Numbers 23:13-26 – Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes…NOT

Posted: October 14, 2016 in 04-Numbers

Numbers 23:13-26

Balaam’s Second Message

There was an old Jimmy Buffett song called, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitude”, that was about the central character of the song’s need to get back to the laid back lifestyle of the Florida Keys rather than living the rat race of “normal” America in which the character found himself. It was one of his most popular songs as it struck a chord with Americans who all seem to desire not to live the mortgage payment, car payment, living off more than you make lifestyle that forces us to work for the man all of our lives. Even though it was released in the late summer 1977, it still gets airplay today and is a mainstay at every Jimmy Buffett concert even now, some 40 years later. Sometimes, we just want to chuck it all and find us a seaside bar somewhere in the Keys to buy and live a simple existence the rest of our days, forever in a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops. Most of us never achieve that dream because we are married to the lifestyle in which we live. Most of us live lives of quiet desperation hoping that someday, somewhere out there in the future, we will get to relax and take it easy. For most of us though, we have mortgaged our lives to the extent that we will not be able to enjoy what retirement years we may have left at the end of the journey.


At the same time, during the course of rat-race lives, we think that something different will make our lives better. We change jobs to see if it will make our life better. We usually change jobs to get a significant bump in our annual earnings. That will make us feel better! We will have more breathing room that way, right? What happens? We simply add more expense because we can afford it now. We then find that we have ourselves right back where we started and we are forced stay with that job or seek and even higher paying one because we have more stuff to pay for. We work and work and work all our lives and have a lot of stuff but many of us are not truly happy with the result. You wake up one day some thirty years into your career and you wonder, “what the heck am I doing?”


We live in a society now where we have changeable spouses. We marry and we think that this person is going to make us happy and complete. Then, when marriage gets hard and the passion goes away and life becomes about getting kids to soccer practice, dance recitals, and school events, it all becomes a boring logistical nightmare and we wake up one morning and say “what the heck am I doing?” We think a new relationship will make us happy again. We think a change in the wifely or husbandly scenery will make it all better. We then find that we have simply traded problems and added to them. Juggling children between homes, financial obligations and family obligations to our former spouses, and new problems with stepchildren vs. your own children. In our desire to get back to that “Florida Keys” kind of marriage, we have actually made our lives more complicated. And you wake up one day and say, “What the heck am I doing?”


We change churches when we get mad. When the preacher hits a nerve with a sermon. When we don’t get selected to be in a position of visibility. When our great idea gets short-shrifted. When the church changes preachers. When our kids outgrow the program that drew us to the church in the first place. When somebody offends us by what they have said. When the music too loud. When the auditorium is too cold. When we are not allowed to put up a home-made advertisement flyer in the worship center that does not match the professionalism of communication materials of the church. When…when…when. We all have our whens when it comes to leaving a church. People leave churches for these and many other reasons but the personal pride issues that led them to leave one church, funny, show up at the next church and they leave it too.


It is that attitude of changing the scenery to change our lives for the better, we think, is what struck me about the passage for today, Numbers 23:13-26:


13 Then Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will not see them all but only the outskirts of their camp. And from there, curse them for me.” 14 So he took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.


15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your offering while I meet with him over there.”


16 The Lord met with Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”


17 So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the Moabite officials. Balak asked him, “What did the Lord say?”


18 Then he spoke his message:


“Arise, Balak, and listen;

    hear me, son of Zippor.


God is not human, that he should lie,

    not a human being, that he should change his mind.

Does he speak and then not act?

    Does he promise and not fulfill?


I have received a command to bless;

    he has blessed, and I cannot change it.



“No misfortune is seen in Jacob,

    no misery observed[a] in Israel.

The Lord their God is with them;

    the shout of the King is among them.


God brought them out of Egypt;

    they have the strength of a wild ox.


There is no divination against[b] Jacob,

    no evil omens against[c] Israel.

It will now be said of Jacob

    and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’


The people rise like a lioness;

    they rouse themselves like a lion

that does not rest till it devours its prey

    and drinks the blood of its victims.”


25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!”


26 Balaam answered, “Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says?”


Balak took Balaam to another place to try to entice him to curse the Israelites. He thought a change of scenery might help change Balaam’s mind. Change locations didn’t change God’s will in this situation though. Balak needed to face the facts of his life and changing the scenery was not going to change his reality. God still was not going to change His mind and curse the Israelites regardless of where Balak took Balaam.


Likewise, we must learn to face the source of our problems. Moving to escape problems only makes solving the problem more difficult. Changing the scenery without solving the root causes of problems will just make them reoccur with a different backdrop on the stage. Problems rooted in our souls will not be solved by a change of scenery. We are still the same, only the address, the spouse, the job, the church is different.


Let us examine ourselves for the things we need to change about ourselves to achieve a different result in life. The definition of insanity, as the old saying goes, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If we are looking for things to make us happy, we will be constantly buying the next greatest thing and still be left wanting. We may be happy for a while with the newness but that wears off and we are unhappy again. If we think our spouse is going to fulfill us, a person is going to fulfill us, then we will be disappointed. Humans are flawed. They cannot be our gods and no matter how young and beautiful your new wife or husband may be, they will disappoint you. Changing spouses will not change that fact. The next new job will bring more money but more money will bring more expenses because we think we have arrived and deserve the more expensive house, car, toys. The next church, Four Points, the newest NewSpring campus, The Well, Springwell, and, crazily, back to LifeSong, and to leave again is going to make us happy. This new church is so much better than our old church until…and then we are on to the next.


Let us remember that seeking after God and His will for our lives is the only answer that will give us happiness. Sometimes, God’s will for us is to learn hard lessons so that we will grow in humility and be more open to His will for our lives. Sometimes, we must stop and face the music and take on the hard lessons of life so that we will be chiseled into the person that God intends us to be. Don’t let pride and unwillingness to see our own faults prevent us from becoming moldable and usable by God. It is often that in our darkest hours where we learn about our failures and pride and arrogance that we become ready to follow God’s will for our lives. Don’t be too prideful to learn those lessons.


Amen and Amen.

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