Summary: This Sermon is #18 from Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut.
The entire book Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
Balak’s inquiries relative to the service of God, and Balaam’s answer, briefly considered.
Micah vi. 6, 7, 8.
"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with, thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?--He hath shewed thee, 0 man, what is good: And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
AS mankind are endowed with reason, and profess to be governed by it, their revolts from God are practical criminations of him: Therefore his expostulations with his people of old, when they forsook him and followed other gods--"What iniquity have your fathers found in me? O my people what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me." *
* Jeremiah ii.5. Micah vi.3.
ISRAEL as a people were going away from God, and he condescended to reason with them, and show them their ingratitude and baseness. To this end, he reminded them of his past care of them, and kindness to them, as a nation, from the time of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt--"I brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee from the house of servants"--After just glancing at that deliverance, he passes over the wonders wrought for them at the red sea, and in the wilderness, and their numerous rebellions, while he was leading them as a flock, and supplying their wants by a series of miracles, and enlarges on an event which took place on the borders of Canaan, the attempts made by Balak, the king of Moab, to prevail with him to leave his people and go over to him, and help him against them, and his faithfulness to Israel on that occasion--"O my people, remember now what Balak, king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam, the son of Beor answered him from Shittim to Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord." *
* Numbers xxii. &c. BALAK’S consultations, or inquiries, are contained in the two last verses of our text: Balaam’s answer in the third. In Balak’s inquiries we see the ideas which he entertained of God, and of the service which he supposed would be acceptable to Him, and engage, him to forsake his people, and deliver him from his fears on their account. Balaam’s answer corrects Balak’s mistakes, and discovers surprizingly just apprehensions of the true God, and true religion, though depravity prevailed, and caused him to counteract his convictions, by advising Balak to measures directly opposed to his sense of duty.
TO open and explain this subject is the design of the following discourse.
IT may be proper to premise that Israel did not make war either on Moab or Ammon. Those nations were descended from Lot, and Moses was forbidden to molest them in possession of the lands which God had given them. Moab might have had peace, and the friendship of Israel, but refused it, and joined the confederacy against them. When the tribes of Israel reached the borders of Moab, which lay in their way to Canaan, Balak and his people were intimidated by their numbers, and by their martial appearance. They did not therefore, sue for peace,but resolved to neglect no measures to subdue and conquer them.
IT was an ancient custom among the heathen at their entrance on a war, to devote the enemy to destruction, and solicit their gods to forsake them. Balak thought this a matter of importance before he entered into a war with Israel. This ceremony was commonly performed by the priests, or ministers of religion. How this had been to Moab we are not informed; but on occasion before us, the affrighted sovereign of that people, sent to some distance for Balaam, a famous soothsayer or diviner, of whose prevalence with the powers above he had a high opinion, to be the agent in this business.
BALAAM was really a remarkable person; few more so occur in history. Few others had more knowledge of the true God, or juster ideas of the service which he requires of mankind. But his character will be developed in the sequel.
THIS renowned soothsayer refused at first to listen to the invitation of the king of Moab, assigning a sufficient reason for his refusal --"The Lord refuseth to give me leave"--but when a second embassy arrived, more numerous and move honorable, and with the proffer of great honors and rewards, his ambition and covetousness were inflamed, and he resolved from that moment to secure them. The first seems to have been only a common embassy, and to have carried only the usual rewards of divination. We know what followed. Balaam sinned in asking a second time for liberty to go and curse Israel, when God had once refused him, and told him that they were blessed. He asked, however, and was in judgment permitted to go, but only to act agreeably to divine direction which would be given on the spot; but he went, determined to secure the wages of unrighteousness. Seeing his design, God met him in the way, and by a strange and miraculous communication and warning, made him afraid to curse his people, and even compelled him to bless them altogether. But to come to our subject,