Numbers 24 & Psalms 66-67

Numbers 24

    When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,

    “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
        the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
    the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
        who sees the vision of the Almighty,
        falling down with his eyes uncovered:
    How lovely are your tents, O Jacob,
        your encampments, O Israel!
    Like palm groves that stretch afar,
        like gardens beside a river,
    like aloes that the LORD has planted,
        like cedar trees beside the waters.
    Water shall flow from his buckets,
        and his seed shall be in many waters;
    his king shall be higher than Agag,
        and his kingdom shall be exalted.
    God brings him out of Egypt
        and is for him like the horns of the wild ox;
    he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries,
        and shall break their bones in pieces
        and pierce them through with his arrows.
    He crouched, he lay down like a lion
        and like a lioness; who will rouse him up?
    Blessed are those who bless you,
        and cursed are those who curse you.”
        And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the LORD has held you back from honor.” And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak’? And now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”

    And he took up his discourse and said,

    “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
        the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
    the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
        and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
    who sees the vision of the Almighty,
        falling down with his eyes uncovered:
    I see him, but not now;
        I behold him, but not near:
    a star shall come out of Jacob,
        and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
    it shall crush the forehead of Moab
        and break down all the sons of Sheth.
    Edom shall be dispossessed;
        Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
        Israel is doing valiantly.
    And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
        and destroy the survivors of cities!”
        Then he looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said,

    “Amalek was the first among the nations,
        but its end is utter destruction.”
        And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said,

    “Enduring is your dwelling place,
        and your nest is set in the rock.
    Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned
        when Asshur takes you away captive.”
        And he took up his discourse and said,

    “Alas, who shall live when God does this?
        But ships shall come from Kittim
    and shall afflict Asshur and Eber;
        and he too shall come to utter destruction.”
        Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way.

(Numbers 24 ESV)

Psalm 66

To the choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.

    Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
        sing the glory of his name;
        give to him glorious praise!
    Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
        So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
    All the earth worships you
        and sings praises to you;
        they sing praises to your name.” Selah
    Come and see what God has done:
        he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
    He turned the sea into dry land;
        they passed through the river on foot.
    There did we rejoice in him,
        who rules by his might forever,
    whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
        let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
    Bless our God, O peoples;
        let the sound of his praise be heard,
    who has kept our soul among the living
        and has not let our feet slip.
    For you, O God, have tested us;
        you have tried us as silver is tried.
    You brought us into the net;
        you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
    you let men ride over our heads;
        we went through fire and through water;
    yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
    I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
        I will perform my vows to you,
    that which my lips uttered
        and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
    I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals,
        with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
    I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
    Come and hear, all you who fear God,
        and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
    I cried to him with my mouth,
        and high praise was on my tongue.
    If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
        the Lord would not have listened.
    But truly God has listened;
        he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
    Blessed be God,
        because he has not rejected my prayer
        or removed his steadfast love from me!

(Psalm 66 ESV)

Psalm 67

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

    May God be gracious to us and bless us
        and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
    that your way may be known on earth,
        your saving power among all nations.
    Let the peoples praise you, O God;
        let all the peoples praise you!
    Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
        for you judge the peoples with equity
        and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
    Let the peoples praise you, O God;
        let all the peoples praise you!
    The earth has yielded its increase;
        God, our God, shall bless us.
    God shall bless us;
        let all the ends of the earth fear him!

(Psalm 67 ESV)

Something to Consider

Numbers 24: The last three chapters of Numbers have provided an interesting account and perspective concerning God’s plan for Israel and His great power in carrying it out. A notorious pagan fortune-teller named Balaam has been summoned by the Moabite king Balak to pronounce a curse upon the approaching Israelite people. King Balak has heard of their recent victories in the wilderness and fears that his own prosperity and people are next in line for defeat at the hands of the Israelites. This narrative concerning Balaam and Balak shows the sovereignty of God, and the way in which God can use anyone and anything for His own plans and purposes.  

Although Balaam comes across as a sincere prophet of the one true God, elsewhere in Scripture we learn that he is infamous for using his fortune-telling abilities for his own gain and fortune (Numbers 31; 2 Peter 2; Jude 1). We ought to be encouraged that those with a corrupt character possess no power to corrupt the plans of God. God can use anyone to deliver His message, and He even used a donkey to straighten out His pagan messenger (Numbers 22). 

Despite King Balak paying Balaam a great price to curse the congregation of Israel, Balaam pronounces prophetic blessings upon Israel three different times in a row. God has mysteriously and powerfully restrained Balaam from saying what he would normally say and constrained him to say what he would’ve never said on his own. 

After great acknowledgement of God's presence and power, Balaam concludes his three blessings upon God’s people and “went back to his place.” An observation from Scripture’s examination of this man Balaam presents us with an insightful illustration. A man can express a tremendous amount of respect and knowledge of God and yet still possess no true fear, love or faith in Him. Words of praise don't necessarily prove that the heart is fully of praise. Matthew Henry writes, “a man may go so far toward heaven and yet come short of it at last.”