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Continued from Chs. 8 and 9
LET THE LEADER LEAD
THE LORD'S LEADING
C) ITS HISTORICAL EXHIBIT -
testimonies of its working
PHASES 2 AND 3
INCUBUS AND THE LAND OF LIGHT
When the Dark is a Lark
As Israel continued to be led by the Lord, it met an array of kings and contests. After overcoming Arad in South Canaan (Numbers 21), it was delivered from a serpent plague by faith, the Lord using a bronze serpent set upon a pole, a symbol used by some to this day, for transfixing evil. This was definitively applied by Christ in John 3:15 to Himself, as BEARING the sin vicariously, being pierced, and then resurrected, overcoming this very thing, a poison worse than that of asps, present from the Fall, shown overcome in His arising (Romans 1:4).
Here the point is made more obvious by the preliminary and oft-repeated complaints of the people, who realised that the serpent plague was a rebuke for their attitude, which to say the least was scarcely spiritual. They repented, the Lord using this symbol to express divine power over evil, as a stimulus to believing, as they looked upon it, this in its spiritual meaning relating therefore to both John 6:40 and Isaiah 45:22ff//
Next however came a triumph as they defeated Sihon, King of the Amorites who refused them passage, even on the King's Highway, that route of usage; and not only this, gathered people together to attack Israel. On this, Israel was again helped by the Lord, defeating the assailants and taking several cities. Next King Og of Bashan attacked them, and was defeated likewise, the Lord advising Moses as He led him, not to fear, saying, "I have delivered him into your hand with all his people and his land", indicating that the case would parallel the victory over Sihon.
Now by this time a name was engendered for Israel, and fear in the peoples about began to augment, rising like the waves when the wind blows. Moab, with King Balak, a land of some wealth apparently, desired to overcome by guile, and cunning; and in this was a far worse plague for Israel than had the serpents been. It would have been different if Israel had not fallen into sin, after this remarkable episode, but then, they did as recorded so clearly in II Peter 2:15 and Jude. In fact, this is a lesson on His leading, and an illustration of the liberty which the Lord so remarkably enables in man, while yet helping him here, and rebuking him there.
Balaam was some kind of a prophet, a man of some reputation in divine things, and Balak decided to seek his services in an astute, if corrupt manner. Could not Balaam CURSE Israel, so using the power of God in some imagined way, against them! He asked Balaam so to act, but the prophet declared that he could not curse them, for that night, the Lord had spoken with him, seeking for him to submit to Him an account of the visit of those seeking for his cursing on Israel. NO, the Lord told him, you WILL NOT GO.
Balaam told this result to the visiting Moabites, who returned with offers of prodigious wealth if only Balaam would come and so provide some useful-seeming cursing. "Please," said the King of Moab, "Let nothing hinder you from coming to me." How clearly here you see the two calls, that of the world, of influence, of power, of fame, of influence, and that of God. Balaam replied that even if Balak gave him a house full of gold, he could not "go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more."
Here we begin to see
the surpassing slitheringness of this man; for having said this, he then
indicated that he would seek more information from God. Now a NO is a NO, and
what more information is
required ? Is it to find some different spelling such as is obtained if one changes the N to a G, so making NO into GO! So are those who seek to re-write the Bible, through philosophical guile, or verbal manipulation, seeking, it would seem, if it were possible, to deceive the very elect (as predicted, and so verified, in Matthew 24:24. This, it is not possible; yet such activists try. With the world in their eye (Romans 16:17), they present much reward for rebellion, building castles on vacuity (cf. Acme, Alpha and Omega ... Ch. 9, News 82, 122, Aviary of Idolatry, Secular Myths ... Ch. 3).
Now let us return to the false prophet Balaam. This blatant concept of SEEING WHAT MORE THE LORD WILL SAY, is only one of the things that has made him like a scroll of infamy, for his work was not little, nor his will, but his wanderings misled many. It is as if a child on some occasion were told to wash the dishes, and asked by a friend to play a game, said, No I cannot, but wait a moment, I'll just see if the dishes job is really meant!
Thus when Balaam had the audacity to seek further after so categorical an indication at the outset, so clear a divine negative, so that he should not even have RECEIVED the messengers back, let alone heeded them, he was given a permission to proceed, like someone told not to drive after drinking, but asking if he could just get into the car, and perhaps no one would notice!
Since wilfulness was his choice, then in wilfulness he would be used; and if he was so keen to sow the wind, and to forget that this is to ask to reap the whirlwind, so be it, reap he would! Still in the following narrative we shall see HOW OFTEN he could have taken the clear indication of the divine will and leading, as time after time the SAME MESSAGE came through, contrary to the desire of Moah; but he proceeded as if in a trance.
It reminds one of Christ's word to Israel in His own day on this earth:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (cf. SMR Appendix B).
Ruin, as is now well-enough known, was the result, delaying at that, till some 40 years later, at the hand of Rome! In all of this, you see tenderness, impact, patience, but not indifference! Imagine being to tender to the one who 'kills the prophets' when they were His friends! Yet such is the inveterate verity of the Lord. Not only did He, despite that, seek, but He sought many times for them, showing in power and precept, in truth and answer to every challenge, physical, mental, moral or physical, His purity and His compassion, His truth and His incorruptibility.
Balaam however, like Jerusalem of
old, he was not incorruptible!
What then followed this disquieting dynamic to serve two masters ? The Lord then allowed him to go (since he was so determined to 'influence' the word of God), but told him to say only what was granted to him by God. This he did. In the process of three efforts to curse Israel, with sacrificial function and special effects. Balaam spoke indeed what was given, and as his disappointed patron made clear, actually blessed Israel, indeed, King Balak said, "you have altogether blessed them three times," and with small wonder, he grew angry with the two-faced seeming prophet.
In the first effort to curse, Balaam declared, "How shall I curse whom God has not cursed!" (Numbers 23:8). Indeed, he added, "Who can count the dust of Jacob, ornumbr one fourth of Israel. Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end by like his." Now one would have thought that this was clear enough, but no, in response to the carnal pressure of the king so filled with rewards, he tried again and again. In the second, he announced this: "For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel."
Again, most clear, yet again, he needed more 'test', like a contractor for pay, not one in communion with God. In the third occasion he went much further, stating this:
"How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!"
and then indeed he proceeded to a fourth prophecy with this:
"I see Him, but not now, I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall rise out of Israel,
A scepter shall rise out of Israel ..."
And batter the brow of Moab..."
Here of course we come to the vast Messianic strain present from Eden, from Abraham's day as in Genesis 22, in Deuteronomy 18, later, and in all the prophets. There is some epochal, transcendental, some special and unique regality to come through Israel, a Star, a Sceptre, a ruler to overcome, and as Isaiah 11 shows, He will smite the wicked with the rod of His mouth! This message meanwhile constrained the mouth of the wandering prophet.
We learn from II Peter 2 and Jude that Balaam was indeed influenced by greed, and his evil counsel may have mollified the King of Moab, since the Israelites fell for a far worse trap than any sorcery could produce; for that is outside the heart, but their sin was from the inside. Thus, although this people could not be cursed, they COULD be corrected, and so many were killed in the plagues which followed their loose conduct (Numbers 25).
In fact, the reference in II Peter 2:1-12 strongly suggests that Balaam was associated in some way with gross immorality, not only in rejecting authority, but able to be set in a context of adultery. Perhaps it is only the despising of authority which has this in common with gross sexual sin; for the atmosphere at least suggests a corruption of greed which if not personally, then was professionally associated with more licence than that. If however this is simply suggested here, it is quite explicit in Revelation 2:14, which makes it clear that Balaam indeed "taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to ... commit sexual immorality."
Thus Balaam, unable to curse, for all that counselled the use of sexual sin as a spur to divine discipline on Israel. If following their God, they were INVINCIBLE, then provoking divine indignation would be a way into their strength, to corrupt it, indeed to seek to incline God Himself into a discipline of weakening them! Small wonder then that in Number 31:8, we read of that prophet's subsequent execution at the hands of Israel.
Thousands of them had died following this crafty use of the folly of lust in the wilderness, to hurt an army whose mandate was not to live in word only, but in deed and reality, near to the Lord! (cf. Deuteronomy 7:3-11, 4:7-8). In fact, 24,000 of Israel died of the plague.
Nor was it sexual sin alone; but rather they were invited to pagan rites, and add idol sacrifices in that setting, so being "joined to" Baal of Peor. How like this is to those churches today which link to the UN pagan secularism, debase the things of God to the purposes and perspectives of men, link religious rites and respect for peace' sake or profit's motivation, yes or for nice feelings, as if the opinion of men were more important than the truth of God (John 5:44-45).
It is all unbelief, for man's importance is less than nothing compared with that of God, to the extent that unless God blesses, there IS no blessing, and if the source is abused, then how much more is the dependency! If God be against you, what is your hope!
Of fascinating interest in this account is the matter of HOW THE LORD LED.
We have so far not noted that God rebuked Balaam by making a miracle in which his ASS addressed him. First the animal refused to GO whereas for long he had served Balaam well. Let us visit this happening, which came when Balaam first followed the messengers from King Balak, on his fateful course. Beating the ass, Balaam found himself aghast as it spoke to him, rebuking him for such conduct. Then Balaam realised, indeed saw the angel of the Lord barring the way. The ass has as usual acted sensibly: it was his boss who was embossed with sin, and staring into stark death at a moment's notice! However, Balaam was permitted to proceed, this parable in action so strong as to leave a stinging reprimand, and indeed a terrible rebuke.
A LARK ? BUT ONE THAT DOES NOT SING
An ass is wiser than you! was the portent of the message, but go, go on your lustful way, following profit and preference, against the clear word of God!
It is so close to what is found in the poignant irony of Proverbs 1, where the insistence on error is contrasted with the decimation which results, and the parallel in Proverbs 8, which says of wisdom, "All who hate me love death!"
Such irony is intense in Ecclesiastes 11:9-10:
"Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.
"Therefore remove sorrow from your heart,
And put away evil from your flesh,
For childhood and youth are vanity."
God did indeed bring the prophet who could not heed either a direct prohibition or an enacted satire, or even perceive irony in his iron-clad will, playing on it like water on steel. Iron rusts, the water remains. Too turgid to be ruled by truth, he perished.
Thus Balaam was killed, his penchant for profit out of God being a ghastly story of servitude to sin, even when a man's eyes had seen something of spiritual things. In fact, it seems horribly close to the exact case in Hebrews 6:4ff., where one who has tasted of heavenly things and of the power of God, drawing back, does so to irremediable disaster. It could not be further from human will in charge, for once this trifling has occurred at such a level, the result is final. You fuss with faith, without faith (as signified in Hebrews 4:1ff.), and in your faithlessness you run intense risk of being exposed to judgment, like astronauts in space, without suit or protection. Death does not then trifle with you, and this is far more serious than mere cessation of physical life. If men will cease to fear the Lord, this does not remove the peril of pretence and pretension.
Such listless and sallow substitutes for faith, in the interests of mischievous motives, all scrambled like some untimely dropped egg on a hot road, mixed in motive, marred in heart, are toying with truth, trading with mercy, misspent polluters of mercy. Such a case is perhaps like carelessly getting scar tissue, and then trying to operate some more; or a cancer inadequately removed, leaving the residue inoperable next time. To taste is not to swallow, and playing about with God, using Him, trying to supplement Him with this or that, to synthesise his word with some desire of the heart, unsanctified and foolish, this can lead to those who, looking on the way, remaining wayward, are crushed by Christ as by a stone (Matthew 21:44).
He is to be STOOD ON, this Rock, as a basis, a foundation, a living stability, not studiously subjected to some quarrying process in order to melt it all down into some unknown compound. Christ CANNOT be melted down, and the rebuke of an ass is a fitting, an eloquent and an indisputable reprimand to those who dabble in CHRIST PLUS THIS OR THAT, trying to combine things, as if God were an object, and life a manipulation, now having this 'interpretation' from the belly of philosophy, now that, when in fact it is the most roguish rejection of what is said, as if God were not proficient in speech.
SUCH PRECISELY was the error of Balaam, and such is the context of his condemnation in Revelation, in Jude and in II Peter that those who practise such servitude while mentioning Christ, would do well to consider the end of such conduct! You CANNOT subject God to your ends, your objectives, your proclivities, your philosophies, and hope to worship Him, for while HE cannot be changed, you can be; and when you so act in such rebellion, the fruits, like crushed grapes of wrath, can be red indeed!
For a look at modern times, in this sort of error, at the ideological level, relative to the UN, and the misuse of liberty involved, see News 152, which reviews things in some depth at this level. For more at the ecclesiastical level, see News 121, and for the sober testimony of reality and reason in these things, see News 122. For Cultural Constraints as the modern Balak, see Secular Myths and Sacred Truth Ch. 7 and consult Acme, Alpha and Omega ... Ch. 9.