Today's Devotions

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Showcase: Assorted Treats

  • Difficult People to Love +

    Loving others is not easy, Read More
  • River of Love +

    There's a river of love that runs through all timeBut there's a river of grief that floods through our livesIt Read More
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Don  Carsonhttp://www.esvbible.org/Numbers+23/

http://www.esvbible.org/Psalms+64-65/

http://www.esvbible.org/Isaiah+13/

http://www.esvbible.org/1+Peter+1/

BALAAM RECOGNIZES THAT he cannot control the oracles he receives (Num. 23). He cannot even be sure that an oracle will be given him: "Perhaps the LORD will come to meet with me," he explains (23:3).

"The LORD put a message in Balaam's mouth" (23:5), and this message is reported in the oracle of vv. 7-10. (1) Cast in poetic form, it stakes out the independence of the true prophet. Although Balak is the one who summoned him, Balaam asks, "How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced?" (23:8). (2) The last part of this first oracle reflects on the Israelites themselves. They consider themselves different from the other nations — after all, they are the covenant people of God — and therefore they will not be assimilated (23:9). Not only will their numbers vastly increase ("Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel?"), but they are declared to be righteous, the kind of people who ultimately meet a glorious end (23:10).

Balak does not give up easily, and in due course the Lord gives Balaam a second oracle (23:18-24). Here the same themes are repeated and strengthened. (1) Balaam can pronounce only blessing on Israel. After all, God is not going to change his mind just because Balak wants Balaam to take another shot at it. "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind"(23:19). In any case, not only has Balaam "received a command to bless," but even if Balaam disobeyed the command, he frankly admits, God "has blessed, and I cannot change it" (23:20). "There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel" (23:23). (2) As for Israel, no misfortune or misery is observed there, for "the LORD their God is with them" (23:21). Since the God of the Exodus is their God, they have the strength of a wild ox, and will triumph over their enemies (23:22, 24).

Two observations: (1) Balak represents the kind of approach to religion cherished by superstitious people. For them, religion serves to crank up blessings and call down curses. The gods serve me, and I am angry and frustrated if they can't be tamed. (2) After the succession of reports of the dreary rebellions of the Israelites, it is astonishing to hear them praised so highly. But the reason, of course, is because it is God who sustains and strengthens them. If God blesses his people, no curse against them can stand. And since God is the source of this oracle, this is God's view of things — and our great ground of confidence and hope.

Reflections to Consider

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Publications

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Music

  • River of Love

    There's a river of love that runs through all timeBut there's a river of grief that floods through our livesIt Read More
  • I Am Nothing

    I stutter when I tryTo speak the language of lifeI want to shout out loudBut I just cry insideSometimes it Read More
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Audio & Video

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Favorites

  • Transforming this World: The Hope of Glory by NT Wright +

    Wright confronts the perspective that this world doesn’t matter, and that we live only to be in heaven. He shows Read More
  • What is Good in a World that Defies Hope: a talk by NT Wright +

    This is the second part of three talks by NT Wright at Harvard University in November, 2008 on the topic Read More
  • The Stream, the Lake and the River: NT Wright +

      Acts 2.1-21; John 7.37-39; a sermon at the Eucharist on the Feast of Pentecost, 11 May 2008, by the Read More
  • Jesus in the Perfect Storm by NT Wright +

    Zechariah 9.9-17; Luke 19.28-48; A sermon for Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011, In the University Chapel of St Salvator, St Read More
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Hidden Blessings

  • Christ is a Great Savior: a review of the movie Amazing Grace +

    Amazing Grace is a historical drama about William Wilberforce who was elected to British Parliament at the age of 21 Read More
  • Wilberforce, Hollywood's Amazing Grace, Charlotte Allen +

    William Wilberforce's relentless campaign eventually led the British Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a Read More
  • Making Beauty out of Ugly Things: Grace by U2 +

    Grace, she takes the blame She covers the shame Removes the stain It could be her name Grace, she carries Read More
  • The True Nature of Grace and Love: a movie review of the Soloist +

    The 2009 movie The Soloist is based on a book by the same name, written by Los Angeles Times columnist Read More
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