The Second Sunday of Advent December 5, 2010
225, 437, 402, 528 (1-3,15)
Then [Balaam] took up his oracle and said: “Rise up, Balak, and hear! Listen to me, son of Zippor! God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them. God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’ Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain.”
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
By a vote of more than four to one the ELCA Convention decided in August of 2009 that homosexuals may be ordained into the ministry. For several decades the largest “Lutheran” bodies in America have been deciding against the clear teachings of God’s Word by majority vote. Thus they have attempted to overrule God!
Many have repeated the foolish sin of Adam who overruled God’s Word and then tried to hide from Him in the Garden making lame excuses for his rebellion! Think about what this means. Do we really want a God whose words can be overruled and avoided?
If our God is really so weak and so easily overruled and avoided by His creatures, then what about the wonderful words of promise and blessing He has spoken in connection with Jesus Christ? Can these also be lost? What if God could be made to turn against us so that His Gospel Word no longer holds for us, and we lose His daily forgiveness, comfort, strength, fellowship, and eternal life?
The answer lies in our text. Last week we saw how Balak, King of the Moabites, hired the heathen priest, Balaam, to put a curse on God’s Old Testament people. Balak wanted to defeat Israel and keep them from taking the Promised Land. We saw that “the Christ-connected cannot be cursed.”
But just as the world and Satan do not give up their attempts to prevent the plans of God and to seek their own ends, neither did Balak. He thought that perhaps the heathen priest could bring a curse on Israel if he pronounced the curse from a different place—a higher place—where all Israel could be seen.
Maybe Balak thought the power of Israel’s God was limited to a certain area. Maybe he thought that God had missed some sins in Israel which He could be made aware from a better vantage point. So Balak and Balaam go to the top of Mt. Pisgah. Once against they offer sacrifices to God, but once again the Lord puts His own words in the mouth of Balaam for Balak to hear, and Balaam must deliver the news to the King of the Moabites: GOD’S BLESSING STANDS, FOR HE IS KING!
First, it is God—not man—who has spoken the blessing. Balaam reports in v. 19: “God is not a man, that H should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.” In other words, what God has said, He will do; and what He has spoken, He will make good.
How many times have our children challenged us to promise them this or that. However, wise parents know that they don’t always have the power or ability to govern life’s circumstances in order to keep promises made to their children. It is also the case with some that a promise made is often not kept once the person who made the promise gets what he wants. That’s why we must draw up contracts that are binding in a court of law.
Our Lord is different from us. Not only does He possess the almighty power to govern circumstances and carry out His promises to His children, He never lies, and He never changes His mind with regard to His promises. Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Luke 21:33).
For the people of the Old Testament Israel this meant that they would enter the Promised Land as God had promised to their fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There the Messiah would be born and finish His redeeming work. No one and no power could prevent the blessing—not Egypt, not Moab, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, or Rome!
What does this faithfulness of God to His promises mean to us? You are His New Testament people, loved by God for Jesus’ sake in whom you trust and in whom you hope. You need not doubt for even one moment of your earthly life that your God will keep His promises toward you. No wonder God the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write: “[O Lord], You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You” (Isaiah 26:3).
But why this certain, unchangeable word of blessing? From the mouth of Balaam comes an answer that seems totally wrong! There is no reason for God to curse His people, Balaam says, because “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen mischief in Israel.” [v.21] What?! No wickedness in the nation, no mischief? How could this be? Was not their 40 years of wilderness wandering due to the people’s rebellion? During the 40 years of wandering had not Israel been so wicked and rebellious that the Lord nearly disowned them? Moses’ record in Exodus and Numbers reveals many reasons for God to curse His people.
Surely, from a human point of view, there are many sins of Israel that might be pointed out. Some like to mount their own “high places” and look upon our sins. They say with proud hearts, “I can see their sins, God, can’t You?” But that’s just the point! Balaam says that God sees no sin among His people. Why not? Because “Jehovah,” Israel’s covenant God, is “with him, and the shout of a King is in the midst of them.” [v.21] Because Jehovah—the God of promise, the King of righteousness, Jesus—is in their midst. His righteousness covers their sins! Before the eyes of this gracious King of kings, Israel is blameless without any spot of sin!
Dear children of God, when you see your own sins and mourn over them and hear the Devil whispering that God has had enough of you and will soon remove His blessing from you, then go up in spirit to Pisgah. Remember that God sees no sin—no reason to curse you because the curse has been born by Christ, the King of Righteousness, the woman’s Seed! (cf. Genesis 3:15, Hebrews 7:1-3). “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as while as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). “For who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (declares righteous)!” (Romans 8:33).
Finally, our text shows us that it is God the King Who is with His people to bring them victory over their enemies. The God who sees no sin in Israel also has the power to keep His promises. Balaam says in v. 22: “God brings them out of Egypt; He has the strength of an ox.” The God of Israel is not like the nothing-idols of the heathen nations which Balak had fought in the past. With the almighty God with them, Israel become like “a lion” and “a lioness,” defeating and devouring their enemies. [v.24]
Balak should know that the true and almighty God must be with Israel because of the fact that there is “no sorcery in Jacob” and “no divination in Israel.” [v.23] Israel enjoyed direct revelation from God and communication with Him at all times. Israel knew at all times what God was doing with them because God told them even as He was doing it and even before He did it. This was certain evidence that God was with them to carry out His promised blessings.
The same almighty God is with His New Testament people too. He wants you and me to defeat our spiritual enemies and enjoy a life of victory now and forever. How do we know that God our King is with us in His power so that we may defeat the Devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh? We know His almighty presence with us by the fact that He still speaks to us in His Holy Word and we are led by it!
Do you seek guidance for your life or knowledge of the future by means of fortune tellers and palm readers? Do you consult the astrologer’s charts and live your life by the stars as so many do? Of course not! Neither do you trust in “good-luck” charms or the like. Why not? Because the Word of your God, the KING, is in your hands!
You must be enjoying the presence of almighty God with you just as the people of Israel did at this point in their history. Your Savior God speaks to you by means of His Word to give you strength in time of temptation, correction and instruction in what you are to do as you serve Him in this life.
By His Word—as you draw near to hear and use it—God convinces you of His love and care for you every moment of every day until you reach the Promised Land of heaven. GOD THE KING’S BLESSING OF HIS PEOPLE STANDS! He has spoken this blessing! He sees no sin in those who are Christ-Connected! He is with you as He empowers you to gain the final victory over all your enemies by His Word! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.