The Sad Lament of Balaam

Hebrews 9:2; Numbers 23:10

It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.
Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): There are many who desire to die the death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the life of the righteous. Gladly would they have their end like theirs, but not their way. They would be saints in heaven, but not saints on earth.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Death is the end of a man in this world; and the end of a righteous man in it is peace, rest, salvation, and eternal life―truly gracious persons, who have the truth of grace, and the root of the matter in them, die as well as others, yet their death is different from others―they die in the Lord, in union to Him, in faith of Him, in hope of eternal life by Him, and their death is precious to Him, Psalm 116:15; and in consequence of this they are carried by angels to glory at death are immediately in heaven with Christ, and it will be well with them to all eternity.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Their happiness begins where the happiness of other people ends.

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): Where you die—when you die—or by what means is scarcely worth a thought, if you do but die in Christ.

JOHN GILL: Balaam had some notion of this; and though he did not care to live the life of such, he wished to die their death, or that he might be as happy at death as they; by which he bears a testimony to the immortality of the soul, to a future state after death, and to an eternal life and happiness to be enjoyed by good men.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Turn to the book of Numbers, the 22nd chapter and the 34th verse: “And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned.” “I have sinned,” said Balaam; but yet he went on with his sin afterwards. One of the strangest characters of the whole world is Balaam. I have often marvelled at that man; he seems really in another sense to have come up to the lines of Ralph Erskine—

“To good and evil equal bent,

And both a devil and a saint.”

For he did seem to be so. At times no man could speak more eloquently and more truthfully, and at other times he exhibited the most mean and sordid covetousness that could disgrace human nature.

RICHARD SIBBES (1577-1635): A man may be a false prophet and yet speak the truth.

C. H. SPURGEON: See Balaam; he stands upon the brow of the hill, and there lie the multitudes of Israel at his feet; he is bidden to curse them, and he cries, “How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed?” And God opening his eyes, he begins to tell even about the coming of Christ, and he says, “I shall see Him, but not now. I shall behold Him, but not nigh.” And then he winds up his oration by saying—“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” And ye will say of that man, he is a hopeful character. But wait till he has come off the brow of the hill, and ye will hear him give the most diabolical advice to the king of Moab which it was even possible for Satan himself to suggest. Said he to the king, “You cannot overthrow these people in battle, for God is with them; try and entice them from their God.” And ye know how with wanton lusts they of Moab tried to entice the children of Israel from allegiance to Jehovah; so that this man seemed to have the voice of an angel at one time, and yet the very soul of a devil in his bowels.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): In general, the proper evidence of true Christians is, not merely that they can talk about Divine things, but that, by the grace of God, they live and act agreeable to the rules of His Word, in the state in which His providence has placed them, whether as masters or servants, husbands or wives, parents or children; bearing rule, or yielding obedience, as in His sight.

RICHARD SIBBES: Balaam here wishes, “Oh, that I might die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be as his!” It was a strange speech of such a man as this, that his soul should be rapt up in this manner―But God will sometimes even stir the hearts of wicked men to a sight and admiration of the excellence of God’s children. What a thing is this, that a wicked man should see such an estate and not take it!

MATTHEW POOLE: But it was a vain wish; for as Balaam would not live as God’s people did.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Carnal men care not to seek that which they would gladly find. Some faint desires, and short-winded wishes, may be sometimes found in them, but the mischief is, they would break God’s chain, sunder happiness from holiness, salvation from sanctification, the end from the means; they would dance with the devil all day, and then sup with Christ at night; live all their lives in Delilah’s lap, and then go to Abraham’s bosom when they die.

EDWARD TAYLOR (1793-1871): I hope none of my people calculate on serving the devil all their lives and cheating him with their dying breath. Don’t look forward to honouring God by giving him the last snuff of an expiring candle.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): He who would die well should live well; for a bad death must be the issue of a bad life.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): A Christian is not afraid of death, but of sin; an unconverted man is not afraid of sin, but of death.

C. H. SPURGEON: Balaam was a terrible character; he was a man of two things, a man who went all the way with two things to a very great extent. I know the Scripture says, “No man can serve two masters.” Now this is often misunderstood. Some read it, “No man can serve two masters.” Yes he can; he can serve three or four. The way to read it is this: “No man can serve two masters,” They cannot both be masters. He can serve two, but they cannot both be his master. A man can serve two who are not his masters, or twenty; he may live for twenty different purposes, but he cannot live for more than one master purpose—there can only be one master purpose in his soul. But Balaam laboured to serve two; it was like the people of whom it was said, “They feared the Lord, and served other gods,” 2 Kings 17:33.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Purify your hearts, ye double-minded,” James 4:8. Be no more double minded, vainly endeavouring to serve both God and mammon.

MATTHEW HENRY: Therefore, if you resolve to serve God, you must renounce all competitors with Him.



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