Archive for category Miracles
The story of Balaam blessing Israel has so many interesting points that it could take 1000’s of words to bring them out. But I will mention briefly the points I find most fascinating and curious.
Balak, King of Moab, is terrified of a nation, larger in size than his own, moving along side his territory. Remember that Israel is related to Moab, they are both descendents of Abraham’s father. Israel is descendent from Abraham and Moab from Lot his Nephew. Now Balak could have reached out to Israel with a hand of peace and would have been blessed by God because of it, in fact Balaam reiterates the promise to Abraham in Gen 12:1-3 saying that those who bless Abraham will be blessed by God. Instead he seeks to curse them and therefore his nation is cursed by Balaam.
Balaam is a fascinating case. He seems to know and follow the LORD ( YHWH, the specific name of God is used here, not the general) even though he is not from Israel. This is a reminder that many people, in this time period, received messages from God through prophets besides Abraham and Israel. Even though this reading doesn’t bring out that Balaam taught Balak how to tempt Israel to fall into idolatry and sexual immorality, It is mentioned in Revelation 2 to the church at Pergamum. Why would God use a man to prophecy who was practicing divination, a practice God condemns? Why isn’t Balaam shocked when a donkey begins to talk to him?
Why did God tell Balaam to go with the men from Moab the second time they came and then tell us He was angry at Balaam for going? In fact the angel of the LORD says that he would have killed Balaam if not for the donkey moving. After the angel is revealed to Balaam, Balaam says he sinned, is he referring to going or something else? Some parts of this story seem to be missing. But we must remember that God does not reveal everything He could, but only that which we need for edification. And in this story we are reminded that God is in charge, and Balaam says well that he could only say what God had said, he could not go beyond God’s command. A good lesson for all of us, if only Balaam had followed his own advice!
After a little more than a year camped by Mount Sinai, where they have built a Tabernacle, established a priesthood, entered into a covenant with God, and received the Law of Moses, God prepares Israel to move. The intention is for Israel to soon move into the land of Canaan. A lack of trust in God and fear of the Canaanites will prevent that occurrence until the adult population will pass away.
As soon as the people are moving again the complaining starts again. When they first came out of Egypt, they complained of having no food or water, but after a year where God has miraculously provide these for them, Israel is now longing for the meat and savory vegetables they enjoyed in Egypt. Of course at the same time forgetting the harsh treatment they received from Pharaoh. Isn’t this common for us? When we long for the “good old days” we usually forget the bad parts and remember only the highlights of what life was like. I remember studying about this phenomenon is a psych class in college, there are typical brain functions that account for this, but still God tells us not to say the former days were better than the present. (You can find that in Eccl 7:10) He tells us it is not wise to do so. You see it demonstrated here by Israel over and over during their wanderings in the desert.
This complaining episode is the background story for the establishment of what is referred to as the Sanhedrin Court. God establishes this court with seventy elders that stood with Moses to support him during this trouble.
God provides the meat they were complaining for, but with it comes a plague that kills many. Be careful what you ask for, sometimes you get more than you asked for. This story reminded me of a song by Garth Brooks I heard many years ago, “Thank God for unanswered prayers”
I have no doubt that having no water for three days would cause most of us to worry and be tempted to grumble or complain, but the circumstances tested Israel. Would they overcome the temptation to complain through faith in God? No, unfortunately they failed, they continued to accuse God of trying to kill them in the desert.
God miraculously provided water, bread every morning (manna means “what is it?”) that tasted like wafers of bread with honey (that sounds good), and meat in the evening. By the way that lasted all the years they wandered in the desert. I probably would have gotten tired of the same thing to eat everyday for 40 years but the alternatives were worse. Either no food or still a slave in Egypt. They didn’t have to work hard for any of them, yet they found more things to complain about rather than be thankful for what they did have. This is why the New Testament tells us when we pray asking God for something we do it with thanksgiving, that we never forget what we have been given even when we are asking for more.
There is another lesson for us as well. God delivers us from our bondage and takes us through the wilderness of testing, not straight to heaven. When we are delivered from the bondage of sin by Christ we will still encounter trials and temptation before we enter into the eternal kingdom. That’s why James writes in chapter 1 that we should count it joy when we fall into trials, and why 1Peter 5 tells us that after we have suffered awhile God will strengthen and establish us. Periods of trial should be expected, especially for God’s elect. However, if we continue in the faith of our Lord we will overcome and grow in strength and godly character. Then some day we will enter the promised land where God will wipe away all tears.
I’m a little surprised that Moses was told to ask only for Israel to go and worship the LORD when clearly God wants to bring Israel out to settle in Canaan.
Pharaoh was unusually stubborn, I can’t imagine refusing to let Israel go even after their livestock died and Israel’s did not. Pharaoh thinks he can make some kind of deal with God as if it were a negotiation rather than a call to obey. Don’t people often do the same thing? Wanting to practice only the parts of scripture they want to and avoid the parts they don’t. God is all or nothing, either we submit and practice the commandments of God or not.
When I imagine the darkness described in the 9th plague, I remember when I was locked into a solitary cell at Alcatraz Island while on a school field trip, it seemed like I could feel the darkness, it was eerie.
God tells us the reason for the plagues, to tell their descendants about them that they would know the power of God.
Moses was called by God to go to Israel and free them from the bondage of Egypt. God could have made this happen whenever He wanted, however He takes Egypt and Israel through a series of plagues that demonstrate His awesome power. It seems no coincidence that the magicians of Egypt can apparently duplicate God’s first three signs, staffs becoming snakes, water turned to blood, and frogs coming out of the Nile. But as the signs grow in scope and destruction the magicians are powerless to keep up. There is a lesson here for us, we often want to act like our own god who controls everything and takes care of ourselves, but often the destructive forces of things such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. remind us we have no power to control the forces of this world, we are ultimately at the mercy of the one who has the power over life and death. Hopefully we do not become hardened in our heart as Pharaoh, or discouraged as the Israelites, causing us to refuse to listen to the message that comes from God through His prophets and Son.
Did you notice that it is not until the plague of flies (#5) that God makes a distinction between Israel and Egypt? Sometimes I forget that Israel experienced some of these plagues too. One thing to notice as we continue to read through the Bible is how often God will tell His people to remember the mighty acts God did in Egypt.