God sent the Children of Israel back into the wilderness because of their disobedience because they did not do what God told them to do. As they traveled along some of the Kings in the area tried to fight them but Israel was victorious.
We pick up our story with them trying to settle down but a few kings get nervous and are looking for a way to defeat them even though Israel had no intention of fighting them. They will stay in this place until they cross into Jordan
Is this story real?
When addressing issues of the Bible people will point out stories like this and like Jonah and the whale and they will try and make them more poetic stories rather than something that actually happened. It is the same problem people have with miracles because they cannot accept the supernatural.
If God is the creator of the universe than He can step into His universe whenever and however He wants. We should never have a problem with the Super Natural because that is exactly what the Bible is filled with; God acting above the natural order of things.
Balaam is also treated as a historical person and the story is treated as history by some of the apostles. When talking about false prophets Peter said …
2 Peter 2:15-16 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
God told the people to remember the story of Balaam in Micah 6:5 and Balaam is mentioned in Micah, Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14. There has also been archeological artifacts found with Balaam’s name on it proving the legitimacy of the person even if that does not mean the legitimacy of the story.
The two kingdoms summon Balaam so he can bring curses upon Israel. To curse meant to set God against them. These Kingdoms were from where Lot who Abraham saved were from. Those kingdoms have rejected God and now are worshiping pagan gods.
Cursing others was a common practice and it was thought that Balaam was one who could get results.
Balaam is thought to be one of three people in the Bible
- A saint
- A false Prophet
- A Fallen Sinner whose passions ruled his life
Whatever Balaam was, God did speak to him clearly even though he ignored God repeatedly. He knew the truth of God but the problem was he used it for his own personal gain either financially or with popularity. Balaam used practices that were an abomination to God (2 Kings 17:17) using dreams and omens to predict the future.
These kingdoms ask Balaam to curse the Israelites. The Kingdoms believe that the man of God can be bought with a price and they truly believed that the curse would affect the Israelites. Balaam is trapped between what God wants and what they want and this is a situation we find ourselves in many times. We have to decide ahead of time what we are going to do even if it means financially we are hurt by following God and not man.
Numbers 22: 12-13
Notice Balaam does not say that God has blessed the Israelites only that God will not let him go. He refuses to tell the the whole truth because he wants to be accepted by them and hopefully benefit financially from them.
So they send more people and offer more money and they say they will honor him. So now they are not only trying to get him with more money (Greed) but they are now appealing to his pride. They wanted to honor him and even make him greater by saying the king will do whatever you ask.
This is known as a God Complex: In ministry this can happen when people place you as more important than God Himself. Missionaries, Pastors and anyone who does ministry can get this complex. You become the savior of the people instead of God. If you believe that the ministry cannot go on without you then you might have a God complex.
Jesus refused this world for the Will of God (Luke4) Peter would not sell the things of God to Simon the Magician for money (Acts 8)
Money and being liked is a great influencer to get people to change their beliefs. Many pastors are more worried about the crowds staying than they are about speaking the truth. Many people are more worried about being accepted by their friends than they are about speaking the truth to them.
Once again Balaam says that he cannot go because of God. (Not mentioning again that Israel is blessed) Balaam ask the men to stay the night so that he could hear from God again. God did visit with Balaam that night and gave him specific instructions on what he was supposed to do.
God told Balaam to go only if they asked him again but Balaam went ahead and went without them asking. Because he disobeyed, God was angry with him.
Those who ignore God,
1) …will use half-truths to do what they want
Balaam used part of what God said while ignoring the rest. Many people do the same thing when they take part of Gods Word and not the rest of it. We pick and choose what we want to obey and what we do not want to obey because we like some of the teachings of Jesus while despising the hard truths that He taught.
The Lure of Money and fame was so strong that Balaam wanted those things more than God. Sin will blind you and once it does you rationalize everything in order to make the lie a truth.
Blind Spots: We all have them in our lives and we need to be open to others who love us and point them out to us. When a person points something out in your life you need to be careful to examine what they said instead of making excuses for it.
Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Jesus did not say to not help your brother with the speck in his eye just realize you have one as well. This is why we have to be careful when we say things like “Just follow your heart” Balaam was following his heart and ignoring Gods commands.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;who can understand it?
We are not supposed to follow our hearts we are to follow the will of God which is in His word. We are not supposed to follow our passions although they may be God given, we are to follow the Spirit as He leads us.
“The Right Way in 2 Peter 2 is a metaphor for following Gods word (Genesis 18:19; 1 Samuel 12:23; Job 8:19; Psalm 18:30, 25:9, 119:14; Proverbs 8:20,22; Acts 13:10) Romans 12:2 says we will know Gods will when we renew our mind. So be careful about following your heart because you heart may just be leading you astray.
2) …will have anger toward those who try and stop them
This simple creature was used by God to show Balaam the destruction that awaited him. The Donkey did all he could to keep Balaam from harm’s way but Balaam beat him for it. Many people who try and help others have scars from the very people they are trying to help. People who are set on doing the wrong thing do not always realize they are hurting the very ones who are trying to help them. This is one reason that many people do not even say anything anymore because they are so beat up that they no longer feel as though they can take another beating. Matthew 18 gives us the steps we are to follow if we see a brother in sin and the bible is clear we are not to be silent about their behavior
If you saw danger ahead signs what would you do?
Balaam was ignoring the signs that he should stop. The amount of work, struggle and pain people go through to continue on their path is amazing. When Godly people are around you telling you to stop you might want to rethink what you are doing. These very people sometimes blame God when their lives are destroyed because they think God should have done more to stop them. God is giving you signs and warnings but if you continue to ignore them then He will let you choose to go against His will. (Romans 1) See Also Proverbs 12:10
3) …are not aware of the destruction that awaits them.
Notice how blind the one who God showed visions to was blind to the angel in the road. Balaam spoke with God and was a prophet that God revealed the future to. There is not indication in the story that the donkey talking had any effect on Balaam. I guess if you talk to God you realize that nothing should surprise you and that God making a donkey talk is not a big deal.
Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man,but its end is the way to death
4) …do not truly repent
He starts by saying “I did not see you standing in the road” He is not truly sorry for all of his actions he only makes an excuse for beating the donkey. What Balaam says sounds like he is truly sorry for what he has done but as we find out in Numbers 23 he does all he can to get the money from the kingdoms.
God allowed Balaam to go to talk to the Kings but only because God was going to make it clear to the other Kingdoms that He was blessing Israel. God used Balaam just like God used the Donkey. The Donkey had no control over what it was saying and neither did Balaam and he had to say what God wanted him to say.
Declaring Gods word is not a sign of Holiness, it just shows that God can use anyone to speak what He wants others to hear.Caiaphas prophesied the death of Jesus without believing in Him. (John 11:51-52)
Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The Rest of the Story
Balaam meets with Balak and God does not allow him to curse the Israelites. Instead God gives Balaam visions of how great the nation of Israel will be and also prophecies
Oracle 1: Israel will be a great nation. Who can count the dust of Jacob(Genesis 13:16) Numbers 23:9-10. This of course has been fulfilled today.
Oracle 2: Israel enjoys the presence of God who cleanses them and fights for them (Numbers 23:21)
Oracle 3: Israel will be a mighty nation and those who bless it are blessed (Numbers 24:5,9)
Oracle 4: Israel will have a mighty king come and destroy the nations. (Some say King David fulfilled that and others tie it into Jesus )
I am amazed that God continued to use a sinful Balaam despite his attempt to gain money and popularity.
“How could such vileness coexist with such spiritual vision? Sad to say it is possible to be in fellowship with the saints as Judas was, to fight the Lord’s battles as Saul did, to desire to be prayed for as Pharaoh did, to be baptized as Simon Magus was, to prophesy and speak of Christ as Caiaphas did, to evidence repentance and walk softly as Ahad did, to put away gross sin a Jehu did, to wish to die like the righteous Balaam did- and still go to Hell.” (Exploring People of the Old Testament, John Phillips, pg. 246)
At the end when Balaam knew he could not curse Israel he told Balak there are two ways to corrupt the Israelites. Idolatry and Immorality (Numbers 25:1-3; Revelation 2:14) The Children of Israel were later corrupted by the advice of Balaam. Balaam would later be Killed by the sword (Numbers 31:8) because he went and lived among a nation that did not fear God instead of surrending his life and going to the Israelites.
The Point of Balaam is that we can see the truth, speak the truth and still not know the truth.
You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32) amnd Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). To know the truth means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It what areas of your life have you been ignoring God?
What sins do you try and justify ?
What things do you continue to push your way through even though you know it is wrong or others are trying to stop you?
If you do not see that ignoring God will lead to destruction then you will never change your ways.Repentance is not just saying your sorry it is a change in your thinking which leads to a change in your behavior. If you are not careful you may go the way of Balaam which is to know the truth and then ignore it.