In the Old Testament book of Numbers, we see a good illustration of the unstoppable power of grace. Remember, grace means the gift of God’s favor without doing anything to earn it. There are a few twists in the story we are about to review. The people stepped out of faith, experienced consequences, and then returned to the right path. We’ll discuss this, but let’s first look at the story of Balak’s curse.

During Israel’s journey through the desert, they encountered nations that were intimidated by their presence. God’s work to free them from Pharaoh’s grip was well known. Egypt was the world power of that day. Knowing that Pharaoh had been defeated put people in fear of them. As they journeyed near the nation of Moab, their king, Balak, feared the people of Israel. He knew that God was with them, so he reasoned that if he could have a prophet of God curse them, then the nation would lose its power. It was clear that the gods of the idolatrous nations couldn’t stand before the Lord, so the only way to defeat God’s people was to get the Lord to turn against them. Or so they reasoned.

This king sent his noblemen to the prophet Balaam. He gave him the promise of great wealth if he would only curse Israel. In the Old Testament, the primary evidence that someone was a prophet of God is that their words were one-hundred percent accurate. Even one false word completely disqualified a prophet. See Deuteronomy 18:20-22.

Balaam was known as God’s prophet, so King Balak sent for him. In his mind, if Balaam stated that Israel was cursed, then God would have to curse them. He did not understand that Balaam had to listen to God – not the other way around. However, if Balaam made a false proclamation in the name of the Lord, it would disqualify everything that God had proclaimed through him to that point. God ordered Balaam not to go.

The king was persistent, and they came with multiple offers. Finally, God allowed Balaam to go. Along the way, temptations for wealth began to seep in, so God sent an angel to confront the prophet. He could not see the angel, but the mule he rode on could. It kept deviating from the path, and Balaam was striking the mule for not cooperating. This happened three times, and then the angel spoke through the mule, then opened Balaam’s eyes to see the danger.

Balaam looked up to see an angel with a drawn sword, ready to strike him down. “If your mule had not turned aside, surely I would have slain you,” the angel said.

This put the fear of God into Balaam. Then he was warned not to speak anything that was not given to him directly from the Lord. The warning was clear – he would not live long enough to finish his sentence; much less collect the gold he was promised for cursing Israel.

When he was taken to a ridge and told to curse Israel, he spoke God’s word of blessing over the people. “Maybe it’s this spot,” Balak said. So, he took Balaam to another place he thought his gods controlled. “Now curse them.”

Another blessing came out of Balaam’s mouth. Three times King Balak tried different areas of his land to see if one of his gods could help Balaam curse. All three times a blessing came out.

“I would have given you great wealth and honor if you would just curse this people,” King Balak said.

“Didn’t I tell you that I can only speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” Balaam said. “The Lord has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.”

And this is an important principle for you to understand. You have been called into the blessed life of faith. No matter what stands against you, rest. You have been blessed, and no person, circumstance, or curse can reverse that. If you are walking by faith, even if you don’t know what you should do, trust in His leading. You cannot miss God’s blessed life because He will lead you in the right way. This is true even if God has to bring circumstances into play to force you into the right direction. Instead of getting frustrated, look up and say, “Even if I don’t understand, I’ll trust you. Lead me.”

Now here is where the twist in this account comes in. Balaam wasn’t an honorable man. He wanted the reward, and since he couldn’t proclaim a false word from God and could not curse God’s people, he taught King Balak another option. The people couldn’t be cursed, but they could be led away from God. So, they came up with a plan to use the most beautiful women in Moab to seduce the young men. They persuaded the men to look away from the Lord and pointed them to their own gods through seduction. The moment they stepped into idolatry, they were stepping out of the blessed life, and they suffered severe consequences.

And this is how temptation works. The devil knows you can’t be cursed, but he can persuade you that the world around you has something better. He uses your weaknesses and desires to tempt you to look away from Christ, and put your hope in the world. Once you are trusting in the flesh and the world as your fulfillment, you are stepping out of God’s purpose and into a world that is cursed by sin.

Even though the promise of fulfillment in the world always ends up being empty and unfulfilling, the tempter continues to show you the most alluring options, hoping you won’t look beyond the temptation. When threats and pressure to abandon God doesn’t work, he knows that all he has to do is get your eyes off Christ. Then you will drift and step out of the promise of God, and into the false promises of temptation. That is when you are easily defeated. Temptation may be the promise to escape a problem, gain something you don’t want to wait for, lust, greed, getting even, or even to become your own protector / defender. Anything that promises a quick solution by taking our eyes off of Christ is temptation.

Consider these promises:

The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22

4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5

And so, after he [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:15

Temptation promises that we won’t have to patiently endure, but we can bypass God’s plan to have what we want now. I love the way Proverbs warns us about temptation. We are like a bird rushing to a snare, not knowing our life is in danger.

Fortunately, we have the promise that God provides an escape from temptation. There are always consequences to sin, but God guides us back into the blessed life, and then calls us to keep our eyes upon Him. He leads us through the trials of life and protects us, but He calls us to walk by faith. He does not force us to remain in faith.

However, as we learn to trust in Him and shun the world, we remain blessed – even when life throws hardships into our path. Encourage your heart with His promises. Jesus came to give you life, and that life is more abundant than anything you can find outside of Him. His blessings enrich our lives, and adds no sorrow to it. It will eventually grow to the point where the sorrows of life are swallowed up with the joy of the Lord. As you mature in the faith, you will grow to the point where you realize that everything looks like trash compared to the excellence of knowing Him. I’ve never met someone who consistently walked by faith who felt deprived. But many who pursue the world live in regret and dissatisfaction.

You are blessed, and no enemy can reverse it. Never let temptation cause you to lose sight of this truth!

Eddie Snipes
April 2024

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