Summary: At first glance the book of Numbers reads a bit like an operations manual. It’s got numbers of soldiers, lists of names, and a bit of repetition. Tucked between those lists and numbers are some stories of real people, dealing with real issues of faith!
BETWEEN THE NUMBERS
-Back in Bible College I had one of the best possible jobs.
-I was a disc jockey at the college’s FM radio station and I worked the 6pm to Midnight shift.
-I was in this little sound-proof room where we played the CDs, talked through the microphone, and in addition to all the rest of my duties, and homework…I watched TV.
-We didn’t have cable at my house, but we had it in the studio and the one things I watched almost every night was the Law and Order reruns.
-If you ever watch trial shows you’ll know that the cops and prosecutors are trying to identify the “motive” for the crime.
-Part of making a case against someone who is a suspect in a crime is determining their motive: did they have a reason for committing that crime?
-OUR MOTIVES ARE WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO.
-And motives are tricky. Especially when we’re dealing the motivation of our own hearts.
-This morning we’re looking at one of the strangest passages in the Bible.
-We’re looking at the story of Balaam and his donkey! Numb 22
-If you weren’t here last week let me catch you up to speed.
-The Israelites were camped near the border of Moab.
-The Moabite King Balak was convinced that Israel would attack, so he tried to hire the sorcerer Balaam to put a curse on Israel.
-It’s important to understand the sequence of events here:
-Balak sent word to Balaam offering to pay him.
-Balaam asked God what to do, and God said, “Don’t do it.”
-So Balaam told King Balak, “Even if (you) Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God.”
-So in essence he said it’s not about the $ “I can’t go against God”
-King Balak sent another contingency to Balaam and again Balaam asked God about what to do.
-But this time God said “you can go with them, but only say what I tell you to say.”
-Our passage today begins with Balaam heading to see King Balak.
21 So the next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started off with the Moabite officials.
-You can picture the scene here. Balaam and the Moabite bigwigs are setting out to meet the king riding a donkey.
-Donkeys were like the Ford Taurus of the ancient world.
-Practical, affordable, and sometimes Found On Road Dead.
-On the outside things seem ok: Balaam was obeying God.
-But then things take an interesting turn.
22 But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the Lord to stand in the road to block his way.
-People scratch their head at this passage! “God said he could go, but then why was he angry with Balaam for going?”
-At first glance, with no other explanation given, this seems a bit strange. Why was God angry with Balaam?
-Was God being unfair with Balaam? Did God change his mind?
-Was God being deceitful and plotting harm against an innocent man?
-These are some of the thoughts people have when they read this kind of passage in the Bible.
-Why is it, that when we don’t understand what God is doing, He’s the one that must be at fault?
-In this case, why would some people doubt God’s goodness while giving the benefit of the doubt to a pagan sorcerer?
-Instead of asking what was going on with God, a more informed person might ask “what was going on with Balaam?”
-Doesn’t it seem more likely that Balaam (the sorcerer for hire) might have been the one at fault?
-But on the outside we don’t see anything wrong:
-He asked if he could go. God said yes. Balaam went.
-It seems as though everything was going according to plans.
-But what about on the inside?
GOD KNOWS WHAT IS IN THE HEARTS OF ALL PEOPLE.
-We’ve seen this throughout Numbers.
-When Miriam and Aaron questioned Moses…God saw the contempt in their hearts and punished them for it.
-When Korah and his followers rebelled under the pretense of equality and fairness, God exposed them as jealous & critical.
-When Moses struck the rock and water came out, God saw the anger and the pride in his heart.
-God knows what is in our hearts.
-We may not be very excited about that!!!
Psalm 139:1-4 “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.”
-Just how much does God see when he examines our hearts?
-He knows all about us, everything there is to know; inside/out
-We can tell other people what they want to hear, while secretly thinking something else.
-We can present an outside image which allows people to see only what we want them to see.