Numbers 22* Balak's fear of Israel, He sends for Balaam. (1-14) Balaamgoes 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 Israelcursed; that is, to set God against them, who had hithertofought for them. He had a false notion, that if he could getsome prophet to pray for evil upon them, and to pronounce ablessing upon himself and his forces, that then he should beable to deal with them. None had so great a reputation asBalaam; and Balak will employ him, though he send a great wayfor him. It is not known whether the Lord had ever spoken toBalaam, or by him, before this; though it is probable he had,and it is certain he did afterwards. Yet we have abundant proofthat he lived and died a wicked man, an enemy to God and hispeople. And the curse shall not come upon us if there is not acause, even though men utter it. To prevail with Balaam, theytook the wages of unrighteousness, but God laid restraint uponBalaam, forbidding him to curse Israel. Balaam was no strangerto Israel's cause; so that he ought to have answered themessengers at once, that he would never curse a people whom Godhad blessed; but he takes a night's time to consider what heshould do. When we parley with temptations, we are in greatdanger of being overcome. Balaam was not faithful in returningGod's answer to the messengers. Those are a fair mark forSatan's temptation, who lessen Divine restraints; as if to goagainst God's law were only to go without his leave. Themessengers also are not faithful in returning Balaam's answer toBalak. Thus many are abused by the flatteries of those aboutthem, and are prevented from seeing their own faults andfollies. 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 forBalaam's covetousness, but for his pride and ambition. Howearnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify such desires inus! Thus sinners stick at no pains, spare no cost, and care nothow 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 nojudging men by their words; God knows the heart. Balaam'scorruptions at the same time inclined him to go contrary to thecommand. He seemed to refuse the temptation; but he expressed noabhorrence of it. He had a strong desire to accept the offer,and hoped that God might give him leave to go. He had alreadybeen told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence ofthe ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. Godgave Balaam up to his own heart's lusts. As God sometimes deniesthe prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants thedesires of the wicked in wrath. 22-35 We must not think, that because God does not always byhis providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves ofit, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels opposesin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we areaware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaamcounted him his adversary; those are really our best friends,and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinfulways. Balaam has notice of God's displeasure by the ass. It iscommon for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil,to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence laysin their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was agreat miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made manspeak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man'svoice. The ass complained of Balaam's cruelty. The righteous Goddoes not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but theyshall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some wayor 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 sinfulways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed.Balaam seemed to relent; I have sinned; but it does not appearthat he was sensible of this wickedness of his heart, or willingto own it. If he finds he cannot go forward, he will be content,since there is no remedy, to go back. Thus many leave theirsins, only because their sins have left them. The angel declaredthat he should not only be unable to curse Israel, but should beforced 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 didnot come sooner. Balaam bids Balak not depend too much upon him.He seems to speak with vexation; but is really as desirous toplease Balak, as ever he had pretended to be to please God. Seewhat need we have to pray every day, Our Father which art inheaven, lead us not into temptation. Let us be jealous over ourown hearts, seeing how far men may go in the knowledge of God,and yet come short of Divine grace.
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