Numbers 22:4-5 Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor.
When King Balak saw God’s people camping near Moab, he was alarmed by the apparent threat, and knew he could not withstand them. So he sent for Balaam, a man known for spiritual power, to curse Israel. Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me (Numbers 22:16-17), he said. So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials (Numbers 22:21).
But God was angry at Balaam, and sent an angel with a sword to oppose him. Balaam did not see the angel, but his donkey did, and tried to avoid it three times. This made Balaam so angry that he beat his donkey severely.
Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times? Balaam answered the donkey, You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now. The donkey said to Balaam, Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? No, he said.
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. The angel of the Lord asked him, Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.
Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back. The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you. So Balaam went with Balak’s officials (Numbers 22:28-35).
Balaam did not know it, but he was in serious danger for planning to curse God’s people. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse (Genesis 12:3), God had said. Christians can never be cursed because we are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), wrote Paul. And, If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31), wrote Paul also. Whoever tries to curse a Christian only curses himself.
Numbers 22:36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him.
King Balak showed Balaam the people he wanted cursed, but Balaam could only bless them. How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? (Numbers 23:8), he said. God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. . . . he has blessed, and I cannot change it (Numbers 23:19-20), he added.
When we consider Satan’s desire for our harm, we have every reason to be afraid. But when we consider God’s desire for our good, our fears are put to flight. Imagine the day you hear Christ say, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34). God has determined to bless his people, and his blessing will never end.
Numbers 25:1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women.
Some Moabite women invited some Israelite men to worship Baal, and engage in ritual sex. This ignited God’s anger, and he commanded Moses to execute those who were guilty. Before the sentence was carried out, an Israelite man brought a Moabite women into his tent right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel (Numbers 25:6). This was not a shameful deed done in secret; it was an open act of defiance against Moses and God.
Numbers 25:7-8 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach.
The crime was a public violation of the first and seventh commandments: You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3), and You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). The execution carried out by Phinehas was according to the penalty for sins committed defiantly. [A]nyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the Lord and must be cut off from the people of Israel. Because they have despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, they must surely be cut off (Numbers 15:30-31), wrote Moses. And Phinehas received God’s approval for defending his honor.
As the nation of Israel made its way to the Promised Land, it encountered opposition and seduction. These are the right and left hands of Satan which he uses to this day. If the world cannot intimidate the church through opposition, it will try to win it over through seduction. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? (James 4:4), wrote James. Believers are to love the world (John 3:16), but not its sinful ways. We are to be in the world, but also remain distinct.
Reflection and Review
Why can’t Christians ever be cursed?
How could God speak through a donkey?
Which is worse for the church: opposition or seduction?