Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Sunday, June 16, 2017, Numbers 22:21-34

This coming Sunday we will continue to talk about Testimonies and how to recognize God’s presence among us.

Scripture for this coming Sunday is Numbers 22:21-34. You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010}

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When was the last time that things did not go the way you wanted them to go? You thought things through, everything was ready, you were prepared, and something unexpected happened. Nobody starts their day by saying, “today I will burn my toast, spill my coffee, drop my cell phone into a toilet, and have a car accident.”

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Balaam intrigues me. He lived during the time when the Israelites were getting ready to cross the Jordan River into Israel after forty years of wandering, shortly before the death of Moses. The Israelites have already defeated two nations in Transjordan:

  • the Amorites led by king Sihon, and

  • Bashanights led by king Og.

Balak, the king of Moab, was understandably worried because the Children of Israel were a formidable, unified force and they meant business.

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From the context of the readings, we learn that Balaam was a religious leader, serving the polytheistic pagan population in the region. That is why king Balak sent elders of Midian and his Moabite messengers to Balaam, with a request to curse the advancing forces of Israel.

Meanwhile, God appeared to Balaam in his dreams, and Balaam refused to curse the Children of Israel. King Balak tried to bribe Balaam with money and titles to convince him to do what he wanted done. The temptation of prestige and money was too good to turn down, and Balaam agreed to curse advancing army of Israel.

That is where we find Balaam in today’s reading. He was on his way to meet Balak, and he was NOT having a good day.

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We just heard the story. The donkey that he was riding saw an angel with a drawn sword and changed direction. That happened three times. The second time, Balaam’s foot was crushed against a stone and he started beating the donkey. The third time, the donkey laid on the ground and refused to move. After more beatings, “the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth” (verse 28) and Balaam was forced to face the uncomfortable truth of what was happening. How often do we take out our frustrations on those who are trying to help, just because we don’t know what else to do?

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The truth is that Balaam was frustrated with the whole situation and he was taking out his frustration on the donkey by beating it, even though the donkey was trying to help him. In the context of the “Take the Flag” Bible study, the donkey was waiving a “Yellow Flag” in front of Balaam, and Balaam just ignored the warnings.

The Bible does not tell us how Balaam justified his services to Balak after experiencing God. All we know is that Balaam managed to convince himself that it was OK to curse the advancing Israelites. We also know that God sent an angel to stand in Balaam’s path with a drawn sword. If it were not for the donkey that kept dodging the angel in the road, Balaam would have been killed.

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All of us have been there, justifying our actions to do what we want. Have you ever had to do something that you thought was important or profitable and did not feel good about doing it? Have you ever been so wrapped up in what you were doing that you ignored clear warning signs? If that happened to you, say hello to your inner Balaam.

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The movie Leap of Faith with Steve Martin was released in 1992. In this movie, Steve Martin played a traveling “evangelist” who would go from place to place and set up “revivals.” From the get go we know that the character is a fake, he is no more an evangelist than I am a ballerina, he has no idea who God is and he does not believe in God. He treats religion as a money-making enterprise, not a disciple-making or God-serving endeavor. We see him stage healings and fake miracles; we see him putting on elaborate shows with smoke and mirrors. And then during one of his performances a genuine physical healing happened right in front of his eyes. Someone who had no use of his legs, someone who had been told that he would never walk again, got out of his wheelchair, dropped his crutches, and took an unsteady step. And then he took another, and another. It was not a steady walk, watching him we know that this kid would need a lot of physical therapy, but we saw the healing happening right before our eyes. No smoke, no mirrors – just God’s grace and healing.

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Balaam gets a bad rap because he was determined to do something he knew was against the will of God.  All of us are guilty of that to some extent.  We can use enlightened skepticism against the Bible so that we deem portions of the book unreliable or even inapplicable to our day and age. Instead of unpacking Bible texts, we misuse modern scholarship to make a passage say what we want it to say, not what the original meaning of the passage was.  We can make ourselves feel okay with what we want to do just as Balaam did. For example, have you ever drowned out the small voice of God when you felt led to something you did not want to do? 

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Because of that tendency to justify our wants, we pray “… and lead us not into temptation… .

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In James 1:13-14 we read, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”

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In Matthew 26:41, we hear something similar, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

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Balaam intrigues me. He started as a pagan and he experienced the Living God first hand. God warned him that he would only be able to say words that God himself put into his mouth (Numbers 22:38). Instead of allowing the Spirit of the Living God to set him free, he was lured and enticed by his own desires for prestige and fortune. Instead of sharing a powerful testimony, his life was defined by three attempts to testify against God and not able to do so.

  • Kiriath Huzoth (Numbers 22:39-23:13)

  • Pisgah (Numbers 23:14-26)

  • Peor (Numbers 23:27 – 24:14)

We know the rest of the story. Joshua 13:22 records that Balaam died “by the sword” during a battle when the tribe of Reuben was taking possession of Moabite lands.

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Earlier I used an illustration from the movie “Leap of Faith.” The morning after the real healing, the “evangelist” left everything behind (all the equipment, all his staff – the people who were helping him to defraud believers and to fake healings and miracles), and he left. He experienced God and he was a changed man. That “evangelist” is a modern-day Balaam with one major difference.

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Unlike Balaam, he allowed God to mold him into a new creation. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we hear, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!” That movie is an example of a testimony. It could be summarized as, “God caused something to happen so that the traveling revival was stuck in the middle of nowhere. God granted a healing in the midst of smoke and mirrors so that anyone who had eyes could see, and anyone who had ears could hear. Some of those who witnessed that healing turned to God and their lives were changed.”

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