Balaam speaks of Israel’s distinctive position – the nation that God separated from all the others: “They shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”
The First Parable (Num 23:7-10)
God has purposed to give them the first place, making them His own, uniquely and exclusively. They are a people separated unto Himself, consecrated for His glory and sanctified for His pleasure; a people chosen and choice in His eyes (Deu 10:15; 32:9-10). They are a people in whom He will be glorified (Isa 49:3; 61:3), a people holy and priestly in character (Exo 19:6), and a people for His own possession (Deu 14:2; Psa 135:4). Thus, Israel has a bright future awaiting her (Isa 18:2-7) when she shall be the head of the nations and not the tail (Deu 28:13), and when peace shall be her portion (Isa 60:18). In that day she shall enjoy prosperity (Micah 4:4) and be exalted to a position of dignity, honor, and authority, over the nations (Isa 61:4-9). Israel shall then have a name and a praise among the people (Zeph 3:20).
The future blessing and glory of Israel will outstrip and outshine past blessing and glory. God’s eternal purpose for Israel cannot be thwarted or overthrown. Balaam views them according to God’s eternal counsel and asks, “Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel” (Num 23:10)? If a fourth part is so many, what must the whole camp be like? God’s viewpoint indicates increase, strength, and power, in the end times (Gen 13:6; 28:14; 32:12).
Many precious principles from Balaam’s parables can be applied to present and future dealings of God with us. The Church which is His Body is blessed in the same manner as the nation of Israel, but on a much higher plane. Although Satan would challenge the righteousness of God in His dealing with us, all of God’s purposes for us will be accomplished and the end consummated in heavenly glory so that we shall not only be to the praise of His glory, but also to the glory of His righteousness eternally. We have been called with a heavenly calling and severed from the present course of this world so that we are no longer of the world even as our Lord is not of the world (John 17:16). The appeal of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is still applicable today. We are separated unto God, consecrated for His pleasure, and sanctified for His praise and glory. This is our position in Christ now, in the eternal purposes of God. However, we are at this moment strangers and pilgrims on this earth for a little while. As such we are to manifest our heavenly calling before men, living for the pleasure and glory of God. We are destined to be the holy temple in the Lord, the holy of holies, where God will dwell eternally (Eph 2:21).
No wonder Balaam exclaims, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num 23:10). But Balaam was not prepared to live the life of the righteous and thus his end was to perish at the hands of Israel (Num 31:8). In contrast to Balaam, “the last end” for Israel will be glory in the millennial period. There are many who, like Balaam, would gladly die the death of the righteous, but are not prepared to live a righteous life. In order to die in Christ, one must first be brought to the Lord by the Spirit of God. Only thus can a person have eternal life and that life should be manifested in day-to-day righteous living.
Dear fellow believers, let us banish all unreality and be genuine, bearing a godly testimony as those who belong to Christ. Only this will be effective testimony for God in this corrupt and evil world. All other testimony may be in letter, but it will lack the one thing that is vital – the holy influence of the presence of God.
The Second Parable (Num 23:18-24)
In the first attempt to curse Israel, Balak allowed Balaam to see only a portion of the camp in order to diminish Israel in his eyes, for enchantments depended much upon what was visible. It had the opposite effect. Balak now takes Balaam to a new vantage point to see the whole camp. Once again Balaam goes out to seek enchantments, but now the Lord (Jehovah) meets him (Num 23:16). The change of title is significant, for now, Israel is seen from the viewpoint of the covenant of God. In the first parable Israel is seen as God’s exclusive property by divine choice and is thus a separated people. Now, in this parable, Israel is justified on the basis of covenant grace and seen relative to the covenant of God, the fulfillment of which depends entirely upon the promise and faithfulness of God.
The words, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” (Num 23:21), speak of complete justification of Israel before God because His eye was upon the altar. It is suggested that here we have that which is both inward and outward – iniquity referring to what is inward, and perverseness to the outward life. When God looked in them, He beheld no iniquity. He looked at them and saw no perverseness. But was Israel perfect then? No. Were they not a stiff-necked and rebellious people characterized by ingratitude? Yes. How then could God say that He saw no iniquity or perverseness? It does not say that Israel had no iniquity or perverseness, but that God beheld none. God is looking from the standpoint of His covenant, the basis of which is the work of Christ, and the fulfillment of which is absolutely certain. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 10:17). God sees Israel as they will be and magnifies the riches of His grace by putting their iniquity and perverseness out of His sight on the basis of the one perfect sacrifice of His own Son at Calvary. Thus He sees Israel on redemption ground perfectly justified before Him. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom 4:8). Is not this true of the people of God today? Does God not see us in Christ without spot or stain, in the flawless beauty of the new creation, completely reconciled to Himself? We stand on redemption ground “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24).