Deu_23:5. The Lord thy God would not hearken unto Salaam: for the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee.
TO those who are ignorant of the way of salvation, we preach Christ crucified: for “there is no other name under heaven but his, whereby any man can be saved.” But to those who are well instructed in the fundamental truths of our holy religion, we bring forward rather what relates to the life of godliness: having laid the foundation, we endeavour to build upon it a suitable superstructure. Now, a realizing sense of God’s care and love, such a sense of his goodness as leads us to live altogether by faith upon him, is one of the sublimest attainments that can be made in this world. And to assist you in this, will be my endeavour at this time.
Let us notice, then, from the words before us,
God’s love to his ancient people—
This appeared in bringing them forth out of Egypt, and in preserving them throughout their wanderings in the wilderness: and especially, also, in the instance that is here specified, the counteracting of the designs of Balaam, and “the turning of his curse into a blessing unto them.”
See the account given us by Moses—
[To enter fully into this, the whole history of the transaction, the 22d, 23d, and 24th chapters of tin: Book of Numbers should be attentively perused. Instigated by a desire to obtain “the wages of unrighteousness.” yet conscious that he was under a restraint from the Most High God, Balaam madly pursued his object, even after he was rebuked for his iniquity by the beast on which he rode, and which, was enabled to utter the reproof in language used by man [Note: 2Pe_2:15-16.]. He constantly confesses his inability to go beyond what Jehovah should see fit to permit; yet as constantly sought to evade or change the divine counsels, and to execute the project for which he was hired. Every distinct prophecy which he utters, rises in force and grandeur: and when complained of by Balak for pouring forth blessings upon them, instead of denouncing curses against them, he confesses, “I have received commandment to bless: and God hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it [Note: Num_23:20.].” At last, finding how vain it was to seek by enchantments to alter the divine purpose, he forbore to offer any more of his sacrifices. and yielded to the impulse within him to foretell the certain successes of those whom he had sought to destroy [Note: Num_24:1-9.]. And, having thus provoked the king of Moab to dismiss him without the promised rewards [Note: Num_24:10-14.], he resumed his prophetic strains, and declared, not only that this people should triumph over Moab, but that from them should One arise, who should establish an universal empire, and have dominion over the whole world [Note: Num_24:15-19.].
All this, Joshua brought to the remembrance of Israel, long after they had been established in the land of Canaan; saying, “Balak the son of Zippor arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: but I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand [Note: Jos_24:9-10.].”]
Now all this was the fruit of God’s unchanging love—
[God had chosen them to himself in Abraham, and had ordained that they should be to him a peculiar people above all others upon the face of the whole earth. In this choice of them he had been influenced, not by any foreseen worthiness in them; for he knew, from the beginning, what a stiff-necked people they would prove; but solely by his own sovereign will and pleasure: “He loved them because he would love them [Note: Deu_7:6-9.].” To them, also, had he promised the land of Canaan: and therefore, when the time was come for their possession of it, no enemy could stand before them, nor could any conspiracies which could be formed prevail against them. Hence, in despite of all the efforts which Balaam made to curse them, he was constrained to “bless them still.”]
From the whole of God’s kindness to them, we may be led to contemplate,
His love to his Israel at this day—
His people are now redeemed, even as they were of old, only from infinitely sorer bondage, a bondage to sin and Satan, to death and hell. They are brought also through a dreary wilderness, towards the heavenly Canaan. They have enemies also to contend with. True it is, they have not to dispossess any of their land; nor do they, by invading the property of others, provoke hostility: but they have enemies notwithstanding, yea, and enemies who are bent upon their destruction: but from all of them God will surely deliver his redeemed people.
He will deliver them both from men and devils—
[From the beginning of the world hare God’s chosen people been opposed and persecuted, even from the time of Abel to the present hour. It was the superior piety of Abel that called forth the resentment of the envious Cain, and stimulated him to imbrue his hands in his brother’s blood [Note: 1Jn_3:12.]. And our Lord puts the question to his malignant enemies, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” It might be thought, indeed, that it would be impossible for any one to hate and persecute the holy Jesus, in whose whole life not a single flaw could be found, and who, by his benevolent and unnumbered miracles, must have endeared himself to every one. But the brighter his light was, the more were the children of darkness incensed against him; so that they never ceased, till they had prevailed against him, and “crucified the Lord of Glory.” All his Apostles, too, were objects of the world’s hatred: and our Lord has told us, that all his followers will have their cross to bear, after the example which he has set us. And do we not find it so? Is there a faithful servant of the Lord, especially if he fill any important station, and be active in honouring his Divine Master—is there one. I say, that is not reviled and persecuted for righteousness sake? True, fires are not now kindled, as once they were, to consume them, because the laws of the land forbid it: but it is as true at this day as ever it was in the apostolic age, that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
And has the hostility of Satan at all abated? Does not “that roaring lion go about at this day as much as ever, seeking whom he may devour?” What can the Apostle mean, when he says, “We wrestle not with flesh and blood, (not with flesh and blood only,) but with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places [Note: Eph_6:12.]?” Or for what end are we still enjoined to “put on the whole armour of God [Note: Eph_6:13.],” if we have not still many enemies to contend with?
But God will preserve us from them all, and “turn their curses into blessings.” “Whatsoever will ultimately advance our welfare, he will permit: but whatsoever would have an injurious effect, he will avert; as it is said, “The wrath of man shall praise thee; and the remainder of it shalt thou restrain [Note: Psa_76:10.].” We may not see the precise way in which good shall be brought out of evil: Joseph could form no idea of the benefit which was ultimately to accrue from all his trials: nor could Job from his: but they were constrained to acknowledge, that, however designed for evil, the events, every one of them, issued in good: and thus has God engaged, that “all things shall work together for his people’s good [Note: Rom_8:28.];” and that their “light and momentary afflictions shall work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [Note: 2Co_4:17.].”]
To this Almighty God is pledged, by the love that he bears towards us—
[God has loved his people with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness he both draws us to him [Note: Jer_31:3.], and secures our welfare. Now, the record in my text is especially intended by God himself to illustrate and confirm this truth. Hear what God says by the Prophet Micah: “O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal, that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord [Note: Mic_6:5.].” God is a righteous and faithful God; and he has engaged, that “no weapon that is formed against his people shall prosper,” and that “none shall prevail against them to pluck them out of his hands:” we may be perfectly assured, therefore, that he will keep them to the end; and that “not one jot or tittle of his word will ever fail.” “Having loved his own, he will love them to the end [Note: Joh_13:1.].”]
I close with a word or two of advice—
Be not hasty in your anticipations of evil as the result of your trials—
[Jacob, on the loss of his favourite son Joseph, exclaimed, “All these things are against me!” But that was the very event which God had ordained for the preservation of himself and his whole family; yea, and for the completion of all his promises respecting the Messiah, and the salvation of the whole world by him. And perhaps that very trial, of which we are ready to complain, is, according to his eternal purpose, to be the destined means of preserving us from destruction, and of preparing us for glory. Wait, and “see the end of the Lord [Note: Jam_5:11.];” and you will find as much reason to bless God for your severest troubles, as for the most acceptable of all his blessings.]
Learn in every dispensation to acknowledge a Father’s love—
[There is not, in fact, any single trial that does not proceed from God. “Not a hair of your head can fall” but by his gracious permission. Men, devils, yea the very elements, are only instruments in his hands to fulfil his will [Note: Isa_10:5; Psa_148:8.]. The Jews, in crucifying the Messiah, executed only “what God’s will and counsel had determined before to be done [Note: Act_4:28.]:” and, though “they neither meant nor thought so,” they were his agents, to accomplish what was necessary for the redemption of the world. Men and devils may have prepared a furnace for you: but it is God who puts you into it, to purify you from your dross, and to “bring you forth as vessels meet for the Master’s use.” True, he will punish those agents; as he did Balaam, who was slain amongst the enemies of God: but you “he will make perfect through sufferings,” and recompense in proportion to all that you have endured for him.]