Lesson 6 | Sabbath, 10 February 2018
“ ‘… Balaam said unto God, Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth. Come, now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them. Thou shalt not curse the people; for they are blessed.’ The angel tells Balaam that the children of Israel are conducted under the banner of the God of Heaven, and that no curse from man could retard their progress.” –Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 320.
1. Meeting King Balak after encountering the angel who resisted him with sword in hand, what did Balaam tell him?
Numbers 22:36-38 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.37And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour? 38And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.
“The king of Moab, being informed of the approach of Balaam, went out with a large retinue to the borders of his kingdom, to receive him. When he expressed his astonishment at Balaam’s delay, in view of the rich rewards awaiting him, the prophet’s answer was, ‘Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say anything? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.’ Balaam greatly regretted this restriction; he feared that his purpose could not be carried out, because the Lord’s controlling power was upon him.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 443.
The first attempt to curse Israel
2. After he had made the sacrifice, what did Balaam say in front of King Balak and the Moabite princes? What had the Lord told Balaam to tell the king?
Numbers 23:3-8 And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the Lord will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. 4And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. 5And the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak. 6And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab. 7And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. 8How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?
“With the nobles and princes of Moab the king stood beside the sacrifice, while around them gathered the eager multitude, watching for the return of the prophet. He came at last, and the people waited for the words that should paralyze forever that strange power exerted in behalf of the hated Israelites….
“Balaam confessed that he came with the purpose of cursing Israel, but the words he uttered were directly contrary to the sentiments of his heart. He was constrained to pronounce blessings, while his soul was filled with curses.
“As Balaam looked upon the encampment of Israel he beheld with astonishment the evidence of their prosperity. They had been represented to him as a rude, disorganized multitude, infesting the country in roving bands that were a pest and terror to the surrounding nations; but their appearance was the reverse of all this. He saw the vast extent and perfect arrangement of their camp, everything bearing the marks of thorough discipline and order. He was shown the favor with which God regarded Israel, and their distinctive character as His chosen people. They were not to stand upon a level with other nations, but to be exalted above them all. ‘The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.’ At the time when these words were spoken the Israelites had no permanent settlement, and their peculiar character, their manners and customs, were not familiar to Balaam. But how strikingly was this prophecy fulfilled in the after history of Israel! Through all the years of their captivity, through all the ages since they were dispersed among the nations, they have remained a distinct people. So the people of God–the true Israel–though scattered throughout all nations, are on earth but sojourners, whose citizenship is in heaven.” –Patriarchs and Prophets,pp. 444, 447.
3. How did the king react when he heard what Balaam said?
Numbers 23:11, 12 And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. 12And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?
“If Balaam had had a disposition to accept the light that God had given, he would now have made true his words; he would at once have severed all connection with Moab. He would no longer have presumed upon the mercy of God, but would have returned to Him with deep repentance. But Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness, and these he was determined to secure.
“Balak had confidently expected a curse that would fall like a withering blight upon Israel; and at the words of the prophet he passionately exclaimed, ‘What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.’ Balaam, seeking to make a virtue of necessity, professed to have spoken from a conscientious regard for the will of God the words that had been forced from his lips by divine power. His answer was, ‘Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?’ ” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 448.
The second attempt
4. How did the Lord speak through Balaam when King Balak took him to the top of Mount Pisgah to curse Israel again?
Numbers 23:18-21 And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: 19God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? 20Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. 21He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
“Awed by these revelations, Balaam exclaimed, ‘Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.’ The great magician had tried his power of enchantment, in accordance with the desire of the Moabites; but concerning this very occasion it should be said of Israel, ‘What hath God wrought!’ While they were under the divine protection, no people or nation, though aided by all the power of Satan, should be able to prevail against them.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 449.
5. When he saw that he did not get what he wanted, what did Balak say to Balaam? What was the reply?
Numbers 23:25, 26 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. 26But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the Lord speaketh, that I must do?
“The king of Moab, disheartened and distressed, exclaimed, ‘Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all.’ Yet a faint hope still lingered in his heart, and he determined to make another trial.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 449.
The last attempt
6. After Balaam had twice pronounced blessings from God upon Israel, what did Balak do, perhaps thinking that God was like himself and would change His mind? What did the Lord reveal in the third oracle?
Numbers 23:27; 24:5-9 And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence…. 24:5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! 6As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. 7He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. 8God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. 9He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.
“All the world should wonder at the marvelous work of God in behalf of His people–that a man determined to pursue a sinful course should be so controlled by divine power as to utter, instead of imprecations, the richest and most precious promises, in the language of sublime and impassioned poetry. And the favor of God at this time manifested toward Israel was to be an assurance of His protecting care for His obedient, faithful children in all ages. When Satan should inspire evil men to misrepresent, harass, and destroy God’s people, this very occurrence would be brought to their remembrance, and would strengthen their courage and their faith in God.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 449.
7. What did King Balak do when he saw that all his plans had gone up in smoke and the people of Israel had been blessed? What great promise is for all whom the Lord blesses?
Numbers 24:10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
Nehemiah 13:2 Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.
Romans 8:31-34 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
“Let us remember that our great High Priest is pleading before the mercy seat in behalf of His ransomed people. He ever liveth to make intercession for us….
“He will not forget His church in the world of temptation. He looks upon His tried and suffering people, and prays for them…. Yes, He beholds His people in this world, which is a persecuting world, and all seared and marred with the curse, and knows that they need all the divine resources of His sympathy and His love. Our Forerunner hath for us entered within the veil, and yet by the golden chain of love and truth, He is linked with His people in closest sympathy.” –Review and Herald, August 15, 1893.
For additional study
“Balaam was once a good man and a prophet of God; but he had apostatized, and had given himself up to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High. He was not ignorant of God’s work in behalf of Israel; and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and to dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to dally with temptation, and urged the messengers to tarry with him that night, declaring that he could give no decided answer till he had asked counsel of the Lord. Balaam knew that his curse could not harm Israel. God was on their side, and so long as they were true to Him no adverse power of earth or hell could prevail against them. But his pride was flattered by the words of the ambassadors, ‘He whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.’ The bribe of costly gifts and prospective exaltation excited his covetousness. He greedily accepted the offered treasures, and then, while professing strict obedience to the will of God, he tried to comply with the desires of Balak.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 439.
“Everyone who will break from the slavery and service of Satan, and will stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel will be kept by Christ’s intercessions. Christ, as our Mediator, at the right hand of the Father, ever keeps us in view, for it is as necessary that He should keep us by His intercessions as that He should redeem us with His blood. If He lets go His hold of us for one moment, Satan stands ready to destroy. Those purchased by His blood, He now keeps by His intercession….” –(Manuscript 73, 1893) Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 104.