Numbers 22:4b–6, 31–35; 23:19–23comment (0)
December 22, 2011
By Dale Younce
Related Scripture: Numbers 22:4b–6, 31–35; 23:19–23
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Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Stay Grateful for God’s Care
Numbers 22:4b–6, 31–35; 23:19–23
Many adults have experienced times when they have wondered if anyone genuinely cares about them. They feel alone in the world and cannot see how they can find help to face a serious challenge to their well-being. Oftensuch feelings of despair and loneliness are based on faulty perception, not reality. In the case of believers, they can know, from the Scriptures, that God always cares about them and is able to protect and provide for them. They can realize, too, that often God acts on their behalf providentially without their activity or immediate awareness. This week’s lesson points out the fact that God does, at times, take extraordinary measures to care for His own.
Some Will Oppose God’s People (22:4b–6)
Israel, under Moses’ leadership, was approaching the land of Canaan from the southeast. Every enemy Israel had encountered had been defeated: Amalek (Ex. 17:8–16), the king of Arad (Num. 21:1–3), the Amorites (Num. 21:21–25) and the troops of Og, king of Bashan (Num. 21:33–35). The reports of Israel’s recent, remarkable victories over the various Canaanite and Amorite kings terrified Balak, king of Moab. It appeared that Moab would be the next country on the Israelite “hit list,” and as a result, Moab’s inhabitants were filled with fear. Feeling so clearly threatened by such a vast number of soldiers and people, Balak dispatched a delegation of messengers charged with the responsibility of enlisting Balaam, a pagan soothsayer, to place a curse upon the Israelites. Since Balak believed that there was no military force available to resist the forces of Israel, he sought to battle Israel on the level of pagan occult power, the use of the supernatural means of an effective curse. In the ancient world, this idea was based upon a belief in the power of the spoken word.
Balaam was a Gentile who lived in a place called Pethor near the Euphrates River (Num. 22:5; Deut. 23:4), about 350 miles from Moab. He apparently had a widespread reputation in the ancient Middle East for success in receiving hidden knowledge about the future (divination) and using occult power to grant blessing or cursing (incantation). He was willing to sell his services to anyone who would pay his fee. Although he was a pagan diviner, the Lord chose him to receive a genuine prophetic revelation. Even though he functioned in this one instance as a genuine prophet, in the end, Balaam proved to be an enemy of the Lord and His people. He was a hireling prophet who finally succumbed to the pressure of worldly prestige and money.
Individual believers today may or may not be aware that they create a striking effect upon some people merely by their physical presence. Christians need to realize that some people or groups feel threatened by their message and influence and, as a result, may take steps to oppose them.
God Brings Good Where Some Intend Evil (22:31–35)
Balaam was definitely a hireling who was interested first and foremost in money (2 Pet. 2:15). The Lord told him not to go with the delegation from Balak. Although he twice refused to accept Balak’s summons, he deceptively maneuvered around God’s will in order to go to Moab and receive his fee. He hoped that God would change His mind. His experience with his donkey and an angel was designed by God to reinforce His displeasure with Balaam’s motivation for going. When Balaam offered to return home, God told him to continue on to Balak but say only what He told him to say.
While Christians may suffer hardships or physical harm at the hands of those who intend evil against God’s people, they can endure with hope because God is able to bring about His good purposes even in circumstances in which others meant evil.
God Never Ceases to Care for His People (23:19–23)
In a series of four oracles (prophetic statements) received by Balaam and delivered to Balak (Num. 22:39–24:19), God providentially spoke through the pagan soothsayer. In the second oracle, Balaam, rather than cursing Israel, blessed Israel as a people whose God was constantly with them, caring for them, shielding them from evil and doing great things for them.
The same God who demonstrated His care for His ancient people Israel also cares for us today. Christians have reason to be forever grateful for God’s unceasing presence and providential care for them.