Thursday, March 4, 2021

Numbers. Day 85, Balaam's Fifth, Sixth, And Seventh Messages

Balaam has been unable to curse Israel for King Balak of Moab because the Lord won't allow it. Instead Balaam has had nothing but words of blessing for Israel and words of woe for Israel's enemies, including Moab. Yesterday he spoke prophetically about Moab and Edom being subdued in the future by Israel. Today he speaks his final three messages and they include bad news for other tribes and nations.

"Then Balaam saw Amalek and spoke his message: 'Amalek was first among the nations, but their end will be utter destruction.'" (Numbers 24:20) Balaam is able to see Amalekite territory (or at least a portion of it or the edge of its border) from his vantage point on top of Peor and he pronounces a grim future for the Amalekites---a future they brought upon themselves by their actions in Exodus 17. You'll recall that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites without cause at Rephidim after the Lord rescued the Israelites from Egypt. The Lord gave the Israelites victory in battle over the Amalekites and then the Lord said in response to the unprovoked attack, "I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven." (Exodus 17:14b) 

The incident in Exodus 17 is not the only time the Amalekites will come out in opposition against Israel. They made themselves Israel's enemy in Exodus 17 and will keep on making themselves Israel's enemy throughout much of the Old Testament. When Balaam says "Amalek was first among the nations" he probably means "Amalek was the first nation to attack the Lord's people after they came out of Egypt". There is no Amalekite nation or tribe in this world today, as the Lord foretold, but there is a nation of Israel in today's world. The Amalekites were the first to become Israel's enemy but not the last. Many nations and tribes have made themselves Israel's enemy; many still are treating Israel as an enemy in our own times. But, as the Lord has repeatedly said in the Bible, He curses those who curse Israel. Judgment will fall, sooner or later, on any nation or tribe or clan or organization that pits itself against the Lord's covenant people.

Now Balaam speaks out against another group who will not fare well in the future. "Then he saw the Kenites and spoke his message: 'Your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock; yet you Kenites will be destroyed, when Ashur takes you captive.'" (Numbers 24:21-22) Moses' father-in-law was a Kenite and the Kenites showed kindness toward the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. When the Lord says it's time to destroy the Amalekites He will command the Kenites to move away from the Amalekites so they are not destroyed along with them, saying, "You showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt." (1 Samuel 15:6b) The Kenites lived among and mingled with the Israelites in Old Testament times and I can find no incident in the Bible where they acted out against Israel. I don't think Balaam is speaking a prophecy against them because they will attack Israel; it appears as if he is speaking of the day in which the ten northern tribes of Israel, along with the Kenites who live among them, are conquered by Assyria and taken captive. 

The name of one of Assyria's primary cities and the name of one of its pagan deities was Ashur. Originally Ashur (also known as Asshur or Assur) was a local deity, believed by the Assyrians to be the god who watched over the city of Ashur. But by the time Assyria became powerful enough to overthrow the northern kingdom of Israel, the local deity known as Ashur had become Assyria's main focus of worship. The Lord allowed the northern kingdom of Israel to be conquered by Assyria because Israel fell into idolatry. The same is no doubt true of the Kenites who lived among them and mingled with them. All of them were conquered together by Assyria, which is why Balaam says, "You Kenites will be destroyed, when Ashur takes you captive." The Kenites, along with the ten northern tribes of Israel, gave themselves over to the worship of false gods. As discipline for this, the Lord allowed them to be conquered by a nation that worshiped false gods, which is why I think He says through Balaam that "Ashur" will take the Kenites captive. A nation that worships false gods will take captive a people who yielded themselves to the worship of false gods and as a result there is no nation or tribe known as the Kenites in the world today. 

Balaam speaks his seventh and final message and then he departs from the presence of King Balak and goes home. "Then he spoke his message: 'Alas! Who can live when God does this? Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus; they will subdue Ashur and Eber, but they too will come to ruin.' Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way." (Numbers 24:23-25) Balaam says something like, "Who can change what God intends to do?" God has already determined the rise and fall of nations. He knows every single thing that every human being will ever do and He is able to decide far ahead of time how He will react to the deeds of human beings. Here in Numbers 24 the Lord already knows the fate of every nation that will ever exist because He knows everything each nation's leaders and each nation's citizens will ever do. 

Balaam foresees Assyria conquering the Kenites and the ten northern tribes of Israel but also foresees Assyria being conquered. Babylon conquered Assyria, Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire was conquered by the Greek Empire, and the Greek Empire was conquered by the Roman Empire. The Greek Empire and the Roman Empire both occupied and oppressed the Jewish people (referenced in verse 24 as "Eber" because Eber was mentioned in the Table of Nations as a descendant of Noah's son Shem and an ancestor of the Israelites; the word "Hebrew" is believed to be derived from the word "Eber") but in time the Lord made Israel a sovereign nation again just as He always said He would. No one can change what God intends to do. As the prophet Daniel said, the Lord "deposes kings and raises up others". (Daniel 2:21) No one rises to power unless the Lord allows it. No one is deposed from power unless the Lord allows it. Sometimes a nation's leader is godly and sometimes a nation's leader is wicked, but the Lord chooses whom He chooses for specific times and specific purposes. These things are all the Lord's doing because these events fit into His will for the peoples of the earth. 

As we studied yesterday, a King is coming who will reign forever in righteousness. His will be the final kingdom. His will be the eternal kingdom. His is the kingdom of which the prophet Daniel said, "The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." (Daniel 2:44) Daniel said God will give to this King "authority, glory and sovereign power" and that "all nations and peoples" will worship Him and that "His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed". (Daniel 7:14) We who love the Lord will forever live in peace and in the light of His love in a world where there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away". (Revelation 21:4) In the end times there will be one final rebellion against the Lord---one final attempt to keep His kingdom from coming---but as Balaam asks, "Who can change what God intends to do?" In that time the enemies of the Lord will "wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings---and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers". (Revelation 17:14) The Lamb---that's Jesus! The called, chosen and faithful followers---that's us who believe on His name! We will live and reign forever with our great and righteous and holy King. We will forever behold the face of the One who loved us more than His own life. We will forever live with the One who provided a means of salvation for us. And, in the words of an old hymn, "What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see, when I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace."

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