Bible Study with Jairus – Numbers 23
Numbers 23 tells the story of Balak hiring Balaam to curse the Israelites. Although this story may be familiar to Christians, when we were having our Bible study, the Holy Spirit opened our eyes to receive new revelation. We realized that our prayers should be causing us to humble ourselves before God. In other words: we pray to change our mindset and attitude, not to change God’s will.
God wants to bless us, but a wrong perspective, lies we believe, and strongholds built by the enemy are barriers that prevent us from receiving God’s blessings. We must die to our flesh through fasting and prayer so that the enemy cannot continue to control and hinder us through our flesh. Through fasting and prayer, we can also cast out evil spirits, as well as experience and accept God’s blessings in Christ.
Let’s look at Numbers 23 to understand this better. In Numbers 23:13 (ESV), Balak says, “Please come with me to another place, from which you may see them. You shall see only a fraction of them and shall not see them all. Then curse them for me from there.” A lady asked, “Why did Balak change locations to curse the Israelites?” It appears that sending a curse from Balak’s original location was unsuccessful. Does changing the location make it successful? This is a bit incomprehensible. I replied, “I need to give you an example of fasting and prayer.”
I learned a lot about fasting and prayer when I sought healing for my wife’s medical condition and the blessing of one day having a child. One thing fasting is not is a “hunger strike.” We should not approach fasting with the mentality that I will fast and argue for something and if God does not grant my request, I will no longer eat. This is not prayer and fasting. This is a hunger strike, a protest. True fasting and prayer is temporarily sacrificing one of man’s biggest physical needs through a time of abstaining, in order that our flesh will be weakened and challenged to submit to our spirit. Eventually, the noise of our flesh will diminish. When our flesh is in this weakened state, our spiritual man can rise from its suppressed place. We can then rely on the strength of our spirit and God’s Spirit within us. This is what the Lord Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (ESV, 2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul also said that, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (ESV, 2 Corinthians 12:9).
True fasting and prayer moves us closer to God through a process of resisting our body’s demands and aligning us with God’s will instead of trying to change God’s heart and insisting on doing things our way. A hunger strike is a religious prayer and not a means of humbling oneself to get closer to God. True fasting and prayer will make our strong flesh weak and awaken our suppressed spiritual man. It can also loosen the enemy’s strongholds on us thereby making it easier for evil spirits to be cast out.
Jesus once took the disciples up to a mountain and there He was transfigured. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus and his disciples saw a demon-possessed child. The disciples were unable to cast out the demon, so the Lord cast it out. Later, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast it out. He said that this kind of spirit does not leave except by fasting and prayer (NKJV, Matthew 17:21). We come to understand that fasting and prayer play an important role in casing out demons. Some evil spirits, for example, maintain strongholds in us through lies, deceptions, and bitterness from past hurts. These strongholds are the combination of our flesh and demonic forces. We must discipline our flesh for a time to remove the lies we once believed. This is done through fasting and prayer. Then evil spirits can be cast out.
Unfortunately, many people have experienced believing various lies and becoming bitter after being hurt. This then becomes an opportunity for evil spirits to set up strongholds in them. One of the biggest lies people believe is that God does not love them. God’s Word constantly reiterates His love for us, but when we are hurt, it’s difficult to believe this. In this kind of situation, we end up being more prone to believe the enemy than God.
A person’s upbringing may also impact one’s ability to believe in God’s love. For example, if you didn’t experience love from your parents when you were younger, when you experience suffering and harm from the world, you will be much more susceptible to believe Satan’s lies. Satan will easily feed you the lies, “you are unworthy of love” and “no one loves you.” These are obvious lies to someone who knows the truth or has experienced love from their parents, but not to the child who loses or lacks a healthy, loving relationship with their parent(s). When he or she receives these lies into their soul, they become indifferent to life and even begin to hate society. I was a reporter for a few years. I once interviewed a family in the United States whose child came from a mixed Chinese and American family. Because of his parents’ divorce, this child became extremely cold-hearted to the point of brutally killing another person. I participated in the on-site interview and felt deeply compassionate and sad when I saw this child. I thought to myself that maybe if his parents hadn’t divorced, he wouldn’t have ended up like that. Of course, I cannot completely blame his parents since I don’t know what really happened between them, but I also do not ignore that their divorce probably hard a large negative impact on his soul. Life’s misfortunes will cause people to believe lies and distortions of the truth.
Balak, the Moabite, is another example of this. Naturally, we all hope and believe that we are the Israelites whom God has chosen and whom are the descendants of Abraham. And if Abraham’s descendants, we prefer to be the descendants of Isaac, and not of Ishmael, but the reality is often not that simple. The Moabites are descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. We don’t know if the society at that time discriminated against descendants of incest. If we look at humanity’s overall situation, it seems that any society would discriminate against children of incest. Perhaps, when the Moabites grew up, they inevitably faced humiliation. This humiliation and hurt became a stronghold for them.
As I mentioned earlier, in Deuteronomy 2, the Lord specifically ordered Moses not to contend with the Moabites because the Moabites were descendants of Lot and God had given those lands to the Moabites. God would not give it to the Israelites. God also specifically ordered the Israelites to pay with silver for the food they would eat and the water they would drink when they passed through Moab, and not to provoke the Moabites to war. He also reminded the Israelites to be especially careful because the Moabites were afraid of them.
God commanded the Israelites not to hurt the Moabites, but the Moabites still feared the Israelites. Although unnecessary, the Moabites allowed fear to take root in them and this was taken advantage of by evil spirits. Their fear became an open door that turned Balak and Moab into tools to curse and hurt the Israelites. Our fears often come from our wrong judgments of reality. If the Moabites knew the message of Deuteronomy 2, which was that God did not want the Israelites to fight against the Moabites, would they still have been afraid? Fear often makes us act irrationally. Out of fear, Balak asked Balaam to curse the Israelites.
The Moabites—descendants of Lot—were related to the Israelites, so they were people associated with the holy and chosen people. However, the purpose of their prayers to God was not to humble themselves to move closer to God so as to receive God’s mercy. Their prayers were instead like that of the Pharisees’ prayers which sought to justify themselves before God, asking God to do things according to their own ideas. Their purpose was to change God, and not change themselves. The correct way to pray, however, is like the tax collector who, beating his breast in the temple, said in anguish, “I am a sinner. Please have mercy on me.” Jesus said that this tax collector would be justified, but the Pharisees could not be justified because their motives were wrong (Luke 18:9-14). People in church nowadays can commit the same error. We should be careful to not just offer religious prayers and engage in religious activities but remain disconnected from God’s heart.
Now, the problem with Balak is actually the same problem evident in Christians in churches today. They have wrong perspectives and believe lies of the enemy, so the enemy maintains strongholds over them. I learned during my training in deliverance ministry that many people are possessed by demons. For example, some women who have been raped or hurt by men in their family carry deep wounds. Because of these hurts, they begin to hate men. The accumulation of their anguish turns to bitterness and hate, and it gradually opens the door to evil spirits. In order to cast out the evil spirits in them, they must learn to forgive. This is difficult, but it is necessary.
Rodney Hogue, one of my teachers in deliverance ministry, makes a great comparison between forgiveness and strongholds by evil spirits. He uses the example of pitons used by mountain climbers. When a rock climber cannot find or reach any spots to continue upward, they will use pitons to create one. The function of the piton is to expand within a crack in the rock, and with the force of expansion, it secures a stronghold for grabbing and bearing the weight of the climber. Unforgiveness, bitterness, and hatred caused by our hurts, etc., create cracks within us; they fracture our mind, soul, or body. Evil spirits are like pitons—they squeeze into the cracks and build strongholds there.
This is why in the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “God, forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (ESV, Mark 6:9-13). God’s intention is to bless us, but if we refuse to forgive our debtors, God will not forgive our debts.
Balak and the Moabites may have believed some kind of lie and thus were taken advantage of by evil spirits. My personal guess is that they believed the following lie: the reason they were not blessed was Abraham’s fault, and not Lot’s fault. We know that the Bible says that Abraham and Lot’s servants were in conflict with each other, so Abraham had let Lot separate from him. Afterwards, Lot went to Sodom. Perhaps the Moabites and Balak were thinking it was the Israelites’ fault that they were not blessed. This is like children competing to be their parents’ favorites. The Moabites could have been jealous. They probably wanted God to bless them and curse the Israelites. Balak knew it was the Lord who was speaking to Balaam, and Balak hoped that God might curse the Israelites from another place (Numbers 23:27). This proves that Balak is not cursing God. Rather, he hopes that God will curse the Israelites. This is different from the Gentiles’ worship of false gods such as Baal. Balak is not changing his position. He is instead trying to change God’s will through repeated attempts.
This is in line with the principle of fasting and prayer that we cited in the beginning. We cannot change God. We can only change ourselves. The evil spirits also know this. Satan and evil spirits know that they cannot change God’s loving nature, but they can change our faith in God through lies. They can also attempt to prevent us from pleasing God by tempting us to sin. Thankfully, God responds by repeatedly telling us about His loving nature and that He loves us. Remember: not only does God love Israel, but He also loved Moab and all the nations. One important reason for God’s choice of the Israelites was so that one day Christ could be born through them and become a blessing to all nations. God’s intent from the beginning was to make a way for all to come under his wings. Therefore, God was not going to change His mind, nor His choice of the Israelites because this choice would eventually become a blessing to the Moabites. Later, Ruth, a descendant of Moabites, understood this truth and wanted to return to Israel with her mother-in-law to come under the Israelite’s blessing. She married Boaz and became the ancestor of Christ. This is a foreshadowing of how God would later graft in foreigners and strangers of Gentile nations into God’s covenant and family which was first established with the Israelites.
Now, let’s go deeper into how evil spirits attack us. First, they attack by deceiving us and instilling countless lies in us. Because of my past experience in rural China and some family misfortunes, I believed many lies, and these lies became strongholds within me. Later, I was delivered from these lies through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the demonic strongholds were broken.
Many people also testify to a similar experience. I mentioned earlier that children whose parents are divorced or have no parents since childhood may be deceived by lies that say, “no one loves me” or “I am unworthy of love.” These are all lies. They are not the truth. But if one believes these lies, the evil spirits will have an open door to build a stronghold within them.
This does not just happen to individuals. It occurs among races and nations as well. For example, the country of China has been wounded over the past few hundred years. These hurts and humiliation can result in bitterness and hatred and be taken advantage of by evil spirits. Some races have been oppressed throughout history. Their wounds from hatred and injustice fester and multiply when left undealt with. These races can become more oppressed by evil spirits henceforth. We must address the lies and wounds in our flesh in order to loosen the enemy’s strongholds. In the case of nations and races, people groups and countries must repent and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with each other in order for the strongholds to be broken and the enemy to be cast out. Until then, evil spirits are being given the authority to remain and cause further oppression.
Since some of our small group members are seeking to be physically healed, it is appropriate to talk about the relationship between these categories: fasting and prayer, the lies we believe, demonic strongholds, and our healing. God’s truth is that we all receive healing through Jesus Christ’s wounds (Isaiah 53:5), but why do many people not receive physical healing? There are many reasons for this. One of the reasons is that we have not been able to receive and accept our healing by faith. Our unbelief, the lies we believe, and strongholds reinforced by evil spirits, prevent us from receiving God’s healing. We must acknowledge, remove, and replace the lies as well as remove the unbelief and bitterness. This will create an opportunity for strongholds to be demolished. Afterward, we can believe for and receive God’s blessings for us including healing.
It’s just like we see in this chapter of Numbers 23. God wanted to bless Moab which included bringing peace between them and the Israelites, but the Moabites lost their opportunity to receive God’s blessings because of fear. However, God’s intention remained—to bless the Moabites and let the Israelites pass through Moab. If they passed through peacefully, it would have removed the Moabites’ fears and the anxiety they carried.
In the same way, God longs to bless our soul and body. The general principle we follow is that God always wills to heal our body. However, there is always something that can prevent us from accepting God’s blessings. The lies of the enemy are often, “God does not heal people today;” “God does not perform miracles today;” or “You don’t deserve God’s healing.” Once you believe these lies, it will be difficult for you to have faith that you’ll be healed.
Therefore, the lie is the first method used by the enemy. Other lies like “God does not love us” or “God has abandoned us” leads to an orphaned spirit. Just like the Moabites here—they lived in fear, and not in love. The Bible says that there is no fear in love, and perfect love casts out fear (ESV, 1 John 4:18). Therefore, anything that makes you scared is not from God because the spirit God gave us is not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control (ESV, 2 Timothy 1:7).
The second method of the enemy is to make us sin and leave the position of God blessing us. This is what is recorded in Numbers 25. After Balaam realized that he could not curse the Israelites, he instigated Balak to encourage the Israelites to fornicate with the Moabite women. They fell into this trap and sinned which aroused God’s wrath and incited a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites. Committing sin is often a result of believing lies and having an orphaned spirit. The thought process behind one’s motivation to sin is usually, “No one cares about me anyway; I’ve got nothing to lose.” Yet, God loves us. There are also many people who love us, so we should not sin. Although God is gracious, we should avoid sin because sin still brings suffering in the form of unpleasant and negative repercussions and consequences. Even the Israelites who were so blessed by God were severely disciplined by Him for their error. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Let’s instead be holy.
We can learn from the lesson of the Moabites in this chapter. Let’s rid ourselves of our prejudices and judgements because of past hurts. Let’s change our perspective, demolish the strongholds within us, and let ourselves receive God’s love, blessings, and healing.
Written on December 14, 2020.