Last week, we looked at Balaam being summoned by Balak, king of Moab. God allowed Balaam to travel to the plains of Moab with one condition: “do only what I tell you” (Numbers 22:20). The angel in the path got Balaam’s attention momentarily, but there was already a darkness settling upon his heart. It threatened to choke out his fear of the Lord, and his commitment to the God’s command.
Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him. And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people. (Numbers 22:39-41)
Balaam tells Balak and the princes of Moab to built seven altars, and sacrifice a ram and a bull upon each of them. Then Balaam goes aside to meet with God. Don’t you wonder how God chose to reveal himself to Balaam? Perhaps through spoken voice, perhaps through a vision. However God communicated to Balaam, He conveyed word-for-word messages that were to be spoken.
After the effort of summoning this fortune teller and providing sacrifices and altars, the king of Moab is ready to see some results. Let’s take a look at just a sample of what Balaam says: “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?” (23:8) Balak was not a happy camper!
Have you ever been in a spot where you can’t get your cell phone or radio to receive signal? You try moving around, holding your elbow and your tongue in just the right place. That’s basically the approach Balak took as he brought Balaam to yet another mountain ledge. Here’s a snippet of his second speech: “There is no divination against Jacob, no evil omens against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!” (23:23)
So much for that idea… right? Nope, stubborn Balak takes Balaam to yet another ledge, seven more altars, and fourteen more animals sacrificed! The King may not have learned his lesson, but we do learn something about Balaam from this account: “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness.” (24:1) Apparently Balaam, like many in our modern culture, spoke God’s truth when it was convenient. Other times he pursued sorcery to give the answer people wanted to hear. On this spiritual (and literal) mountain top moment, he decided to obey God, and spoke another blessing.
Balak finally had enough. He told Balaam to hit the highway and head back home. Before He left, Balaam made one final offer. “Let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come” (24:14). Balaam desperately wanted to get away with being God’s spokesman while still earning the reward money. Balaam’s greed would later drive him further into the darkness. But in this moment, God uses Balaam once more to deliver a prophecy! “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” This prophecy has a two-fold fulfillment: 1) in David’s victories (2 Sam 8:2-14) and 2) in Jesus Christ’s triumph (Col 2:15).
It should be noted that the Balaam Redemption card has the identifier “prophet”. If he were converted to a hero, what a powerful force he would be! Pulling back cards like Rain Becomes Dust with every rescue, reminding your opponent of the punishment awaiting anyone who oppose God. Using prophet powered cards like Hidden Treasures to act preemptively to destroy evil. What a hero he could have been!
To find out why Balaam makes it onto the “Biggest Baddest Badguys of the Bible” list, we will have to look outside of this chapter.
The Son of God spoke these words to the Angel of the Church at Pergamum: “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2:14)
Add these words to the parallel account in Numbers 31:16, and we realize Balaam once again found “another way” get what he wanted. In the past he had used divination to give people the answers they wanted. This time he would use corruption to give Balak the result he wanted. Balaam’s love of money drove him into the darkness. He sold the Moab the blue prints to a plan that would turn Israel’s mighty men away from their God. The women of the land would seduce the men of Israel, and turn their worship toward their idols. This plan not only succeeded, it would cost the lives of 24,000 people! Even more lives would have been lost that day if not for Phinehas, son of Eleazar. But we’ll save the story of his Zeal for the Lord for another devotion.
Balaam willfully sinned in spite of his warning by his own donkey, by an armed angel, and by the living God himself! Even believers can allow so much darkness inside of themselves that they can identify sin and still engage in it willing. Flee from the darkness my brothers and sisters, pray for God’s light to pierce into every darkened hallway of your heart.
Application: If you have willingly chosen to act in sin, pray for God’s forgiveness, for the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and for Christ-like believers to be there to support you.
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