Tuesday after Oculi
Scripture: Numbers 23:1-30 (NKJV)
1 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.”
2 And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you.” So he went to a desolate height. 4 And God met Balaam, and he said to Him, “I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.”
5 Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” 6 So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab.
7 And he took up his oracle and said: “Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, from the mountains of the east. ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!’
8 “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him; There! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations.
10 “Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!”
11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!”
12 So he answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?”
13 Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only the outer part of them, and shall not see them all; curse them for me from there.” 14 So he brought him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
15 And he said to Balak, “Stand here by your burnt offering while I meet the Lord over there.”
16 Then the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, “Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” 17 So he came to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab were with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the Lord spoken?”
18 Then he took up his oracle and said: “Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor!
19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
20 “Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
21 “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.
22 “God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox.
23 “For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’
24 “Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.”
25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all”
26 So Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do’?”
27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that overlooks the wasteland. 29 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on every altar.
Balaam acts symbolically—building seven altars—so that Balak may see that the Word Balaam brings back to him is the totality of the answer God would give, the full judgment Yahweh would make in this case. While he still vacillates between being a prophet and a sorcerer, the Lord is speaking clearly to Him and he fears Him above fearing the king.
Balak’s response to the first prophecy is classic: “Can we look at this a different way, so that you’ll see a way to bless me?” It’s as if the angle from which Balaam viewed Israel made things unclear for God! “Oh, they can’t be as numerous as you say! Don’t be afraid, we’ll go look at them where you only will see a few of them, and then you can proclaim my victory over them!”
Yet, Balaam’s first prophecy, that saw Israel as a nation set apart from all others, is confirmed in the second, and explained, as well! The Lord—Yahweh—is Himself their king! How, then, would He curse and not bless? Even though he would love to have all that Balak was promising him, Balaam’s would-be-treacherous tongue is overwhelmed by the Lord. And consider what He says: What the Lord has blessed, man cannot reverse; even the sins His believers commit are not counted against them—God does not see them, because they are covered over by the blood of God the Son. Even though the Christian sins, the Church is the sinless Bride of Christ, because the sins have all been atoned for by the Christ and for those who trust in this payment, no sin is reckoned, but only righteousness!
We thank You, Heavenly Father, that You have had mercy upon us for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, blotting out all our transgressions and holding us ever in Your almighty hand! Amen.