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the happiness of the godly in a future world. He looked forward to their future state: he saw them distinguished from the ungodly; he saw, that, however they might be involved in the calamities of the wicked here, they would be translated by death to a state of endless felicity: hence he envied them, and desired to have "his last end like theirs."]
And truly in this view they are objects of envy to the whole world
[The wish that Balaam expressed is the wish of every man, even of the most abandoned. There is no one living under the light of the Gospel, but feels an inward persuasion that God will put a difference between the righteous and the wicked. However much he may hate the persons of the godly, he envies their state; and has at some time the thought arising in his mind, ' If I were now to die, I should be glad to be found in your state.' And well may this be the case, seeing that God has prepared for them "such good things as pass man's understanding" --Were it not for their future prospects, they would be rather in a pitiable condition, especially in seasons of bitter persecution: but, with such hopes before them, they can be in no condition whatever, wherein they are not greatly to be envied -]
TO IMPROVE this subject, we shall add a word,
1. Of warning—
[Balaam by all his efforts could not prevail on God to reverse his word respecting Israel: on the contrary, the word which he delivered by God's command has been fulfilled to them in all ages. And shall not what God hath spoken both here and elsewhere, respecting the end of the righteous and the wicked, be fulfilled? Shall any man die the death of the righteous, if he will not live his life; or shall he attain his end without walking in his way? If God has declared that he will "put a difference between those who serve him, and those who serve him not," who shall prevail upon him to change his mind? or "who shall harden himself against HIM, and prosper?" O, think of this, beloved, and buoy not up yourselves with unfounded expectations for "God is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent."]
2. Of consolation
[Little did Israel know what plots were formed against them but God knew, and counteracted them all. Thus it is with God's Israel now. Both men and devils are confederate against them: Satan especially, "like a roaring lion, goeth about seeking, if possible, to devour them :" but God overrules
n 1 Cor. xv. 19. ἐλεεινότεροι.
all their devices for good, and gives us a blessing where they would have sent a curse. He has promised, that "no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper:" and he will fulfil it even to the end: he will “ keep us by his own power through faith unto everlasting salvation." Let us then not say, A confederacy, a confederacy; but let us "sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and make him our fear, and him our dread." He will be "a wall of fire round about us, and the glory in the midst of us:" he will keep us even as the apple of his eye: nor "shall any one who trusts in him, ever be ashamed or confounded world without end." As Balaam could not prevail against Israel of old, so "not all the gates of hell shall prevail against us." Only put your trust in God, and you may, in the language of the Apostle, defy the whole universe to "separate you from the love of God."]
i Rom. viii. 35-39.
BALAAM'S SECOND ATTEMPT TO CURSE ISRAEL. Numb. xxiii. 18-23. And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless; and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt: he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. 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 of Israel, What hath God wrought?
THE distinct answers which God gave to Balaam are surely deserving of distinct consideration. The general scope of them indeed is the same; namely, that Israel should be blessed: but the terms in which that declaration was made, are diversified, and contain in them a great variety of important matter. We are astonished indeed that God would condescend to notice Balaam a second time, more especially as he had the impiety to approach him with divinations and enchantments". But, for the sake of his Church and a Numb. xxiv. 1.
people, the Lord himself met Balaam again, and constrained him, in his reply to Balak, to declare, I. The immutability of God—
Balaam had endeavoured to turn God from his purpose; and perhaps, from having, as he conceived, prevailed upon him to reverse his word before, he hoped to succeed in like manner again. But he was compelled to confess to Balak the inefficacy of his attempts to change the mind of God
[Balak had supposed Balaam to be capable of effecting great things; and had imputed his former answer to a want of inclination, rather than of power, to comply with his wishes. But Balaam here distinctly confesses, that it was not in his power to "reverse," or alter, what God had spoken: and that, consequently, it was in vain to make any renewed attempts.
Man, from a variety of causes, might be led to change his mind: he might gain a further insight into a matter than he had possessed before; or he might be biassed by some intervening interests; or he might find himself incapable of executing his projects for want of power: but no such occasions of change can exist in God: "He is not a man that he should lie;" there is in him "no variableness, neither shadow of turning:""He cannot lie:" "it is impossible that he should":" he is as unchangeable in his purposes, as he is in his perfections: "He is of one mind; and who can turn him?" So self-evident was this truth, that Balaam appealed even to the conscience of Balak himself respecting it: "Hath he said, and shall he not do it?"
This view of the Deity was a sufficient answer to Balak: it was a pledge to him, that the promises originally made to Abraham should be fulfilled to his descendants. And it is an answer too to all the unbelieving fears which occasionally arise in our minds. "God's gifts and callings are without repentance." "He will not forsake his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people." and it is owing solely to the unchangeableness of his mercies, that any one of his people escapes destruction: "He changeth not; and therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumede."]
The immutability of God being established, Balaam proceeded to recite,
II. The kindness he (God) had already shewn to his people
b Tit. i. 2. Heb. vi. 18.
c Rom. xi. 29.
e Mal. iii. 6.
This was such as gave Balak but little hope of ever succeeding against them
[God had forgiven their sins, so that nothing which they had done amiss should ever provoke him to destroy them. Doubtless there was in them much "iniquity," and much "perverseness:" but they had not renounced their allegiance to him or their affiance in him; and therefore he would not give them up to their enemies. He had "cast all their sins behind his back into the depths of the sea," and he viewed them only with an eye of love and mercy. He considered them still as his peculiar people: and he dwelt in the midst of them as their God. Moreover, such manifestations did he afford them of his love and favour, that they could not but rejoice in their security, and triumph in him, with shouts and acclamations, as their Almighty Protector.]
It shews us also what God does for his people at this time--
[The best of his people are but imperfect creatures: “in many things we all offend." But, if we be truly his, "he does not behold iniquity or perverseness in us." We are not by this to understand, that sin, if committed by the Lord's people, is not sinful; or that it is not most hateful in his eyes: but we are to understand that he is "not extreme to mark what we do amiss;" that, on the contrary, he views us as "perfect in Christ Jesus," by whom we are "presented faultless before him," and through whose blood and righteousness we are made "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, yea holy, and without blemish f."
Regarding us thus as objects of his favour, he delights to dwell amongst us, to abide with us, to manifest himself to us, and to "fill us with joy and peace in believing;" so that he enables us to say with the Apostle, "Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus!" Truly, "the children of Zion are made joyful in their King," yea, they "ever shout for joy, because he defendeth them :"" they sing unto him for the excellent things which he hath done; they cry out and shout, because great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of them."]
From the mention of what God hath done for his people, Balaam went on to declare,
III. The kindness he has yet in reserve for them—
The time was soon to come when all the surrounding nations should be astonished at it
Eph. v. 27. Jude, ver. 24.
s Ps. cxxvi. 1, 2. and Isai. xii. 5, 6.
[God had already "brought them out of Egypt, and given them, as it were, the strength of an unicorn." He had suffered no machinations of men or devils to prevail against them. He had fulfilled all his promises to them hitherto; and the time was now nearly arrived, when he would accomplish them in their full extent. However formidable the opposition to them might be, "they should rise up like a lion to his prey, which lies not down till he has drunk the blood of the slain." word, such should be his marvellous interpositions in their favour, that all who beheld them should exclaim, "What hath God wrought!"]
But it was a mere shadow of the kindness he has laid up for us
[It is not from an Egyptian tyrant that we are delivered, but from sin and Satan, death and hell. Nor are we endued with strength against an earthly enemy, but against all the powers of darkness; insomuch that "Satan himself shall be bruised under our feet shortly." Not only shall "the gates of hell never prevail against his Church" at large, but not against even the weakest of his people: both Christ and his Father are pledged, that "however weak the believer may be, none shall ever be able to pluck him out of their hands"." The least of the flock have no more cause to fear than the greatest; for "it is the Father's good pleasure to give, to the one as well as to the other, the possession of his kingdom'." The weakest shall be " strong in the Lord," yea, strong as a lion: he shall be "able to do all things" that are conducive to his welfare; and shall be "more than conqueror through Him that loved him." O what "a wonder is he unto many," even at this time! and what a wonder will he be, both to himself and others, in the eternal world! When the whole Israel of God shall be in possession of the heavenly land, how will each say, on a review of his own mercies in particular, as well as those vouchsafed to the whole collective body, "What hath God wrought!" Truly, they will all be lost in wonder, love, and praise.]
Let none dismiss this subject from their minds without
1. How great are their obligations to God!
[Here, as in a glass, we may see them very distinctly: and we read this history to little purpose, if we see not in it transactions of the present day. To recapitulate the mercies of God towards us, or to point out their correspondence with those that were vouchsafed to Israel, is needless. The slight mention we have already made of them is sufficient. h John x. 28, 29. i Luke xii. 32.