103-1022-Numbers Chapter 22
In chapters 22-24 we read the story of Balaam. Balaam was not an Israelite and much of what is known of him describes him as an enemy of Israel. The twist of Balaam is that he was a prophet of God, yet he was wicked. Even though he was a wicked man his prophecies were not false. God did speak to Balaam and the prophecies that he spoke were true. But Balaam’s heart was not right with God and he had a love of money which took preeminence in his priorities. In the end we see the wickedness of Balaam in his use of magic. (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15). In the end, he became a wicked man who used magic (Joshua 13:22).
The story of Balaam is an important one as it puts forth the emphases that Balaam spoke only the words of God. Balaam spoke against the messengers of Balak that he could not curse Israel because God had blessed them. He could not curse them because the Israelites were under God’s protection. God had made a covenant with the sons of Abraham and God is faithful and true. (Genesis 12:1-3) God had promised Abraham that he would have his own land and be the father of many descendants.
Balak was the king of Moab and he had heard of all that the Israelite people had done in the land. Because God had strengthened them Balak was very afraid of the Israelite people. Balak knew that his army could not defeat the Israelite people on the battlefield. Balak spoke to the Midianites who lived in tribes in the Sinai desert and the deserts east of the Jordan River. They united together to defeat the Israelite nation. They resulted to the use of evil spiritual powers.
They sent their representatives to speak with the Prophet Balaam thinking that they could get him to curse the Israelite people. Apparently Balak did not realize that Balaam was a prophet of God. Perhaps Balak thought that Balaam was a magician. Balak was looking for stronger powers than his magicians had.
The officials took money and a message from Balak with them to seek Balaam to curse the Israelites people. Balak mentioned in his message that the Israelites were a large group of people who had come out of the land of Egypt. Balak did not mention that it was God who had rescued them from Egypt but he did know because of their military activity that they were a very powerful people. Balak thought that he needed the help of a diviner to defeat them.
Balaam did seek the Lord in what he should do in this matter, telling the officials to spend the night and he would give answer in the morning. Balaam spent the night in prayer to God so that he would know the proper way to go. This does tall us that Balaam did have the proper character of a prophet.
God did speak to Balaam during the night and told him that he should not go with the officials back to see Balak. God also told Balaam that he could not curse his people because God had blessed the Israelites. God would not allow Balaam to do anything that would bring harm to His people.
Balaam did not tell the officials the complete truth of what God had said to him. He only said that God would not allow him to return with the officials to see Balak. Maybe Balaam thought the he could later persuade God to let him go where he could receive the money that was offered. Already sin was crouching at the door to Balaam’s heart. The Truth is that Balaam could not have cursed the Israelite people because God was blessing them, as they were His people. So Balaam sent the officials back to Balak.
Because Balaam did not speak fully the words of God to the officials Balak may have thought that He had only wanted more money and prestige. As a result Balak sent a larger and more important group of officials back to see Balaam a second time. Even so God had clearly given His answer to Balaam’s prayer to God. But again Balaam told the officials to spend the night and he would pray to God again. Maybe Balaam thought that God would change His mind.
God did not change His mind but did tell Balaam that he could return with the officials to Balak. Balaam would still have to obey the words of God.
Balaam went with the officials to see Balak. Balaam was aware with spiritual matters. He knew how to approach God in prayer and God had answered him. In this story of Balaam’s donkey God cause the donkey to be able to see the angel of the Lord and had blinded Balaam to the spiritual things. We also see that the message has a greater value than the messenger. God can use a donkey to deliver his message when a man will not. When God uses us to deliver His message it is not a time to be proud but a time to be humble as we have received His word as a privilege.
The angels deliver God’s message to people but the Lord’s angel did more than this. In the Old Testament when God wanted to give a message to His people He would send an angel on His behalf. The Lord’s angel came to Balaam because he was entering into sin and the angel was bringing judgment to Balaam.
God judges the heart and He knew that Balaam did not want to do what was pleasing to God but was more interested in receiving the money that Balak had offered. Balaam may have thought that he could persuade God to allow him to curse the Israelite people. For this he would be well payed. God had allowed Balaam to go to Balak but his intention for going was evil. God wanted Balaam to know this and that Balaam could only bless God’s people and not curse them. God was not wanting to punish Balaam but to convince him to do the right thing.
It was Balaam’s donkey that saw the angel of the Lord for three times when the angel stood in the path. And for three times the donkey refused to pass and Balaam became angry and struck the donkey each time. Then God caused the donkey to speak to remind Balaam that it had never done such a thing before. Thus, there had to be a good reason that the donkey was behaving this way.
Then God opened the eyes of Balaam so that he too could see the angel of the Lord. When Balaam saw the angel standing there with a sword he became very afraid and he fell down to the ground. Then the angel spoke and told Balaam that the donkey had saved his life. The angel told Balaam that his attitude was wrong and he was behaving in a way that made God angry.
Immediately Balaam knew that he had sinned against the Lord and confessed and said that he would return to his home. But God told Balaam to continue on to Moab and see Balak and to speak with Him only the words that God gives him.
Balak could not wait to see Balaam and went to the border to meet him. But Balak was a little annoyed that Balaam had not come sooner. Balak was a rich and powerful king and perhaps he did not think that Balaam knew this. So he asked Balaam if he did not think that he could reward him well.
Balak did not truly know about prophets. Prophets can only speak that which God gives them to speak and they can only bless those who God blesses and curse those whom God curses. Balak did not know that it is God who blesses and curses and not the prophet. People who have been cursed by God can repent from their evil ways and God will free them from His curse. But Balak did not understand any of these facts. Neither did Balak realize that all spiritual powers are not the same. Balak thought that magic was the same as God’s spiritual power.
Balaam wanted to be obedience to the angel of the Lord and he told Balak that he could only speak the words that God would give him. True prophecy is only the Word of God that is given to the prophet. Words of a prophet have no power, as the power comes from God.
Balak made a sacrifice to his god and offered a portion to Balaam and his followers. Then Balak took Balaam to the high place of his god Baal, as they worshiped Baal in the high places of the hills. Balak took Balaam there also thinking that the curse would have a greater effect from a place of worship.