The Way of Balaam, is the Way of a Donkey
Last week we talked about false prophets, and we began with this scripture from 2 Peter 2:1-3; “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you. Who secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them, the way of truth will be evil spoken of. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
In verses 10 thru 14, Peter goes on and uses some pretty colorful terms to describe these people. He says they “indulge in the flesh, and incorrupt desires”. He says they “despise authority”. They are “daring and self-willed”, and they “revile angelic glories”. They’re “unreasoning animals”. They are “stains and blemishes” Their “eyes are full of adultery”. And they are “enticing, and unstable and full of greed”.
Quite a list isn’t it? Now listen to what he says in verse 15; “Forsaking the right way..” that’s forsaking God’s way, “..they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
“The way of Balaam” doesn’t sound like a very good way. It’s certainly not God’s way. The scripture says that Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness”. And the really bad part is; “many have gone astray” and followed that way.
Verse 16 says; “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression; A dumb donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” The word “dumb” in that verse, means “speechless”. So a speechless donkey, spoke to Balaam, and rebuked him. Have you ever been made a fool of, by God? God tries to stop us from going down the wrong path, but sometimes we just won’t listen, and when that happens, we become fools!
It’s like “the fool that says in his heart, there is no God”. Psalm 14, verse 1. And it’s like those spoken of in Romans 1, verse 18, who “suppress the truth, in unrighteousness”. It’s like thinking that you’ve got a BETTER way than what the bible says, you’re actually “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness”. You’re pushing the truth down, and refusing to let it come up and guide you. It’s like the person who tore the page out of his bible, because he didn’t like what it said on that page. It says in Romans 1, verse 22; “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”
God doesn’t have to make fools out of us, all He’s got to do is turn us loose! We can do a pretty good job of it all by ourselves, simply by not allowing the bible to control our lives.. We become fools!
I guess sometimes we need a donkey, to restrain us. Just like that dumb donkey tried to restrain the madness of Balaam.
Do you know what the “madness of Balaam” was? It was his absolute foolishness! Balaam had asked God a question, and God had given him an answer. But it wasn’t really the answer that Balaam wanted, so Balaam asked again. And God didn’t have a lot of patience with Balaam. He basically said to Balaam; If you want to do something other than what I’ve told you to do, then go ahead and do it. But remember, I’ve told you what to do.
So what do you think Balaam did? He did the opposite of what God had told him. That’s “the way of Balaam”! The way of Balaam, is to disregard what God says, and to go ahead and do whatever you please. It’s exactly the opposite, of “the way of truth”.
Now be truthful here.. Do you sometimes, see a little bit of Balaam, in yourself? You know what God has said, but it contradicts what YOU want, so what do you do? You do what YOU want to. And God says to each and every one of us; If you want to do something other than what I’ve told you to do, you go right ahead and do it, see how that works out. God isn’t going to force us to do His will. We’ve got to WANT to do it. By giving us our own choice, God is actually testing us, isn’t He? Do we go the way of the truth, or do we go the way of Balaam?
Balaam is mentioned several times in the scriptures; Five times in the old testament, and three times in the new testament. And the references are always to the “way of Balaam”, or to the “teaching of Balaam”, or the “error of Balaam”. And Balaam is always held up as an example of unrighteousness.
The only real story that we have of Balaam, is in Numbers, chapters 22 thru 24. This is the first time Balaam is mentioned in the bible, but he’s referred to here as if he’s fairly well-known.
The story of Balaam takes place near the end of Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Israel had just slaughtered the Amorites because they refused to let Israel pass peacefully through their land.
And here’s how the story of Balaam begins. It says in Numbers 22, verses 1 thru 4; “Then the sons of Israel journeyed, and camped beyond the Jordan, opposite Jericho. Now Ba-lak’, the son of Zip-por’, saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous, and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian; Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field. And Ba-lak’ was king of Moab at that time.”
Ba-lak’ was evidently trying to get some help from the Midianites, because he was so afraid of Israel. So here’s what Ba-lak’ does next; It says in verses 5 & 6; “So he sent messengers to Balaam, the son of Be-or’, at Pe-thor’, which is near the river, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him saying;
“Behold, a people came out of Egypt; Behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. Now therefore, please come, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I may be able to defeat them, and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless, is blessed, and he whom you curse, is cursed.”
And verse 7 says; “So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the divination in their hand, and they came to Balaam and repeated Ba-lak’s words to him.”
“They departed with the divination in their hand.” Do you know what the divination was? It was the payment that they were going to give to Balaam, if he would curse Israel. Did you ever hear of a prophet getting paid? I don’t remember ever hearing of a prophet of GOD getting paid.
I remember a prophet of God who got paid for NOT prophesying! His name was Jonah, and he was paid by God because he refused to prophesy. God gave Jonah, a three day/three night stay, inside the belly of a fish. I’m not sure what amenities came with that, but that was Jonah’s pay for refusing to prophesy, like God had instructed him to do.
Balaam was different though. Balaam was a “prophet for hire”. If anyone needed some blessing or cursing done, Balaam was the man to see. Balaam would fit in pretty good with the world today, wouldn’t he? There’s lots of people today who are “prophets for hire”. They’re not really prophets, but they’ve got people convinced that they are, and some of them make millions of dollars, as “prophets for hire”. And people flock to them because they think they have some “new” words from God.
Back to our story though..
Balaam was evidently well-known to Ba-lak’, the king of Moab. And so when Ba-lak’ was in trouble, he knew just who to call.
So Ba-lak’ sent some of the elders of Moab, and some from Midian, “with divination in hand, and they came to Balaam, and repeated Ba-lak’s words to him.” (verse 7)
And Balaam hears the words, and he says to them in verse 8; “Spend the night here, and I will bring word back to you as the Lord may speak to me. And the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam.”
I really have to wonder if Balaam had ever actually been, “a prophet of God”, up to this point. This story is the only history that have in the bible, about Balaam. And it’s pretty strange that a “prophet for hire”, would also be a “prophet of God”. But in this story, God turns Balaam INTO a prophet of God.
You see, Balaam DOES end up going back to Moab with the elders. And Ba-lak’, the king, takes him up to several “high points” in the land, where they could overlook the camp of Israel. And of course Ba-lak’ wants Balaam to CURSE the camp of Israel, but when Balaam opens his mouth, all he can do is BLESS Israel, because God was controlling what came out of Balaam’s mouth! God was, in a manner of speaking, “making a donkey out of Balaam”.
But I’m getting a little ahead of the story here. In verse 8, Balaam had told the elders to spend the night there with him, and he would bring word back to them concerning what the Lord tells him to do. Now, I’m not sure if Balaam was actually going to ask God, if he should curse Israel, but as it turned out, he didn’t have to ask, because the Lord came to HIM first.
Verse 9 says; “Then God came to Balaam and said; Who are these men with you?” It reminds me of when God asked Cain; “Where is Abel, your brother?” God knows the answer perfectly well, but He asks anyway.
“And Balaam said to God; Ba-lak’, the son of Zi-por’, king of Moab has sent word to me; Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt, and they cover the surface of the land. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I may be able to fight against them, and drive them out.” (verses 10 & 11)
Balaam doesn’t seem to know God very well. Here God is, delivering His people out of slavery, and bringing them to the promised land, and Balaam wants to know if he should curse them. Balaam isn’t using much common sense is he? But I guess that’s just the way of Balaam. And it’s the way of most people today; No common sense, and no knowledge of God.
“And God said to Balaam; Do NOT go with them! You shall NOT curse the people, for they are blessed!” (verse 12) That’s pretty “cut and dry” isn’t it?
So Balaam tells the messengers that God won’t allow him to go, and the messengers go home to Moab, but that’s not what the king wants to hear. So he sends more messengers, who are more distinguished than the first group. And they go to Balaam, and they say to him, in verses 16 & 17; “..Thus says Ba-lak’, the son of Zi-por’; Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me. For I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse this people for me.” Ba-lak’ is determined isn’t he? And Balaam is being tempted.
And Balaam says, in verse 18; “..Though Ba-lak’ were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the word of the Lord my God.”
Now that sounds like a very honorable response, and you’d think that God would be pleased with Balaam. But listen to what Balaam says in verse 19; “And now, you also, stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will speak to me.”
God had already given Balaam an answer hadn’t He? God had said, in no uncertain terms; “You shall NOT go with them. you shall NOT curse the people, for they are blessed!” But Balaam has those “promised riches” tugging at is heart, and so he figures, I’ll just ask God again. That won’t hurt will it? Who knows, maybe He’ll change His mind.
What do YOU think? Do you think God is going to change His mind about allowing Balaam to curse Israel, His chosen people? I don’t think God is gonna change His mind.. What do YOU think? But Balaam is evidently thinking there might be a possibility. Do you think that the thought of personal gain is influencing his thinking? After all, Balaam is, “a prophet for hire”.
But here’s my point for asking if you think God is going to change His mind. God has given us, lots of commands, just like the one He gave to Balaam, when He said; “You shall NOT go with them. You shall NOT curse the people..” And I’m wondering if we don’t sometimes think that God will have changed His mind about some of the commands He’s given to us? You know, a lot of times, there might be something to be gained, by not following God’s commands quite so strictly.
A lot of times there could be financial gain from not following God’s commands to the “T”. Or sometimes there might just be personal satisfaction to be gained, from not following ALL of God’s commands. And we might tend to “reason”, by thinking that these commands of God were given a long time ago! God has had almost 2,000 years to change His mind. Maybe He HAS changed His mind, and all these commands don’t really apply to us anymore, like they did back then. Lots of people “reason” exactly like that.
So then, what do YOU think? Did God change His mind about allowing Balaam to go back to Moab, and curse the nation of Israel?
I’m going to end the lesson here, and Lord willing, we’ll continue next week. But if you would care to do a little studying, the next verse, verse 20, is a controversial verse. The way it’s written in most bibles, would make you think that God did indeed, change His mind, about allowing Balaam to go and curse Israel. But then the next verse after that, would contradict that interpretation.
So next week, I want us to look at those verses, and I’ll want us to consider the lessons that it leaves for us today. And for now, consider all that God has commanded, in the bible. How much of it has God changed His mind about? The answer is.. NONE of it! What God has said, will stand for eternity.