“To stay here and disobey God—I can’t afford to take the consequence.
I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed.”

Amanda Berry Smith

TODAY’S READING: Numbers 23–24

When Balaam refused to curse Israel, he said he cannot curse whom God has not cursed (Num. 23:8–10). He also saw a people who lived apart from the nations and mentioned that the dust of Jacob cannot be counted. Balaam’s citing of “a people dwelling alone” was a reference to them being a holy people “commissioned to be God’s people on behalf of God’s earth which is God’s.”[1] This priestly role, referenced repeatedly in Leviticus and Numbers, is to underline that “Israel as a kingdom of priest is Israel committed to the extension throughout the world of Yahweh’s presence.”[2] The God of mission will use His missionary people to declare and carry His glory to all peoples of earth. Balaam lost the power struggle with God (Who has the right to curse or bless? Only God.). Then Balaam in acknowledging the dust of Jacob conceded that a missionary God will indeed be glorified by all peoples, everywhere. God’s purposes cannot be stopped; they must be blessed if we are to stay on the right side of Jehovah. Chris Wright put it this way:

Balaam’s oracle does not quite express the universality of the climax of the Abrahamic covenant, but it certainly is an echo of that text. His refusal to curse Israel may have been under divine constraint, but there was an element of self-preservation in it too. The distinctiveness of Israel’s role among the nations is also referred to, as is the expectation of their numerical growth like “dust”—a clear echo of the part of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen. 13:16). And, finally Balaam probably echoes the final line of Genesis 12:3 by wishing to be like Israel… Balaam’s next oracle is even more emphatic in affirming the blessing of God on Israel, which no human sorcery can reverse (Num. 23:18–24), and his third oracle virtually quotes God’s words to Abraham (Num. 24:9).[3]

Even false prophets understand God is a missionary God who blesses His people to be missionary. If pagan prophets can stand and align their words to this overriding passion of God, should not true prophets thunder this message through every medium and faithful preachers teach these precepts in every sermon? “YHWH had promised that Abraham’s family would become as numerous as the grains of sandy soil in the land (Gen. 13:16, 28:14); Balaam testifies that this has come about (Num. 23:10). YHWH had promised that people would pray for blessings like Abraham’s (Gen. 12:3). Balaam does so. (Num. 23:10)”[4] Let’s not abdicate the testimony of missions or the prayer for blessing on the nations to rocks and trees, donkeys and pagan prophets. Let’s exercise our privilege and let the Tatar know that blessings in Christ are stored up waiting for them. John Goldingay points out there is one more critical aspect to the unfolding events, writing that “the story needs to transition back from deliverance talk to blessing talk. Israel’s story (the world’s story) is not ultimately about deliverance but blessing.”[5] It’s wonderful to be delivered and protected, but God did so for a reason: that all the unreached peoples of earth would be blessed by the heavenly presence of God living among them.

[1] Terrence E. Fretheim. Exodus. Louisville: John Knox Press.,1991. 212.

[2] John I. Durham. “Exodus.” Word Bible Commentary 3. Waco, Texas: Word, 1987. 263.

[3] Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 226.

[4] John Goldingay. Old Testament Theology (Volume 1): Israel’s Gospel. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003. 471.

[5] Ibid, 471.

Prayer Focus: Russia (117 UPGs)

Today’s Unreached People Group: Tatar
Population: 5,344,000
Language: Tatar
Primary Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.49%
Estimated Workers Needed: 107

[Source: Joshua Project]

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