Balaam’s Parables (4)

God brought them out of Egypt. He hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.” The power displayed in the past deliverance from Egypt is the same power which will be manifested on the behalf of Israel in a coming day. The Lord will intervene when the nations rise against Israel and threaten to engulf them. In order to deliver them, the Lord in His fury will deal with Assyria, Egypt, and all who are against Israel (Isa 14:25; Zech 10:11). Every power against Israel shall be impotent. “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel” (Num 23:23). In that day, Jerusalem will be invincible.

In Zechariah 9:14-15, we have a vivid description of the irresistible armies of Israel when the Lord shall lead them and be over them. Their victory will be so great that they shall subdue and devour all that oppose them. “Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain” (Num 23:24). Happy shall Israel be when they celebrate the triumph of divine grace, saved and protected by the Lord, before whom all their enemies will be helpless and defeated. As we contemplate the glorious future for Israel unfolded in this parable we are not surprised at the exclamation, “What hath God wrought” (Num 23:23)!

When we think of the riches of God’s grace to us, surely we are amazed at what God has wrought. We too are assured of omnipotent power on our behalf, knowing that, “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31). “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom 8:37). Well might we ask, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom 8:35)? We know full well the answer, for nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39).

The Third Parable (Numbers 24:3-9)

On the first occasion, Elohim met Balaam (Num 23:4) and Israel is viewed from the standpoint of God’s eternal counsel where they are seen as a separated people, exclusively for God. On the second occasion, Jehovah met Balaam and Israel is viewed in relation to the unconditional covenant of God where they are seen as a justified people. On this third occasion, the Spirit of God comes upon Balaam and his eyes are opened. Thus Israel is seen transformed by the work of the Spirit of God.

Balaam views Israel by the river of blessing. What God’s eternal counsel has determined and what His unconditional covenant has guaranteed is now brought to fruition by the work of the gracious Spirit. Balaam had said, “surely there is no enchantment against Jacob” (Num 23:23), and so he seeks none against them, not because he would not, but because he could not. He had realized at last, much against his will, that Satan’s power could not prevail against Israel. The last viewpoint is from the top of Peor and he sees the wilderness transformed under the Spirit’s control. The waste becomes a land of beauty filled with valleys and gardens fragrant with blossoms and fruit. It is the touch of the Master Landscape Gardener, the product of the Holy Spirit where there is freshness, fragrance, and fruitfulness for the pleasure and glory of God. Thus, although viewed in the wilderness, Balaam sees a picture of Israel in her divine order and beauty in a coming day. In the first parable, Israel is a separated people. In the second parable, they are a justified people, but in this third parable, they are a transformed people.

“How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob” (Num 24:5) is an indication of the grace of God that has transformed the nation. “Thy tabernacle O Israel!” indicates that the nation bears the stamp of a prince of God.

The camp is seen as valleys, spread forth, beautiful valleys watered by the river and the lush pasture which is delightful to the eye. Israel is viewed as made beautiful by the refreshing streams of the living water which flow from the throne of God; a people delightful to and pleasurable for God.

The description becomes richer – “as gardens by the river’s side” – “thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isa 58:11). They are like gardens where there is fruitfulness. “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5-6). There will be growth like the lily, steadfastness like the roots of Lebanon, godly influence like the spreading branches, beauty as the olive blossom and fragrance like the smell of Lebanon. The description goes on “as trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.” The aloe tree was highly odoriferous and was noted for its aroma. So Israel will be fragrant, a sweet odor to God. “The scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:7).

There is another step in this verse. “As cedar trees beside the waters.” The stature of Israel is now viewed as the stately and lofty cedar. Here we have the thought of grandeur and fullness. First we have the freshness of Israel; “as valleys spread forth.” Secondly, we have the fruitfulness of Israel; “as gardens by the river’s side.” Thirdly, we have the fragrance of Israel; “as trees of the lign aloes,” and finally, the fullness of Israel; “as cedar trees.”

From the heights of Peor, Balaam sees a picture of perfect unity because in their midst there is a sanctuary where God dwells. He has ordered the camp, every tribe having its place in relation to the sanctuary. It is therefore a unity of the tribes camping in divine order around the sanctuary – a beautiful picture of unity because all are subject to the rule of God.

One principle of rule was to be recognized and acknowledged by all. This remains the secret of true harmony among the people of God today. If the assembly is to be an effective testimony for God in the locality, there must be oneness among the saints. An assembly cannot be torn by strife and defiled by carnality without a corresponding loss in testimony.