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Conspiracy By Moab And Balaam(numbers 22.1-25.18)

The LORD had said to the children of Israel, "This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the peoples that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee" (Deuteronomy 2.25). That promise was fully implemented; and when Israel pitched camp in the plains of Moab, Balak the king of Moab and the people of Moab were distressed, for they had heard what the LORD had done for Israel against the Amorites and now they saw the vastness of the camp of this people whose God had wrought wondrously for them (22.1-4). Balak realized that he was unable to drive Israel out of the land and therefore sought to improve his position by making affinity with Midian and also by sending for Balaam that he should curse Israel (22.4-7). Not content with the added military strength arising from help from Midian, he hoped to have Israel rendered powerless by the curse, so that Israel would strive having no hope of deliverance.

Balaam is somewhat of an enigma. He was definitely a prophet (2 Peter 2.16): but he was not of Israel; he was from Mesopotamia (Deuteronomy 23.4), and Balak had to send his messengers "unto Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River (that is, the Euphrates), to the land of the children of his people" (22.5). Clearly, too, the LORD spoke to him and through him (22.9; 23.5) and his utterances carried weight (22.6): but he appears to have used divination (22.724.1). However uncertain we may be as to the soundness of his knowledge of the LORD and His ways, there is no doubt whatsoever as to his appreciation of the limits within which he must work, for he said, "I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more" (22.18). Even though he had the advantage of such knowledge of the LORD, he sinned in disobeying the LORD by going with Balak's messengers (22.34), his motive being personal gain (2 Peter 2.15, Jude 11). Let us beware lest we overestimate the place and importance of material prosperity, for, like Balaam, we may be led to do things contrary to the will of God. Better it is to be guided by the teaching of the Lord Jesus: "Whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self?" (Luke 9.24, 25).

Balaam fell into error because he "loved the hire of wrongdoing" (2 Peter 2.15) and so was an easy prey for Balak and his importunity. Balaam had said to Balak's men, "The LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you" (22.13), and he would have been wise to keep to that word. On the occasion of the final visit of the men from Moab the LORD said to Balaam, "If the men be come to call thee, rise up, and go with them" (22.20). It would appear from the ensuing meeting with the angel of the LORD (and from other scriptures citing his conduct) that Balaam did so on the basis of his own desires and purposes, and not as in obedience to the word of the LORD.

Having brought home to Balaam the perversity of his way (22.32), the angel of the LORD said, "Go with the men" (22.35). His madness having been stayed (2 Peter 2.16), he spoke right words to Balak, "Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to speak any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak" (22.38). This could well have been the end of the matter, for it clearly spelled complete failure for Balak; but "Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him", thus inducing him to eat of things sacrificed to Baal (22.40,41; Revelation 2.14). Truly, one false step but prepares the way for another.

Having brought Balaam thus far, Balak proved very persistent in seeking to compel him to curse Israel. He took Balaam to three different places from which he could view the camp of Israel and seek a word from the LORD against Israel: but whether he looked down upon them from Bamoth-baal (22.41-23.12), or from the top of Pisgah (23.13-26), or from the top of Peor (23.27-24.14), the result was the same. The LORD changed his curse into a blessing. Balaam, who could see only the "utmost part" of the camp of Israel (22.41; 23.13), spoke well for Israel, and afterwards, in spite of the wrath of Balak, he spoke further parables confirming the judgements to come upon the nations and a glorious future for Israel. The LORD'S promises to Israel were indeed without repentance.

Balak in his fear failed to see in Israel what Balaam, his eyes having been opened by God, was able to discern. Balak was concerned only with the greatness of the numbers of Israel and their military potential. Balaam, by contrast, saw in Israel "a people that dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (23.9,10), a strong people in whom the LORD saw no perverness (23.21), and a people set in goodly order in their camp (24.2,5,6): that is to say, he saw their separation unto the LORD, and also the godly order within the nation, divine order that placed the tribes in orderly array relative to the Tabernacle of the LORD in their midst. That separation, if maintained, would have saved Israel from the catastrophe that befell them, a disaster long to be remembered. For at Baal-peor Balaam showed the wrathful Balak how to bring Israel low by causing them to violate their separation unto the LORD. Balaam failed to cause the LORD to desert His people, but he taught Balak how to deceive the people into forsaking the LORD. Departure from the LORD ever brings disaster in its train, and this Israel learned in a very bitter experience. Let those children of God who today find separation irksome give due attention to this, unbroken separation would have been a defence to Israel. So also in our case. Separation is for our protection and the saving of our spiritual lives: if we fail as to separation, we shall be drawn away from the LORD; and further, we shall fail in our bounden duty to manifest as a people that godly order that should mark the house of God.

It is revealed in Scripture that at Baal-peor Balaam taught Balak the evil device that would stumble Israel: the risen and glorified Lord Jesus said to the church of God in Pergamum, "I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication... Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth" (Revelation 2.14,16). The apostle Paul, too, presented like warning to the church of God in Corinth (1 Corinthians 10.8), citing among other things the incident at Baal-peor. There is ever the possibility of the resurgence of the evil teaching of Balaam among the people of God. In respect of this our times are no exception; we must be vigilant lest, in these present days of distressingly low moral standards, we fall victim to this very teaching, which is no less potent and dangerous today than it was at the time of Baal-peor.

The extreme repulsiveness of the sin of Israel at Baal-peor should be realized. The people of Moab invited the men of Israel to their Baal worship, and seduced them into eating of the things sacrificed to Baal, and into participating in the rites, which were of a most sensuous and degraded nature and at which they gave to them their own wives and daughters. The effect was that immorality became rampant in Israel, so much so that Zimri, brazen and unashamed, committed an act of blatant immorality even when the leaders of Israel were on their faces before the LORD because of the plague from the LORD, the which plague was only stayed when in godly zeal Phinehas slew Zimri and Cozbi. That plague cost the lives of 24,000 Israelites, for God cannot disregard sin in His people. Let us behold and fear.

That dark day in the history of redeemed Israel left a lasting scar upon their national conscience. The day was to come when even the LORD would see fit to plead with them with the words of anguish, saying, "0 My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him" (Micah 6.5). Besides, not so very long after the event itself, when Israel warred against Midian they took captive the women and children, and Moses remonstrated, reminding them that "these (the women of Midian) caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor" (31.16). Again, in the days of Joshua, when the tribes of Manasseh raised the altar by the Jordan, Phinehas asked them, "Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves unto this day, although there came a plague upon the congregation of the LORD, that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD?" (Joshua 22.17,18). The plague at Peor seems to have served as a yardstick by which to reckon divine judgement, and the deep impression it had made should have had a salutary effect, if indeed Israel had remained tender in conscience. Alas, it was not to be so. The history of the 4imes of the Judges reveals repeated failure and many a dark and sad day.

Today God deals with His own as with sons; and as a faithful loving Father He chastens His sons. We must mark well that in this life we are subject to judgement as sons; if we sin, we shall be chastened as sons. When we discern the LORD'S chastening in our case, it behoves us to be exercised thereby, so that it may yield for us its peaceable fruit (Hebrews 12.5-11). One outcome will be the preservation of our separation, and another the becoming manifestation of divine order among us as the LORD'S people

"Be not deceived: Evil company doth corrupt good manners (way of life)" (1 Corinthians 15.33).