In my daily reading of the holy Scriptures, I am amazed by the significance of the various passages to one another and by their relevance to today. These days, my daily readings are in the Psalms, but also alternately (each day) in the Old Testament Book of Numbers and the New Testament Book of Acts. I take it slow in all of these passages, going back to them for several days in order to try to catch as much understanding and application from each one. Through this daily kind of reading and meditation, I consistently find the Scriptures powerful in their details and implications.
For the past few alternate days, I have been looking at the story of Balaam in Numbers 22 to 24. The situation is that Israel in its journey toward the Promised Land has reached a place on the east bank of the Jordan River just opposite Jericho to the west. Earlier on they had tried to seek passage through the lands of Edom and Moab but went around that area because their kings had not allowed them to pass that way. Nevertheless, having arrived at their location, the king of Moab (Balak), is alarmed because he knows how drastically they defeated their Amorite neighbours a short time earlier. So he tries to hire a spiritualist named Balaam to put a curse on the children of Israel.
It turns out that Balaam is a slippery character who knows about God but doesn’t give Him the glory He deserves. He is not well-represented in Scripture. His folly appears to be that he is willing to trade true spirituality and his own soul for financial gain (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11). There is much that is worthy of comment from this story concerning Balaam. He hears God’s voice and obeys him to a point. He finds it is impossible to curse what God has blessed. This in itself is a great encouragement to those who belong to the people of God. Those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ share in this same experience of blessing. They live under the blessing of God from now until eternity.
In this story, God even causes a donkey to speak with a man’s voice to challenge Balaam’s plan to fulfill Balak’s wishes. Evidently God is not limited in how He is able to make His will known to those who are bent on destruction. This incident is an amazing description of God’s creative power. He who made animals dumb in their ability to communicate, can cause such to actually speak intelligent words for His own glory.
Numbers 23, and 24 contain wonderful expressions of blessing that all of God’s people can claim for themselves. As God used the mouth of a donkey for His purposes, here he uses the mouth of a pagan spiritualist to proclaim blessing upon God’s people. On one hand it looks like Balaam is doing a good thing. But his message is contrary to his actual character.
We can’t be sure, but it’s possible that he got his money anyway from Balak by other means. At least that is what is implied in references to Balaam in Numbers 31:16 and Revelation 1:14, and 15. In Numbers 25, we see that the women of Moab were successful in enticing some of the men of Israel to offer sacrifices to their pagan gods. In the end, this matter became insidious to Israel at that time so that it speaks of God’s punishment as a plague in which some 24,000 Israelites were destroyed. I’m thinking Balaam may well have been the one to suggest this kind of moral and spiritual seduction. He really didn’t care about Israel; he cared only about his own financial gain.
The thing that stands out about Balaam is his subtlety. He looks good on the surface, but underneath we see that his motives were totally selfish and evil. Thankfully, God is able to make even the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10). But we should be wary of the likes of Balaam who are like “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” It speaks of those who practice spirituality, perhaps even in a Christian context, who do not really believe and recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.