Bible Order: Joshua 5–7
Chronological Order: Numbers 31–32
New Testament Only: Mark 11:1–26
Blessed Are Those Who Bless You!
In Genesis God told Abram that He would bless those that bless him and curse those that curse him and that through him all the “families” of the earth would be blessed. Isaac, when He mistakenly gives Esau’s blessing to Jacob says the same thing. These verses are below:
Genesis 12:3 ESV
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 27:29 ESV
“Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your other’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
Now, here in Numbers, Balaam repeats this blessing which is the exact opposite of what his employer Balak had hired him to do.”
Numbers 24:9b ESV
“Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.”
Balaam’s response to his employer’s anger is instructive:
Numbers 24:12-13 ESV
“And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks, that will I speak’?”
Balaam wanted to curse Israel if he could since this would be a very lucrative deal for him. In reading about Balaam you initially get a feeling that Balaam is a godly man since he inquires of the Lord what he is to do. But if Balaam is obeying God why is the angel trying to kill him for going to Balak after God told him he was to go?
When God finally gave His approval to Balaam to go with the princes of Moab, it was with a very specific command; “but only do what I tell you.” We don’t know exactly what it is that Balaam did that went against this specific order but God does tell us this much:
Numbers 24:32b ESV
“Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me.”
The sense I get here is that Balaam had it in his heart to curse Israel so as to gain the riches promised by Balak. Do you remember the deposition a few years back by then sitting President Bill Clinton wherein he testified that he had not had sexual relations with a certain woman? During questioning he said what has become and infamous line; “It depends on what your definition of is is.” Old Bill knew the letter of the law and he was attempting to find a legal way to lie his way out of the nasty situation in which he had brought himself. He was looking for a loop-hole that would allow him to get away with something. He knew what the questioner was asking and he didn’t want to tell the truth so he decided that he would change his personal definition of what sexual relations were so as to deny having had them.
Through all the political sword play that followed, it has been little noted that he was, in fact, found guilty of committing perjury. He did not get away with his little legalistic game. I think Balaam was trying to get away with something and the Lord was having none of it. Balaam’s way was perverse before the Lord and the penalty for that is death.
As we saw in Numbers 24:12-13 above, Balaam could not go beyond the word of the Lord. He had discovered that trying to trick God or to play some legalistic mind game wasn’t going to wash. He had no choice but to bless Israel even though a rich reward was his if he could only curse them. I’ve been guilty of this childish attempt to legalistically justify some disobedient behavior. It has never ended well and I have since learned that doing so comes with a heavy price.
Today we Christians view the promise made to Abram as a promise for us as the spiritual descendents of Abram through our Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve heard many learned Christians state that the “I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you” promise is now ours and not the modern state of Israel. I agree with the idea that we, as Christians are inheritors of this promise. I believe scripture truly supports this claim. I have seen no evidence in scripture, however, that the promise has somehow been removed from the physical descendants of Abram.
I think many people today look at recent history in the Middle East and lay the blame for conflict there on the modern state of Israel. I find this to be a very selective view of history. But I find all of this beside the point. God did promise the land of Canaan to Abram’s physical and spiritual children. Even though we are now on the Messiah side of history, I see nothing in scripture that says the promise has been removed physically even now that the spiritual promise finds itself in ascendency.
Horrific behavior can be found on both sides of this conflict but many who take the side of individuals of Arab descent seem to condemn Israel disproportionately and justify their “cursing” of Israel by saying that the physical blessing has been removed. I find this to be a bit of Balaam in action; legalistic dissembling. It didn’t work out well for Balaam and I’m not willing to take the chance on it now.
Be wary of “cursing” the spiritual and physical descendants of Israel. As for me, I am not “able to go beyond the word of the Lord”.
Have a blessed day!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
(Originally posted 2/23/10)