Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Numbers 22-25 - the Life of Moses

(My BSF notes)

Last week we saw Israel complain again about the food and water so God sent a judgment of poisonous snakes.  Some of the people were bitten and died.  God then told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole.  When the people who were bitten looked on it, they would live.  God didn’t remove the snakes, just as He doesn’t remove sin from the world.  Instead He provided a way to cure every person of sin.  All we have to do is to look at the cross and believe Jesus died on our behalf. 

Numbers 22 – Balaam’s Summons

Israel traveled to Moab and camped by the Jordan. The people of Moab heard about Israel’s battles with Sihon and Og and what Israel had done to them.  They were terrified of the two million Israelites and were filled with dread.  (Num. 22:1-3)  They could have had peace talks and maybe formed a treaty or they could have taken their concerns to God.  They really had no reason to fear, because God had forbidden Israel to attack Moab.   They just assumed they were in danger so the king of Moab, Balak sent for Balaam and asked him to put a curse on Israel. 

Who was this Balaam?  Is he a real prophet?  Is he a believer?  It’s confusing to tell here.  He had an reputation of being a great sorcerer and was hired by Balak to put a curse on Israel.   Later in Numbers 25 we will see the Israelites get into sexual immorality with Moabite women and worship their gods.  Then later in Numbers 31 we will see that this was Balaam’s idea.  He gave the advice to send in the women to the Israelite men.  He was offered lots of money to make Israel go away.  At first you think he is not going to give in the temptation, but we don’t see the whole story here.  1 Peter 2:15 warns about false teachers and mentions Balaam.  And in Rev. 2:14 Jesus rebukes the church at Pergamos for teaching the doctrine of Balaam.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” – 1 Thess. 4:3.  “Flee sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who commits sexually sins against his own body.” 1 Cor. 6:18.  God wants us to keep sex where it belongs, in marriage.

It is possible that Balaam was a believer.  He did speak for God by blessing Israel.  Then we read in Num. 24:1 that he resorted to sorcery at times.  If he was a believer, he is not one you want to be like.  The New Testament makes it pretty clear he was a false teacher. (1 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, Rev. 2:14)  False teachers know enough about God and speak the right words to convenience others they are true believers.  Remember God can use anyone He wants to carry out His plan.

The Moab messengers took a fee for divination for Balaam hoping it would convince him to put a curse on Israel.  Balaam didn’t refuse or send them away.  Instead he asks them to spend the night and that he would ask the Lord what he should do.  God asked Balaam who these men were and Balaam told God what they wanted.  God answered Balaam telling him not to go with them and not to put a curse on Israel, because they are blessed. (Num 22:7-12)

Balak didn’t take no for an answer, but sent more messengers to Balaam, probably with more money.
Balaam refused, but asked them to stay the night again and he would ask the Lord what to do.  God then allowed Balaam to go with them, probably only to send a message to Balak.

So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.  Then God gets angry.  Is God changing His mind?  I think Balaam is getting excited about financial gain and God is concerned he will get carried away with his lust for money. 

Then the angel of the Lord with his sword stood in the road in front of the donkey.  Balaam didn’t see the angel, but the donkey did.  The donkey turned and went into the field and Balaam struck him to get back on the path.  Balaam kept pushing the donkey and then God opened the donkey’s mouth and he spoke to Balaam.  The donkey is caught between the angel of the Lord with his sword and Balaam’s stick.  Balaam is caught between God’s will and Balak’s pushing for a curse.  This is funny story and a miracle, but the point of the story is the humiliation of Balaam.

Finally Balaam saw the angel of the Lord and bowed down.  The angel told Balaam to go with the men and speak only what he is told.  So Balaam went with them.  Then Balak took Balaam to higher ground to get a glimpse of part of the Israelites hoping to change his mind.

Do you try to manipulate God?
Where are you comprising God’s commands?
When has God spoke to you in an unusual way?
God uses the most unlikely people and even used a donkey, so are you willing to let God use you?

Principle:  God will not be manipulated.

Numbers 23-24 – Balaam’s Oracles

(Balaam 1st Oracle, Num. 23:1-12)  An oracle is a parable or a poem.  The divination begins.  Balaam had Balak built 7 altars and prepare 7 bulls and 7 rams as offerings.  This is part of Balaam pagan practice.  Then he went to the Lord to influence Him as to what he should do.  The Lord told Balaam again not to curse Israel, because they are a people set apart.  They are holy people.  Balaam returned to Balak and told him what the Lord said.  Balaam promised he would say only what God told him to say.

(Balaam’s 2nd Oracle, Num. 23:13-26)  Balak was angry and took Balaam to another place where he can see all the people.  Again Balaam built 7 altars with 7 offerings.   Balaam then went to God for an answer.  God told him that He cannot lie and does not change His mind.  God promised to bless Israel.  Needless to say Balak was very angry.

(Balaam’s 3rd Oracle, Num. 23:27-24:14)   Balak took Balaam to another place thinking this might change his mind.  Balak didn’t give up.  Again Balaam built 7 altars and prepared 7 offerings.  Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel and didn’t use sorcery as he had done before.  Doesn’t sound like he’s a believer to me.  The spirit of God came upon him and uttered his oracle.  This sounds confusing, because he is not a believer.  God used him anyway.  God gave future blessings on Israel.  They would live abundantly.  Kings and kingdoms would be exalted and they would devour hostile nations.   Of course Balak’s anger burned against Balaam.

(Balaam’s 4th Oracle, Num. 24:15-19)  Balaam told Balak that he can do nothing on his own beyond the command of the Lord and that he was going back to his people.  Before he left he gave Balak a warning.  He predicted that One who is greater than David will come and reign on the throne forever. This of course is Jesus.  Israel would conquer Moab and Edom and Israel will be strong.

(Balaam’s Final Oracle, Num. 24:20-25)  Balaam gave his final oracle predicting Israel’s future conquering of the Amelkites, Kenites, Asshur, and Eber.  Then Balaam returned home and Balak went away.

Balaam’s sin was the love of money.  It’s a good reminder that no one can serve both God and money. (Matt. 6:24)  Money itself is not good or bad, but it’s the love of money that is the root to evil. (1 Tim 6:10)  Loving money can lead to discontent.  The more money you have can lead you to not depending on God.

Balaam’s words didn’t make him a true prophet.  He was a pagan prophet for hire.  He only repeated God’s words.  He didn’t believe in the Lord as the only true God.  He practiced divination and sorcery.  He was out for himself.  He was a people-pleaser.  He lusted for money.  He was a false teacher.  His motives were obedience for profits and eventually led to his death.  He realized the power of God, but his heart was occupied by the wealth he could gain in Moab.  There he returned to die when the armies of Israel invaded.

Do you believe in the one true living God?    
Are you certain you are going to heaven?
If not, will you repent and confess your sins and trust Him to forgive?   

Take Him at His Word and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for you, rose to life on the 3rd day, and sits on the right hand of God.  Then stop doubting and trust in your salvation.  Satan loves it when we doubt God.  Stay on your knees in prayer.  Stay in His Word daily so He can assure you of your inheritance.

"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." - Job 42:2
God never changes His ideas about sin or His ideas about salvation.

How are you tempted to make plans to do what you want instead of what God wants?
Will you ask Him to show you what is best for you?

Numbers 25 – Israel’s Seduction

While the Israelites were camped in Moab country, they began committing immoralities.  They were having sex with temple prostitutes and with those whom they were not married.  They also committed spiritual immorality.  They bowed down before the Moab gods and worshiped the god Baal of Peor.  The Lord’s anger burned against them.  God told Moses to have the leaders of the rebellious people killed and expose them in front of the whole assembly of people.  God wanted all the people to see the consequences of their sins.  One sin leads to another.  First they sinned by having immoral sex and that lead to worshipping the Moabite gods.

There was an Israelite man who brought a Midianite woman into the tent and for sex.  When Phinehas, son of Eleazer, son of Aaron the priest, saw this he could not contain himself.  They were dishonoring God!  He took his sword and killed both the man and the woman.  The plague against Israel was stopped.  24,000 died in the plague. (the plague is the immoralities)

God said to Moses, “Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.”  - Num. 25:11.  Phinehas had a pure motive.  It was nothing about revenge or self-serving, but it was only about God’s honor.  God then made a covenant of lasting priesthood with Phinehas and his descendants, because he made atonement for the Israelites.  From that point on God told Israel to treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them.

God protects His people.  God is our protector and will not tolerate sin.

How zealously are you honoring God with your choices?
When has your sin influenced others?
What situation have you honored God when others did not?

God may permit sin, but he never tolerates it.
Zealousness for God's honor is displayed by our heartfelt obedience.


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