Summary: Moses, Pt. 14
THE GOOD NEWS, NO NEWS, BAD NEWS PROPHET
(NUMBERS 22:1-35; 25:6-9; 31:6-8)
My sister who returned from Hong Kong in the mid-90s after a few years of work there brought home many VCDs and told about the street vendors in Hong Kong that sold original VCDs as well as pirated VCDs and illegal computer software such as Windows and computer games. For HK $100, a buyer can purchase three copies of pirate computer software or six illegal VCDs.
The pirate copies shot from hidden cameras placed in the theater were inferior and laughable. A patron would suddenly rise and block the screen on his way to the restroom. Sometimes moviegoers could be heard laughing, talking or coughing in the background. The buyer’s worst headache was when the picture was blurry, slanted or unconcluded. Some prints were, surprisingly, of good quality, prompting me once to ask, “Is this original or fake?” She said she often asked vendors the same question: “Is this original or is this a copy?” The seller would look annoyingly at her and buyers like her with such questions, but they always have a ready answer: “It’s original! Original…copy!”
Deceitful, phony and indecisive people are an unsuspecting person’s worst nightmare. They are resistant to change, tricky to figure out and difficult to get rid of.
One man fought Israel longer, harder and smarter than Pharaoh. More convincing than Judas, his doctrine has stumbled many - all the way to the last days (Rev 2:14). His name was Balaam.
After Miriam and later Aaron were buried, the new generation began an unprecedented rout of their enemies, including the Canaanites (Num 21:1-3), the two Amorite kings Sihon and Og (Num 21:21-25), the Moabites and finally the Midianites (Num 22-31). The last battle - with the Midianites - turned out to be the trickiest, strangest and the harshest for Israel. The defeat of the Midianites was accomplished at a great loss. Moses completed his last task (Num 31:1) and cleared the way for Israel to enter the new land, but not before Balak, the king of Moab, and the Midianites sought and found a one-man machine in Balaam to slow and stumble Israel in her final push.
The final conflict, through eight chapters, was one chapter longer than Israel’s confrontation with Pharaoh (Ex 7-14). The 24,000 Israelite lives (Num 25:9) lost in this third and final plague were more than the 3,000 who worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32:28) and the 14,700 people who died with Korah (Num 16:49) added together. Israel fought the mad, enigmatic and uncontrollable diviner and false prophet (2 Pet 2:16), winning the victory only on her second attempt. People like Balaam remind believers that evil will stop at nothing to undermine good, that God was on the side of godly and righteous people and that unrighteousness has no place in a believer’s life.
How can we resist double-minded and double-crossing people like Balaam? Why should believers submit, and not subvert, the word, the will and the ways of God? What action do we need to take to guard against the teaching of Balaam (Rev 2:14)?
Acknowledge the Obvious and Amuse No Stranger
12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” 13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s princes, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the Moabite princes returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.” 15 Then Balak sent other princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said: “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.” 18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God. 19 Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else the LORD will tell me.” 20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” (Num 22:12-20)
A suspicious man was arrested for wandering from place to place. He appeared before the judge, who was curious whether the man has a job, a home, or a life. The judge asked, “When do you work?” The man replied flippantly, “Now and then.”
Surprised at the man’s indifferent attitude and answer, the judge grilled him, “What do you do for a living?” The wanderer again replied tersely, “This and that.”