From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 23

Balaam stood on the heights of Baal and ordered seven – the number of perfection or completion – altars to be built and seven rams and seven sheep prepared for offerings.

Balak had them prepared and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar[1]. Then Balaam told Balak to stand watch by the offering while he went by himself to see if Yahweh would meet with him. He condescended to tell Balak that he would report to him what Yahweh said. He went off by his self and began casting spells that he assumed would exert powerful influence over Yahweh.

Yahweh did meet with Balaam and Balaam bragged that he had built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each. Remember that the ancients were in the habit of bribing their gods with sacrifices.

Yahweh told him to return to Balak with a message from him so he returned and told Balak and all the nobles of Moab what Yahweh said.

Under the power of the Holy Spirit of Yahweh he said that Balak had sent all the way to Aram (present day Syria) in the eastern mountains to bring Balaam back to Moab and curse Israel. He asked Balak and his nobles how he could curse a nation that God had not cursed or damn Israel when Yahweh did not damn them. He said he saw them from the heights where Balak led him. He saw that they would always be preserved as a distinct nation, thinking of themselves outsiders among the nations. He said there were so many of them that trying to count them would be like trying to count particles of dust. He concluded his speech about Yahweh’s chosen people by saying that they were a righteous people and he would be honored if he should leave life with the future Israel had. “Let me die the death of innocent people. Let my end be like theirs.”[2]

Balak was upset and chastised Balaam for blessing Israel instead of cursing them but Balaam reminded him that he had been careful to warn him that he had to speak the words Yahweh put in his mouth to speak.

Balak thought maybe if Balaam could only see the outskirts of the Israelite’s camp it would give him courage to curse them for him, so he took him to Watchmen’s Meadow at the top of Mount Pisgah and built seven altars there. He burned a ram and bull on each one.

Balaam told him to take up his station and he would meet with Yahweh by his self again. He cast more magic spells that would surely influence Yahweh’s decision, and again Yahweh sent him back to Balak with a message.

Balaam returned and told Balak and the Moabite noblemen that Yahweh said for Balak to stand up and listen carefully. He called him the son of the bird and may have been referring to the magical metal bird that the Kabalah says he carried on his shoulder and trusted in for prophesy and spiritual guidance. Yahweh told Balak, through the mouth of Balaam, that he is not a man given to lies or changing his mind. He told Balak that he said what he meant and did what he said he would do – and never made promises that he didn’t keep. He would keep his promises to his chosen people. Then Balaam told Balak that he was brought to Balak to bless Yahweh’s people – Yahweh blessed them and Balaam couldn’t change it. He further told Balak that Yahweh had no vision of misfortune or trouble for his chosen people. Balaam told Balak and his people that Yahweh was with Israel and they were with him, shouting praises to their King who brought them out of Egypt. Balaam said, “No magic spells can bind Jacob, and no incantations can hold back Israel. People will look at Jacob and Israel and say, “What a great thing has God done!” Look, a people raising to its feet, stretching like a lion, like a king-of-the-beasts, aroused, not sleeping, and not resting until its hunt is over and it’s eaten and drunk its fill.”

Balak implored Balaam to shut up. He said, “If you can’t curse them, at least don’t bless them.”

Balaam reminded Balak that he had told him earlier that all God spoke and only what he spoke Balaam would speak.

Balak tried again. Perhaps he could change Yahweh’s mind with more sacrifices from a different vantage point. He took Balaam to the top of Mount Peor where he would be looking at Israel over the wasteland to see if he could curse Yahweh’s chosen people from there.

They repeated the exercise with the seven altars and seven rams and bulls on that mountain

Balaam had been trying to get Yahweh to change his mind by using sorcery the same way that people today use what they call prayers that are supposed to influence God. People today use prayers in the same way Balaam used magic spells. They pass them around on Facebook, or in churches, with the promise that if the recipient will just say these words it will bring them good luck – happiness, money and power, or even dispel old curses. Well-meaning preachers of the gospel promise that if the hearer will repeat a prayer after them they will be saved. Yahweh reads our hearts and he knew Balaam’s heart was full of greed but he used him to declare his blessing on his chosen people in the presence of Israel’s enemies.

 

Summary of chapter 23

When they arrived at the high places of Baal Balaam ordered Balak to build seven altars and prepare oxen and rams for sacrifice. Balaam inquired of Yahweh, received an answer which he returned and repeated to Balak. When Balak, found that this was a prediction of the prosperity of the Israelites, he was greatly troubled. Balaam excused himself and Balak took him to another place, where he could only see a part of Israel, and repeated his sacrifices. Balaam again consulted Yahweh and returned with his answer, and again predicted the glory of Israel. Balak was angry and Balaam again excused himself. Balak proposed another trial and took him to another place where he repeated the same sacrifices.

 

Prayer: Lord, when your Kingdome comes your purpose will be achieved on Earth just as it is in Heaven. Secret things belong to you, but you have revealed to us that righteousness, joy, and peace in your Holy Spirit are the substance of your Kingdom. I will harmonize my actions and words to your will not merely out of duty but because I want to serve you with all my heart – because I am delighted to follow your commandments. Lord, I pray in agreement with Mark and Jill Herringshaw. Your word in Isaiah 55:9, says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In response to your word I say, “I thank you for being above me and knowing what is best for me.” In this life, we are all searching for our purpose and asking for your will to be done. Nevertheless, let us not be blindsided and naive to think that as we ask, so we are ready for it to be revealed and respond accordingly. I pray for your family that as each of us comes to a point in our lives where we dare to ask you to reveal your will for us, that you would put us in a place of acceptance of what you reveal to us. I admit that, for myself, it may not be what I want, but it will surely be what I need in order to live a life fully invested in you. When fear attempts to consume me, be the destroyer of the fear by your perfect love for I know it casts out all fear. When you see that I am tempted to turn back and ignore your will, chasten my spirit and help me to see that you only want the best for me. Help me to realize that anything you bring into my life and anything you reveal to me is for my good. Give me a spirit of acceptance and a heart open to your move in my life. Most of all Lord, don’t let me ever get so caught up in seeking you out for a revelation that I forget to seek you, for you. Help me to always desire to be with you above all things. I seek your kingdom first and let everything else be added after that. I will let your love surround me and, by your word, cast out any fear or doubts. Help me to live in love with you, accept your will for my life and give me the proper response to your revelation.[3]

 

 

Things to think about

  1. Balaam cast spells that he thought would influence Yahweh’s decision. Do you think there is ever a time when our prayers can sway Yahweh’s decisions? What is it about Yahweh’s character that influenced your answer?
  2. The greatest mistake Balak and Balaam made, in their efforts to get power over Israel, was that they got Yahweh’s character confused with their man-made gods. Can you think of incidents in your life today where you or others have done the same thing?
  3. Balaam told Balak that Israel would always be a distinct nation and consider their selves a people apart. Did history validate that statement?
  4. Yeshua/Jesus taught his followers that our Heavenly Father delights to give us what we ask for[4]. Another time he told them that if they asked anything in his name[5] he will do it. Do you think asking “in Jesus name” will get you anything you want? Would Yahweh have changed his mind and let Balaam curse his chosen people if he had been able to “pray in Jesus name”? Eugene Peterson wording of what Yeshua said makes it plain that “in “Jesus name” aren’t magic words that will get us what we want without regard to Yahweh’s will. He said, “From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it.” Think about that.
  5. Why did Yahweh bless his chosen people? For what did he choose them? Are you and I chosen people?[6] What is the difference between us today, and the nation of Israel in those days?
  6. Why do you think Balak thought that if he took Balaam to another vantage point that he would be able to curse Yahweh’s people? Why do you think Balaam went with him? Was his purpose in going different from Yahweh’s purpose in his going?
  7. Do you think that Balak really listened to what Yahweh was saying to him through the speech of Balaam? Do you think that he realized that Yahweh was the God of the universe – its creator and sustainer? Do we always remember that we are talking to the Supreme Being when we pray to Yahweh? How would it change our prayers if we did? Would we have more peace?[7]

 

[1] Blessing and cursing in this way were thought of as religious rites, and therefore must be always heralded by sacrifice.

[2] He wished that when he came to die he might be as sure as they were that Yahweh would bless and multiply their seed, and make their name to be glorious in the earth.

[3]http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/prayerplainandsimple/2010/03/prayer-for-accepting-gods-will.html

[4] Matthew 7:9: Luke 11:8-13

[5] John 14:13

[6] John 15:16

[7] Philippians 4:4-7

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