Numbers 21-25

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Numbers 21-25 The Book of Wanderings
I don’t want to start off too difficult on a Wednesday night, but I have a Bible trivia question for you guys. If you’ve been with us through the last 20 chapters in the Book of Numbers it should not be too difficult for you. After a series of plagues and the hardening of Pharos’ heart, Israel is released from captivity in Egypt. They are lead by Moses, under the direction of God, who is directing them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and they are heading from captivity to the Promised land. Along the path, they are in the desert, and as you can see from our slide here this evening begin an extended time of wandering.
When we started this book, I said the the saddest thing about it, was that it never had to happen. Already, in our reading we saw the children of Israel get right to the border of the promised land, send in some spies, and not enter in. Bible trivia question, and if you have to look the answer is in chapter 14 at least twice. How many years did the Israelites wander in the wilderness?
40 years! Good job! That is important to know for context of where we are in the book. As we begin chapter 21 this evening, the Israelites have been wandering around in the wilderness for approximately 39 years, so even though they are in a relative sense ready to wrap this trip up, there is still much to come in this book.
Many of the ones that were age 20 and above when they left captivity have already died at this point. Moses’ sister Miriam has died, his brother Aaron has died. You might remember from our study last week, that Moses had sent some messengers from where they were in Kadesh, up to the King of Edom and asked permission to take their remaining caravan through the land of Edom, rather than having to take the long way around. But the King refused to allow them to do so.
So the Israelites, rather than being able to enter into the southern portion of the land, they have to circle around to the east, way up toward the Golan Heights area, in fact when we read about them actually entering in in Joshua 3, it speaks of them crossing the Jordan river and heading toward Jericho. Having to circle around was no easy task and was not without opposition.
Remember they wanted to cut through Edom and were denied, above Edom was Moab, and north of Moab were the Amorites. They were a very visible target, its tough to hide over a million and a half people. Lets look at chapter 21.
Numbers 21:1–4 NKJV
1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners. 2 So Israel made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” 3 And the Lord listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah. 4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.
So the people turn to God and say Lord if you’ll help us, we can do this. Deliver these people into our hands and we will destroy their cities. God does, but it was tough going and the people get discouraged, and they go back to what they do best…verse 5
Numbers 21:5 NKJV
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
And just like that, the people once again complain against God, and complain against the one that God has chosen to lead them, and then complain about the miraculous provision, the manna, the bread from Heaven, that God provided for them so they didn’t starve to death. Have you guys ever spent very much time with someone that is constantly down, constantly finds something to complain about? Do you do it voluntarily? I don’t want to give a real example because then the people that are the Debbie Downers in my life will think I’m talking about them…and have something else to complain about.
But you know what I mean, if there’s a dark cloud to be found, they are looking for rain, suggest doing something a different way, and there is something wrong with that! Perfect picture of this group of Israelites. I spent some time in the book of Philippians this afternoon and I don’t want to get side tracked by this, because Pastor Jim is teaching through the book, and will cover it, but I was blessed by this passage....
Philippians 4:8–9 NKJV
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
You want to rid yourself of anxiety, worry, and fear, make this your job. Find the good, look for the good, mediate on the things that are lovely. Isn’t so different to be around someone that no matter what horror story picture you paint, they say, yeah but at least this, or you’re not seeing this, and they encourage you and build you up. Our world is in desperate need of Philippians 4:8-9 kind of people, the good news is that there are some of you here, and it’s contagious. Catch it, don’t quarantine from it. It would have saved the Israelites lives! AND it is God’s will for your life! I know that. How can I know that, the Bible says it....
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Because the people complained against Moses and God, God sent a painful judgement upon them....verse 6
Numbers 21:6–7 NKJV
6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Again, Moses intercedes on behalf of the people. He doesn’t get offended and refuse to minister to them, he appeals to God on their behalf. And this time, instead of just taking the snakes away, look what God did…verse 8
Numbers 21:8–9 NKJV
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
Now, this is amazing! The Old Testament is full of what theologians call foreshadows or pictures of things to come. Where something happens in the Old and it has significance in the moment, but it is also representative of what is to come.
Pretty simple here. Moses obeys God and he makes a snake out of bronze and he puts it on a pole, and the people have to make a choice. Look at the pole and live, or don’t and don’t live. It can’t be that simple right? If it was, why didn’t God just save all of them. Have you ever been made to say you were sorry. Say your sorry for pulling your sister’s hair, or say you’re sorry for beating up your brother. Did you mean it? Probably not. God required them to do something, it was something small and simple, but it was His way that led to life, and if you wanted to rebel and try to develop natural immunity to the snake bite and do it your way, or put a cloth on your leg, get 2 or 3 shots, and do it your way and not look at it, you were welcome do die being your own Savior. His way led to life, any other way to death.
There is a picture here of Jesus for us to see. Remember in 1 Corinthians where Paul tells us that all of these Old Testament story’s were written as examples for us, this is one of them! If you’ve been doing the chronological Bible reading plan with us this year, you’ll remember the serpent to be the one in the garden that deceived Eve and got her to eat the fruit, and now here we see fiery serpents. The serpent in the Bible is always a symbol of sin....Brass is always a symbol of judgement, so if you picture what is going on here, the people confessed that they had sinned, remember back in verse 7 “we have sinned”, so God tells Moses to take the serpent, sin, and put it on the brass pole, or the brass serpent on the pole, showing judgement, that their sin had been judged and lift it up for the people to look to where their sin had been judged and live.
It is a picture of what we must do today. The wages of sin is death, we are all sinners and are dying and going to hell, unless we look to Jesus. What must we do to be saved?
Acts 16:30–31 NKJV
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
We need to look to Jesus. Who took our sin upon himself and was crucified on a cross, and we can look to that cross, believing and asking him to forgive us. Or what must we do to not be saved and to die? More specifically, die and go to Hell for eternity, do nothing. Don’t look to Jesus. Do anything else and you will find death. Cool picture huh! One more from the Gospel of John just in case you think I’m making stuff up…check this out!
John 3:14–15 NKJV
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Ok, back to Numbers 21 verse 10
Numbers 21:10 NKJV
10 Now the children of Israel moved on and camped in Oboth.
If you read down through it talks about were they moved and different places that they camped. Check out verse 14
Numbers 21:14 NKJV
14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the Lord: “Waheb in Suphah, The brooks of the Arnon,
Don’t you wish we had that book? I’m sure you can go on line and get a copy of something claiming to be it, but it’s not. It’s one of the books that we see referenced in the Bible that have been completely lost over history, but did you know that there was such a thing? That the Lord had wars and there’s a book about it. That’s on my list for when I get to Heaven!
Numbers 21:16–17 NKJV
16 From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” 17 Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it—
They then dig a well and send messengers to the King of the Amorites to ask permission to go through their land, like they tried with the King of Edom. Do you guys remember that I told you Moses was related to the King of Edom, like distant cousins. So even though the King refused and sent his men out, they just backed off and went all the way around. This goes down a little different. Verse 24
Numbers 21:24 NKJV
24 Then Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the people of Ammon; for the border of the people of Ammon was fortified.
So the tide begins to turn for the Israelites here and they take over all of the land of the Amorites, along with several of the major cities in that area…look down to verse 33
Numbers 21:33–35 NKJV
33 And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 34 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, with all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.” 35 So they defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left him; and they took possession of his land.
So if you have a map in your Bible, they are now beginning to possess the land in the northern section of Israel, along the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River.
Chapter 22 begins...
Numbers 22:1–4 NKJV
1 Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. 2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel. 4 So Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
Numbers 22:5–8 NKJV
5 Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! 6 Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” 7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak. 8 And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the Lord speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.
Numbers 22:9–12 NKJV
9 Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 So Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.’ ” 12 And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
So God gives a pretty direct and clear command to Balaam. Balaam is kind of an interesting character in Bible. He wasn’t from Israel, but he was a prophet and clearly he heard from God.
back in that day if you went to see a prophet for something, you were looking for information or a word from God, it was custom that you would bring a gift for the prophet. So Balak the King of Moab bring him what is called the diviner’s fee and say basically I know you have the power to bless and the power to curse, so curse this caravan of people that have come out of Egypt and God, says, no, don’t do it.
Numbers 22:13–15 NKJV
13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go back to your land, for the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.” 14 And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.” 15 Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable than they.
So bigger government thugs are sent with a bigger check book...
Numbers 22:16–17 NKJV
16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; 17 for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.’ ”
You name it, we’ll do it, but don’t let anything keep you from delivering the goods.
Numbers 22:18–19 NKJV
18 Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
This is interesting because God already said to him, don’t do it. But I’m guessing that the blank check, and the thoughts of the honor of men began to corrupt Balaam’s heart to where he begged and whined to God to let him go. I know the Bible says fathers don’t exasperate your children to wrath, but sometimes kids can wear parents down too. Can I, can I, can I, NO! Oh come on please, everyone else is going. What if I do this, or if I clean my room everday for six years and wash your truck, please, please, please, Ok, go! Just get out of here! I’m sure it wasn’t quite like that, but look what it says....
Numbers 22:20–22 NKJV
20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. 22 Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.
Have you guys ever heard the expression the permissive will of God? It’s sort of like a highway. God’s perfect will for you would be the yellow line. That’s where His very best is, the blessing is, but we all have free will. So, sometimes we are still on the road, we’re between the lines, but way over to the left or way over to the right. That may have been what this was, but God was angry with him.
Numbers 22:23–26 NKJV
23 Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. 24 Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. 26 Then the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
Numbers 22:27–28 NKJV
27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
God, speaks through the mouth of the donkey, some of you might be thinking, big deal, I see that here every week! Well some people do think its a big deal that God speaks through them. Remember Miriam and Aaron? Moses, you think God only speaks through you? God has spoke through us in the past as well, we are big deals, this passage puts all that in perspective. It’s not the tool that matters, it’s the master of that tool that has something to offer. Verse 29
Numbers 22:29–30 NKJV
29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” 30 So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” And he said, “No.”
How out of your mind mad do you have to be, that if your donkey starts resisting you and then talking to you that you get angry and beat her instead of passing out, or running away? It just shows us how messed up we can get when we defy the will of God and do things on our own will.
Numbers 22:31–33 NKJV
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. 32 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”
Numbers 22:34–35 NKJV
34 And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” 35 Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
So Balaam goes to Balak, he tells up, look, I can’t just say whatever, I can only say what God gives me to say. Seven altars are built, Sacrifices are offered, Balak takes him up to the high places so that he can overlook all of the Israelites camped down in the valley.
Look at Numbers 23:4-7
Numbers 23:4–7 NKJV
4 And God met Balaam, and he said to Him, “I have prepared the seven altars, and I have offered on each altar a bull and a ram.” 5 Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” 6 So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab. 7 And he took up his oracle and said: “Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, From the mountains of the east. ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!’
Numbers 23:8–10 NKJV
8 “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? 9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him; There! A people dwelling alone, Not reckoning itself among the nations. 10 “Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!”
Numbers 23:11–12 NKJV
11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!” 12 So he answered and said, “Must I not take heed to speak what the Lord has put in my mouth?”
That is what everyone seems to want to die the death of the righteous, to get it right in the end and have things be good with God, just not many that would say that desire to live the life of the righteous now...
So Balak isn’t happy, he says, you know what, you can’t really get the full picture here, come with me to another high place, we’ll do the sacrifice thing and the alter thing all over again, and maybe you can curse them from over there. SO Balaam goes to meet with the Lord, verse 16
Numbers 23:16 NKJV
16 Then the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, “Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”
Verse 18
Numbers 23:18–19 NKJV
18 Then he took up his oracle and said: “Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor! 19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
This tells us something about the character of God. He is unchanging, He’s not like us, He doesn’t lie. We look at God like a bigger, better version of us, but He’s not us, He’s not a man, He doesn’t change. Verse 20
Numbers 23:20–21 NKJV
20 Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. 21 “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him, And the shout of a King is among them.
He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, wait, haven’t they been whining and complaining since they left? Just because God chooses not to observe, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Again, God is not like us. When Jesus takes our sin upon Himself, God chooses to no longer see us as sinners, He chooses to see us as perfect and redeemed, He looks at us like He looks at God the Son. We don’t do that, people sin against us and we may forgive, but most of the time we choose to remember. We just celebrated the birth of Christ at Christmas. The world celebrated Santa Claus, checking his list and checking it twice to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. That is how much of the world views God as keeping a list and trying to catch us at everything.
Numbers 23:23–26 NKJV
23 “For there is no sorcery against Jacob, Nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob And of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’ 24 Look, a people rises like a lioness, And lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain.” 25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all!” 26 So Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Did I not tell you, saying, ‘All that the Lord speaks, that I must do’?”
Numbers 23:27–29 NKJV
27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” 28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that overlooks the wasteland. 29 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.”
Ok, set it up, and we’ll do the whole thing again. Let’s read through the rest of the prophecy of Balaam
Numbers 24:1–4 NKJV
1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. 3 Then he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, 4 The utterance of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
Numbers 24:5–8 NKJV
5 “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! 6 Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens by the riverside, Like aloes planted by the Lord, Like cedars beside the waters. 7 He shall pour water from his buckets, And his seed shall be in many waters. “His king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted. 8 “God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies; He shall break their bones And pierce them with his arrows.
Numbers 24:9–12 NKJV
9 ‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’ “Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you.” 10 Then Balak’s anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times! 11 Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor.” 12 So Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying,
Numbers 24:13–16 NKJV
13 ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord, to do good or bad of my own will. What the Lord says, that I must speak’? 14 And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days.” 15 So he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; 16 The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
Numbers 24:17–20 NKJV
17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. 18 “And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, While Israel does valiantly. 19 Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, And destroy the remains of the city.” 20 Then he looked on Amalek, and he took up his oracle and said: “Amalek was first among the nations, But shall be last until he perishes.”
He was prophesying about Jesus there.
Numbers 24:21–24 NKJV
21 Then he looked on the Kenites, and he took up his oracle and said: “Firm is your dwelling place, And your nest is set in the rock; 22 Nevertheless Kain shall be burned. How long until Asshur carries you away captive?” 23 Then he took up his oracle and said: “Alas! Who shall live when God does this? 24 But ships shall come from the coasts of Cyprus, And they shall afflict Asshur and afflict Eber, And so shall Amalek, until he perishes.”
Numbers 24:25 NKJV
25 So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way.
It seems good that Balaam departed, but there is more to the story of Balaam that we will see in chapter 31.
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