I was looking for another way to start this blog.
I really was.
But I’m sorry – I can’t get it off of my mind, so-
You know the thing about COVID-19 that is really hard for me?
It’s the not knowing. The possibility of things getting so much worse. The inability to read the future and decide that things will be okay or not okay. It’s the impending doom.
I wonder if the Israelites felt the same way in Numbers 23.
They were facing the possibility of death too. A gruesome, bloody death could come at the hands of their enemies, the Moabites, who could literally see them from their windows. The Israelites were God’s chosen people and all, but they were still living out their punishment by wandering in the wilderness. What if God’s protection was withdrawn?
After all, their enemies were already scheming against them. Balaam, the wizard who was also a “follower of God”, has been summoned by King Balak of the Moabites to curse the Israelites.
And curse them he shall! This man is ready ready. He ordered not one, not two, but seven altars with seven bulls and seven rams offered on them. He even solemnly separated himself to a special place to get the right inspiration for his curse.
And now, it’s time.
Balaam closes his eyes…lifts his hands…opens his mouth, and-
Blesses the Israelites.
He blesses them!
I think Balak spoke for all of the Moabites: “What have you done?!?”
Stronger than witchcraft
Twice. Two times.
Two times altars are built, prayers are offered, and the Israelites are blessed.
I know Balak was starting to think about all the money he’d spent on Balaam, not to mention the 14 altars, 14 bulls, and 14 rams he’d given up. Meanwhile, all Balaam could say was “God won’t let me!”
It sounded like an excuse. But was it?
Balaam’s exact words were “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” (verses 8, 12, 20)
You could tell me those words were from some fantasy TV show and I wouldn’t blink an eye. They conjure up images of magic, hexes, and unseen powers.
Well, duh. God is an unseen Power. God already has what wicked witches and Harry Potters and vampire slayers could only dream of having. God already controls what fantastical fiction can only imagine controlling.
God is sovereign. He has ultimate power. Nothing can stop Him. It’s as simple as that.
And when you combine ultimate power with ultimate love, what do you get?
Protection. God protects His people. He is a mountain surrounding them (Psalm 125:2). He is their refuge and their fortress (Psalm 91:2). No weapon formed against His people will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). And no plague will come near their dwelling (Psalm 91:10).
How can haters destroy the ones God has blessed? How can oppression sabotage the people God has blessed? How can coronavirus sicken the children God has blessed?
If God has blessed, then no one can change it.
Who are the chosen?
But…what about those who don’t receive protection?
Let’s just be honest with each other. For every disaster or disease or crime or pestilence, there’s a sermon given by an earnest pastor who goes on and on and on about God’s faithfulness and His power and His love and His protection – while smoothly skipping over the fact that plenty of people were not protected, and did indeed suffer.
Any raggedy politician can make a promise and then only keep it for a small portion of the population. Shouldn’t we get better from our King?
But God didn’t break His promise. He’s still powerful. He is still impenetrable. He is still our protection…but He is also still our Parent and our Judge.
Just as no one can curse whom God has blessed – no one can bless whom God has cursed.
When God decides to protect His children, it will happen. When God decides to punish His children, it will happen. When God decides to rain blessings on His children, it will happen. When God allows pain to flood His children’s lives, it will happen.
It doesn’t matter where it falls on the spectrum. Good or bad. It will happen. Because He has ultimate power, ultimate love, and ultimate control.
“I am the One who gives permission.”
How do we reconcile this? Our God allows evil, and He allows good. Even worse – He commands evil, just like He commands good.
How is this okay?
It’s a big question. It’s deep. It’s a make-or-break kind of question.
How to answer it?
I can appeal to God’s wisdom. How He created the world and everything in it, down to the structure of the tiniest atom and up to the organization of our universe.
I can appeal to His love. How He stretched out and bled and suffered and died for people who spat in His face, who would curse His name, and who would ignore His pleas for them to come to Him.
I can appeal to His power. How He split a sea in half so His children could walk through on dry land – twice. How He healed sick people, defied physics and gravity, and raised literal dead people from the grave.
I could go on about all of that until I didn’t have a voice anymore.
But ultimately the best option is to keep reading. Past Numbers. All the way to Job. To Psalms. To Isaiah. To the Gospels. To Revelation.
Answers, even little pieces of answers, lie hidden in all of those pages.
It comes down to how badly you want those answers. It comes down to how much you believe that truth, real truth, can survive any attack. Any curse. Any prejudice. Any predetermined notion. Any question.
Balaam could not curse the Israelites. And Satan cannot keep you from believing in real Truth.
What do you think? What have you found in the delicate pages of the Bible that have helped you understand the God who allows evil and good?