This second blessing pronounced by Balaam doubles down on the first, insisting that God is determined to bless Israel because He always keeps His promises. On top of that, God insists that He sees no evil or trouble in His people. This doesn’t seem right to us, and that’s why we need to be reminded how His grace works.
And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain (Num. 23:18-24).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
God address Balak with a “shema” summons to hear, just as Israel is command (cf. Dt. 6) (23:18). God assures him that he doesn’t lie and he doesn’t change his mind like men; what He has promised to do, He will surely accomplish (23:19). Balaam repeats that he has received another instruction to bless; God has blessed and it cannot be reversed (23:20). But this isn’t merely a refusal to curse; God does not see any iniquity in Jacob, no reason to curse Israel (23:21). The Lord Himself is in the midst of Israel, and therefore God only hears the voice of a great king (23:21). God brought them out of Egypt with the strength of a unicorn, so there is no incantation or divination that can come against them and the whole world is impressed with what God has done (23:22-23). Therefore, Israel will be a conquering nation, like lions that devour their prey (23:24).
UNBREAKABLE COVENANT PROMISES
When God says He isn’t a man who changes his mind or breaks his promises, He is pointing back to the covenants He has made and kept. God made covenant with Adam in the Garden after the Fall, promising to one day crush the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3). God renewed covenant with Noah, saving his family and promising never to flood the world again (Gen. 9). God renewed covenant with Abraham and promised that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 15, 17). God kept those promises by delivering Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3) and renewing covenant at Sinai (Gen. 19-24). This track record has only increased, as God kept covenant through the judges and renewed His promises to David (2 Sam. 7). All of these promises are being fulfilled in Jesus. This is what Mary and Zechariah sing about at the coming of Jesus (Lk. 1:55ff). All the promises of God find their “yes” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). God is not a man who lies or goes back on His word. But God is the kind of God who loves men who have.
WHAT GOD SEES
We noted last week that Balaam’s first blessing is already incredible since God pronounced a blessing on a nation full of complaints and unbelief, but God goes even further here insisting that He has not seen any trouble or wickedness in Israel (23:21). On the surface this is outrageous, since the book of Numbers chronicles Israel’s troubles and evil. But the same verse explains how this is possible: God Himself is in Israel, the shout of a king is in their midst (23:21).
What Balaam is prophesying is God’s covenant love and promises. The God who calls light out of darkness and life from the dead, calls those things which do not exist as though they did (Rom. 4:17, cf. 2 Cor. 10). God promises the complete remission of our sins, a perfect standing, and His complete approval and everlasting blessing in Christ crucified and risen from the dead. Faith in Christ is being fully convinced that what God has promised, He is able to perform (Rom. 4:21). And when that kind of faith receives those promises, an individual is justified. Faith sees Christ for us, and God simultaneously sees Christ in us. God forgets all our sins in the blood of Jesus, and the status of Christ’s perfect obedience is imputed to us (Rom. 4:22-24).
In the covenant, God declares His love and intention to bless. In the covenant, He declares us holy, saints (1 Cor. 7:14, cf. 1 Cor. 1:2, Eph. 1:1, etc.). And when that love is received, when that promise is believed, we are justified, and all that God sees in us is Christ. All He hears in us is the shout of our King. And one of the most glorious things our king shouts is: It is finished. In Christ, He doesn’t see any trouble or evil in you. This isn’t a blind, sentimental love; it’s a bloody, truthful love.
Christianity is a militant religion, but what is frequently misunderstood or misconstrued is the fact that our militance is driven by God’s fierce grace. What do we want to see fill Moscow? God’s grace: His fatherly, covenantal affection. So, fathers, are you for your children? Can you pronounce this blessing on your family?
Do you have a critical eye or a covenantal eye? A covenantal eye is not blind to flaws or weaknesses, but it is inclined to overlook them, wants to see them repented of. Love covers a multitude of sins, and love confronts some sins. But God’s grace is lavish, and we are called to give what we have been given.