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!
WHERE DO WE TURN IN TROUBLED TIMES?
***This message tagteam preached with Doug (layperson in our church)
-In 2006 there were two movies made about the Battle of Iwo Jima. WW2
-Both movies were directed by Clint Eastwood.
-The first movie was called Flags of Our Fathers and was released in Oct 2006.
-The second movie was called Letters from Iwo Jima and was released in Dec 2006.
-So why did one director make two movies about the same historical event and release them two months apart?
-Flags of our Fathers was a movie which portrayed these events from the American perspective.
-Letters from Iwo Jima was a movie which portrayed these events from the Japanese perspective. No director, that I’m aware of, has ever done something like that before or since.
-But as we turn to Numbers chapter 22, we see that our author Moses has switched perspectives in the story of Israel for a couple of chapters.
-Chapters 1-21 tell the story of Israel’s journey from Israel’s perspective.
-We read about things happening in the community of God’s people.
-But in chap 22 - 23 the story of Israel is told from the perspective of the Moabite king Balak.
-The Moabites inhabited some of the land near the land God had promised Israel.
-If you’re a king, and a huge group of people is camped out on your border, you start to worry.
-You don’t wait to see if they are friendly, you assume they are not.
-He was king of his people, and the Moabites had fought to secure their own land just like every nation in that age.
-And now suddenly a massive force of Israelites begins edging into his territory.
-And Israel was huge and camped out on his border.
-If a country invades they usually send over the army and everyone else stays home.
-But Israel doesn’t have a home, so everyone is along for the ride.
-They were seemingly coming through Moab with men, women, children, goats, frying pans and the kitchen sink...an estimated 2 million people camped at the border.
-King Balak was thinking: Invasion! He was scared. He was worried for himself and his people.
-He was desperately asking questions and looking for answers to his “Israel problem”.
-In a way we can read this and feel sorry for the Moabites.
-We all know what it feels like when everything is going against us, or when an impossible obstacle comes our way.
-Even those of us who know God have things go against us.
-But Balak was a man who was going against God!
-He opposed God’s plans. He opposed God’s people. He opposed God’s laws. He opposed God.
-So in this two-sided conflict you’ve got the Israelites: the people who were trying, with varying degrees of success, to follow God and establish a nation with God at the center.
-And on the other side you have a godless king who is trying to prevent that from happening.
-And if you’ve been here for this Numbers series you’ll have noticed something about the will of God: He accomplishes what he intends to accomplish.
-Balak was godless man who was in a lot of trouble.
-He had a few ideas about what to do, and where to turn.
-But he had no idea who he was dealing with or what he faced as he tried to oppose God.
-Numbers 22 is a very inciteful passage, because it gives a glimpse of where people turn when they are in crisis.
-This story allows us to see the mentality of faithless people and how they deal with trouble.
-And while we’re looking at the godless king Balak we may just identify some of our own faithless tendencies.
-Where do we turn in troubled times?
-So, let’s take a look at chapter 22.
22 Then the people of Israel traveled to the plains of Moab and camped east of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. 2 Balak son of Zippor, the Moabite king, had seen everything the Israelites did to the Amorites. 3 And when the people of Moab saw how many Israelites there were, they were terrified. 4 The king of Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This mob will devour everything in sight, like an ox devours grass in the field!” So Balak, king of Moab, 5 sent messengers to call Balaam son of Beor, who was living in his native land of Pethor near the Euphrates River. His message said: “Look, a vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt. They cover the face of the earth and are threatening me. 6 Please come and curse these people for me because they are too powerful for me. Then perhaps I will be able to conquer them and drive them from the land. I know that blessings fall on any people you bless, and curses fall on people you curse.”