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Saved by a donkey

Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans?
Numbers 22-24

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Slide 1

King Balak of Moab gazed out on the Israelites camped near his land and trembled with fear. He had heard all about the children of Israel, called Hebrews, and their long journey through the wilderness. They had won many battles and defeated many enemies. Now the twelve tribes of Israel and their leader Moses were here.  The king pointed at the Israelites’ camp on the great plains of Moab. ‘Look!’ he said to the elders of Midian who were standing beside him. ‘There are millions of them. No wonder they defeated Og, the king of Bashan. If they can slay those fearsome giants, then they can easily steal our land.’   The elders of Midian agreed. They were afraid the Israelites might steal their land, too. ‘We know their god Yahweh is wise and powerful, and our army is small,’ they said. ‘We must find a way to get rid of them before they attack us!’ They had no idea that Yahweh had told Moses to leave the Moabites and Midianites alone. – Slide 1

Slide 2

Together, the two nations came up with a silly plan to get rid of the Israelites. ‘There is a famous prophet named Balaam who lives in the land of Mesopotamia,’ said the king. ‘If we pay him lots of money, he will curse whomever we want.’ The elders of Midian smiled at the king. ‘Yes, let’s pay him to curse the Israelites so that they run away.’  King Balak liked the idea. He summoned his messengers. ‘Go and fetch Balaam,’ he said. ‘I will pay him lots of money to come and curse the Israelites. We must get rid of these Hebrews as soon as possible!’   With a bag full of money, the messengers jumped on their camels and set out for the land of Mesopotamia. After a long journey through the desert, they reached the village of Pethor near the Euphrates River where Balaam lived.    A large ziggurat loomed high above the houses. Towering palm trees swayed in the breeze. Everyone peered out of their homes at the strangers on camels. Who were these messengers from Moab? – Slide 2

Slide 3

The messengers found Balaam’s house and hurried inside. ‘We have an important message from the king of Moab,’ they said. ‘We know whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed. The mighty Israelites are camped near our land. Come and curse them so they leave us alone.’   A messenger waved the bag of money in front of Balaam. ‘The king will pay you lots of money to do this,’ he said.   Balaam stared greedily at the money. He liked the idea of being given riches and power. Rubbing his hands together, he said to the men, ‘Stay here overnight. I will talk to God and let you know in the morning what I will do.’ Balaam knew he could only curse the people of Israel if Yahweh allowed it.  That night while Balaam was sleeping in his bed, God spoke to him, saying, ‘Do not go with these men and curse the people of Israel. They are a blessed people.’ – Slide 3

Slide 4

The next morning, Balaam spoke to the messengers. ‘Go back home,’ he said. ‘God will not allow me to curse the Israelites.’ The messengers were shocked. ‘The king will pay you lots of money. You will become very rich!’ But Balaam shook his head. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I can go only if God allows it.’  Try as they might, there was nothing the messengers could say to make Balaam change his mind. One by one, they climbed on their camels and hurried back to the land of Moab without him.  King Balak was surprised that Balaam had not returned with the messengers. He had imagined the prophet would like to earn great riches and honor. ‘Yahweh would not allow him to curse the Israelites,’ said the messengers. ‘Nothing we promised Balaam could change his mind.’  The king paced to and fro. He needed Balaam’s help fast! ‘Listen,’ he said. ‘I have another idea. Let’s offer Balaam even more money to curse the Israelites.’ This time he sent different messengers who were more important than the first. – Slide 4

Slide 5

‘Come and curse the Israelites,’ the messengers told Balaam when they met him in Pethor. ‘The king of Moab will reward you more richly than before and will do anything you say.’ Balaam smiled and puffed up his chest. He liked how the king of Moab made him feel important. ‘Even if the king gives me an enormous palace filled with silver and gold, I cannot disobey God and go with you. But stay here overnight as the others did, and I will find out what God will say.’ God knew what was in Balaam’s heart. He knew that the prophet loved money more than obeying Him. That night, while everyone was sleeping, God spoke to him, saying, ‘If these men ask you to go with them, get ready and go. When you reach the land of Moab, be careful to only say what I tell you to say.’ However, Balaam secretly had another plan in mind. – Slide 5

Slide 6

Early the next morning, Balaam jumped out of bed. He loaded his donkey and set out for the land of Moab. While he rode his donkey along the dusty dirt path, he thought more about his secret plan to please both God, and the king. ‘Perhaps I can say what God wants me to say, and make the king happy, too,’ he whispered.  As the greedy prophet headed towards the land of Moab, God decided to stop him from carrying out his cunning plan. Suddenly, a magnificent angel appeared in front of Balaam and his donkey, blocking their way.  Hee-haw, hee-haw. The donkey was so afraid that her legs began to tremble. She ran off the path into a field, her long floppy ears flapping like wings. ‘Stop!’ cried Balaam. ‘What are you doing?’ He could not see the angel like his donkey. He beat her with his staff until she ran back onto the pathway. – Slide 6

Slide 7

Balaam and his donkey continued along the pathway toward the land of Moab. Soon they passed between two vineyards with high walls. Again, the heavenly angel appeared in front of them, blocking their path.  The donkey’s eyes nearly popped out of her head. Lunging to one side, she crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. ‘Ouch! Why are you doing this?’ shouted Balaam. ‘My foot hurts.’ Waving his staff above his head, he beat his donkey even harder than before.  Further down the road, the angel stood in a narrow place, blocking their path. When the donkey saw the angel for the third time, she was terrified. She lay down in the middle of the pathway and refused to move at all.  Balaam flew into a terrible rage. ‘What is wrong with you,’ he shouted. He was tired of his donkey’s strange behaviour. He had never seen his donkey behave so badly before. – Slide 7

Slide 8

Even though animals cannot talk like you and me, God miraculously gave Balaam’s donkey the power to speak. She opened her toothy mouth as wide as possible, and said, ‘Hee-haw … Master, why are you treating me like this?’  Balaam was furious. He shook his fists at his donkey. ‘You are making a fool out of me,’ he roared. ‘If I had a sword I would kill you.’ The donkey stared straight at Balaam. “You have ridden me all your life. Have I ever treated you badly?”  At that very moment, the power of God opened Balaam’s eyes. He looked up and gasped. Standing on the pathway was a magnificent angel. But He was no ordinary angel. This magnificent angel was Yeshua, the Son of God. Balaam looked around anxiously. There was no way to escape. With his heart pounding in fear, he fell to the ground in front of Yeshua. He was too afraid to even speak one word. – Slide 8

Slide 9

‘Why did you beat your donkey three times?’ Yeshua asked Balaam. “I came to stop you, because your ways are wrong before Me. Your donkey saw Me and turned aside three times. If she hadn’t turned away, I would have taken your life and saved hers!” Balaam lay on the ground in front of Yeshua, begging for mercy. ‘I have sinned. I did not know it was You standing on the pathway. If you do not want me to go to the land of Moab I will go home.’  ‘Go to the land of Moab,’ said Yeshua. ‘But say only what I tell you to say.’ Balaam scrambled to his feet. He leapt on his donkey and raced to the land of Moab as fast as his donkey could carry him.  When the king of Moab saw Balaam in the distance, he rushed out to meet him. ‘Why didn’t you come when I asked you the first time?’ he cried. ‘Did I not send enough money?’  ‘I am here now,’ said Balaam. ‘But I can only say what God tells me to say.’ The king wrung his hands. “Come quickly and curse the Israelites for me,” he said. But God had another plan in mind. – Slide 9

Slide 10

The next morning, King Balak led Balaam to a high place where the people of Moab worshipped false gods. The high places were platforms built on the top of a hill or mountain. This is where the people sacrificed animals to their false gods like Baal.  From the top of the hill, Balaam could see the twelve tribes of Israel camped below. He said to the king, ‘Build me seven altars. Then burn seven bulls and seven rams.’ The king did as Balaam asked. He built seven stone altars and burned seven bulls and rams as a sacrifice to God.  When the sacrifice was over, Balaam said to the king, ‘Stand by your burned offering while I see if God will show me what to do.’ The king clapped his hands together. ‘Soon the Israelites will be gone!’ he said, gleefully. Not far away, Balaam knelt down and spoke to God. ‘I have built seven altars and burned a bull and ram on each. Do you have a message for the king?’ God answered, saying, ‘Yes, go and speak the words that I tell you to say.’ – Slide 10

Slide 11

Balaam rose to his feet. He walked over to the king who was standing by his burned sacrifice. Stretching out his arms, he said, ‘Yahweh says, “I cannot curse what I have blessed. The people of Israel are blessed more than other nations.”’  King Balak’s mouth dropped open. This was not the message he wanted to hear. ‘What are you saying?’ he cried. He stamped his feet and pointed angrily at Balaam. ‘I brought you here to curse my enemies and now you’ve blessed them.’  ‘Listen!’ said Balaam. ‘There is nothing I can do. I told you I could say only what God wanted me to say.’ The king frowned and scratched his beard. He wasn’t ready to give up. “Come with me to a different place where you can see the Israelites,” he said. ‘Perhaps you can curse them from there.’ – Slide 11

Slide 12

With his robes flapping wildly behind him, King Balak marched Balaam to the top of a higher hill. Again, he built seven stone altars and burned a bull and a ram on each altar.  When the king had made the sacrifice, Balaam said to him, ‘Stand by your burned offering while I go and meet God.’ The king nodded, but he was growing impatient. He wanted the Israelites gone as soon as possible. Once again, God spoke to Balaam. ‘Go back to Balak and speak only as I tell you.’ Balaam glanced nervously at the king. He feared the king did not want to hear another message from God.  But Balaam obeyed God. He went over to the king and said, ‘Yahweh says, “I am not like men. I do not change My mind. I will not change My blessing on the people of Israel. If I promise something, I will do it. I brought the Israelites out of Egypt and made them strong. I will not curse them.”’ – Slide 12

Slide 13

‘What?!’ The king stared at Balaam in disbelief. ‘If you cannot curse the Israelites, at least don’t bless them!’ Balaam shrugged his shoulders and sighed. ‘I only have the power to say what God wants me to say,’ he said. King Balak was as mad as a firecracker. The next morning he marched Balaam to the top of another hill, high above the clouds. ‘Perhaps your god will let you curse the Israelites from here,’ he said. Once again the king built seven stone altars, and burned a bull and a ram on each altar.  Seeing that it pleased God to bless the Israelites, Balaam looked out over the plains of Moab where the Israelites were camped, and said, ‘How lovely are the tents of Israel. They will defeat their enemies. Blessed be everyone who blesses Israel. Cursed be everyone who curses Israel!’ – Slide 13

Slide 14

King Balak was furious. He thumped his fists on the ground. ‘I told you to curse the Israelites, but you have blessed them three times! I was going to give you great riches, but God has stopped you from getting the reward. Now go home!’ Balaam took a deep breath. ‘Listen to me,’ he said. ‘I told your messengers that even if you gave me great riches I could not disobey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will go home, but first I have another warning from God.’  The king was not sure if he wanted to hear what Balaam had to say. He feared the prophet had more bad news. But it was too late. ‘A Messiah will come out of Israel and destroy its enemies,” continued Balaam, “including your people in the land of Moab.’  The king gasped and covered his ears. This was not the message he wanted to hear. ‘What are you saying?!’ he shouted. ‘Stop! I don’t want to hear any more. Just go home!’ – Slide 14

Slide 15

Balaam still wanted the great riches the king had promised. Before he went home, he came up with a plan to harm the Israelites. He knew that the Israelites were blessed as long as they continued to obey God. If they sinned and disobeyed God’s instructions, they would bring curses upon themselves.  ‘If you want to conquer the Israelites,’ said Balaam. ‘Invite the men to spend time with the Moabite and Midianite women. They will introduce the men to their gods, and will forget all about Yahweh’s instructions.’  The king’s eyes lit up. He liked that idea. He knew the men of Israel would like the women of Canaan.  Sure enough, the Israelite men began spending time with the women. These women had their own customs and gods. The Israelites soon forgot about Yahweh’s instructions not to marry these women or copy their ways. – Slide 15

Slide 16

God was furious with the Israelites. ‘My people are disobeying Me and worshipping idols!’ he thundered. To teach them a lesson, He sent a plague amongst the people who had done this, and many died.  God had not finished with the Midianites either. He was angry they had tricked His people into disobeying Him. He said to Moses, ‘Treat the Midianites as your enemies and attack them.’ Moses chose a thousand men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and led them into battle. With them they took the Ark of the Covenant, a special gold box for the stone tablets on which God had written His commandments.  Shofars blared and drums boomed. Even though there were more Midianites than Israelites, it didn’t take long for the Israelites to destroy their enemies and win the battle.  Yahweh is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He promises to bless His children who obey His instructions, and follow His Ways. And He always keeps His promises. – Slide 16

Slide 17

Slide 17
PowerPoint
Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in PowerPoint 4:3 standard ratio4:3 ratio
Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in PowerPoint 16:9 widescreen ratio16:9 widescreen
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Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in PDF 4:3 standard ratio4:3 ratio
Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in PDF 16:9 widescreen ratio16:9 widescreen
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Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in Keynote 4:3 standard ratio4:3 ratio
Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in Keynote 16:9 widescreen ratio16:9 widescreen
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Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in JPEG 4:3 standard ratio4:3 ratio
Will this unfaithful prophet curse the people of Israel? Or does God have other plans? (Numbers 22-24) in JPEG 16:9 widescreen ratio16:9 widescreen
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