About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 23:27 through 24

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ch. 23-27:1-24:14   ch.24:15-19    ch.25:20-24

Balaam's Third Oracle (ch. 23:27 24:14)


In verses 27 and 28 Balak takes Balaam to yet another place so he can oversee how huge Israel is.  He is still hoping that Balaam will change his mind and place a curse on Israel .


Balak taking Balaam from place to place to curse Israel reminds me of the time when satan took Jesus from place to place while He was in the desert to tempt Him to do his will.  Of course, Jesus refused. 


Verse 1 tells us that Balaam did not resort to sorcery as he often did after knowing God's will.  Here we see Balaam's Babylonian religion peaking through.  He was indeed a sorcerer.  The amazing thing here is that God is using a polytheistic, Babylonian sorcerer to proclaim His word for Israel to a non Jewish leader.  I said it before, but God can use whoever He wants to proclaim his word.  He used Caiaphas during the days of Jesus to predict Jesus death as He proclaimed it to the Sanhedrin. 


Verse 2 tells us that the Spirit of God came on Balaam.  How amazing.  The Spirit of God came on a sinner such as he was.  This does not mean that just because the Spirit of God comes on a person means he is saved.  You cannot make that deduction.  There is only one road to salvation, and all must walk down that road.  The point here is simple.  God can use the unsaved, but the process of being used does not constitute salvation.


In verse 3 we note the phrase, "his eyes see clearly".  This is speaking of his spiritual eyes, or his understanding.  I'm not convinced that Balaam's eyes saw clearly on all things.  I think we have seen that.  The point here is that concerning Israel, his eyes were seeing clearly, his understanding was correct. 


Verse 4 speaks very well of Balaam.  It's not only his eyes that are wide open, but he hears well too.  He falls prostrate on the ground before God.  Even a pagan in the presence of God falls to the ground, as all men will do at the end of this age, whether sinner or saint.  


Balaam to me appears to be a real mystery man.  Why did God choose him?  Does he represent anything or anyone prophetically?  As I write, I'm not sure the answer to these questions


As Balaam stands high on a hill and over looks the twelve tribes of Israel and sees their tents, he prophesies of their beauty.  He speaks very poetically.  He compares the tents of Israel to a garden by a river.  Balaam is seeing God's people as God Himself sees them at this present time. Now we know that God doesn't always see Israel in such a good  light.  We know that He sends His wrath to them on occasion, but right now, just before they enter the promised land, God sees His people as a garden.  I believe when Jesus returns to earth, He will see both the church and Israel as a well watered garden as well.  Jesus will come in wrath against the sin of man, but in love for His own people.


In verse 7 we note that there will be an abundance of water flowing out of and through Israel.  This would be significant because for the last forty years they lived in the dry desert and always struggled with no water, but Balaam now sees Israel as a people who will prosper. 


Some Bible teachers tend to spiritualize this passage by suggesting that it is prophetic of the washing of the word of God in salvation that we see in the New Testament.  The water of the Holy Spirit not only flows into the believer but also flows out of him.   


The last half of verse 7 speaks of the king of Israel, that he will be great, and his kingdom will be exalted.  The same Bible teachers that suggest the water is prophetic in the first half of this verse say the same here.  The king is Jesus, and the Kingdom is the future rule of Jesus on earth.  That being said, Israel, for a brief time in history would be great.  We do need to note however, at this point in time, Israel has no king, so the king spoken of here has to be prophetic, whether it is Jesus or an earthly king like king David.


In verse 8 Balaam prophesies about the strength of Israel in pretty violent terms.  He says that Israel will break the bones of their enemies in pieces.   All this with the help of their God, something that many people struggle with.  I've heard people say that they cannot believe in a God who is involved in so much violence such as this. 


At this point in time, I'd like to present you with an article I wrote concerning God and violence. 


One Muslim man told me that he couldn't believe in the God of the Bible because of the acts of violence God commits in the Old Testament.  This man did fail to mention  how many people Mohamed had killed.  Charles Templeton was a famous Christian evangelist in the 1940's, and Billy Graham's best friend. He became disillusioned with God for similar reasons  and became a well known atheist.     


In Numbers 15:32 to 36 God had a man killed just for gathering some wood on the Sabbath.  In Numbers 16 God killed 14,700 Israeli's because of their rebellious complaining.  In Numbers 25 God killed 24,000 Israeli's with a plague. 


In Numbers 25 a priest named Phinehas shared God's feelings about Israeli men committing adultery with pagan women and worshipping their gods.  Phinehas was so upset that he drove his spear through one of these men and his pagan adulterous.  God was so pleased with Phinehas' zeal that He blessed him for this violence by making a lasting covenant with him that has prophetic significance. 


Romans 15:14 tells us that what was written in the Old Testament was written so we could learn.  What can we possibly learn from such violence?  Some of us don't learn anything because we don't try to understand the Old Testament.  If we ignore the Old Testament, we will fail to understand the New Testament. 


Some Christians get around their struggles over this violence by saying God has changed in New Testament times, but that's not true.  There is no Biblical evidence suggesting that God thinks any differently today than He did in Moses' day.   When it comes to violence, anger, wrath, and war, the New Testament book of Revelation proves God has not changed. 


So what's going on with all this violence?  Right in the very beginning God warned Adam about such things.  God told Adam that death would enter humanity if he disobeyed Him.  You know the story.  All aspects of death entered our existence, including death by killing, and guess who was the first to kill?  God was the first one to kill when he killed an animal to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness.  


God hates sin more than we can ever imagine.  He also doesn't think, feel, or do anything, in half-way measures.  When He expresses love, it's to the fullest.  When He expresses anger, it's to the fullest.  That's why He killed the man gathering wood on the Sabbath.  So I say, "the degree to which we can begin to understand how God hates sin, will be the degree to which we can begin to appreciate His love".  I also say, "the degree to which we can understand the Old Testament will be the degree to which we can understand the New Testament.      


God does love us, but He hates our sin.  On one hand He feels the need to kill us, and on the other hand He feels the need to rescue us.  To solve this apparent dilemma, God reproduced Himself in a human body, who He called His Son.  The reason for Jesus' earthly existence was to go to the cross, where He would not only be punished for our sin, but become sin.  That's why He killed Jesus and the man gathering a bit of wood in Numbers 15. 


God feels the same way about sin today as He did in the past.  That's the story of the Bible.  Man is sinful and is  unable to dig himself out of the pit of sin, so God does that for him.  If we reject God's provision to rescue us from His wrath, we have no other hope.  The Lake of Fire waits for us at the end of this age. 


Our confusion over the matter of God and violence stems from the fact that we don't know the Bible sufficiently enough to know who God is.  The Bible makes it clear that God is both a God of love and a God of war.  For example, many times when you see "the Angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament, who most believe is pre-incarnate Jesus, He has a sword in His hand. (Numbers 22:23)  In Revelation 1, Jesus is portrayed as a powerful man of war.  We just have to accept the fact that this is who God is.  He is the all-powerful God of love who will use His almighty power to destroy the sinfulness of satan and man. 


This does not mean that Christians are people of violence.  Romans 12:19 says, "do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord".  Our job is to proclaim the fact that we can find peace with God and escape His wrath through our Lord Jesus Christ.  It's God's job to avenge, judge, condemned, and bring to a violent end those who continue to refuse His supreme act of love as seen in the cross of Christ.     


So when you read God being so violent in the Old Testament, just thank Jesus for rescuing you from His wrath.  All the violence we see in the Old Testament teaches us how God feels about sin, which should cause us to fall to our knees in repentance and thank Him for His love.  This is an aspect of the gospel that is seldom heard these days, and given the present atmosphere of religious extremism, the world could easily misconstrue these words.    


Now back to the text.  In verse 9 Balaam compares Israel to a lion and a lioness as he did in his last oracle.  This reminds me of  Jesus being called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah".   Over the centuries, for the most part, Israel has not appeared to belike a lion.  For some brief moments in the Old Testament Israel was lion like, and as they entered Canaan this was one of those times.  Being lion-like was totally due to God's blessings.


The last part of verse 9 is part of the Abrahamic Covenant restated, as it often is throughout the Old Testament.  Balaam says that whoever blesses Israel will be blessed and whoever curses Israel will be cursed.  There is no hint in the Bible that God has retracted these words.  Galatians 3:16 certainly doesn't as some think.  I think it is amazing that God is using a pagan sorcerer to promote the Abrahamic Covenant.


We see Balak extremely angry again.  He clapped his hands together and told Balaam to go home.  He also said that the Lord caused him not to be paid for his services.  Balak did not pay Balaam because Balaam did not curse Israel, and that was the Lord's fault. 


Just because Balak calls the Lord the Lord, does not mean the he actually believes in the Lord.  You might think of it this way.  Balak probably meant, "your so-called Lord caused you to not receive your reward".  He might have been saying this sarcastically  


Verses 12 through 14 ends this section by Balaam reminding Balak that even before he left to visit Balak, he told Balak's servant that he would only speak the word of the Lord.  No money, no riches would change that.  If Christians would have the same conviction today we'd all be better off. 


Balaam's Fourth Oracle (ch. 24:15 19 )  


Before Balaam leaves he does say a few more things.  This section is entitled Balaam's fourth oracle.


Verses 15 and 16 are a repeat of what we've seen in the other oracles.  These words concern the point that Balaam has the spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear from the Lord God, and that he falls face down before the Lord in reverence.  You might ask, "who is saying these words'?  "Is Balaam saying these words about himself or is he speaking what God is saying to him?:  These oracles are prophetic.  I believe that Balaam is not saying this about himself.  It is God speaking through Balaam.  God is saying these things about Balaam so Balak can understand jus who he is dealing with.  Balak is not simply dealing with a man named Balaam.  He is dealing with God Himself. 


What Balaam is about to prophesy in verses 17 to 19 is clearly prophetic of the Messiah, of Jesus.  


In verse 17 Balaam says, "I see him but not now.  I behold him but not near".   Who does the word "him" refer to.  I believe "him" refers to Jesus.  Balaam sees and beholds a man, but that man is far in the distance.  This is a man that will come on behalf of Israel.  This man is Jesus, although Balaam certainly does not know that.


Also in verse 17 Balaam says, "a star will come out of Jacob, a scepter out of Israel".   The star and the scepter symbolize the rule of a king.  Jesus is the king and He will come out of Jacob, out of Israel, and He will rule.  I ask, "had Jesus ruled yet".  In one sense of the word He is ruling right now as He sits on the right hand of God.  But that is not what this passage is talking about.  This passage is speaking of Jesus coming out of Israel.  When Jesus was on earth, He came as a servant Messiah.  When He returns to earth at the end of this age, He will return as King of all things, and He will rule from Jerusalem, as one who comes out of Israel.  I believe this is what this passage is speaking of.


Verse 18 lists a number of nations that this man, who we know is Jesus will conquer and crush.  I'm sure each one of these listed nations have prophetic significance to the end of this age, but I'm not sure what they mean at the moment.  We can be assured that Jesus will conquer all the nations of the world.  The book of Revelation makes that clear.


Verse 19 says that a ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.  To me it is clear that the ruler is Jesus, but the city that is mentioned here is uncertain to me.  I do wonder if it is not the future city of Jerusalem as seen at the end of this age.


Balaam's Fifth Oracle (ch. 24:20 - 24)


In this section there are nations mentioned that will be destroyed.  In one way or other these nations were conquered by Israel in later generations.  That being said, their might well be some future prophetic significance to these nations.                  



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