(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Here again is Balaam’s prophecy from Numbers 23:19-23:
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, “What hath God wrought?”
Two chapters before, in Numbers 21:4 through 9, we find the last of the Israelites’ eight sinful rebellions before the prophet spoke these words from the high place of Pisgah (see Numbers 23:14).
Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wild- erness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:).
- No water? Think back! In Numbers 20:2 through 13, God had just provided abundant water from the rock, even though Moses had disobeyed the LORD and had gotten into trouble! (See What Hath God Wrought? – II).
- No Food? Hadn’t God been providing manna, “…bread from heaven…” (Exodus 16:4), “…angel’s food…” (Psalm 78:25) for the last 40 years?
- But the big sin (if you can classify ‘big’ and ‘little’ sins) is found at the end of verse 6: “…and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” You, Israel, loath the LORD’s gracious provision?
✡ He didn’t have to rescue you from Egypt! (See Exodus 6:5-7). ✡ He didn’t have to send you forth with the riches of the Egyptians! (See Exodus 12:35, 36). ✡ He didn’t have to miraculously open a way through the Red Sea, and drown the whole Egyptian army when they tried to follow! (See Exodus 14:22-28). ✡ He didn’t have to guide you to the Promised Land of Canaan! (See Exodus 6:8). ✡ He didn’t have to lead you personally in a cloud by day and a column of fire by night! (See Deuteronomy 1:33). ✡ He didn’t have to miraculously prevent their clothes and shoes from wearing out for forty years! (See Deuteronomy 29:5).
And God didn’t have to forgive them again and again as they trekked for forty years in the Sinai wilderness! But He did and, even though they felt His wrath and His discipline, they had made it thus far!
What discipline was meted out for their complaining and loathing of God’s gracious provision of manna? “So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.” (Numbers 21:6).
- Numbers 21:7 – “Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.”
- Numbers 21:8, 9 – “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ …and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
Of course, this bronze serpent on a pole typifies Jesus being lifted up on the cross. As it is written in John 3:14 and 15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
But back to the main question raised when Balaam uttered his prophesy: “He [God] has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.” How is this possible in light of all the sin and rebellion the Israelites produced? We looked at only eight such events in the last three Gems. There were more!
The answer is the Lord Jesus Christ!
Back on March 27th, 2013 I posted a Gem entitled The Great Exchange, taken from II Corinthians 5:17: “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
- Jesus, crucified on Calvary’s cross, took our sins upon His holy self, completely paying for every sin I, and you, ever committed! In Zechariah 3:1 through 5, Joshua, the High Priest is pictured as standing before the LORD dressed in filthy clothes. But God commanded in verse 4, “‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And to him He said, ‘Behold, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’ ”
✡ You see, being divested of our filthy garments of our own righteousness (see Isaiah 64:6) is only half of the transaction Jesus made possible by His sacrifice! For He was made “...to be sin for us...”! ✡ The other half of the transaction is, “...that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Joshua, the High Priest not only had his filthy garments removed, the LORD also told him, “...I will clothe you with rich robes...” of God’s own righteousness! ✡ This is further pictured in Isaiah 61:10: I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has cov- ered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
- So in Jesus Christ, by faith in the crucified and risen Lord, we stand before God as perfect and sinless…because we are wearing His own righteousness!
In the Old Testament, it is the same way! Those who believed God’s promises of a coming Savior Messiah were counted as righteous before Jehovah! And their belief was demonstrated in their participation in the blood of the sacrifices which covered their sins until the Christ would forever take them away!
Now I know that not all of the two to three million Israelites who wandered in the Sinai desert were true believers. But Moses was! And his intercession more than once saved the nation! (See for example Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 11:1-3; 21:1-9).
But the basis of truth in Balaam’s prophesy; that God “…has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel…” (Numbers 23:21), is that the Father was looking at Israel through the lens of the righteousness of His Son!
Are you wearing the robe of righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ? If you are, then the Father “…has not observed iniquity…nor has He seen wickedness in…” YOU!