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The subject through this chapter is a continuation of the former. The idolatrous prince, and the impious prophet, are both busily engaged, in seeking how to curse the LORD'S Israel, whom GOD hath blessed.
I would beg the Reader to observe, for it is well worth observation, what vast pains and expense bad men will put themselves to, under the cover of religion. Alas! what are seven altars, or seventy times seven sacrifices, offered from a wicked heart! But in all ages it is the same. If GOD would but compound with the ungodly, and indulge them in their sins, they will pay him with any expensive sacrifices. Dearest JESUS! be thou my altar, my priest, my only sacrifice: and be it my noblest desire to be accepted in thee, the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6-7 .
I would beg the Reader to consult the first verse of the next chapter, and this will throw a light upon the whole subject. For it is very plain, from what is there said, that Balaam's leaving Balak, under pretence to hear what the LORD would say to him, was to use enchantments. But how striking is that expression: the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth; that is, overruled the wretch to say, the very reverse of what he wished. So that in the very moment this awful character hired himself out to curse GOD'S people, he is constrained to bless them. Oh! that the LORD'S inheritance, had the grace always to consider this, and keep it in remembrance. How would they be convinced of the truth of that sweet scripture, that no weapon formed against them can prosper. For even the wrath of men shall praise GOD, the remainder of wrath he will restrain. Isaiah 54:17 ; Psalms 76:10 .
Aram was in Mesopotamia. Genesis 24:10 .
Observe what he saith: that he could not; not that he would not, for that he wished. But how precious an instruction doth this hold forth to the believer in JESUS: neither magicians, nor devils, can curse those whom GOD hath pronounced blessed. And if the poor man did but call this to resemblance, never would he be led to fear, much less to put confidence in, the juggling arts of conjurers and fortune-tellers, who go about to impose on the unwary.
What a delightful string of the most glorious prophecies doth the LORD constrain this man to deliver! Yes! the LORD doth send, by whom he will send, his blessed truths to his church and people. And let the Reader remark with me, that our GOD hath in all ages made use of the worst of instruments to promote the best of causes. For rather than his children shall want bread, be will feed them from their enemies' table. Reader! amidst the prophecies here delivered dwell a short period on the contemplation of that remarkable one, that the people were to dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations. Seek I pray you for this distinguishing character in your own experience. LORD! grant that I may find my name among those which are written in the book of life. Revelation 20:15 .
Sweet thought! though the flock of JESUS be but a little flock when comparatively considered; yet it is in itself an innumerable company. Reader! if it be your portion to be of the number of the ransomed which shall return to Zion, you will find the house of GOD to be neither scanty nor small. Multitudes have already entered it, and multitudes are continually pouring into it from all the quarters of the earth. Revelation 7:9 ; Matthew 8:11 . But how awful a thought is it, that any man, like Balaam, should know and confess the privilege of dying the death of the righteous, while confessedly living the life of the ungodly. Oh! for the apostle's blessed state! Philippians 1:20 .
Is it not highly probable, that as the LORD wrought so powerfully on the mind of Balaam, he did not leave Balak altogether unconscious of his overruling presence? If so how applicable doth the psalmist speak; Psalms 109:16-20 .
It appears very plain, that both the employer and the employed mutually disappointed. How striking is the application of that scripture, in which it is said, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Job 5:12-13 .
Observe, the folly as well as impiety of Balak. Common sense, one might have supposed, would have been enough to have convinced him, that if the LORD blessed Israel in one place, never would he suffer them to be cursed in another. I would wish the Reader to remark with me, the uniform custom of all nations, to worship on the tops of the mountains. Was not this an opinion gathered from tradition? And had it not originally a divine source, only corrupted, gathered perhaps from Abraham's mount Moriah, answering to that most sacred of all mounts, Calvary?
The same or similar observations meet us here as were offered before. Enchantments were what Balaam used when he left Balak under pretence of enquiring of the LORD. See Numbers 24:1 . There are several other scriptures which will help to throw a light upon this. See Ezekiel 14:1-11 ; Job 12:16 ; Isaiah 44:25-28 .
These are very precious truths; and doubly so when read with an eye to the evidence they bring with them, as they are in JESUS. In the covenant relationship of GOD in CHRIST, the word, the oath, the promises of the FATHER: the blood, the righteousness, the grace, and mercy of the SON: and the fellowship and communion of the HOLY GHOST: all these confirm the unquestionable testimony of the unchangeableness and faithfulness of JEHOVAH. Reader, mark it down as an infallible truth; GOD is not a man that he should lie. He may, and he doth, change the plan of his providences, as they appear to us; but never will he alter the purposes of his grace. Beheld in JESUS, the LORD hath not seen iniquity in his people. See those precious Scriptures, 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Jeremiah 50:20 ; Song 1-8. But while I beg the Reader to dwell much upon these very blessed truths, I must beg of him at the same time, not to lose sight of Balaam's confession: that there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor divination against Israel. No! blessed be GOD. JESUS hath told us indeed, (Revelation 2:10 ) that Satan will cast some of his people into prison, and they shall have tribulation ten days: yet we are to fear none of these things. Satan would not only cast some, if he could, but all: and instead of a prison he would cast them into hell: and instead of ten days he would have it to be forever. But the Song of Salvation must be sung, for the accuser of our brethren shall be cast down. Revelation 12:10-11 .
Nothing can be more evident, I think, from the perusal of the whole conference between Balak and Balaam, than that Balak was satisfied of Balaam's wish to oblige him with cursing Israel, had he dared to have done it. And nothing can be more evident, than that the impious prophet endeavored by all the arts of enchantment, to do the reverse of what the LORD constrained him to do. Reader! pause over such views, and ask your own heart, what greater testimony can be needed, in proof of the divine government watching over his people, and accomplishing the destruction of his enemies! See two striking instances of this, 2 Kings 19:32-37 ; Isaiah 10:24-25; Isaiah 10:24-25 .
Is it possible, my soul, in the perusal of this chapter in beholding the LORD'S tender care over his church and people, in making their very enemies the unwilling instruments to testify his watchfulness over them, is it possible anymore to call in question the faithfulness of our covenant GOD in CHRIST? And shall I any longer doubt, any longer suspend my implicit faith and confidence in his mercy? Shall I, like the timid disciple of old, expect the fleece to be moist, and then again to be dry, and through all my life be forever demanding new tokens, new evidences, increasing miracles of my GOD and Saviour's faithfulness towards me, when my whole life is but one continued miracle of all that is gracious, kind and merciful! Oh! for faith to believe the record which the LORD, the FATHER, hath given of his dear SON! Precious JESUS! pity and forgive the weakness and unworthiness of thy poor servant! Do thou, gracious Saviour, by the sweet influences of thy HOLY SPIRIT, incline my soul to depend more upon thee, and to trust thee, even where I cannot trace thee. Cause me to learn from what I read in this chapter, that as all hearts are in thy disposal, and like rivers of waters thou turnest them withersoever thou pleasest, thou canst incline my heart if thou wilt, to believe in thee, and to depend upon thee, even as thou secretly didst constrain the mad prophet to bless, where he intended to curse. LORD! lead me to see, that thou usest even the foes of thy church and people as instruments for their good: that thou hast blessed thy people, and wilt bless them; and their very enemies shall be constrained to call them blessed. And do thou, dearest and ever-blessed JESUS, do thou cause all the opposition which my soul may meet with in the path of grace, from the foes of my salvation, to be overruled for good. Let it minister to endear thee still more and more to my heart; that my necessity of thee, my confidence in thee, and my dependence upon thee, as the LORD my righteousness, may be increasingly precious every hour, until thou shalt have subdued all the enemies of my salvation, and finally bruised Satan under my feet.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 23". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25