Numbers 22

* Balak's fear of Israel, He sends for Balaam. (1-14) Balaam

goes to Balak. (15-21) The opposition to Balaam by the way.

(22-35) Balaam and Balak meet. (36-41)

1-14 The king of Moab formed a plan to get the people of Israel

cursed; that is, to set God against them, who had hitherto

fought for them. He had a false notion, that if he could get

some prophet to pray for evil upon them, and to pronounce a

blessing upon himself and his forces, that then he should be

able to deal with them. None had so great a reputation as

Balaam; and Balak will employ him, though he send a great way

for him. It is not known whether the Lord had ever spoken to

Balaam, or by him, before this; though it is probable he had,

and it is certain he did afterwards. Yet we have abundant proof

that he lived and died a wicked man, an enemy to God and his

people. And the curse shall not come upon us if there is not a

cause, even though men utter it. To prevail with Balaam, they

took the wages of unrighteousness, but God laid restraint upon

Balaam, forbidding him to curse Israel. Balaam was no stranger

to Israel's cause; so that he ought to have answered the

messengers at once, that he would never curse a people whom God

had blessed; but he takes a night's time to consider what he

should do. When we parley with temptations, we are in great

danger of being overcome. Balaam was not faithful in returning

God's answer to the messengers. Those are a fair mark for

Satan's temptation, who lessen Divine restraints; as if to go

against God's law were only to go without his leave. The

messengers also are not faithful in returning Balaam's answer to

Balak. Thus many are abused by the flatteries of those about

them, and are prevented from seeing their own faults and

15-21 A second embassy was sent to Balaam. It were well for us,

if we were as earnest and constant in prosecuting a good work,

notwithstanding disappointments. Balak laid a bait, not only for

Balaam's covetousness, but for his pride and ambition. How

earnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify such desires in

us! Thus sinners stick at no pains, spare no cost, and care not

how low they stoop, to gratify their luxury, or their malice.

Shall we then be unwilling to do what is right? God forbid!

Balaam's convictions charged him to keep to the command of God;

nor could any man have spoken better. But many call God theirs,

who are not his, not truly because not only his. There is no

judging men by their words; God knows the heart. Balaam's

corruptions at the same time inclined him to go contrary to the

command. He seemed to refuse the temptation; but he expressed no

abhorrence of it. He had a strong desire to accept the offer,

and hoped that God might give him leave to go. He had already

been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of

the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God

gave Balaam up to his own heart's lusts. As God sometimes denies

the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the

desires of the wicked in wrath.
22-35 We must not think, that because God does not always by

his providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves of

it, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels oppose

sin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we are

aware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaam

counted him his adversary; those are really our best friends,

and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinful

ways. Balaam has notice of God's displeasure by the ass. It is

common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil,

to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence lays

in their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a

great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man

speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's

voice. The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty. The righteous God

does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they

shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way

or other speak for them. Balaam at length has his eyes opened.

God has many ways to bring down the hard and unhumbled heart.

When our eyes are opened, we shall see the danger of sinful

ways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed.

Balaam seemed to relent; I have sinned; but it does not appear

that he was sensible of this wickedness of his heart, or willing

to own it. If he finds he cannot go forward, he will be content,

since there is no remedy, to go back. Thus many leave their

sins, only because their sins have left them. The angel declared

that he should not only be unable to curse Israel, but should be

forced to bless them: this would be more for the glory of God,

and to his own confusion, than if he had turned back.
36-41 Balak has now nothing to complain of, but that Balaam did

not come sooner. Balaam bids Balak not depend too much upon him.

He seems to speak with vexation; but is really as desirous to

please Balak, as ever he had pretended to be to please God. See

what need we have to pray every day, Our Father which art in

heaven, lead us not into temptation. Let us be jealous over our

own hearts, seeing how far men may go in the knowledge of God,

and yet come short of Divine grace.
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