And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar. 

Numbers 23:14.

  1. How Many Altars Make a Curse? 

Balaam was a famed prophet of international repute whom kings often hired to curse their foes.  He was so highly ranked that, like flocking insects to a night lamp, nobles were his clients (Numbers 22:4-17).  He was a man of such aura that even animals took up a human voice in his sessions (Numbers 22:28-30).  That was whom Balak the king of Moab consulted to cast a spell over the Israelites in transit from Egypt.  To do that effectively, Balaam raised seven consecutive altars in each of three separate locations, making a total of twenty-one altars, to wage just one battle of a curse.  Unfortunately, those many altars with their lavish sacrifices failed against his innocent and unaware targets (Numbers 23:1, 11, 14, 29).  How many altars make a potent curse?

  1. How Much Knowledge Wins the War? 

The innocent Israelites were oblivious of Balaam’s many altars against them, yet their not-knowing did not make them vulnerable.  You need not know of every curse to be untouched by it.  You need not know about every altar for them to be powerless against you.  Every knowledge does not help every battle.  Knowledge is strength, but not every knowledge is.  We do not have to investigate every altar to be able to defeat them.  Some things are better unknown until they are over.

  1. How Many Prayers Kill an Altar? 

Some altars don’t need prayers to be silenced.   The oblivious Israelites prayed no prayers against Balaam’s altars.  They were not even aware of Balaam’s devices; how could they have prayed about what they did not know?  God answered for them – or their clean hands did.

There are some altars we investigate only to waken old wars and worries.  There are many battles from which God delivers us without our knowledge, because He “hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel” (Numbers 23:21), “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:13).  Clean hands are powerful (Psalm 24:4).  You are the most beneficiary of your breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14).

  1. The Size of an Altar 

According to the spiritual sensibilities of Balaam the ancient prophet, one altar is sometimes not sufficient for some spiritual tasks, and one location is not advisable for all the altars.  Consecutive altars in scattered locations become an option, each fortifying the others.  Abram raised an altar in Bethel and in other parts of the land of Canaan, then Isaac followed, then Jacob: three consecutive generations on the same land (Genesis 12:7; 13:3-4; 26:25; 28:18; 33:20; 35:1-3).  Centuries later, their children continued (Exodus 30:28).

On the flip side, intercessors sometimes erroneously assume that one altar destroyed is the end of all battles, whereas there could be six more related altars, and other sets of seven altars, or more, poised in other scattered places.  Every victory is important, but some victories are merely a stepping stone to the next crucial conflict.  Don’t be so distracted by one altar overcome that you become a victim of the next (1 Kings 13:1-5, 18-26).

Small matters might require small altars, but matters of national magnitude might require firmer altars.  Notwithstanding the rank of the priest, one prayer does not answer all matters, sometimes. Balaam knew this well.  Jesus also taught that repeating some prayers is faithful insistence rather than faithless flippancy.  Persistence is because God hears, not because it is thought that He is deaf (Matthew 26:44).

  1. A Prayer 

O Lord, rebuke every hired and hasty Balaam.  May their many altars in scattered locations not answer them against Your people. “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.”  We declare unto Balaam, “thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.”  We declare, you cannot curse “whom God hath not cursed?”  You cannot defy “whom the LORD hath not defied?”  God has blessed, and a million Balaam altars “cannot reverse it.”  Amen (Numbers 22:12; 23:8, 20).

O Lord, You cannot be bribed by many bulls on many altars.  May their money and many altars perish with them.  May their curses this day be processed through Your special ‘machine’ that turns curses into blessings for Your people, making them more blessed despite Balaam’s increasing desperate curses.  Amen (Deuteronomy 23:5).


From The Preacher’s diary,
January 14, 2023. 

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