Numbers 23:19 NASB “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Our memory verse this week reminds us of who God is in relation to humankind. This passage is an exchange between Balaam and Balak. It is one of the oracles issued by Balaam that God has directed him to give to Balak. Balaam is a seer that the Moabites hired to curse the Israelites. God intervened and Balaam had no choice but obey God.
God is different and separate from humans. He is transcendent beyond the realm of humanity with all of its tendencies toward falsehood, deceit, misfortune, and calamity. Therefore, he has no need to repent of any moral or ethical wickedness or misdeed. God is immutable, and his word conveys his incomparable integrity. On the other hand, Balaam and Balak were the antithesis of God, men of banal character. Concerning this pagan prophet Allen remarks, “He is himself the prime example of the distinction between God and man.” Balaam’s words were ineffective before God, for as the prophet often explained, “I can speak only what Yahweh speaks to me!” On the other hand, God’s word is entirely efficacious; what he says he will do, what he speaks he will accomplish.” His word is never uttered into the void and never fails to produce what he intends (Isa 55:11).
God doesn’t lie, so all His promises and covenants are sure; He doesn’t change, so His character remains the same. He isn’t weak but is able to fulfill what He promises; nobody can manipulate Him or control Him. God was with the people of Israel and reigned as their King.
It was God who gave Israel their victories, beginning with their exodus from Egypt. The nation was like an ox in its strength and like a lioness and a lion in its determination to catch its prey and kill it. Therefore, no sorcery could succeed against God’s people because God was at work in them and through them.
What is distinctive here is the sharp contrast drawn between often unreliable humans and the always reliable divine God. There are two more differences. (1) The Moabites likened Israel to a domestic ox licking up grass (22:4), but the oracle refers to greater danger: the towering horns of a wild ox, which they cannot control or subdue. (2) The Moabites spoke of a threat from Israel (Num. 22:4–5), but in the oracle, Israel’s power is that of God. Balaam continues by affirming that no divination is effective against Israel. The point is not what Israel can do, but “what God has done!” (23:23). Notice that just after Balaam has spoken of a dangerous wild ox (23:22), in the continuation of Numbers 23:23 shows that snakes have to do with the magical arts. We have found that snakes were indeed effective against Israel, but only when sent by the Lord as punishment for disloyalty to him (21:6), and the bronze snake that Moses made at his direction was effective for Israel in countering the sting of death (21:8–9).
The point of the verse is that God’s truthfulness and unchangeableness guarantee the blessings of God’s people. God does not lie nor change His mind (Numbers 23:19). God is not like man who sometimes does lie and change his mind.
God’s faithfulness guarantees the promises to His people. God speaks and acts; He promises and fulfills. When God says something He carries it through. He acts and does exactly what He says.
God’s promises are the guarantee of His blessings. God’s promises and blessings are irrevocable: they cannot be changed (Numbers 23:20-21). God has promised to bless His people; therefore, when trials and problems arise, God strengthens His people to conquer the trials. This is His promise. No misfortune will conquer His people, and no misery or trouble will overcome them. Again, God’s promises are irrevocable; therefore, the blessings that are promised to His people are irrevocable.