Bible commentaries – Dec. 29, 2019
Explore the Bible
The story of Balaam and his donkey is an incredible story. Bible commentator and expositor, Ronald B. Allen wrote, “The pagan mantic, the donkey, and the angel of the Lord are brought together in this truly tragicomic scene.”
Balak, the King of Moab, feared Israel because God had given Israel tremendous victories. Balak knew there was no military option in defeating the Israelites. He sought a diviner of renown, Balaam, to place a curse on Israel.
God came to Balaam in a dream and told him he couldn’t go with Balak’s delegation and curse Israel. Balak didn’t accept this and he sent another delegation. God allowed Balaam to go but he was to follow His instructions. Somewhere along the way Balaam must have violated God’s instruction because the angel of the Lord blocked his path.
Balaam’s donkey could see what he couldn’t see. The angel of the Lord is holding a sword and blocking the way. She turned away, saving her master’s life. Three times the donkey changed the route and three times her master beat her. Balaam was filled with anger; if he had been armed he would have killed the donkey.
God spoke through the donkey, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?” Balaam replies to his donkey, “No.” At that point God opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord and knelt before Him. The Lord then asked Balaam why he beat his donkey – since it was the donkey that saw the Lord and saved his life.
Balaam’s words of repentance makes us think that Balaam had truly repented. The outcome of the full story shows this to be false (Num. 25; 31). Balaam was not able to curse Israel as he intended. Balaam pronounced a series of oracles that the Lord transformed as blessing for the Israelites.
This is the point of the lesson: “God calls His followers to represent Him and His purposes to the world.” We need to speak God’s message and be an instrument of blessing.
Bible Studies for Life
Aren't all religions the same?
Isa. 44:6-11; John 14:5-7
I taught a class on world religions and cults. I was asked, “Aren’t all religions essentially the same?” I answered this question with a question, “In what ways are all religions the same?” They usually can’t answer this question because they haven’t actually studied any of them. I explained that most religions have superficial similarities but all have fundamental differences.
The Hindu religion worships more than 330 million gods. Buddhists worship an extensive system of gods and demigods and believe in 27 heavens. Mormons teach a plurality of gods and that men can become gods. The Bible paints a totally different picture.
God claims to be the God of His people but He also claims to be the God of history (Isa. 44:6-8). Only the God of the Bible can explain the past and predict the future. He challenges any so-called gods to come and make their case (Isa. 44:7). He invites them to predict the future (Isa. 44:7). He asks a rhetorical question, “Is there any God besides Me?” (Isa. 44:8). God answers His own question, “There is no other Rock; I do not know any” (Isa. 44:8).
Isaiah 44:9-20 depicts an imaginative scene of an idol-makers’ workshop. God says idols are nothing and they have no profit (Isa. 44:9). They can’t see anything and don’t know anything (Isa. 44:9). They will be put to shame (Isa. 44:9). Idol-makers and those who worship idols have shut their eyes and they cannot see (Isa. 44:18). They have closed their minds and cannot understand (Isa. 44:18).
The way to God is not through idols, it is through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). This is a foundation that other religions do not have. Jesus is the only means of reaching God. Merrill C. Tenny, in the Expositors Bible Commentary, said, “Jesus is the only authorized revelation of God in human form, and He is the only authorized representative of humanity to God.”
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