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Friday, June 20, 2008

God does not...

A friend responded yesterday to an email I sent her the other day. I have actually never physically met this friend, but came to know her as a result of my blog. In her email, she asked me a question which, for some reason (perhaps God?!?!) struck me in a very profound way. Such a profound way that I began to search the Scriptures and was led to a passage in the book of Numbers. Yes, you heard me right ~ Numbers. I must admit, it has never been my favorite book of the Bible, mostly because it is not very easy to read. I also found that this particular passage was VERY long. In fact, as I read, it kept getting longer - and - longer because I had to keep going back farther - and - farther to discover the background of what was happening. In the end, I had to read chapters 21-24 to get the whole story. I am beginning to realize that there is so much in the Bible that I have never read, at least with understanding.

Well, long introduction over... the verse that initially got my attention was Numbers 23:19, which says, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" What an amazing truth and answer to prayer is contained in that verse! I have often (in relation to my circumstances) said, "I know God CAN, but WILL He?" Oh, me of little faith! God does not lie. God does not change His mind. God does not speak and then not act. God does not promise and not fulfill.

But, I can't stop there, because that is neither the only nor the loudest part of the passage which spoke to me. Really, the part that SHOUTED to me most was the part that was not written at all. While God does not do any of the previously mentioned things, I do. I lie. I most definitely change my mind (ladies, can you relate?!?). I speak and then don't act. I neglect to fulfill the promises I have made. Such immaturity and faithlessness!

Then, I began to wonder... exactly what was it that God spoke that He wouldn't change His mind about or back down on His promise? Well, I promise I won't copy and paste it here (you can breathe a **sigh** of relief), but if you get a chance, scroll back up to the top of this post, and click on the link to the passage in Numbers. I don't think you will be disappointed. The Word of God recounts a portion of the Israelite's journey through the desert. You know, the journey that began with them escaping Egypt and Phaaroh's army by crossing the Red Sea on dry ground... the journey that continued as they wandered around for 40 years... the journey that ended (sort of) when they finally reached the Promised Land!

This leg of the adventure tells us how God orchestrated the Israelites' continued protection from their enemies as well as their safe passage through territories which did not belong to them. In fact, God gave the Israelites victory (and possession) over so much of the land that had belonged to their enemies that the next group of people they were about to encounter was very scared. Numbers 22:3-4 says, "And Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites. The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, 'This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.' "

Wow. The Israelites had made such an impression that NOBODY wanted to mess with them! The reputation that preceded them left Balak, the king of Moab really irritated. He wanted them off his property, but he knew they were too powerful for him. So, he called on Balaam, a man known for his ability to prophesy, in hopes that Balaam would effectively "curse" the Israelites into getting out of his country.

Unfortunately, what Balak didn't understand was that Balaam had already received instruction from God before he was even permitted to go to Moab. Not only that, but God had instructed Balaam to say nothing that did not come directly from Him. Talk about being "tight lipped!" God went to incredible lengths to get His point across and to make sure that Balaam would not give in to temptation and take the path of greed. In fact, He even sent an angel to stop Balaam one more time to keep him straight and to remind him to watch what he said. Too bad for his talking donkey that Balaam behaved in such an asinine way (pun intended).

So, what exactly was it that God was so concerned about? What had He said that He wouldn't change His mind? It was His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, His promise to bless the children of Israel. He had kept His promise all this time, even through the Israelites' disobedience and ungrateful complaining. He had kept His promise. He had helped them escape. He had protected them. He had blessed them far beyond anything they ever deserved. Why should He change His mind now and curse them?

Well, Balak certainly did not like that option, so he figured he would settle for the next best thing. He told Balaam that if he wouldn't curse the Israelites, he should at least refrain from blessing them. But, Balaam would have nothing to do with it. His "eyes saw clearly" his instructions from God and he proceeded to bless the Israelites as the LORD had commanded!

Obviously, Balak was angry, but what could he do? Nothing, except listen in silence as Balaam blessed the nation of Israel and prophesied of what was to come! "The oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city." (Numbers 24:16-19)

Do you hear the words of God? Do you have knowledge from the Most High? Do you see a vision from the Almighty? Are your eyes opened? Do you see the MESSIAH?!?!?!

How could God have lied? How could God have changed His mind? How could God have spoken and not acted or promised and not fulfilled? He couldn't! There was too much at stake ~ His covenant with Abraham, with the nation of Israel, and His loving plan to redeem the WHOLE WORLD!!

I do not claim to make a comparison between God's plan to move in my circumstances and God's plan to bring salvation to the world. However, I do know this ~ Change was not part of God's character in Balaam's day, and it still isn't in His character today. He is the same Yesterday ~ Today ~ and FOREVER!!! He says what He means, and He means what He says.

Remember, at the beginning, I said that this all started with a question from a friend? Well, I don't think I ever told you what the question was. She asked me, "How are you and your husband doing, and in what direction is God moving you at this time?" That was a very fair question, although the initial response that FLEW through my mind with just a hint of sarcasm (I have a real problem with sarcasm!) stunned even me. I thought "The same direction He was moving us before." Then I thought, "Where did THAT come from?" Well, I still haven't responded to my friend yet, because I have been trying to formulate my response, and it has been taking some time. I guess my conclusion (from God) is that He does not change, and therefore, our direction has not changed. I'm starting to get the feeling that the problem I have with my circumstances is, well... me. My fears, my hesitations, my lack of faith, my procrastination. We need to keep moving in the direction He has already given us, even if we don't know where it will lead. We need to heed His instructions, recognize His counsel in each decision, and **hopefully** refrain from blindly beating any donkeys along the way!

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