The Book of Numbers – God is at work for You

Numbers 22 opens with the Israelites travelling to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan with the intention to conquest Canaan.

King Balak of Moab gets a glimpse of the sheer number of Israelites and is terrified. He believed that Israel was too powerful to defeat by military means and so he sought to oppose them through a different method – pagan divination. He makes an alliance with the Midianites to defeat the Israelites.

Balaam summoned

He summons Balaam, a renowned diviner by sending the elders of Midian and Moab to relay a message by Him along with a hefty fee for his services. Balak wanted Balaam to put a curse on the people so that they could be defeated. The messengers present Balak’s request to Balaam. In response Balaam tells them to spend the night there so he could bring back the answer the Lord gives him (verse8).  

Balaam’s response seems so right, so how could he be a pagan diviner? Did he believe in Yahweh? Balaam was not a follower of Yahweh, but was more so someone who considered himself likely to communicate with all gods and did so to get the best outcome for himself.

God does speak to Balaam and clearly states for him neither to go to Balak or put a curse on the Israelites as they are blessed (verse 12). And Balaam tells the messengers “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.” (verse 13).

This again seems as such a correct response from Balaam, take note that he does not mention to Balak’s officials about God instructing him to not put a curse on the people as they are blessed. Let’s hold onto this as it will help us understand Balaam character as we go on.

King Balak again sends some more of his officials, more distinguished and with a promise of a handsome fee for Balaam to come and curse the people. This time God tells Balaam to go with them but speak only what God tells him to.

Balaam and his speaking Donkey

Balaam sets out on his journey with his donkey. As he rides his donkey, the angel of the Lord appears before him, but he is not able to see the angel, only the donkey does. This happens thrice and each time the donkey sees and respond. This infuriates Balaam who beats the donkey all three times as the donkey was not listening to him. The Lord opens the Donkey’s mouth to speaks to Balaam “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” (verse 30). Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So, he bowed low and fell facedown.

Num 22:32-35 “The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it. Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So, Balaam went with Balak’s officials.”

A Contradiction?

God gave Balaam permission to go, but we see the Lord’s anger against Balaam here. Why the contradiction? Balaam was allowed to go only if he would do and speak exactly what the Lord says. Let’s look at some scripture to understand Balaam’s character.

2 Peter 2:15They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.”

Rev 2:14But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.”

Balaam is condemned in scripture for his wickedness. Balaam appeared to have been listening to God and following what he said but God knew Balaam’s real intentions. Balaam’s heart was probably occupied with the monetary gain he could get from King Balak. His motives were centered around himself.

For us: We can easily focus on what pleases us, on what seem to bring us gain, or renown. Nothing can be hidden from the Lord. God can see our hearts and knows our motives and intentions. May our heart’s desire and prayer be that our intentions and actions are not driven by self but centered on God’s will and what pleases Him.

A God who fights for us

Now, where was Israel in all of this. We see the mention of God’s people only once, at the start of the chapter in verse 1 which talks about where they set up camp. This passage does not allude to the fact that the Israelites had any inkling of what was going on. They probably did pray for God’s hand to be over them all, for protection and God to lead and guide them. But they did not know that while they were going about their day, setting up camp, feeding their animals, offering to and worshipping God, there was an enemy that sought a pagan diviner to curse them so he could destroy them. They could not see what God was doing, But God intervened, protected, and prevented them from getting cursed.

God continues to work on our behalf. He is our God who stands in the way and ensures that the enemy will not triumph. If you have been in the wilderness like the Israelites for a period of time and wondering why God does not seen to finish this season soon enough for you, or if you have been feeling that the Lord is silent, remember that he is never absent. Keep seeking Him and worshipping Him. He loves and cares for you and is always on our side. Trust Him to work on your behalf.

“When God is for you, who can be against you” (Romans 8:31)

God Bless.

28 thoughts on “The Book of Numbers – God is at work for You

Add yours

  1. Love this, Manu! God is always speaking and He has multiple means of communicating his messages, and particularly his warnings. When the donkey becomes our messenger, we have obviously overlooked or ignored God’s firsthand communication. Praise God for detaining and prevented our enemies from speaking curses over our lives!! If When God says we’re blessed…that’s the end of it‼️

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Manu, that’ exactly the point in my latest (true) story of my friend’s undeserved jail sentence. God was at work, even in the darkest experience.
    Balaam is an example of the kind of people who think themselves righteous but hang out with unrighteous people for the fringe benefits, telling themselves they can handle it. That’s a dangerous place to be. (Please don’t ask me how I know that!)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! That reminds me of the time I stood with one foot on the dock and one on the boat, holding out my hand for Marty to grab and help me onto the boat. Instead, he stood there smirking as the boat left the dock, and I ended up in the water. :/

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a profound post. I appreciate your insight into Balaam’s story. And I like how you cross referenced other Bible verses. This is a great illustration on the importance of looking at the big picture when we read the Bible. And I loved your mention of the Israelites and what they were doing in all of this. I really needed this reminder on how God is working behind the scenes, even when we have no clue that He is doing so! What an amazing and loving Father we have! Thank you, Manu. This post touched my heart. I will miss reading your posts over the next few weeks, but will try to catch up when I return. Blessings, my friend! 💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Bridget. I am going to miss having you read my posts and share your thoughts and insights on them. I value what you have to say. I will surely miss you but I do get the reason you are taking a break.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Manu, The Bible has so many eye-opening stories, this one of the donkeys was a favorite of mine as a child. I didn’t understand the total message, just that God could make donkeys talk. 😊
    I love this sentence, “He is our God who stands in the way and ensures that the enemy will not triumph.” Amen! We are blessed! Have a wonderful week! 💗💐🌺

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amen 🙏🏾. Such a great story of God’s divine protection and intervention on our behalf, even when we cannot see or understand what he is doing. This is why it is important to give thanks in all circumstances because there are miracles happening all around us daily, seen and unseen. Bless the Lord. 🙏🏾💗


  6. This blogpost was so insightful. I’ve read that passage about Balaam many times, but somehow it always missed my attention that he was a pagan diviner. I especially love the cross references you shared about him here, and your words make me think more about my own motives in different areas of my life. I’m really grateful for the work you put into studying God’s Word and that you share your insights on this blog. Thank you for that! We all reap the benefits of your faithfulness to God’s Word. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

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