Israel has grown great in number, and foreign nations fear them, so the Moabite King, Balak, pursues a prophet named Balaam to curse Israel. In spite of this, Balaam prophesies after hearing directly from YHWH. Since YHWH will not curse Israel, Balaam has no power to do so, and thus Balak remains frustrated. One of Balaam’s messages clearly distinguishes YHWH from other gods (Numbers 23:18-20):
“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.
This passage communicates two of YHWH’s essential attributes; one is obvious, but the other, less obvious. First, God’s divine immutability means God will not change. He does not change in His character and He will not break His promises. Like Balaam says, God will not even change his mind. Also I would argue that God’s aseity, meaning His self-sufficiency, is also prominent in this message. Though Balak tries to bribe Balaam (and thus also to bribe God) to curse Israel, God will not be bribed, precisely because there is nothing Balak has that God needs. In fact, there is nothing anyone has that God needs. Keep this in mind as we read passages about sacrifices and offerings. Unlike other deities at this time, YHWH does not require sacrifice to satisfy His needs, but calls for sacrifices in order to communicate the effects of sins and to call for faith on the part of Israel. As we seek to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2), let us remember that we do so not because God needs us, but because this is the only way to live before the God who needs nothing and wants to give us what is truly good.