UNDERSTAND our POSITION as ‘REDEEMED through CHRIST': "He (God) has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him and the shout of a King is among them. God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'Oh, what God has done!'" (Num. 23:21-23)
The children of Israel had now come to the borders of Moab, and they had encamped across the Jordan River from Jericho. Balak, the king of Moab, was scared and desperate for he had seen what the Israelites had earlier done to the Amorites (21:21-32) and Bashan (21:33-35). So he sent messengers all the way to Mesopotamia, some 400 miles away, to hire a soothsayer by the name of Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. Balaam was a Syrian living in Pethor, a town situated near the Euphrates River (22:5). Lured by the great riches offered to him by Balak, Balaam attempted to curse the Israelites on his own. However, he had little choice but to bless Israel instead according to God’s command, rather than curse the nation as Balak had wanted (vv. 11–12).
Over and over Balaam tried to curse Israel, but in vain, for God spoke blessing through him when Balaam intended cursing (vv. 8, 12, 26; 24:13). In the midst of his second attempt to curse Israel, Balaam spoke out one of the most significant statements ever uttered about Jacob and Israel. Balaam said that God had not seen any iniquity in Jacob or any wickedness in Israel! How can that be possible as we are familiar with Jacob who had deceived his brother, his father, his uncle, and everyone else who came into contact with him? However, when God redeemed Jacob by His mercy, God had deemed him righteous. God was both gracious to forgive (v. 21) and strong to deliver (v. 22). Even so, God had reckoned the children of Israel righteous in response to their covenant faith in Him.
What it all means was that God had not observed any ‘iniquity’ of ‘perverseness’ as it relates to Israel’s standing before God. They have been ‘declared righteous’ by His choice of them as they trusted God through faith. Despite their failings, God regarded His people as righteous for the sake of His covenant promises, and He provided the means of their forgiveness (Gen. 17:2). Repeating the wording of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:3), Balaam said that those who blessed Israel would be blessed, but those who cursed them would be cursed (Num. 24:9).
The Israelites were not merely blessed, but God was with them functioning as their king and ‘shouting’ as in battle (v. 24; Num. 10:5, 6; 1 Sam. 4:6). The Israelites could now shout because God reigned as King in their midst (v. 21b). He had delivered them out of Egypt and had given them strength. No evil pronouncement against them would come to pass. There would be no sorcery or divination against Israel now because of what God had done for them. Instead, the victories Israel would soon win would cause the nations to say, “Oh, what God has done!” (See vv. 22–23).
We, who live in Christ, can be encouraged by these words today. Let us clearly understand our position as ‘redeemed through Christ’, as we can now stand before God in all the perfections of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. We are safe (v. 8) because we are separated from the world (v. 9; John 17:14–16) and belong to the Lord who never lies (v. 19). We have strength like an ox (v. 22) and a lioness (v. 24). God is on our side, and He will turn every curse into a blessing (Neh. 13:2) and use evil shaped against us for our good only (Rom. 8:28). Let us always remember what God did for Israel, and trust Him completely that He will do the same for us during the rest of our lives!
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." (Romans 8:31-34)