Numbers 23

* Balak's sacrifice, Balaam pronounces a blessing instead of a

curse. (1-10) Balak's disappointment, and second sacrifice,

Balaam again blesses Israel. (11-30)

1-10 With the camps of Israel full in view, Balaam ordered

seven altars to be built, and a bullock and a ram to be offered

on each. Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God

will be at man's beck! The curse is turned into a blessing, by

the overruling power of God, in love to Israel. God designed to

serve his own glory by Balaam, and therefore met him. If God put

a word into the mouth of Balaam, who would have defied God and

Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desire to

glorify God, and to edify his people; it shall be given what

they should speak. He who opened the mouth of the ass, caused

the mouth of this wicked man to speak words as contrary to the

desire of his heart, as those of the ass were to the powers of

the brute. The miracle was as great in the one case as in the

other. Balaam pronounces Israel safe. He owns he could do no

more than God suffered him to do. He pronounces them happy in

their distinction from the rest of the nations. Happy in their

numbers, which made them both honourable and formidable. Happy

in their last end. Death is the end of all men; even the

righteous must die, and it is good for us to think of this with

regard to ourselves, as Balaam does here, speaking of his own

death. He pronounces the righteous truly blessed, not only while

they live, but when they die; which makes their death even more

desirable than life itself. But there are many who desire to die

the death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the

life of the righteous; gladly would they have an end like

theirs, but not a way like theirs. They would be saints in

heaven, but not saints on earth. This saying of Balaam's is only

a wish, not a prayer; it is a vain wish, being only a wish for

the end, without any care for the means. Many seek to quiet

their consciences with the promise of future amendment, or take

up with some false hope, while they neglect the only way of

salvation, by which a sinner can be righteous before God.
11-30 Balak was angry with Balaam. Thus a confession of God's

overruling power is extorted from a wicked prophet, to the

confusion of a wicked prince. A second time the curse is turned

into a blessing; and this blessing is both larger and stronger

than the former. Men change their minds, and break their words;

but God never changes his mind, and therefore never recalls his

promise. And when in Scripture he is said to repent, it does not

mean any change of his mind; but only a change of his way. There

was sin in Jacob, and God saw it; but there was not such as

might provoke him to give them up to ruin. If the Lord sees that

we trust in his mercy, and accept of his salvation; that we

indulge no secret lust, and continue not in rebellion, but

endeavour to serve and glorify him; we may be sure that he looks

upon us as accepted in Christ, that our sins are all pardoned.

Oh the wonders of providence and grace, the wonders of redeeming

love, of pardoning mercy, of the new-creating Spirit! Balak had

no hope of ruining Israel, and Balaam showed that he had more

reason to fear being ruined by them. Since Balaam cannot say

what he would have him, Balak wished him to say nothing. But

though there are many devices in man's heart, God's counsels

shall stand. Yet they resolve to make another attempt, though

they had no promise on which to build their hopes. Let us, who

have a promise that the vision at the end shall speak and not

lie, continue earnest in prayer, #Lu 18:1|.
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