WAR, SPIES, AND SABOTAGE 

War even comes to the pacifist in time.  But Israel is called to war, and it is no secret, as their spy ventures are now known.  The first kingdom of Canaanites opens the war by striking the first blow against Israel. 

And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners.  And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.  And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.  Num 21:1-3 (KJV)

Israel has the first victory in war, but they are still not thinking and speaking like winners.  A little hardship provokes the same old complaints even after all the times God has punished their rebellions.

And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.  And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.  Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.  And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.  Num 21:4-9 (KJV) 

That symbol of snakes on a pole is the emblem of modern medicine.  Too bad modern doctors rarely acknowledge the power of faith for healing.  Come to think of it, some belittle faith enough to be a lot like the Jews who were calling Moses an enemy here.  Maybe we invite illness by opposing God.  We see new diseases that defy medical treatment on a regular basis today. 

In our reading here Israel is now moving often and making progress toward their inheritance.  God relieves their shortage of water on the way. 

And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.  And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising.  From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared.  From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.  Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.  And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.  Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:  The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah:  And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth:  And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon.  Num 21:10-20 (KJV) 

Israel seeks peaceful passage, but they are denied a crossing point.  They meet with warfare again now.   

And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,  Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king’s high way, until we be past thy borders.  And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel.  And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong.  And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.  For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.  Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:  For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon.  Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites.  We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.  Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites.  And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.  And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei.  And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.  So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.  Num 21:21-35 (KJV) 

Israel has a victory in Canaan and the word spreads to other kingdoms.  King Of and king Sihon both fell in battle.  The Amorites they defeated were previously victorious over Moab, so the Moabites were warned about this new threat from Israel.  They made plans to fight them in the spiritual realm; they knew a man of God. 

And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.  And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.  And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.  And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.   And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.  He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:  Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.  And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.  Num 22:1-7 (KJV) 

The king of Moab knew a man of God who might offer protection by the spirit of  God.  But knowing a man of God, and knowing God, are two different things.  Balak did not know what God wanted.  He just hoped to turn God to his side.  He sought to get his way, not to learn God’s will.

And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.  And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee?  And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying,  Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.  And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.  And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.  And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.  Num 22:8-14 (KJV) 

These messengers reported that Balaam refused to come with them.  He told them that The Lord had refused him permission to go.  They did not listen or did not tell the truth here.  They were not believing that God had made this decision.  They reported this as the man’s answer.

And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they.  And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me:  For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.  And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.  Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more.  And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.  And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.  Num 22:15-21 (KJV) 

God knows these men do not believe the prophet speaks for God.  He told Balaam to go, but he was still angry that he would go to curse the people after he was told that Israel was blessed.  God prepared a trial for him. 

And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.  And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.  But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.  And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.  And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.  And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.  And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?  And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.  And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.  Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.  And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:  And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.  And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.  And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.  Num 22:22-35 (KJV) 

I can’t read this without remembering any time that I was angry at my dog.  She has no guilt in her heart, and just doesn’t know how to please people.  Perhaps she knows more about what is going on in the world than I realize.  I wonder if we will ever account for our treatment to the animals we have had as pets.  At one time Adam had fellowship with the animals.  God has many strange creatures around his throne, perhaps our animals will be among them too.   God let Balaam hear from the horse, oops; donkey’s mouth what the truth was for him.   

How often do we esteem another person less than we should?  They may have a lower station in our eyes for various reasons.  Do they earn less, or have less education?  Yet God can use them to bless or curse us as well.  When I am angry with others for being unable to do their job or drive with the flow of traffic, am I in danger of judgment too?   

My dog has no guilt beyond wanting to be near daddy, or just to socialize with other dogs, or to chase mice in the field.  She can be trained because she is teachable.  My neighbor may play his stereo too loud, but do I remember that his youth and enthusiasm may need time to grow maturity?  He isn’t pointing an insult or injury at me personally, just expressing his joy for life.   

If I can understand my neighbor, I may learn that he sees a danger in my life too.  I might find out that he has been praying for me.  My doctors have not all esteemed my faith in Jesus to hold much power, but God has shown me otherwise.  Balaam has acknowledged that he sinned against his donkey and God for anger, not knowing his own danger.  In the next lesson we will see how he responds to this lesson.  Is he teachable?

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