And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.” And he answered and said, “Must I not take care to speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?” … And Balaam took up his discourse and said, “Rise, Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it? Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.” Numbers 23.11-12, 18-20.
Balak of Moab was at war with Israel and he wanted Balaam, a soothsayer living in Pethor on the banks of the Euphrates (Numbers 22.5), to curse the Israelites so that they would be defeated in the battle that lay ahead. But Balaam found that when he opened his mouth to curse Israel only blessings came out. Why? Because (as he tells Balak) God has blessed Israel and there is, therefore, nothing anyone can do about it. Go doesn’t go back on his word, he doesn’t change his mind, he is faithful to his promises.
How important it is to lay hold of that and let it be the rock on which I stand. “God is faithful,” says Paul, “by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1.9). And the big thing I need to grasp this morning is that his faithfulness is entirely unaffected by my unfaithfulness and failure and inconsistency. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2.13).
God’s purpose is to bless all the nations of the world in Jesus (Genesis 22.18, Galatians 3.16) and that includes me. And he will never go back on that; he will never change his mind about blessing me, saving me, redeeming me, bringing me into his kingdom. Everything hangs, not on my faith or even my faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of God. Israel was unfaithful but as Paul said: “So what?” The fact that some Jews abandoned God didn’t mean that God would abandon them. “Do you think,” said Paul, “their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth” (Romans 3.3-4 The Message).
How uncertain my salvation would be if it rested from moment to moment on my faith. But it doesn’t, it depends on the faithfulness of God. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40.8). In my garden, the daffodils are now a sorry sight. Their golden splendour of a few weeks ago has all but gone. So has the blossom from the cherry tree. “They,” says Isaiah, “are a picture of everything to do with human beings — their faith, their trust, their loyalty, their love, their hope … everything; but against all that blossoming and fading stands God’s word, God’s promise. It doesn’t fade, doesn’t wither, doesn’t change at all. It blooms for ever.”
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3.22-23).
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning With Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
as Thou hast been Thou for ever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness,
morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided —
great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!