Numbers 23 and 24 are some of my favorite portions of scripture. I just can’t get enough of these scriptures. Every time I study these scriptures, life just oozes out of them. Let me show you why…
In their wilderness journeys, the Israelites met the Moabites and Balak their king was very afraid of them. So he hired this guy by the name of Balaam to curse them hoping that the curse would work and the Israelites would fail or fall. Balaam was renowned for his work. His curses or blessings worked. But as Balaam got ready to curse God’s people, God appeared to him and instructed him on what he must say.
Firstly, this is amazing. A sorcerer or witch met with God. Isn’t that grace? Balaam met with God even in his sinful state. Wow… Grace is for the ungodly. Grace is for sinners. Sin doesn’t intimidate grace. Sin actually is an invitation to grace. It is the welcome home sign on your door. This is why Jesus visits sinners and eats with them (Mark 2:13-17, Revelation 3:20). Wherever Jesus sees sin, he hears welcome home. Wow…
So Balaam perched himself on a mountain and got ready to do his thing. What Balaam said or saw blew me away
Numbers 23:8-9 (NLT)
But how can I curse those whom God has not cursed?
How can I condemn those whom the Lord has not condemned?
I see them from the cliff tops; I watch them from the hills.
I see a people who live by themselves set apart from other nations.
This gets better
Numbers 23:21-22 (NKJV)
Behold, I have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
“He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The Lord his God is with him,
And the shout of a King is among them.
God brings them out of Egypt;
He has strength like a wild ox.
Wait, wait, wait a minute
Did I read that right? God has not cursed nor condemned them? God has not observed iniquity in Jacob. Are you kidding me? And hasn’t seen wickedness in Israel… no way, no way! I protest vehemently. Something here is cuckoo.
God needs His eyes checked for sure.
Aren’t these the same people who complained, rebelled, murmured, worshipped the golden calf, hated the bread God gave them, wanted to stone Moses and Aaron, wanted to usurp Moses and Aaron’s leadership, refused to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief, and then tried to do it themselves and failed miserably. Aren’t these the same people?
I mean these guys were not saints at all. These guys were a handful to God, Moses and Aaron. At one time God was so peeved with them that he wanted to destroy them and begin again with Moses. Their sinful attitudes even cost Moses the opportunity to get into the Promised Land. I mean these guys were bad.
But guys, it even gets better
Numbers 23:23-24 (NLT)
No curse can touch Jacob; no magic has any power against Israel.
For now it will be said of Jacob,
‘What wonders God has done for Israel!’
These people rise up like a lioness, like a majestic lion rousing itself.
They refuse to rest until they have feasted on prey, drinking the blood of the slaughtered!”
So why wouldn’t God curse, condemn or see no iniquity or wickedness in Israel? Why did God defend, protect and even bless these sinners?
Why? They were still offering bulls, goats, rams, birds, grain, wine, and oil offerings. The morning and evening sacrifice was offered for them. The tabernacle was also with them. God was with them. God was in their midst.
All these sacrifices are types of our Lord Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross. They were depending on the righteousness of another. Their sins were imputed on Jesus and his righteousness was imputed on them. This is why God could not curse, condemn, observe or see any iniquity or wickedness in them.
Now this doesn’t mean there was no iniquity or wickedness in Israel. No! These people were off-bit many times. Actually, these people deserved judgment in many cases. But because of the sacrifices and offerings that they brought before God, God did not see or observe their sins.
What about you?
What about you and the New Covenant? In this covenant, God declares to us that he will not remember our sins. (Hebrews 8:12, 10:17) This is huge. In the Old, God does not see sin (although sin is present). In the New, God does not remember our sin (although sin is present). In the Old, the blood of bulls and goats covers sin (Exodus 30:10). In the New, Jesus takes away our sins so effectively that God will not even remember the sin. Wow….
So yes you are a grumbler, complainer, adulterer, murderer, gossiper, lazy bum, a doubter and skeptic, egotistical, harsh, ungrateful, proud, addicted to alcohol, smoking, drugs, lustful etc. basically you sin against God. Yet because of Jesus, His finished work on the cross (John 19:30) and His continued advocacy for you (1 John 2:1), God does not remember your sins.
Will your sins hurt you? Yes, they will. Some sins like addiction might harm you physically. You might die before your time. These sins dent your credibility with people and the name of Jesus is maligned. You will not be an effective witness of the gospel story. And the one whose story it is all about in the gospel – Jesus – will be put to shame. That’s just it.
Notice how the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant protected them from curses and magic?
I’m concerned that we who are of the charismatic tribe have elevated the works of satan more than what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago. The amount of warfare that the charismatic tribe is engaged in is mind altering. You ask the average charismatic believer what they spend most of their time in prayer doing and the response will be that they are fighting and cursing their enemies. For the average charismatic believer, prayer is warfare. Prayer is a time of war. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The children of Israel were under the blood of bulls and goats and yet no curse or magic could work against them.
Your covenant is much, much superior because it is based on the Blood of Jesus Christ himself. Why then are you afraid of witches and wizards? Why waste time thinking about enemies that have already been defeated? We have a much better deal than them. C’mon
What is grace? In a nutshell, grace is the good news of what God in Christ has done for us.
God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox.
For now it will be said of Jacob, ‘What wonders God has done for Israel!’
Numbers 24:8 (NLT)
God brought them out of Egypt; for them he is as strong as a wild ox. He devours all the nations that oppose him, breaking their bones in pieces, shooting them with arrows.
Do you see the recurring thought in these verses? God does for them – He brings them out and does wonders for them. He fights for them. The gospel is a report of what God has done for us in Jesus. It is all God. Nothing to do with us. We are passive beneficiaries of God’s doings and blessings. We just receive what God did for us.
In the gospel, God fights for us. We need not spend our time in prayer solely engaged in warfare against the enemy. As a matter of truth, satan our enemy has already been defeated. Jesus’ finished work on the cross was a resounding victory of over the cohorts of sin and death (Colossians 2:15). God now fights for us. He defends and protects us.
This is the gospel.
God’s first class view
Balaam’s final word about God’s people sounded like these
Numbers 24:5-9 (NLT)
How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob; how lovely are your homes, O Israel! They spread before me like palm groves, like gardens by the riverside. They are like tall trees planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their offspring have all they need. Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. God brought them out of Egypt; for them he is as strong as a wild ox. He devours all the nations that oppose him, breaking their bones in pieces, shooting them with arrows. Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you.
Man o man what Balaam saw was breathtaking to say the least. Now, you have to remember that Balaam was high on a mountain looking at the children of Israel spread out in the plains of Moab. In essence, he had God’s first class view. He saw what God saw.
God’s opinion of His people under the blood of bulls and goats was this – they were beautiful and lovely. They were like tall trees by the riverside – meaning they were always nourished and green. Their kids (offsprings) have all they need. God fights for them and defeats their enemies.
If those under the covenant of the blood of bulls and goats looked so beautiful and lovely what about you? C’mon…seriously… think about it.
Ephesians 5:27 (NLT)
He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
In God’s estimation, there is no spot, or wrinkle or any blemish. In other words, God sees no sin on you. Better yet, God can’t even remember your sin. You are unblamable. You have no fault. You are as righteous as Jesus is. You are holy as Jesus is holy.
Notice, in Numbers 23: 4 God would not condemn them. Doesn’t this sound like Romans 8:1 (NASB).
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Period! Full stop!
You are not condemned because you are imperfect in your actions and behaviors. God will not condemn you because you are bad and he will not bless you because you are good. You are not condemned simply because you are IN CHRIST JESUS. Wow…
You have no wrinkle. You have not aged a bit. You are beautiful and lovely.
That’s who you are. That’s what your enemies see. That’s what has happened to you because of the righteousness of Jesus that has been imputed on you.
People, postmodern culture, social media, sexual ideologies, materialism, education, and religious proclivities should not define your identity. All these stem from a horizontal view. Your true identity and value is determined by what God sees. It stems from His vantage point – vertical view – heavenly view.
Hey, God will never curse nor condemn you because God sees no sin or wickedness in you. Why? He has imputed Christ’s righteousness on you. Jesus’s righteousness is so effective that God cannot even remember your sin.
God sees you as beautiful and lovely. You got no spot or wrinkle. You have not aged a bit. You are still young.
Finally, God fights for you. He defends and protects you – even when you are wrong – even when you are still in sin.
This is what grace looks like