Numbers 22:21-23:30 ~ Luke 1:57-80 ~ Psalm 58:1-11 ~ Proverbs 11:12-13
Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. Today is March 15th. I’m Brian. It’s great to be here with you today. I am buckled in and ready to go. The mic is obviously working. Got a nice steamy cup of coffee to my left and our readings for today right in front of me, so I guess we’re ready. Are you ready? Here we go! We’re reading from the Expanded Bible this week. Numbers chapter 22, verse 21 through 23, verse 30.
There is a fascinating story taking place in the book of Numbers today, blowing away the stereotypes of these books. Like Leviticus and Numbers, there is a stereotype about these books that ‘oh man, if you can make it through Numbers, you can make it through anything.’ That is not true. I mean, look at the things that have come out of this story. And it is just a part of the same story.
So the children of Israel are wandering in the wilderness at this point because they’ve doubted that they could take the promised land, and so God said you can have what you want, basically. It could have been different, but a whole generation will stay out here in the wilderness for 40 years. So they are wandering around, a million people, and so they have to ask for passage to get from one place to another because they are sort of locked in and other countries like Edom are not letting them pass through. So they have had to fight some. There is just no place, so they are wandering around. And when they are forced into fighting they win. So they have a little bit of territory, but they are not able to settle in.
The Moabites are freaking out about the Israelites as well. If you kind of want to picture where Moab and Edom are, you would have to be looking at a map of modern day Israel and locate the Dead Sea. That is hard to miss. So there is the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River runs south from the Sea of Galilee and empties into the Dead Sea and this is borderlands. So to the south of the Dead Sea, moving down into the Negev, down into the desert would have been Edom, and bordering to the north would have been Moab. So the children of Israel are in the wilderness on that side of the Jordan River. They haven’t been able to cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan that will become their land, if God’s promise holds true, so they are on the other side of the Jordan and both countries that would let them go through to the north won’t let them go through, so they have to go all the way around.
So the King Balak has called on this powerful, prophetic kind of person named Balaam to put a curse on the children of Israel. Balaam does the right thing and says when the first emissaries come, “Just chill out here overnight. I’m going to go see what God has to say because I can’t do anything God doesn’t tell me to do.” And he comes back and says, “I can’t do it.” And he sends the emissaries home. Balak then sends more important emissaries and Balaam says the same thing, “Wait and I’ll see what God says.” God says, “Go with them, but only say what I tell you to say.”
So this is what God tells Balaam, but somewhere in there, there is a thread inside of Balaam’s heart that tells him ‘I could get rich. Maybe this could go good for me.’ He is planning to obey the Lord, but there may be opportunity here to cash in and he begins to think about that, which sets up everything that comes next, which is really fascinating stuff.
So Balaam gets up the next morning and he leaves with the Moabite leaders, but there is an angel following along. The angel stands in front of the road and only Balaam’s donkey can see this angel. So the donkey moves out of the way, which forces him to go off the road. Balaam can’t figure out why his donkey is all of a sudden going off the road, so he smacks him a couple of times and gets it back on the road. They are going on and there is a narrow path and the angel is blocking the path again and so the donkey tries to get out of the way and it squishes Balaam’s foot. So Balaam is obviously frustrated and probably has a few choice things to say to the donkey, smacks it, gets it back on the road. They move along and then there is like a gateway and there is nowhere for the donkey to move out of the way when it sees the angel. So the donkey just sits down and Balaam is so mad that he can hardly see straight.
We know this because the donkey starts talking to Balaam and Balaam starts talking back to the donkey, not even realizing ‘wait a second, donkeys don’t talk.’ They are having a conversation before he can even get his rage under control. The donkey sits down. Balaam jumps off the donkey. He is so mad that he is smacking it and hitting it and probably cursing it. And the donkey talks, “What did I do? What have I done to make you hit me these three times?” And then we have the answer. “You have made me look foolish.” “I wish I had a sword in my hand. I would kill you right now.”
This conversation happens and the angel is revealed and Balaam sees the error of his ways. It is really interesting what happened here, because Balaam has all the right words. “I can only say what God tells me to say,” and yet he’s worried about looking stupid in front of the king’s emissaries. How often do we do the same thing? How often do we play with our freedoms? How often are we more interested in how this is going to make us look than actually going and obeying the Lord and saying only what he has you say? The book of Numbers isn’t so dry after all, is it? Because now it is a mirror into our souls.
As the story progresses, Balaam and King Balak do meet and King Balak is doing everything Balaam is telling him, offering sacrifices, giving him space to hear from the Lord. And Balaam, he’s got the message now. There is an angel around and he has a sword and it doesn’t really matter whether I look foolish or not, I would rather look foolish than look dead. I’m only going to say what God tells me to say. So he comes back and says, “I can’t. These people are blessed by God and I can’t.”
So Balak goes to another place and shows him another place. “Can you do it from here?” Sacrifices are given. God speaks. “No, I can’t,” Balaam tells Balak. “I can’t. These people are blessed.”
Balak then says, “Well, then if you can’t curse them, then just don’t bless them like you’ve been doing.” “Let’s go over here and look one more place and see if you can curse them from there.”
Man, if we look at this behavior we have to see our own lives in this. How many times have we wanted something that the Lord has been like, “No, that’s not healthy for you. No.” And so we’ll go around the other side. “What about from this angle? Can’t you see, Lord, that this path would be good for me? Can’t you see, Lord?” He’s like, “No, that wouldn’t be healthy for you.” So we go around to the other side. “What about from over at this angle? Can’t you see?” And most of the time what that means is we’re going to do it anyway, no matter what the Lord says. Usually the way that we do this first is to try to talk ourselves out of the fact that the Lord said anything at all. And yet, the book of Numbers is showing us we’re not the only ones who have had this line of reasoning. We’re not the only ones who have ever done this. We have a story from thousands of years ago that shows us this has been going on all along and we are continuing to follow this same story, this same script. And this same script will not get us anywhere but the wilderness and we will never get out of it on our own. There can be a promised land and it can be just miles away. We can even see it but we can’t get to it on our own. We can only follow God there.
So may we examine our own hearts and behaviors today because they are kind of exposed. They have kind of come flashing out of the book of Numbers and here we are with some things to think about. How are we looking at what other people think of us as more important than what God is telling us? How are we trying to negotiate with God by looking at everything from so many angles until we hope to wear him down so he can give us what we want because we are going to do it anyway? That won’t lead us anywhere, which uniquely speaks directly into this season that we’re in right now, this season that runs us into Easter time known as Lent, a season that has been used for lots of things, but has deep and profound meaning. Certainly lots of people use it for diet, “I’m going to give up sugar.” That’s fine if you’re giving it out to God. That’s great. But this is a season where we are giving up everything to God, not just the chocolate bar. We’re saying my life is before you open and I am asking that you set it right. I am asking that you take away from me the things that I’ve been negotiating and trying to bulldoze my way into that don’t belong in my life. I’m inviting you. I’m willing to give that up forever. I’m willing to give up anything that you want and I’m willing for anything to be rearranged how you want it. I need to hear from you and walk with you or there is no hope for me ever moving from this wilderness into a promised land.
That is our prayer, Lord. We see that this has been going on a long time. We see this in lives that are our forbearers’ spiritually. We read our own mail in the scriptures, even today. So as we’re in this season and we’re contemplating the price of sin and the cost of sin and what the sin has done, the devastation that it has wrought on this planet and in our own lives, we’re realizing that this is not only a costly endeavor, but you paid the cost and set us free from it. This doesn’t have to be a part of our story going forward. It’s just that we choose it. So in this season, we are inviting you to come invade us, change us, align us so that we can be true and have true intimacy with you and begin eternity now instead of waiting for something to begin that is already happening. We are here. We are alive. This moment is contained with an eternity. It’s time to get with the program. So we offer our very lives to you as living sacrifices and invite you to indwell us. Come, Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of Jesus, amen.
SONG Played on today’s DAB is sung by Brian’s wife, Jill Parr “Change” http://apple.co/1XjehWm.