers to God as Yahweh my God.


NKJ Numbers 22:18 Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.


So he recognizes who Yahweh is and refers to Him as my God. 


Second, he confesses his sin.  When he realizes his sin after the episode with the talking ass, he confesses his sin in Numbers 22:34.


NKJ Numbers 22:34 And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back."


He clearly recognizes who it is that is opposing him on his way to Moab to curse Israel.


Third Balaam expresses a desire to die with the righteousness in Numbers 23:10.


NKJ Numbers 23:10 "Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!"


He wants to die like and in the company of the righteous.


He prophesies in Numbers 24:2. 


NKJ Numbers 24:2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.


There is not a single example that I can find in the Old Testament where the Spirit of God comes upon an unbeliever.  Now you have a number of examples especially in Judges where the Spirit of God comes upon believers like Jephthah who defeats the enemy afterward.  Then he makes this foolish vow to offer a burnt offering whatever comes out of the door of his house to greet him when he comes home.  When he comes home victorious, his daughter runs out the front door of the house to greet him and welcome him home.   The text says that he did to her as he vowed.  He offered her as a burnt offering – very pagan practice.  That is the point.  These leaders of Israel during the time of the Judges were acting like the pagan nations surrounding them.


The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson several times.  Sampson is a womanizer.  He never met a fleshly desire that he didn't want to instantly give into.  He is a picture an extremely lust oriented, uncontrolled, unself-disciplined individual. 


Then you have Saul also.  The Spirit of God comes upon Saul.  Saul ultimately becomes a believer.  He ultimately becomes disobedient and rebellious and is disciplined by God and the kingdom is taken from him.  People will try to argue that these aren't believers, but the text never says that.  In fact with Saul we are also told not only that the Spirit came upon him and he prophesized, but we are also told that at the end of his life when Samuel comes back from the grave (the only time that ever happened in history where you have a true example of somebody that God allowed to come back and speak) Samuel came back and he said to Saul, "Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me."


"Being with me" must be taken literally to mean that they would be with Samuel in paradise, not in heaven because Old Testament saints weren't transferred to heaven until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So we have the situation where you have pagans who are operating on paganism, but they are believers.  They become believers.  In our study of Genesis just recently as we were studying in Genesis 31, we have this one verse I pointed this out several weeks ago when we studied this, it is not mentioned by most people when they talk about Abraham's background.  Abraham came out of Ur of the Chaldeans.  They always go to this passage in Joshua that talks about the fact that the ancestors of Abraham worshipped the moon gods back in Ur of the Chaldeans.  So everybody camps out on that verse and talks about how Abraham's ancestors were all idolatrous and followed the idolatrous religions of the Chaldeans, but Abraham for some reason became a worshipper of God. People just overlook Genesis 31:53 where Laban who remember is a cousin of Abraham, says to Jacob, "The God of Abraham the God of Nahor (who is Abraham's brother) and the God of their father (which would be Terah) judge between us."


In that statement he clearly recognizes that Abrahams father Terah wasn't just this moon worshipping, star gazing, pagan in Ur of the Chaldeans; but he also knew who the God of the Bible was and He knew who the creator God was.  He had a syncretistic religion and he was mixed up and involved in paganism as well as understanding what the truth is.  This was typical in that era especially outside the land.


So now we fast forward from Abraham in about 2100 BC to this episode with Balaam in Number 22 in 1400 BC.  So we fast forward 600 years. There is still evidence and a witness of the true God outside of Israel.  Balaam is an example of that.  It is a confused syncretistic religious system.  He is a believer and he does have an understanding of who Yahweh My God is.  He is involved in carnality and paganism.  This whole almost a cult that operated in his area of Mesopotamia. 


We are told back in Numbers 22 that they sent to Beor at Pethor.  Pethor is located on the Euphrates River some where about where the modern border of Iraq and Syria exists.  So it is probably a little bit north of there.  It was an ancient city that has been identified called Pitru.  It's near the archeological site of Mari which was discovered along the Euphrates in 1933.  We have discovered hundreds of documents from cult from Mari that indicate that there was this divination cult that operated out of that particular region.  They were producing all of these soothsayers.  They were a bunch of gypsies.  They were fortune tellers.  They were into divination and hepatoscopy which is reading liver.  They had this whole science where they mapped a liver.  They would divide it all up into sections.  They would kill an animal and take the liver out and they would dissect the liver and read each section of the liver and then they would tell fortunes from it.  Today we are so much milder.  We have palm reading and we have tarot card reading.  I don't see this so much - maybe the FCC got a hold of them.  It used to be every night if you stayed up late you could find some 900 number you could call and you could talk to all kinds of people who would tell you your fortune.  You had the same thing in the ancient world.  They had a reputation for being able to cast spells on people - the whole occult magic thing where they would curse people. So Balak thinks he can call on Balaam and bring Balaam over to curse the Jews and he will destroy the Jews.   


In this whole episode you see this polemic that is going on between Yahweh the God of Israel and the false gods of the nations.  Now you know what I mean by a polemic.  It is like a debate.  It is a war.  God is constantly juxtaposing His truth and His reality over against the fabrications of paganism. You see this throughout the Old Testament.  Most of the time it is subtle and it gets lost in translation.  But the average English reader picks up his Bible and starts reading Genesis 1:1.


NKJ Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.


We read this and say, "Isn't that nice? On the first day God creates light and separated it from the darkness.


But if you were a Babylonia in the ancient world reading that you would be thinking in terms of the Babylonian gods that you were worshipping and you were saying, "This god of the Jews is the creator of my god of light." 


There is this subtle polemic going on where the God of the Bible is constantly being shown to be in control and superior to whatever the gods or goddesses are of the pagan culture there.  Because we are so unfamiliar with the culture of the ancient world and religious systems of the ancient world, we don't catch these digs that the Holy Spirit makes in almost every chapter against the thinking of the various pagan systems all around Israel. 


I remember in my first year at Dallas Seminary I read a master's thesis that was written on the polemics of Genesis 1 over against the Babylonian gods and goddesses.  This is when it first opened my eyes to this whole thing.  Then when you come to Exodus and you have the ten plagues and when God turns the Nile to blood.  It's a polemic that the God of the Jews is superior to the Nile god of the Egyptians.  Every one of the plagues has something to do with the God of Israel demonstrating His superiority over some god or goddess in the Egyptian religious system.  So you constantly have the Scripture making sometime subtle sometimes more overt statements of how God and the whole thinking of the Scripture is superior to the thinking of the gods and goddesses of the pagans around them. 


You even see that in the names that are used here.  For example, in the name of Balaam we have the Hebrew word which means destruction or devouring in compound with the Hebrew word meaning people in meaning people.  So his name means the destroyer of the people.  But Balaam wasn't a Jew was he?  In Aramaic his name probably meant the divine uncle who brings forth.  It was a very positive name.  In the ancient world they had names that meant things and revealed something about their character.  So this would say something about this being a man who is very productive and a source of blessing for those around him. The Jewish writers would take his name and make a pun on it.  And so in Hebrew his name meant destroyer of the people.  He is going to be hired by Balak the king of Moab.  Balak means the devastator.  So here the devastator hires the destroyer and God of the Jews wipes out both of them. So you see this play that is going on in the background that we miss in English because we are so divorced from the culture and language and everything else.  God is constantly using all different levels of communication in the text to demonstrate the superiority of His power and His purpose.  The king of Moab calls for Balaam and wants Balaam to come and curse Israel.  Before he does that God appears to him.


NKJ Numbers 22:9 Then God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?"

NKJ Numbers 22:10 So Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying,


NKJ Numbers 22:11 'Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.' "


NKJ Numbers 22:12 And God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed."


What kind of will of God is that?  Think about this.  Is this the sovereign will of God?  Is this the permissive will of God?  Is this the decreed will of God?  Or is this the overriding will of God?  This is the decreed will of God.  God is stating specifically through special revelation to Balaam that he is not to leave home.  He is not to go with him.  He is not to go and curse the Jews.  So the next morning Balaam gets up and he has to be obedient to God.  When God speaks and you know it is God speaking and you can't do anything else.


NKJ Numbers 22:13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to give me permission to go with you."


So they go back to Balak.  This must have taken some time because it is 300-400 miles from Moab to Pethor where he is located.


NKJ Numbers 22:14 And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."


Balak sent another delegation to him.  Now they are going to offer a bribe. 


NKJ Numbers 22:15 Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable than they.


Honor in the Scripture always has to do with pay.  Just as a side note when it comes over to I Timothy, Paul says that an elder is worth double honor.  That doesn't mean that you are nicer to the pastor, it means that he is supposed to get twice the pay of anybody else.  Just thought I would throw that in.  That is how honor is used in the Scripture.  Honor refers to giving financial remuneration to somebody. 


NKJ Numbers 22:17 'for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.' "


In other words, I am going to give you a big paycheck if you will come and curse Israel.  There will be a great financial reward to you.

NKJ Numbers 22:18 Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.


So he recognizes the authority of God and that God has given him direct revelation that he can't do that. 


NKJ Numbers 22:19 "Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me."


Now he is going to start bargaining with God.  He is going to see if he can't find a loophole somewhere in God's decreed will that will allow him to go with the people.


NKJ Numbers 22:20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you -- that you shall do."


Now what do we have?  What kind of will is this?  Is this the sovereign will of God?  Is this the permissive will of God?  Is this the decreed will of God?  Or is this the overriding will of God?  What do we have here?  We have almost a correlation between the permissive will of God and the decreed will of God because God is revealing what His permissive will is here. 


Of course Balaam wants to take advantage of that.  He is thinking, "If I can just get down there then I can go ahead and curse Israel."


God recognizes that is what he is doing.


NKJ Numbers 22:22 Then God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.


God did not suddenly realize what Balaam was going to do and was going to take advantage of him.  But the anger of God always has to do with the condemnation of divine justice.  God in His omniscience knew millennia before this that Balaam was going to try to take advantage of God's permissive will.  If God has always known that, has God always been angry?  That is were you get into the silliness of thinking that these emotions in God are what we think of as emotion.  The phraseology "the wrath of God" is for the most part an anthropopathism in the Scripture used to express the severity of God's judgment. 


We might talk about going to court and say, "The judge threw the book at me." 


We don't literally mean that the judge picked up a law book and threw it at us.  We are using it as an illustration of the severity of his judgment.  We experienced the wrath of the court.  We didn't have a judge that got angry with us.  Nobody would want an emotional judge.  We want a judge who is fair and objective even if he does throw the book at us.  So God's anger indicates that God in His justice is going to judge or condemn Balaam.  He is going to discipline Balaam. God's anger is aroused.  He went and the Angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him.  He is going down along the path and the angel of the Lord appears in front of him, but only the donkey sees the Angel of the Lord.  The Angel of the Lord is pictured here as large and powerful and dressed like a warrior.  The donkey of course is no dummy and wants to get out of the way.


NKJ Numbers 22:23 Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.


He is impatient.  He is angry.  So he started beating the donkey.


NKJ Numbers 22:24 Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.


NKJ Numbers 22:25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall; so he struck her again.


Then there is a third encounter. 


NKJ Numbers 22:26 Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.


NKJ Numbers 22:27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.


She refused to go forward.


The donkey is talking.  There is such great humor in this.  The writers of Scripture are making such a fool out of Balaam in all of this and portraying him with a lack of respect.  He is such an idiot. 


NKJ Numbers 22:28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?"


Balaam doesn't blink.  He starts talking to the donkey.


NKJ Numbers 22:29 And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!"


Isn't that typical?  We get mad at somebody because they are doing the right thing and we get made at them because they won't let us do what we want to do. 


NKJ Numbers 22:30 So the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?" And he said, "No."


"Did I ever do anything like this to you before? No?  Don't you think there might be a good reason?  I have been protecting you." 


At that point the Angel of the Lord opens Balaam's eyes and he sees the angel of the Lord standing there.


The point of all of this is to indicate something about the relationship of the beast of burden that was to serve Balaam and an analogy being drawn in Balaam's dense head that he is to serve God and do what God tells him to do.


NKJ Numbers 22:32 And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.


The donkey hasn't done anything wrong to you.  Israel hasn't done anything wrong to you.  Why do you want to curse them? There is this analogy there. 


In this what God is doing is He is going to override Balaam's will.  What does Balaam want to do?  Balaam wants to get the money and curse Israel.  But God is going to demonstrate His sovereign will is not going to include permissive will for him to curse Israel.  Whatever Balaam does God is going to override his volition so that Balaam is going to want to curse.  But what comes out of his mouth is a blessing from God.  So we see that He completely overrides our will at times if we want to go in the wrong direction. 


He did the same thing with Jonah.  Jonah tried to head west and God worked through circumstances to give him a water taxi ride back east. 


So we come down to the first prophecy.  I am just going to skip over these.  One day I am going to come through and spend a lot of time exegeting this. This is one of the most fascinating episodes in the Old Testament because of the prophecies that are included here.  God does not allow Balaam to curse Israel.  And what sets up behind all of this is Balaam is functioning like a typical religious seer, a religious diviner.  We see this juxtaposing that occurs between God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament to prophets versus false religions were picking up on divine revelation. This is indicated in Deuteronomy 18:9f.  There is a warning to Israel.  Remember Deuteronomy is a sermon from Moses just after these events took place.


NKJ Deuteronomy 18:9 " When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.


NKJ Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,


What was Balaam doing?  He is practicing forms of demonism.


NKJ Deuteronomy 18:11 "or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.


Medium, spiritist or one who call up the dead are all talking about the same kind activity.  Some one is trying to contract someone who is already dead, a necromancer.  So Deuteronomy clearly prohibits this type of activity.  This is how Balaam tries to God to have the prophecy. 


NKJ Numbers 23:1 Then Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams."


Now this doesn't fit any of the types of offerings that are identified in Numbers 1-5.  It's not a burnt offering like God defined a burnt offering. This is a perverted form of a burnt offering.  We know from the various documents that these diviners magicians in Mari use that this was standard operating procedure.  This is how they were manipulating the gods.  They mention the same thing of building 7 altars and having 7 sacrifices in order to impress the gods and manipulate gods to speak through them.


NKJ Numbers 23:2 And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar.


Then God speaks to Balaam.  He meets him in verse 4.


NKJ Numbers 23:5 Then the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, "Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak."


He can't say anything else.


NKJ Numbers 23:6 So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab.


Notice that he never uses the word prophecy.  It is always oracle.


NKJ Numbers 23:7 And he took up his oracle and said: "Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, From the mountains of the east. 'Come, curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!'


So he is rehearsing what has happened historically that Balak has called upon him to come and curse Jacob and denounce Israel.


NKJ Numbers 23:8 "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?


NKJ Numbers 23:9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him; There! A people dwelling alone, Not reckoning itself among the nations.


NKJ Numbers 23:10 "Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!"


What was God's promise to Abraham?  That his descendents would be more numerable that the sand of the seashore and the stars in the sky.  So the first prophecy is simply a statement of how God has blessed Israel. But that is not what he intended to say. He was supposed to curse him.  So Balak gets angry with him.


NKJ Numbers 23:13 Then Balak said to him, "Please come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only the outer part of them, and shall not see them all; curse them for me from there."


He uses the same modus operandi which is typical of pagan religions. 


Again God gives Balaam another message. 


One of the verses here is one that should be familiar to you.


NKJ Numbers 23:18 Then he took up his oracle and said: "Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor!


God is speaking. 


NKJ Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?


How many times have you heard that?  Never knew where it came from.  It was right out of Balaam's mouth.  That was one of the prophecies that he gave, the recalcitrant prophet.  He did not want to give this prophecy.  He goes on and he blesses the strength of Israel.


NKJ Numbers 23:23 "For there is no sorcery against Jacob, Nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob And of Israel, 'Oh, what God has done!'


In other words there is such a contrast that God is going to draw in what happens in Israel whole modus operandi of everything that happens in Israel's religion is so different from what happens in the pagan religions.  We have studied this on Thursday nights in Hebrews several times.  While there are similarities between how God revealed Himself to the prophets in the Old Testament it is not to be taken as the same thing that happens in the pagan religions. 


So often you hear people come back and say, "In the Old Testament they had this sort of mystical encounter with God." 


I have used this quote before and it is a great statement.  A tremendous Old Testament scholar by the name of Leon Wood is probably with the Lord now. He was a professor of Old Testament up at Grand Rapids Baptist College.  He wrote several commentaries on the Old Testament including Daniel, Judges Old Testament history of Israel.  He wrote an article addressing the issue of was the modus operandi of the prophets in the Old Testament mystical or ecstatic?


In ecstatic frenzy the subject seeks to withdraw his mind from conscious participation in the world so that it may be opened to the reception of the divine word. 


In other words there is a methodology that they use. They get themselves in some sort of altered state of consciousness through various types of mechanics, dancing or singing. Later on in the Greek fertility religions they do it by getting drunk.  You see the same thing among the Moslems with the whirling dervishes where they work themselves up to get in to this state where the God will speak through them.


He goes on to say…


  To achieve this ecstatic state poisonous gas may be employed.


This is what happened at oracle of Delphi.  It has been discovered that there is a hole that goes way down inside the mountain. In the ancient world they suppose that some kind of gas or noxious fumes came out of that put the oracle into some sort of hypnotic state or hallucinogenic state.


a rhythmic dance or even narcotics.  The desire is to lose all rational contact with the world and so make possible a rapport with the spirit world.  Then the spirit would speak through them.


God is showing in this episode that how God communicates to man is radically different from all of these human viewpoint religions and expectations.  Don't try to interpret the revelatory actions of God in the way you see it expressed with Joseph Smith or Mohammed or any of these so called religious leaders who received revelations from deities in the past.


Wood goes on to say…


Already before Israel's conquest of Palestine, Moses calls himself a prophet.  He states that a prophet like himself would arise after him.  He uses the singular in reference to this one.  So it is correctly taken to mean Christ as the Supreme Prophet thus to arise.  But the context shows that he has reference in a secondary sense also to prophets generally who should appear in later history.  Moses himself was clearly not an ecstatic.

This is where he makes his point.


Hence if prophets to follow him were to be like him neither would they be ecstatics.


So there is a difference that occurs.  That is what God is showing and saying through Balaam in the second prophecy – that he doesn't use the MO of sorcery and divination and all of the religious modus operandi. 


Then there is a third prophecy that is given in chapter 24. Again they try to manipulate God to allow Balaam to curse Israel.  But no, God is going bless Israel through Balaam.

NKJ Numbers 24:3 Then he took up his oracle and said: "The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,


NKJ Numbers 24:4 The utterance of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open:


Notice he hears the words of God.  This is a totally different modus operandi here than what he was used to.  He is like the witch of Endor.  Remember the witch of Endor at the end of Samuel has been going through this typical medium magical operation working with a ventriloquist ov demon in the Hebrew or engastromuthos demon in the Greek.  Typically what happened at that time there would be this disembodied voice that would come like a ventriloquist.  This was the dead person speaking.  When she casts her spell instead of a voice, Samuel appeared.  She was shocked because this isn't how it was done.  That is what is happening with Balaam. He is so used to using typical magical divination practices to get the God's to speak then when all of a sudden God of Yahweh is speaking through him it's just a completely different kind of thing.  He uses different words to describe it. Therein he blesses Israel and talks about their future blessing and prosperity.

NKJ Numbers 24:9 'He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?' "Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you."


I am just skipping over the highlights here.  By this time he completely gives up the pagan method of operation. He goes up on a hill overlooking the people and God gives him a fourth prophecy. This was one of the greatest Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. 


NKJ Numbers 24:17 "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, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.


He is talking about the Messiah.


NKJ Numbers 24:18 "And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, While Israel does valiantly.


NKJ Numbers 24:19 Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, And destroy the remains of the city."

This is one of the great messianic prophecies linking the idea of a star- and what do we see in Revelation 22 – Jesus is the great morning star.  What do we see that announces the birth of the Savior?  It is a star in the sky.  It is not a natural star because a natural star cannot point out a house which is what that star did.  It was a representation of the Shekinah glory.  So four times Balaam has to say what God wants him to say.  It's God's overriding will. 


In conclusion, what do we see in decision making?  Let's put all of this together and wrap it up quickly.  First of all when you have to make tough decision in life the first thing you do is commit it to prayer.  You go to the Lord in prayer that God will make clear to you all the data, all the facts, all the evidence that has to be made clear.


We have promises. 


NKJ 1 Peter 5:7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.


Whatever is concerning you, whatever you make a decision about put it on the Lord.


NKJ Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;


NKJ Philippians 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.


Will guide you in your decision making?


That is not what it says.  That is how so many Christians read it.  God will protect you.  The last part of the verse isn't a guidance mechanism.  The issue is to commit it to the Lord in prayer, make sure you are in fellowship (that's the second thing, confession I John 1`:9) as you go through the decision making process. 


Third, evaluate your motives in making the decision.  You want to make choice A.  That is what you really want to do.  Evaluate the lust patterns of you old sin nature.  You know it.  You can be honest.  Why?  What are your motives?  Evaluate your lust pattern.  You know it.  You can be honest.  Are you being motivated by power lust?  Are you being motivated by greed, materialism, money lust, sex lust?  Is there any sin that underlies your desire to do that?  If not, great move to the fourth point. 


The fourth point is to search the wisdom literature of the Scripture to see if that category is addressed.  Is it financial?  Does it have to do with family?  Does it have to do with education?  Does it have to do with taking care of friends or family?  You can go through the proverbs.  This is something that anybody can do.  Read the proverbs.  Each proverb deals with a different category.  Get out a spiral notebook and start labeling the categories.  Write out all the proverbs under each category.  Does it have to do with money?  Does it have to do with work?  Does it have to do with family?  Does it have to do with lust?  Does it have to do with wisdom?  You can go through and categorize all the different proverbs and then go back and use that as something to search through when you have decisions to make. 


Fifth, after you go through the wisdom literature search the Scripture to see if there are any biblical mandates that relate to area you are making a decision on.  Are you having to make a decision about money?  Purchase of a home?  Indebtedness?  Moving?  Family responsibilities that may be involved if you move out of an area?  List the biblical mandate which may be involved. 


Sixth, answer key questions related to your spiritual life. Will this enhance or detract from my spiritual life and spiritual growth.  In what ways can this decision impact my ability to serve the Lord with reference to my own spiritual gift?  We all have spiritual gifts. 


A lot of people say, "I don't know what mine is."


Probably you have the gift of service which is a broad category and you can operate and serve in many different ways in the church - in music, in Sunday school, or cleaning the place. There are lots of different ways you can utilize that spiritual gift of service.  There are some decisions people make in life that they can't ever utilize their spiritual gift. 


Then one day they wake up and they are 45 or 50 and they go, "I have the gift of pastor teacher." 


Oops!  What am I going to do now?  Well, it's too late because you didn't make good decisions when you were younger.  You were more concerned about other things.  Ask this question especially when you are young and you are working through key issues that impact the rest of your life.  How can this decision affect the way I serve the Lord in my local congregation?


Another question, can doing that I want to do become a distraction which interferes  with my priority to learn doctrine, grow as a believer and be involved in my local church?  It may be a hobby, something that you really enjoy doing; but you know if you pursue it you run the risk o f being a major distraction later on in life.  So you chose not to do it not because there is anything wrong with it, but because you realize there is a higher priority. 


Seventh, list the pros and cons in the decision.  What are the strengths and the weaknesses?  If I go for decisions A, what do I get out of it and what might it cost me?  If I go for decisions B, what do I get out of it and what might it cost me?  What is the upside?  What is the downside?  Think about what will happen if the results of the decision don't come through.  Think about what will happen if you make this decision. 


Let's say you have a job opportunity.  You say, "I am going to take this job I am going to go across the country and go to work for this company. They are promising me a tremendous salary and opportunity.  It is just what I have always wanted.  It has got to be God's will."


What happens if three months from now the company gets sold and the position is removed?  You don't have a job anymore.  How are you going to deal with that?  Think about what happens if you make the decision and you think by doing X you will get Y. But what happens if you never get Y? What if it turns out to be worse? 


What happens if you think, "I need to marry this person."  Three months after you are married they are involved in some sort of horrible accident or they get a disease and you end up being a health care person for the next 40 years. 


Nobody ever thinks about that when they get married.  You stand up there and you go through the wedding vows. 


You say, "For better or for worse."


What people hear is "for better" "for prosperity" and "for health." They never hear adversity, sickness, or for worse.  They never hear that part of it.  But that is what is in those vows.  Think about what happens if you make the decision and nothing you want from the decision ever comes to pass.  Is it a wise decision?


Eighth, seek advice from mature experienced believers who have expertise in that field.  Is it a financial decision?  Are you purchasing a home, trying to make a decision where to go to college, or a career decision….  Look for mature believers who have expertise in that are who can give you wise advice, questions to get answered, things to think through so that you can get more facts. 


Finally as long as you are trusting God and have a sound biblical motive to make a wise decision to enhance to serve God to be involved in the community and the decision does not entail any kind of carnality then it is within God's decreed moral will and go for it.  As long as you in fellowship as long as your motive is right, as long as you are not being motivated by the sin nature or lust pattern, your desire is to serve the Lord, you are not violating any mandate or prohibitions in Scripture then go for it.  But realize that even when you make the decision and do it for all the right reasons and you take into account all of the facts that in His sovereign will and overriding will you may make decision X and never get what you want because God wanted you to be in that position to take you through a test of adversity.  Just because things don't work out the way you thought they would doesn't mean that it wasn't God's will or that you made a bad decision. Sometimes a good decision puts you in a position where God wants you to test you so that you can grow and mature as a believer.


With that we have covered the territory on understanding the will of God.  We will come back next time and see how this works out in the closing stages of Jacob's life as he is leaving Padam Aram and headed back to the land of his fathers.  He gets specific divine revelation as to where he should go and what he should do.