Balaam - the First Parable
Numbers 23:7-10
And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come…

The word "parable" is used here in a somewhat peculiar sense. It is not, as in the New Testament, a fictitious narrative embodying and enforcing some moral truth, but a "dark saying," a mystic prophecy cast in the form of figurative poetic language, a prophecy that partakes of the nature of allegory. In these ecstatic utterances the impulse of Balaam's better nature overmasters his more sordid passion, and a true prophetic spirit from God takes the place of the false Satanic spirit of heathen divination. The thoughts respecting Israel to which Balaam gives utterance in this first parable are deeply true of the redeemed people of God in every age.

I. THEIR SPECIAL PRIVILEGE AS OBJECTS OF THE DIVINE FAVOUR. "How shall I curse," &c. Balak had faith in Balaam's incantations. "I wot that he whom thou blessest," &c. (Numbers 22:6). But he himself knew well that there was an arbitrament of human interests and destinies infinitely higher than his. God has absolute sovereignty for good or ill over all our human conditions. There is no real blessing where his benediction does not rest, nor need any curse be dreaded by those who live beneath his smile. "If God be for us," &c. (Romans 8:31). No alternative so momentous as this - the favour or the disfavour of God. Note, respecting the Divine favour, that -

1. It is determined by spiritual character. Not an arbitrary, capricious bestowment. It is for us to supply the conditions. We must "be reconciled to God" if we would know the benediction of his smile. God is "for" those who are for him. The cloud in which his glory dwells gives light to those who are. in. spiritual accord with him, but is darkness and confusion to his foes.

2. It is neither indicated nor disproved by the outward experiences of life. External conditions are no criterion of the state of the soul and its Divine relations. The wicked may "have all that heart can wish" of the good of this life, and their very "prosperity may slay them ;" while it is often true that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" with sorest tribulations, and those tribulations "work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." We judge very falsely if we suppose that spiritual experiences must needs be reflected in outward conditions.

3. It is the source of the purest joy of which the soul of a man is capable. This is true blessedness - to walk consciously in the light of God's countenance. "His favour is life," his loving kindness "better than life." This was the pure joy of the well-beloved Son - the abiding sense of the Father's approval. Have this joy in you, and you may defy the disturbing influences of life and the bitterest maledictions of a hostile world.

II. THEIR SEPARATENESS. "Lo, the people shall dwell alone," &c. (verse 9). The Jews were an elect people ("Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people" - Exodus 19:5), chosen and separated, not as monopolizing the Divine regard, but as the instruments of a Divine purpose. They were called to be witnesses for God among the nations, - the majesty of his Being, the sanctity of his claims, the method of his government, &c., - and to be the channels of boundless blessing to the world. The same grand distinction belongs to all whom Christ has redeemed from among men. "Ye are a chosen generation," &c. (1 Peter 2:9). He says to all his followers, "Ye are not of the world," &c. (John 15:19; John 17:16, 17). This separation is -

1. Not circumstantial, but moral; lying not in the renunciation of any human interest or the rending of any natural human tie, but in distinctive qualities of spiritual character and life. In moral elevation and spiritual dignity only are they called to "dwell alone."

2. Not for the world's deprivation, but for its benefit Not to withdraw from it powers that might better be consecrated to its service, but to bring to bear upon it, in the cause of righteousness, an energy higher and diviner than its own.

III. THEIR MULTIPLICITY. "Who can count the dust," &c. The promise given to Abraham is gloriously fulfilled in God's spiritual Israel. "Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth," &c. (Genesis 28:14). This indicates at once the grandeur of the Divine purpose and the diffusive power of the Divine life in men. On both these grounds their numbers will surely multiply till they "cover the face of all the earth." Little as we may be able to forecast the future, we know that the question, "Are there few that be saved?" will find its triumphant answer in "the great multitude which no man can number, of all nations," &c. (Revelation 7:9).

IV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THEIR END. "Let me die the death," &c. We gather from this not only Balaam's faith in the intrinsic worth of righteousness, but also in the happy issue to which a righteous life in this world must lead as regards the life to come. Why this wish if he had no faith in a glorious immortality and in righteousness as the path to it? There is an instinct in the soul even of a bad man that leads to this conclusion, and his secret convictions and wishes will often bear witness to a diviner good of which his whole moral life is the practical denial. You must be numbered with the righteous now if you would find your place with them hereafter, and live their life if you would die their death. - W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.

WEB: He took up his parable, and said, "From Aram has Balak brought me, the king of Moab from the mountains of the East. Come, curse Jacob for me. Come, defy Israel.

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