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2. We see in the instance before us, what a show of religion a very bad man may put on. Balaam calls the Lord his God, professes a great veneration for his authority, dares say nothing but what God bids him ; yet he seems to have been an impious wretch, that feared not God. If Balak would give him a house full of silver, he declared he would not offend God; and yet he appears to have been exceeding loth to do what God bid him. Many call the Lord, their God, boast of their relation to him and expectations from him, and have good words in their mouths, but their hearts are full of wickedness. They may deceive others, and deceive themselves, but God will not be mocked. He saw through Balaam's disguise ; observed his wickedness; and discerns the most secret hypocrisy. Let us guard, therefore, against an hypocritical mask, and pray God to search us and try us, and see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way ever: lasting.
3. We see how God can manifest his power in his creatures, and make them the instruments of carrying on his purposes. How surprising was God's operation on the organs of the brute creature here mentioned ! He changed its braying into plain, wise, and pertinent words. This was from the Lord, who made man's mouth, and teacheth him to speak. We see too, how he ruled the heart of this wicked prophet ; he prevented, by constraint, Balaam's compliance with Balak's wicked intentions. God has the hearts and tongues of men and beasts in his hand, and can turn them which way he pleaseth. Let us reverence him, for he doeth according to his sovereign, wise, and righteous will, in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of this lower world.
It is the observation of an inspired writer, - Let favour be showed
to a wicked man, yet will he not learn righteousness ;' 80 it was with Balaam. In this chapter he makes two attempts to curse
Israel, and is defeated ; yet he prepared for a third. .. 1 A ND Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven
1 altars, and prepare me here seven oxen, and seven 2 rams.* And Balak did as Balaam had spoken ; and Balak
and Balaam offered on severy] altar a bullock and a ram. 3 And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering,
and I will go to some solitary and convenient place ; peradven, sture the LORD will come to meet me : and whatsoever he
* Instead of dissuading the king from his wicked purpose, he contrives with him how to accomplish it: they built seven altars upon the high places of Baal; they worshipped the sun, or Baal; and the seven altars were built to the seven planets ; on these they offer ed sacrifices to lehovah to obtain leave to curse Israel; but it was a foolish and wicked attempt.
showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. 4 And God met Balaam : and he said unto him, I have prepar
ed seven altars, and I have offered upon [every) altar a bul
lock and a ram ; let this service move thee to comply with our 5 desire. And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, that
is, suggested to him what he should say, though contrary to his
own inclinations, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou 6 shalt speak. And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by
his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab, waiting to
receive the divine message. 7 And he took up his parable, that is, a grave, instructive
speech, dressed up in figurative expressions, and delivered in a sublime and majestic manner, and he said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, that is, Mesopotamia,
(Deut. xxiii. 4.) out of the mountains of the east, (saying,] & Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. How shall I
curse, whom God hath not cursed ? or how shall I defy, [whom] the LORD hath not defied ? Owning that his design
was defeated, that it was a vain attempt to injure Israel, and 9 that Balak desired what was impossible. For from the top of
the rocks I see him, that is, Israel ; and indeed the very sight is full of majesty and terror, such as makes it evident that God hath blessed them : and from the hills I behold him : lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nation ; they shall be a distinct people, have different laws, religion, and manners ; in the land of Canaan they shall be suffic
iently provided for, and protected by God himself ; so that they • shall neither need the friendship, nor fear the terror, of other men. 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, their vast multitudes, which
are like the dust of the earth, and the number of the fourth - (part) of Israel, one of their four squadrons ? for into 80 many I was their camp divided : he then adds, Let me die the death of
the righteous, and let my last end be like his. * al And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto
me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou 12 hast blessed (them) altogether. And he answered and said,
Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put
in my mouth? Would it be safe for me to act contrary to his 13 directions ? And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee,
with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them : thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all : and curse me them from thence. Balak thought, that Balaam, terrified at seeing such a multitude, durst : not meddle with them, and therefore would have him to see only a
* Balaam believed the immortality of the soul ? and was so far from cursing a people who were directed to walk in righteousness and holiness, that he desired to die like the righteous among them; or, as the LXX.renders it, to be as prosperous and happy as they quere.
part, that he might have them cursed, and then he would attack
them first; and Balaam, thinking he might be permitted to curso 14 a part of thein, agreed to the proposal. And he brought him
into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven 15 altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on [every] altar. And
he said unto Balak, Stand here by the burnt offering, while I 16 meet (the Lord] yonder. And the LORD* met Balaam, and
put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and 17 say thus. And when he came to him, behold, he stood by
his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And
Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD-spoken ? 18 And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and 19 hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor : God [is] not a
man, that he should lie, or fail in the performance of what he hath spoken ; neither the son of man, that he should repent, so as to change his purpose ; hath he said, and shall he not do
Tit?) or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ? It is 20 in vain for thee to expect he will ever alter his purpose. Be
hold, I have received [commandment] to bless : and he hath 31 blessed ; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquis
ty in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel ;t the Lord his God [is] with him, and the shout of a king [is] among them, such a shout, as the people make when a victori. ous prince comes among them. God brought them out of Egypt when they had no strength ; even then, through him, they were victorious, but now he, that is, Israel, hath as it were the strength of an unicorn, or rhinoceros, who then can prevail against them? Surely (there is] no enchantment against Jacob, neither [is there] any divination against Israel : according to this time, from this time forward, it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! How wonderful and glorious are those works which God is nors about to do
for them, which will be matter of discourse and admiration to all 24 ages ! Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and
lift up himself as a young lion to fight, and seize the prey : he shall not lie down until he eat [of] the prey, and drink the: blood of the slain ; he shall not cease fighting and pursuing till the enemy is conquered, and the prey seized. Instead of cursing them, he foretells their success, and that all their enemies should be destroyed.
* The LORD, that is, JEHOVAH, met him: it was a different appearance to the for. mer, and so terrified him, that he never went afterward to inquire of God. He was now fully convinced that Israel was blessed, and that it was impossible to injure them. .
+ This means, that he hath turnedawav hie evo hath not seen any such idolatry (to which iniquity often refers) or any other such sin, as may make him utteriy to forsake, curse, and destroy them. Others think the meaning is, that he will not see iniquity practised, or perverse counsels used against Israel, without punishing it, and defending them.
25 And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse then at all, 26 nor bless them at all. But Balaam answered and said unto
Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh 27 that I must do ? And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray
thee, I will bring thee unto another place ; peradventure it will
please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence. 28 And Balak brought Balaam to the top of Peor,* that looketh 29 toward Jeshimon. And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me
here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and 30 seven rams. And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered
a bullock and a ram on [every] altar.
1. TATE see how restless is the malice of the church's ene
VV mies ; how eager Balak is to have Israel cursed : he leaves no method or place untried, and spares no expense of saca rifices. He did not know that Israel would attack him ; but he harboured mischief against them. How implacable are the hearts of wicked men against the church of God! But it is nothing new ; David observes, the wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him, Psal. xxxvii. 32.
2. How powerful and glorious is God, the church's friend. The Lord their God is with them, saith Balaam, so that it signifies nothing to attempt to injure them. God had blessed Israel, and there was no reversing it. The blessings of heaven are above all the curses of hell ; God will bafille all designs against his people ; he will sit in heaven, and laugh at them. Israel and Moses did not know what Balaam and Balak were doing, but God knew, and disappointed them. They were safe with such a friend ; the gates of hell could not prevail : na weapon formed against them could prosper. Say to Sion, Thy God reigneth. And let this be the church's comfort in every danger, that God is in the midst of her ; she shall not be moved.
3. See how reasonable it is, that we should continue instant in prayer, and watch thereunto with thanksgiving. How unwearied was Balak in building altars, and in presenting sacrifices, to supa plicate leave to destroy Israel ! Should not we then pray without ceasing ; pray always, and not faint, not be weary of God's service, when it is to obtain a blessing for ourselves or our friends, and when we are sure of succeeding if we ask in sincerity and truth. Religious exercises, should never be deemed a labour, since their object is, to secure the blessing of God, who is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.
* This was the most famous place in all the country of Baal, where, probably, Baal had a temple; hence it is called Moabpeor.
4. See the danger men are in of deceiving themselves : Bar laam covered all his evil designs against Israel with a show of devotion ; boasted of his sacrifices, v.4. and thought God was so much profited by him, that he could not refuse to give him leave to curse his people. He had a good opinion of Israel, and yet wished them ill; acknowledged that the righteous were happy after death, and desired to die like them ; yet still he persisted in his wicked designs. He had a deep sense of God and religion, of death and a future state, and yet preferred the wages of unrighteousness; he wished to die like the righteous, but would not Nive like them. This is the case of too many in the world ; they would be glad to go to heaven when they die, but neglect religion, which alone can bring them thither. "So absurdly do men act,' as Bp. BUTLER expresses it, doing violence to their own reason, and acting contrary to their very nature ; such cheats do men put upon their own souls ! Balaam could undoubtedly have no good hope, and yet his partial regard to duty, and his form of religion, kept him from absolute despair.' It is to be feated, that too many are for making a composition with God. Such of his commands as suit their inclinations, they will obey ; but as to others, they will make all the atonement in their power, and rest in faint resolves, that sometime or other they will be universally good. When men are thus wicked with deliberation and thought, it is owing to such self deceit as proceeds from a dishonest heart, and shows that they are still strangers to the grace of God, and by no means fit for the kingdom of heaven. Let us, therefore, guard our hearts, and be careful that we are not deceived ; for if we desire to die the death of the righteous, we must live like them, be ho. ly in all manner of conversation and godliness ; else our wishes, and prayers, and partial reformation, will be an abomination to the Lord, and only increase our condemnation.
5. Let us rejoice in God, as the eternal and unchangeable Je. hovah. God is not a man, that he should lie; is not a fickle or inconstant Being; his word will stand for ever, his promise is true and faithful. We may confide in him. He will never alter the nature of his requirements, nor contradict himself ; he keepe eth covenant for ever. Let this afford the sincere christian strong 'consolation, that God is the father of lights, and in him is no variableness, nor even the shadow of a change.
6. The deliverances that God hath wrought out for his church, should be thankfully remiembered and acknowledged, v. 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 Israel, What hath God wrought! We should admire and celebrate his works of wonder, especially the instances in which he appeared to baffle the designs of the craftiest enemies of his church. We in this nation have peculiar reason to