Moses Part 22

Moses, the man of God

A study

Part 22

Some Important Events of the Years of Wandering – B

Numbers 21 to 25 & 31

In this part of our study let us look into two more noteworthy events that transpired among the children of Israel during the 38½ years of their wanderings in the wilderness.

SERPENT OF BRONZE

As the children of Israel were denied passage through the land of Edom, they had to travel a long way around that land. Here, the people became impatient because of the journey. And they spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” This kindled the Lord’s anger and He sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. When a snake bit anyone, he must look at the bronze snake, and by simply looking at it he lived. In this historical event, it so happened that all those who trusted and implicitly obeyed this command of God were saved. But those who neglected, doubted and did not give heed to this command of God perished.

Moses prayed for the people; which once again proves him to be of a meek and forgiving spirit; who, though they had spoken against him and used him ill: yet readily undertakes to pray to God for them. And it shall come to pass that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live; which is very wonderful. This virtue of healing could not come from the figure, but from God, who appointed it to be made. By simply looking they were saved, and it shows how we are saved, not by any of our works but purely by His grace. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph.2: 8,9)

A sad part of this event was that the graven image of this serpent did not remain in the place where it was set, but was taken with them and continued (for about 700 years) until the days of Hezekiah, (2Kings 18:4). Hezekiah broke in pieces the bronze serpent, which Moses had made; for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BRONZE SERPENT

Though this historical event is a matter of physical healing, it very clearly signifies the way of eternal salvation. The simple and clear example of this event was used by our Lord Jesus Christ to teach us about eternal salvation. In John Chapter 3 the Lord Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 14-16) The lifting up of this serpent on a pole for such a purpose was a figure of the lifting up of Christ upon the cross that whosoever looks unto him by faith might have salvation. The serpent is a cursed creature. (Gen.3: 14) The figure of the serpent indicates how our Lord Jesus Christ, who was without sin was made to be sin and curse in our place to save us. (2Cor.5: 21, Gal.3: 13)

THE PROPHECIES OF BALAAM (Numb.22 to 25)

The children of Israel being come into the plains of Moab, put Balak, the king of Moab into a panic. He sent for Balaam the soothsayer to curse the people of Israel, but he, upon consulting the Lord refused to come. The king of Moab sent to him a second time, making large promises of riches and honour to him, and who at this time got leave from the Lord to go with the messengers. But he was met with in the way by an angel of the Lord, who would have slain him had it not been for his ass. His ass could see what Balaam could not. (Num.22) After meeting the king of Moab, Balaam prophesied three times.

After they offered the sacrifices, God met Balaam, and put a word into his mouth, which he delivered in the presence of the king of Moab and his princes. The substance of the FIRST Prophecy is the separate condition of Israel from other nations, their number, and the happiness of the righteous at death. This made Balak uneasy, since instead of cursing he blessed Israel. Therefore he took him to another place to take a view of the people. There having offered sacrifices, another word was put into the mouth of Balaam, and which he also delivered before the king and his nobles. Here, in his SECOND Prophecy, he expressed the unchangeableness of God, the irreversibleness of the blessing of Israel, the strength, safety, happiness, and glory of that people. This made Balak still more uneasy. (Num.23)

But Balak willing to try him a THIRD time, carried him to another place, and there built altars, and offered sacrifices. Now, the Spirit of God came on Balaam, and he spoke of the happiness of Israel, and prophesied of their future greatness and glory. This so exasperated Balak, that he ordered him at once to depart from him. Before going, Balaam prophesied concerning the Messiah (Num.24: 17), and the destruction of Moab, and of some other nations also. (Num.23: 27 – 24: 25)

But immediately after Balaam’s prophecies, we read that the people of Israel committed adultery with the daughters of Moab and also sacrificed to their gods. Then fierce anger of the Lord fell upon them because of their whoredom and idolatry. The Lord punished them with a plague, and those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand (Num.25). Then there was a war with Midian, in which all their males including Balaam was killed. Later, Moses ordered that all their male children and all the defiled women also to be killed. (Num.31) In this way Balaam and all Midianites were punished.

SOME IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM BALAAM’S PROPHECIES

Now let us look carefully at what Balaam did and spoke. At first sight it appears that Balaam has done nothing wrong. He got permission from the Lord to go and prophesy. He spoke only what God told him. All his words were blessings to Israel and honour to God. But from the encounter of the angel on the way, and from the events which followed these prophesies we know that Balaam’s prophecies were evil and these prophecies brought about great damages on God’s people.

1. Hidden motive of Balaam

Balaam expressed that he does not desire any reward. (Num.22: 18) But from the New Testament references to these prophecies, we can understand that he had a hidden desire for fame and wealth. (2Pet.2: 15, Jude 1: 11) Therefore, through Balaam’s episode we are sternly warned that we must use our spiritual gifts only according to the Lord’s will for His glory alone. We must never have any hidden motive to seek personal fame or gain in this life.

2. Deceptive teachings of Balaam

We all know from the Word of God that tremendous blessings (present and future) are promised for the people of God. But we should also give heed to the clear and emphatic warnings given in the Word of God, about the grave danger of loosing these blessings. Note the use of the word “IF” in the following verses.

Now therefore, IF ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words, which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exo.19: 5,6)

And it shall come to pass, IF thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, IF thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. But it shall come to pass, IF thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: (Deut.28: 1,2,15)

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; IF so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom.8: 17)

IF we suffer, we shall also reign with him: IF we deny him, he also will deny us. (2Tim.2: 12)

In Revelation Chapter 3 and 4, the letters to the Churches are concluded with promises to the Overcomers in the Churches. It clearly implies that IF we are not Overcomers we will loose those rewards.

Balaam, in his prophecies, cunningly avoided these warnings. He taught as though the promised blessings of God to His people were unconditional. He taught as if ALL the people of God will inherit ALL the blessings of God irrespective of the manner in which they walk with the Lord in this life. It means that once a person is born-again, he will not loose anything, no matter he loves and obeys the Lord or not.

Through the teachings of Balaam, the children of Israel were led to believe that because God had chosen them He would bless them irrespective of the way they lived. So they became defiant and shameless and without any fear sacrificed to idols and committed fornication. Because of this, God’s wrath fell upon them and they were punished with a deadly plague. (1Cor.10: 7,8)

Beware of the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. (Rev.2: 14)

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