Friday, March 9, 2007

Balaam, a False Prophet

Don’t you wish sometimes that everything eatable was also good for us? Then we would not have to worry about a healthy diet – we could just eat whatever tickled our taste buds without worrying about weight gain or nutrients.
Maybe in the next world!!
But if we at least had one major grocery store where everything on the shelves had been tested and proven to have balanced nutritional value, wouldn’t that be helpful?

Not only do we need healthy physical food to nourish our bodies but we also need healthy spiritual food to nourish our spirits, and we need to be just as discerning with what we eat spiritually as what we eat physically. But we have one advantage with spiritual food because God HAS provided a ‘store’ where everything is healthy and the more we eat the healthier we get ! Hopefully, you ‘shop’ there often!
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction for instruction in righteousness.”
(II Tim. 3:16)

Although there are some difficult to understand passages, or characters that we wonder about-and we even go so far as to question what their value is in the book of books, the real question is not IF they are there to teach us something but rather WHAT they are meant to teach us.

One character that I think would fall into this category is Balaam. (Num.22-24)
Balaam is a very interesting individual, fitting quite comfortably into the well-known ‘used car salesman’ mentality. He was a man who tried to keep his balance sitting on the fence so that he could quickly shift over to the side where he perceived his greatest advantage lay. (Jude :11)
He was an old testament prophet who recognized that his power lay not in himself but in the supremacy of the invisible spiritual world. And while he recognized the God of the Jews, he was not above seeking insight through divination or whatever other means he could employ or finding ways to twist and change the word of God to suit his own devices. He was , therefore, a false prophet. ( Num. 31:16 blames Balaam for his counsel resulting in the children of Israel to sin against God)
Even when he unmistakably heard from God , he did not fear God enough to exercise blind obedience. Directives from God were weighed against any personal interest and while he did not overtly go against God, he was very prone to look for loopholes. The age old deception ”Did God REALLY say?” (Gen.3:1) was one of his governing proverbs. For example, when God told Balaam to go with the king’s representatives ONLY if they asked him… Balaam was up and saddled, ready to go when they got up. He obviously reasoned that if he were there on his donkey , of course they would ask him to go with them, and then technically he would be acting in obedience to God’s word!!! Technically, perhaps, but manipulated and not acceptable to God because Balaam was always motivated by his love of the rewards of unrighteousness.
(II Peter 2:15)

We know Balaam best because of his talking donkey experience.
When God’s anger was stirred against Balaam for his willful disobedience , He sent an angel with a flaming sword to confront him. The donkey saw the angel blocking the narrow path on which Balaam was riding, and veered to get out of the way.
Interesting, isn’t it, that the ‘prophet’ did not see the angel but the donkey did!!??
Obviously , God opened the donkey’s eyes and when the terrified donkey tried three times to get out of the angel’s way – the third time crushing Balaam’s leg against the wall- Balaam reacted in anger beating the donkey with his staff.
God opened the donkey’s mouth to reprimand Balaam for his cruelty. I find it curious that Balaam does not seem to think it is strange that his donkey could talk!! Then, God also opens Balaam’s eyes to see the daunting angel standing with flaming sword and Balaam falls prostrate to the ground, duly impressed that- this time at least- he has no choice but to carry out God’s commands.
Why does God bother with Balaam in this story about the King of Moab, who was trying to protect himself against the invading armies of the Israelites?
God will always show Himself strong on behalf of His people and He had given victory to the Israelites to conquer and possess the promised land. No one - not a powerful king, not a soothsayer , not the biggest army, no matter how intricate and clever their plots may be - can prevail against what God has decreed.
God used Balaam, someone the king trusted , to impress Balak that if God was fighting for the Israelites there was nothing Balak could do.

But there is more we can learn.
In observing Balaam we see that a ‘false prophet’ is sometimes more convincing than a true one, because his message is pleasing to the one who comes to him for advice. Balak called for Balaam because “I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” (Num 22:6) – Balak was favorably disposed toward Balaam because he knew he could be bought with words of praise and monetary rewards.
The Israelites listened to Balaam because he told them what they wanted to hear, he told them it was OK to fulfill their sinful desires , even though God commanded otherwise. (Num. 3:16 ) And those who shared Balaam’s greedy heart loved to listen to him because he validated their practices. ( Jude 11)

Balaam also teaches us a wonderfully encouraging truth about blessings and curses and the power of the enemy against God’s people.
Even thought Balaam would have loved to please the king and receive his generous rewards for cursing the Israelite people, he could not !
Listen to his words, “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? (Num.23:8) "Behold I have received a command to bless , He has blessed and I cannot reverse it." (23:20) "There is no sorcery against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel." (23:23) and then when he lifted up his eyes and saw Israel encamped in the wilderness he spoke by the Spirit of God to them, “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you !” ( 24:9)

We , as God’s children are blessed and the enemy has no power against us to take us out from under the blessing of God.
Isn’t that a wonderful security?
If Christ has freed us from the curse, ( Gal.3:13) and we are safe in Him, who could separate us from Him ?
Paul rejoiced in the believer's secure place in Christ, out of reach of the enemy's power to harm.
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers , nor things present nor things to come nor height, nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord !!" ( Rom 8:38-39)

I, too, am persuaded !!

1 comment:

Demara said...

Oh yes for sure...I am too!

Julie for your teaching, always needed, always loved!!!