Posted by: Brad Beaman | May 4, 2016

A Reckless Path

Judean wilderness

The story of Balaam is a fascinating one. What you might think of first with Balaam is that he was the prophet whose donkey spoke to him. It was incredible and there is nothing else quite like it in the Bible.

Balaam is significant in Old Testament history and for the New Testament church. There are seven books of the Bible that mention Balaam. There are four Old Testament books and three New Testament books. Except what we have here in this account in Numbers and a reference in 2 Peter 2:15 the other five books that mention Balaam don’t even bring up the talking Donkey. There is something more important going on than the talking donkey aspect of this story. We need to understand the reckless path Balaam walked.

The New Testament helps us understand that Balaam is a person that needs to be remembered. His life and death are significant for the church. At the closing days of Exodus wondering forty years in the wilderness Moses days are drawing to a close. Moses has just finished mourning the death of his brother Aaron. Now only Moses, Joshua and Caleb were adults when Israel accepted the minority report resulting in forty years of wilderness wondering.

Before Joshua takes command Moses leads Israel to victories east of the Jordan. They had just defeated the Amorites when they had refused to let Israel pass through their land. The Israelites traveled to Moab, The King of Moab, Balak and his people are terrified.

Balak sent for Balaam the prophet because he was a religious man. Balak knew who Balaam blessed was blessed and who Balaam cursed was cursed. (Numbers 22:6) Balaam was from Haran where Abraham was called from and from where Isaac got his wife. The knowledge of the true God would have been possible in this place.

We need to determine if Balaam was a true prophet of Jehovah God. He is in line with God as we will see from his prophesies. There was even a prophesy Balaam makes about the coming Messiah. Reading Numbers chapter 23 and 24 Balaam seems to be solid. He appears to be a man of conviction. If there were only these two chapters I could expect to read Balaam’s name in Hebrews 11 chapter of faith.

The other books that speak of Balaam tell something different. He was closer to an Old Testament Judas than to a hero of the faith. In 22:8 He sounds so noble when he says rather than receive money he needs to seek an answer from the Lord. Rather than receive the money he seeks an answer from the Lord.”

But in Numbers 22:12 God said do not go and do not put a curse on Israel they are blessed. Balaam sent them back. The Lord has refused to let me go he said. It sounds great, but something is wrong. He said no but he must have been looking straight at the money they were offering him with glazed over eyes.

Balak sent more princes and more money (vs 16 &17). His talk again was also so good in Numbers 22:18 saying, “Even for a place filled with silver or gold I could do nothing beyond the command of the Lord my God.” He is not for sale for any price. But………stay here let me ask the Lord again. We begin to see the cracks in his armor.

When God has spoken clearly then it is not spiritual to ask God about it. In vs 20 God said go ahead, the permissive will of God. There are people in a clearly sinful relationship who claim they have asked God about it. There is a lustful self-deception in Balaam. His fame, prestige and wealth could be greatly enhanced. God has given him a gift but not to serve himself with it. God is not pleased. In verse 22:22 He is angry at Balaam. He sent an angel to oppose him. This is the most famous part of God dealing with Balaam, the talking donkey.

The donkey is considered dumb and the most stubborn animal. This donkey is more sensitive than Balaam. We need to be careful we don’t want something so bad we deceive ourselves to think it is right. The angel of the Lord (Vs 23) stands with a drawn sword.

First Balaam’s donkey turns into a field. Then the donkey pressed against a wall and crushed Balaam’s leg. Third the donkey lay down under Balaam.

Here is the dialogue between Balaam and the donkey:

 

28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam,

“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

 

Then Balaam’s eyes were opened. The angel of the Lord asks Balaam why he has beaten his donkey. The angel of the Lord tells Balaam he is on a reckless path. (vs 32) In verse 35 Balaam gets his new instructions to go with the men but to speak only what the angel of the Lord tells him.

 

For two chapters Numbers 23 & 24 Balaam seems to be really doing a prophets duty of speaking truth even when unpopular. He is speaking only what God says. He even says I must speak only what God puts in my heart (Num 22:38) If Balaam could have stuck by those words we might find him listed in Hebrews chapter 11.

 

Numbers Chapters 23 & 24

 

Balaam is on a high mountain where he can look down and see Israel encamped. Each time Balaam speaks a word from the Lord then King Balak gets madder each time. Balaam even speaks a messianic prophecy. (Num 24:17-19). It is not now and not near. A scepter will rise out of Israel.

“I see him, but not now;     I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob;     a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab,  the skulls of all the people of Sheth. 18 Edom will be conquered;    Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,  but Israel will grow strong. 19 A ruler will come out of Jacob     and destroy the survivors of the city.”

A star will come out of Jacob. This is the only Messianic prophecy associating a star with the Messiah. The wise men saw his star Matthew 2:2. These wise men probably were from the same area as Balaam. This star identified the Messiah.

Then Balaam gets up and returns home (24:25) apparently victorious and apparently doing only what he said speaking only what God told him. He seems to be unmoved by all the gold and silver of the palace. But it didn’t turn out that way.

Chapter 25 has a different setting. This time not on the mountain with God refusing to let him speak a curse but instead a blessing. This time Balaam is in the valley. Israel is committing sexual immorality with Moabite women and worshipping Baal. God’s anger burned with 24,000 dying in a plague.

We have to look at other scripture to find out what happened when Balaam came back. In the Judgement against Moab Balaam died by the Israelite sword. (Num 31:8). And what was Balaam doing there? (Num 31:16) Balaam was giving Moab the advice on how to seduce Israel and draw them into self-destruction.

So now when we read of Balaam in Deuteronomy 23:3-5, Joshua 13:22, Micah 6:5, Nehemiah 13:2, Jude 1:11, 2 Peter 2:15 and Revelation 2:14 we can keep this background in mind. We remember the error of this prophet who took the reckless path and caused great ruin to Israel.

In Revelation 2:14 Balaam is a warning to the church. An insider causing the destruction. Beware of someone on the reckless path causing the church to compromise from within. Balaam represents those who know the truth, speak for God, then follow the reckless path for worldly pleasures. It is the ultimate sell-out.

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