The story of Balaam is one you would rarely hear mentioned in a modern sermon.
Ironically there are many treading the same road and if they do not repent they will meet the same end.
This “prophet “or more probably what they used to call a “soothsayer” is somewhat of an enigma. He was a prophet for hire and such was his prophetic gift that Balak the king of Moab sought him to curse the children of Israel. This petty potentate felt threatened by the encroaching Israelites but need not have worried because they were commanded of God not to take any territory from either Moab or Edom. Yet such was the hostility this king had for them that he sought Israel’s destruction by magical rather than military means.
The passage infers that Balaam had delivered messages from God at previous times and a casual reading would suggest that the prophet was well acquainted with the Lord God. Yet even from the first Balaam seems to have been dazzled by the rich prize Balak dangled before him.
Balaam provided hospitality to the king’s emissaries while he sought the Lord.
The Lord clearly forbade him to either go with them or curse God’s chosen people. So the ambassadors departed.
King Balak was not so easily deterred and sent a larger entourage of more important people and this time offered the prophet not only riches but preferment and honour.
While in his speech he stood firm, he sought again to the Lord perhaps hoping God would change His mind and thus be able to oblige Balak and maybe gain the reward.
God allowed the prophet to accompany the men if they asked him to but with the proviso that he only spoke what God commanded him to. The following passage is unclear inasmuch as it seems that God changed his mind and was angry at Balaam for going with the emissaries of the king.
Rather it would seem that in his eagerness for the promised reward he preempted the emissary’s invitation and took off with two of his servants to meet them.
God expects our obedience to His commands to be obeyed to the letter. Balaam could see only the riches and honour Balak promised and this blinded him to anything else.
How many professing Christians today have their eyes on the wrong prize by seeking to serve and worship God yet are covetous for wealth and ease?
The story of Balaam and the donkey may cause some to stumble, yet God is well able to give voice to the dumb creation when he has something to say.
Light heartedly we can discover for ourselves who was the real donkey out of these two. The donkey could clearly see the danger ahead of them when this great “prophet” could not.
We have here the compassion of God illustrated in stopping Balaam in a sinful course.
The lesson and warning this incident taught Balaam about obedience to God’s commands brought him to a shallow repentance because although he obeyed God in prophesying the blessed future of God’s people and even the coming of the Messiah, it did not change the fundamental sinful bent of his desires.
15 And he took up his discourse and said,
“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down with his eyes uncovered:
17 I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
18 Edom shall be dispossessed;
Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
Israel is doing valiantly.
19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
and destroy the survivors of cities!” Numbers 22:15-19
Balak, king of Moab’s persistence beggar’s belief, by every means conceivable he sought Balaam to curse the people yet time and again Balaam was prompted by God to bless the children of Israel and forth tell their future blessings. It made no difference where they stood or how many altars he built God’s will in the blessing of his people will always stand even in the face of their enemies.
The purposes of God cannot be thwarted by man.
7 And Balaam took up his discourse and said,
“From Aram Balak has brought me,
the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:
‘Come, curse Jacob for me,
and come, denounce Israel!’
8 How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
9 For from the top of the crags I see him,
from the hills I behold him;
behold, a people dwelling alone,
and not counting itself among the nations!
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob
or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
and let my end be like his!” Numbers 22: 7-10
This passage from scripture also is a salutary warning for us all inasmuch as it shows us that a person can be gifted and used of God and yet not truly one of His own and also how easily it is to be tempted from obedience and faith by the deceitful riches a, honours and pleasures of this world.
Later we see Balaam advising Balak to use the women of Moab to entice the men of Israel to sin and idolatry, thus bringing dire judgment upon the people. He chose to ignore God’s warnings and set himself against the will of God thus hastening headlong on the path of destruction.
Balaam did not live long to enjoy the rewards of wickedness because he was later killed by the children of Israel during their war with the kings of Midian.
We must all choose whose side we are on.
Balaam knew the true God and indeed served Him to some degree yet he did so with a divided and covetous heart and paid the price of disobedience and impenitence.
Let us be warned by his sorry end to be wholehearted in our faith and obedience to God.
Also may we see the bright future of God’s chosen people. Although they may now be “under a Cloud” and not much to look at ,in God’s sight they are chosen and precious among the people of the world. They are His possession and will be so for all eternity.
Standing on the Word of God.
During the nineteenth century there was a strenuous effort on the part of many Evangelical leaders to reconcile Christianity with the new “Theory of Evolution” and the scientific discoveries of the age.
They found the idea of a six day creation and a “young “ earth did not jibe with modern thought and tried to explain them away as the product of primitive and unscientific thought. They also made the Bible stories to be something other than historical fact but still moral and objective lessons.
Others finding the doctrine of substitutional Atonement was found to be irreconcilable with the new thought permeating the intellectual circles and attempts were made to make it less than what scripture showed it to be.
While many of these people were no doubt well meaning the opening up of the scriptures and Christian Doctrine to this sort of adaptation and modification only served to weaken the power of the Christian Gospel.
While it is true that the Genesis creation story is not a scientific document it still demands for itself credence as to the fact of God’s immediate creation of man and indeed the whole creation as well as the subsequent fall of man into sin.
To the thoughtful observer the Fall is the only true and plausible explanation of the historic and continuing state of man in sin and rebellion against God.
As I continually point out in these scribblings any attempt to adapt and diminish the teaching of the scriptures in the hope of appealing to ungodly populace can only undermine the inherent , Spirit imbued Power of the Word of God in the tearing down of sins strongholds and Satan’ kingdom.
While we invite scrutiny of the Word of God, we must let it stand as it is.
As has been found in the past and will be discovered in the future the Holy Scriptures needs no apology from us.