Jul 5th, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 85 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House. This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to take a look at the Prophet Balaam.
Most of the time when the Prophet Balaam comes up it’s the story of Balaam’s donkey from Numbers chapter 22 where The Angel of The Lord is blocking Balaam’s path with sword drawn, so his donkey heads off into a field. Balaam beats the donkey and puts it back on the path. The angel is still in the path so the donkey presses hard against a wall crushing Balaam’s foot. Balaam beats the donkey again and urges it forward. The angel is still blocking the path, so the donkey sits down. Balaam beats the donkey a third time and God opens its mouth allowing it to talk to Balaam. But there’s more to Balaam’s story.
Balaam built a career out of divination. He had established a reliable reputation of successfully applying blessings or curses on his intended target. So, when the People of Israel camped on the Plains of Moab, Balak, the king of Moab, sent emissaries to the riverside community of Pethor on the Euphrates in Mesopotamia to hire Balaam.
You see, Balak’s father Zippor had lost a significant portion of his kingdom to the Amorites and the people of Israel had conquered the Amorites and made refugees out of the survivors driving them out of even the surrounding villages. The Moabites were in a state of panic, terrified at the sheer number of Israelites camping on their border.
Balak sent emissaries, with payment in hand, to plead with Balaam to come and curse the numerous people who had come up out of Egypt so that Moab could drive them out of their land. Balaam invited them to stay the night so he could consult God on what to do.
That night God visited Balaam in a dream and told him not to go with the emissaries of Balak and not to curse those they’ve asked to be cursed as they are a blessed people. The next morning Balaam sends the emissaries back to Balak telling them that God refuses to let him go with them.
When Balak hears Balaam’s message he sends another group of nobles with a higher rank to plead further with Balaam offering him honors, rewards, and any pay he wants if he’ll come and curse the people camping outside his borders. Again, Balaam refuses and tells the nobles that even if Balak gave him his house stuffed with silver and gold, he wouldn’t be able to defy the orders of God to do anything. Nevertheless, he invites them to stay the night to see what God would tell him. God visits Balaam in a dream again that night and tells him to go ahead and go with the men, but to only do what He tells him to do.
The next morning Balaam and the noblemen begin their journey back to Moab. But apparently God hadn’t told him to leave just yet, God gets angry and sends The Angel of The Lord to block Balaam’s way. This is the common part of the story from earlier with the donkey. After this delay, The Angel of The Lord tells Balaam to go ahead with the Nobles but to only say what he’s told to say.
Balak meets Balaam and the Nobles at a town on the outskirts of the Moabite territory and Balaam lets him know that he can only say what God tells him to say and nothing else. They have a feast and the next morning head up to one of the high places where the people would worship Baal so Balaam could get a good look at the people who Balak wants cursed.
Balaam instructs that seven altars are built and they sacrifice a bull and a ram on each altar. He tells Balak to stay by the altars while he goes off by himself and consults with God. God meets with Balaam and when Balaam repeats what God says to Balak it makes Balak angry because it’s a blessing over the Israelites instead of a curse.
They repeat this whole song and dance two more times at different locations with fourteen more altars, a bull and ram sacrificed on each, and two more blessings over the people of Israel instead of a curse. Balaam reminds Balak that he sent word to him upfront that he wouldn’t do anything against God’s command and then delivers a prophecy about the defeat of the land of Moab by the Israelites.
Numbers chapter 24 then records Balaam as heading home and Balak going on his way. However, we know from the books of 1 Peter, Jude, and Revelations that, that’s not exactly what happened. 1 Peter 2:15 CSB says, “They have gone astray by abandoning the straight path and have followed the path of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of wickedness.” and Jude 11 CSB, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, have plunged into Balaam’s error for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion.” Now neither of those verses hint at all referring to this story, maybe they’re talking about something later in his life.
However, in Revelation 2:14 CSB, Jesus says, “But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality.” Indeed, this is how Numbers chapter 25 begins, with the people of Israel prostituting themselves with the woman of Moab, attending the sacrifices to Baal, eating the sacrificed meat, and even worshiping Baal at these sacrifices. It looks like Balaam couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to have that payment before he went home. So he let Balak in on some of the Israelites weaknesses that had been forbidden by God.
Our purposes for looking at this story, though, lay not in pointing out Balaam’s failure of ethics. Lord knows we all have failures in the area of our own personal ethics. The point is to highlight that Balaam, who wasn’t an Israelite, was a prophet of The Lord. A prophet of The Lord who was personally visited by God. Likewise, Job wasn’t an Israelite but was found worthy of God’s favor and even a personal visit by God.
Here’s the takeaway; we worship the one true God. In the Biblical account of God, and in the building blocks of our faith, there are lots of overlap with other religions. It is highly likely, almost to the point of reliable fact, that God has been reaching out to any who will listen amongst humanity. This has led to the formation of several religious faiths built around glimpses of The Divine. Even for Christianity, we have Romans 13:9-10 CSB that tells us, “For we know in part, we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.” We don’t have the full picture of everything God is or everything that makes up the spiritual cosmos.
What we do have is The Gospel. That despite being born fallen, imperfect, and this imperfection separating us from God. That for us, Jesus was born of a virgin and lived a blameless life. He was crucified for our imperfection, rose again from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of The Father in Heaven. Through His sacrifice we are justified, declared not guilty. By our faith, we are made righteous, and by the confession of our mouth, we are saved from eternal spiritual separation from God in Hell.
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”