Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Balaam and the Abrahamic Covenant

I've been reading a lot lately through the book of Numbers. When you come to Numbers 22 you find a story that sounds more like Shrek 5 than you do something in the Bible. A talking donkey? For real? What's even more bizarre is that Balaam, a well known prophet, just starts talking right back to the donkey. I mean is Balaam from some fairy tale reality where this type of deal is considered normal? Who strikes up a conversation and responds to a talking donkey?

But if you focus on the talking donkey then I think you miss the point of the whole story. Let me set the context for you...

Israel is on their way to the Promised Land. God's chosen people have been wandering in the wilderness for years now because of their disobedience but now they are beginning to position themselves to enter the land that was originally promised to their forefather Abraham. Now the people of Moab are getting freaked out. The drive to the Promised Land is starting to pick up some steam as Israel is conquering nation after nation on their way. So naturally the people of Moab are greatly concerned.

Enter King Balak of Moab. Knowing that he is probably doomed like the rest of Canaan, Balak makes a last ditch effort to win this coming battle. He summons for Balaam, a well known prophet who is supposedly effective at cursing large groups of people.

Two things to note...
1. Don't miss the importance of v. 2. "They were many" - this side comment has eternal relevance for us as believers. This is God fulfilling his covenant with Abraham. Remember way back in Genesis 12? "I'll make you a great nation." God goes on to say that He will multiply the offspring of Abraham so that his descendants will be like the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. GOD IS DOING WHAT HE PROMISED! "They were many!"

2. Balak sent his men to recruit Balaam for this cursing ceremony. But when the men reach Balaam he tells them he will have to consult with Yahweh. God tells him in v. 12 "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." GOD IS DOING WHAT HE PROMISED AGAIN! Remember he told Abraham, "I'm going to bless you." This is God being faithful to the covenant once again.

3. But why is that important? Why should I care if God is keeping promises to Abraham? Because God promised our salvation when He made that promise to Abraham! Remember, God said, "in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Galatians 3:8-9 tells us how this part of the promise is fulfilled. God planned to save Gentiles (which is most of us) through what He promised to Abraham. Ultimately, Jesus Messiah was promised through Abraham as the ultimate blessing!

So as you read the Old Testament find encouragement in reading it in context of this important covenant. Yes there was a talking donkey...but don't miss the main point of the passage - God's faithfulness! Every time you see God's faithfulness to this covenant, let it reassure you that God is going to be faithful to save you, just like He promised.