“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. “
Blessed, indeed, are they unto whom the Lord will not impute sin!
And let no one condemn those whom Jehovah their God justifies!
Such is the truth most beautifully expressed in the text to which we now direct attention.
Jacob-Israel was approaching the promised land, having been delivered from Egypt, the house of bondage. At the moment, they had pitched their tents in the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan. Resting they were from the most recent encounter with the armies of Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, who together were totally discomfited.
When Balak, king of the Moabites, with his people observed this destruction, their hearts melted with fear. They surmised that the same lot would befall them. Consequently Balak sent to Balaam, that hypocritical soothsayer, who dwelt in Pethor among his people, that he would come over and curse the children of Israel. With rewards of divination were Balak’s messengers sent to entice the seer.
Balaam, so it appears, exudes with “piety” when he learned of Balak’s urgent request. He informs the messengers that he has no answer until he has first inquired of the Lord what he shall do.
The Lord forebade him to go with the messengers, nor is Balaam allowed to curse the children of Israel; for they are blessed.
Balak, however, is persistent. Again he appeals to Balaam to come and curse Israel. This time he weights his request with promises to promote the seer to great honor. And this time Jehovah allows him to go, but Balaam may speak that only which the Lord shall put in his mouth.
And Balaam took up his parable, and said, “Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor. God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it.”
“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel . . . !”
Here is Jehovah’s sovereign perception of His people!
He beholds, but not like a man!
When man sees, the objects of sight must first be there to behold. When Jehovah sees, He causes the objects of sight to be. When man sees intelligently, he must first be instructed concerning the object of sight; it must be explained to him what it is he sees. When Jehovah sees, He knows intuitively what it is that He has brought into being. When man sees, he can look only on the outward appearance. When Jehovah sees, He beholds not only the outward appearance, but He knows the object of sight as it essentially is. His searching eye penetrates into the inner recesses, and nothing escapes His vision. As He by His Spirit searches out the depths of His own eternal being, so He also beholds all things outside of Himself.
O, how infinite, and perfect is Jehovah’s perception!
And what is true of His perception with regard to the creatures in general, is particularly true of His perception of His people.
Of this they are taught to echo the refrain of the sweet psalmist of old . . . !
O Lord, my inmost heart and thought
Thy searching eye doth see;
Where’er I rest, where’er I go,
My ways are known to Thee.
From Thee, O Lord, I cannot hide
Tho’ darkness cover me;
The darkness and the light of day
Are both alike to Thee.
Jacob-Israel, Jehovah sees!
Significantly, as so often in Scripture, these appellations stand together, and always they have their own speech.
Surely this people cannot be divorced from their progenitor, Jacob, the twin brother of Esau. He it was who held his brother by the heel at the time of birth, to pull him back as it were into the womb of his mother, in order that he might be born first. From the moment of his birth Jacob is the heel-holder who would wrestle for the preeminence in the things of God’s covenant. What so significantly marked his birth also characterizes the whole life of this chosen of God. Always struggling to attain unto the things of God’s covenant. O, to be sure, often in his own strength, and not always with pure and holy motives; for more than once he was charged with supplanting, so that some rather call him supplanter than heel-holder. But, make no mistake about it, heel-holder, wrestler he is. At last he even wrestles with God, and overcomes with weeping and supplications.
Hence, the Lord changes his name to that indicative of victor. “And he (the Lord) said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed,” (Gen. 32:28; Hosea 12:3-4).
Jacob becomes Israel!
He overcomes with the power of God!
He it is whom Jehovah beholds with sovereign perception!
He it is whom Jehovah beholds as righteous in His holy sight! No iniquity does Jehovah perceive in him, nor does Jehovah discover any wickedness in Him! Positively, this means that God judges him as being perfectly justified!
But how is this possible?
Does not all that the Word of God reveals concerning Jacob, and subsequently concerning the people of Israel deny this divine judgment? Can the sin of deception of which Jacob made himself guilty when he tricked his brother into selling him the birthright be covered up? Can Jacob be exonerated when with his mother they lied to his blind father in order to receive the patriarchal blessing? And when we consider the history of Jacob’s descendants only from the time of their deliverance from Egypt to the time of our text, was not that history replete with sin upon sin? Did they not all the way from the Red Sea to the plains of Moab live in constant rebellion against the Lord? And when you review the history of Israel from the moment of their entrance into Canaan to the time of their captivity, is it not true that the Lord through His prophets denounces that people as a stiff-necked and rebellious lot? Does not the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost charge this people with the crime of the ages, saying: “Ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain the Just One?”
No iniquity in Jacob? No perverseness in Israel?
Should not Jehovah’s sentence of judgment be changed, and has He not erred in His perception? Should not the conclusion rather be . . .
Does not Balak have sufficient ground to request that the people be cursed?
Indeed, such would be the finite judgment of man!
But Jehovah is not a man, that He should lie!
The possibility therefore of Jacob’s justification is not to be found in Jacob-Israel, but in Jehovah, the God of Israel!
Marvelous grace! Sovereign Lord! .God justifies the ungodly!
But surely this cannot mean that Jehovah, the thrice holy God, looks at sin and sinners as it were through His fingers, — that He ignores the sinful condition of His people. To do so, would be to deny Himself, and this is forever impossible.
Rather, He deals with His people’s sin and corruption in such a way that He Himself pays their debt, and removes from them their guilty stains, by blotting them out in His own blood.
The Lord his God is with Him!
Jehovah identifies Himself with His people in such a way that He takes their place in judgment. He attaches Himself to His people in elective love from all eternity. And in time He dwells among them in the Person of His Son in human nature.
Beholding His people from all eternity in His Son, He beholds them spotless and clean, perfectly righteous, and so He judges them. Never did He see iniquity in Jacob, because Jacob in Christ was eternally justified. And this must mean that from God’s point of view the cross is as eternal as Jacob’s justification. And therefore also from the point of view of time the victory over sin and death was in evidence in this people in Christ, centuries before the cross was planted on Golgotha’s brow.
The shout of a king is among them!
Not an earthly king, you understand; for Israel has no such king at this time. And even when they did obtain a king centuries later, he was only a shadow that was cast by the King of Israel, Jehovah, their God in the face of Christ Jesus.
This tumult of a king, Balaam is made to hear!
Let all the Balaks of the world understand, — this people which rests quietly on the plains of Moab, is not a poor defenseless, worthy-to-be-cursed people! They are the people of the living God, whom He justifies, and whom none may condemn. Not on any basis of righteousness inherent in that people, but on the basis of His own righteousness which He sovereignly prepared and manifested in His Son, their “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Shall such people be cursed? No never!
Shall those who have their sins blotted out and forgiven, be condemned? God forbid!
Even if God has to use a wicked, impious, hypocritical soothsayer to express it, let the truth be loudly and clearly spoken . . .
Blessed is Jehovah’s Jacob-Israel!
And with their justification they have the right to the adoption of sons, and to eternal life and glory!
Gracious and glorious God!