Sermon Oct. 27, 2013 “Blessing and Curse” Numbers 23:1-26

Numbers 23:1-26 October 27, 2013
“Blessings and Curses” Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen BFC
Did you have a week where you felt that everyone was against you, and all the traffic lights were red? Did you feel, in the words of the song, that “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”? Do you sometimes feel that you are under a curse, perhaps because of your sin, or your family background? Then think about what God does here in Numbers 23.

1. God establishes His sovereign blessing for you, trumping all curses.
King Balak thinks that if he does what Balaam asks him to do (build seven altars and offer bulls and rams on them), and if he enables Balaam to get a proper perspective on the size of the Israelites (v. 13, 27), and if he pays him lots of money, then Balaam will do his bidding and curse Israel for him, and his problems will go away.
But that doesn’t happen; in fact, no matter what he does, no matter where he positions Balaam, no matter what he pays him, Balaam cannot curse Israel; he can only bless them! Look at:
7 Then Balaam uttered his oracle: “Balak brought me from Aram, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me; come, denounce Israel.’ 8 How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced?
11 Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!”
12 He answered, “Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?”
Balaam: 20 “I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.”
You see, no one can thwart God’s purposes. When God promises to bless a people, He will bless them. If God says He will do something, then He will act upon that and bring those plans to fruition. As we read in v. 19: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
God established His sovereign blessing for Israel, and that blessing trumped all possible curses.

Matthew Henry writes: Israel is owned and blessed of God. He has not cursed them, for they are delivered from the curse of the law; he has not defied them, nor rejected or abandoned them, though mean and vile. Though the enemies of God’s people may prevail far against them, yet they cannot curse them; that is, they cannot do them any real evil… for they cannot separate them from the love of God in Christ, Rom. 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Likewise, God has established His sovereign blessing for you, and that blessing trumps all possible curses that anyone tries to put on you, whether from Satan or from the enemies of the church.
Isaiah 54:14-17 “In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. 15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. 16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD”
God has established His sovereign blessing for you, and that blessing trumps all possible curses that anyone tries to put on you. Remember that when you are tempted… when you are tried and weak… when you feel defeated… when you hate yourself.

2. God confirms His timely blessing upon you, to give you courage.
Think about the setting here: Israel is camped on the east bank of the Jordan River, and is about to enter into the Promised Land. But the land is full of giants, strong armies, and walled cities, and Israel does not have a professional army, nor siege weapons to bring down those walls, nor a home base to operate out of. If you and I were Israelites back then, we would probably be a bit fearful and concerned about our prospects.
So what does God do to encourage them? Well, He could have sent Moses a message; or He could have appeared in a vision; or He could have performed some miracle. But instead, what God does to give His people courage is that He confirms the blessings He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through a pagan prophet, who has been hired to curse Israel!
In other words, just when Israel needed encouragement, just as they are poised to begin their conquest of the Promised Land, God provides them with courage from a most unexpected source: namely, their enemies!
Gordon Wenham writes: “The affirmation of these promises of God is most appropriate at this time, as Israel is camped beside the Jordan, ready to enter the Promised Land to their west.
The extraordinary means through which this pagan prophet is led to make these predications is a sign of their divine origin and a guarantee of their ultimate fulfillment. The people therefore should take courage, despite the daunting prospect of the struggles ahead of them.”

We don’t know how Israel learned of these prophecies, but however the Israelites heard of these oracles, they certainly gave great encouragement to the people of Israel, for here was a pagan seer pronouncing God’s covenantal blessings upon them, (rather than a priest of Israel), as they are about to go into the Promised Land and take it. God is blessing His people through a pagan prophet!
Think of it: this would be as if an hard-core atheist like Richard Dawkins or a radical Muslim, who hate you and your gospel, were to suddenly stand up and declare publicly God’s richest blessings upon you and the church of Christ!
David Stubbs comments: “This unlikely source of blessing underscores the freedom and power of God to bring forward his plans of blessing Israel and the world, both in spite of Israel’s sin and outside regular channels.” God shows that He is not limited to the normal channels He has established to speak to His people and to bless them.
“God is not bound by the failures of his people, by the regular means of priesthood or tabernacle, or the evil intentions of earthly kings and powers. That God can and will use even the enemies of Israel to bless them highlights the freedom, power, and providential control of god as well as His great love for His sinful people and His desire to bless them.”
Do you know what else is interesting? Neither Moses nor the elders of Israel knew anything of this matter while it was happening, so they were in no position to fight against this attempted cursing. But God not only thwarted this attempt at cursing them, without any intercession or action on Israel’s part, but turned the curse into a blessing. So even when we are unaware of the spiritual battles going on, God is protecting us.
Ps. 121:3-8 “He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Psalm 127:1-2 “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
These oracles gave glory to God, as He showed His power over the intentions of foreign kings and pagan prophets; no one can thwart His purposes. Israel was assured that God is sovereign over the Balaks and Balaams of the world, over the presidents and mullahs, over the CEOs and media moguls, over the terrorists and false teachers of the world.
God confirms His timely blessing upon you, to give you courage. So what challenge are you facing? God will give you courage and He will fight for you.

3. God fulfills His richest blessing to you in Christ, Who took your curse.
There are a number of parallels between what Balak and Balaam tried to do to Israel and what Judas tried to do to Jesus Christ.
Both Balaam and Judas came close enough to truth to appear sincere and faithful. For a time, both seemed to serve the true God. But, motivated by ambition and greed, they both renounced God and turned against him, with catastrophic results.
In both cases the enemies of God sought to curse God’s people: In Numbers, by pronouncing a curse upon the people; in the gospels by hanging Jesus on a tree, as a sign that He was accursed by God. Deut. 21:23 “anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”
But in both cases, God turned the curse into a blessing: Balaam could only speak blessings upon Israel; and God accepted the atoning work of His Son on the cross, and rewarded Him with the highest blessing possible, turning the curse against us into God’s blessing. (Phil. 2:9-11).
So we see that Balaam’s oracles are Messianic; they point us to the coming of the Messiah who will crush Moab, as surely as he will crush the nations who oppose Him, and how He will bless those who are His. This is not what Balaam wanted to say, nor what Balak was paying him to say, but God overruled the words that came out of Balaam’s mouth (as He did with Balaam’s donkey) to declare that God’s purposes are sovereign, and God will fulfill His promises, especially in the coming of the promises Messiah, in whom all the nations will be blessed!
God fulfills His richest blessing to you in Christ, Who took your curse.

Gal. 3:10-14 “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”….13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

1. God establishes His sovereign blessing for you, trumping all curses.
2. God confirms His timely blessing upon you, to give you courage.
3. God fulfills His richest blessing to you in Christ, Who took your curse.