In the book of Revelation, when Jesus was dictating letters to be sent to the seven churches of Asia, He said in Revelation 2, verse 14; “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some, who hold the teaching of Balaam; Who kept teaching Ba-lak’, to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.”
The references here, to the teaching Balaam, and Ba-lak’, are not references to specific doctrinal teachings. The specific teachings that applied during those old testament times, wouldn’t have applied to the Christians that Jesus wrote to anyway. When you read in the bible about the teaching of Ba-lak’, it’s referring to opposition to God. Ba-lak’, the king of Moab, wanted to go up against Israel, and drive them out of the land. He wanted Israel to be cursed! And when you read about the teaching of Balaam, it’s referring to a lack of respect for God’s word, and a “twisting” of God’s word, and an attitude of greed, that says that what I want, is more important than what God wants.
Last week, we studied from Numbers chapter 22. And we saw how Ba-lak’, was afraid of the sons of Israel, because Israel had slaughtered the Amorites who had gone up against them. And now Israel was camped right next to the land of Moab, and Ba-lak’ wanted to drive them out, but he wasn’t strong enough to do so on his own. And so Ba-lak’ enlisted the support of the Midianites, and together they sought out help from the prophet Balaam.
And remember that Balaam, was a “profit for hire”. In other words, Balaam would tell you what you wanted to hear, if you had the money to pay for it. So Ba-lak’ thought that if he could get Balaam to put a curse on Israel, then he could drive them out of the land. And Ba-lak’ had the money to pay for it.
So Ba-lak’ sent messengers to Balaam 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 drive them out of the land.” Numbers 22, verses 5 & 6.
And the messengers came to Balaam, and repeated those words to him. And Balaam said 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 here’s what the Lord said to Balaam, in verse 12; “Do NOT go with them. You shall NOT curse them, for they are blessed!” Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? THAT was the Lord’s answer.
It sounds like Balaam accepted the answer, and so he tells the messengers that he can not go with them and curse Israel, and he sends them back to Moab. But the king won’t take no for an answer, and so he sends more messengers to try to convince Balaam. And verse 16 says; “And they came to Balaam, and said to him; 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.”
So now Balaam has to give this some more thought. So he says to the messengers, in verse 19; “And now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will speak to me.” Balaam really wants God to change His mind, doesn’t he? There’s riches in store for him if he goes with these guys and curses Israel.
And you remember the question I asked you last week? Do you really think that God was going to change His mind, and let Balaam go and curse Israel? God said.. “Do NOT go with them. You shall NOT curse them, for they are blessed!” But Balaam is gonna ask the Lord again. Balaam is evidently not “seeking first, God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness”. Balaam is seeking first, his OWN personal little kingdom. But you can’t serve both, God and mammon, can you?
So Balaam is going to find out “what else” God will tell him. And do you remember how I told you last week, that the next verse is a bit of a controversial verse? So here’s what else God says to Balaam, in verse 20, according to the King James; “And God came to Balaam at night, and said to him; If the men come to call thee, rise up and go with them; But yet the word that I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.”
Did God just change His mind? Did God just tell Balaam to go ahead and go back to Moab with the messengers, but that when he got there, he’d only be allowed to speak the words that God would tell him to speak? Let me read the verse again, this time from the NASB; “And God came to Balaam at night, and said to him; If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; But only the word that I speak to you, shall you do.”
Now those translations make it sound like God did change His mind. No permission is given allowing Balaam to curse Israel, but it does sound as if God is allowing Balaam to at least go to Moab. Verse 21 says; “So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab.”
Balaam made his decision to go to Moab; But did he make that decision because God had just given him permission to go? You see, I have a problem with that interpretation. The reason I have a problem with it, is because of the very next verse. It says in verse 22; “And God’s anger burned because he went, and the angel of the Lord, took His stand in the way, as an adversary against him.”
God’s anger burned! And He placed an adversary, to stand in the way against Balaam! But why was God angry? Hadn’t God given him permission to go? The answer is NO! God had NOT given Balaam permission to go. What God had given Balaam, was a CHOICE. Just like God always gives us a choice.
God had already given Balaam His answer concerning whether he should go to Moab and curse Israel. God said; “Do NOT go with them. You shall NOT curse Israel, for they are blessed.” But Balaam was being encouraged by Ba-lak’ and his men. He was being tempted to go.
Do you remember what it says in James 1:14 about temptation? James says; “But each one is tempted, when he is enticed and carried away by his OWN lust.” So it was Balaam who WANTED to go. And so he was looking for an EXCUSE to go. It wasn’t good enough that God had told him NOT to go, because Balaam wanted to go! There was something in it for HIM!
The bible talks about “the way of Balaam”. And the way of Balaam isn’t one specific way, because it varies for everyone. You see, “the way of Balaam”, is your OWN way! And that’s why I’m spending another week on this lesson, because to some degree or another, we ALL want things our way. But God has spoken, hasn’t He? And He always gives us a choice; It’s His way, or the way of Balaam. In other words, it’s His way, or our way. We make the choice.
In Numbers 22, verse 19, Balaam said; “..I will find out WHAT ELSE the Lord says to me.” God had spoken once, but Balaam wants something else. So Balaam lies down for the night, probably expecting God to come to him. And God DOES come to him; And here’s “what else” God had to say; This is how verse 20 SHOULD be worded; “And God came to Balaam at night and said to him; If you rise up and proclaim to take part with these men, go with them. But yet, the word that I spoke to you, that is what you should do.”
Balaam was hoping that God would tell him something different from what He had already told him. But God had nothing different to say; His word IS what it is. And so, what God did, was to give Balaam a choice. I don’t know what time of night that God came to Balaam, but he had the rest of the night to make his choice. And here’s his choice; When you rise up, if you choose to have a part with these men, then go with them. BUT, the word that I have spoken to you, that is what you should be choosing to do.
So when morning came, Balaam made his choice, and he went with the men. And verse 22 says; “And the anger of the Lord BURNED because he went. And the angel of the Lord stood in the way as an adversary to him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and two of his servants with him.”
Now here’s where the Lord starts to make a real donkey out of Balaam, beginning in verse 23; “And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the way, and went into the field. And Balaam STRUCK the donkey, to turn her INTO the way. But the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow of the vineyard, a wall on this side, and a wall on that side.”
“When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself against the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall, and he struck her again! And the angel of the Lord went farther, and stood in a narrow place, where there was NO way to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam. And the anger of Balaam burned, and he struck the donkey with his stick.”
You know, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Sometimes when we start doing things our own way, God puts obstacles in our path. And the more we persist, the more obstacles God puts there. And then maybe life doesn’t go so well for us, because we’re fighting everything. He’s told us right here in the bible, what to do, but we get blinded, and we don’t see Him standing there, trying to guide us, and trying to correct us when we do go wrong. And we don’t see Him, because we’re not looking for Him; We’re too busy looking at the world. That’s why Balaam couldn’t see the Lord standing there, with His sword drawn, because he was too busy looking at the world, and following his own way.
Now listen to what happened next, beginning in verse 28;
“And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam; What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times? And Balaam said to the donkey; Because you have mocked me! If there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you! And the donkey said unto Balaam; Am I not your donkey, that you have ridden all your life until today? Have I ever done this to you before? And he said, No.”
So now a donkey’s talking to Balaam, and Balaam’s talking back! And the donkey is reasoning with Balaam, and Balaam can SEE the reasoning. It’s hard to tell who’s the donkey, and who’s the prophet. Now listen to verse 31;
“Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand; And he bowed down his head, and fell to the ground.” He did just what the donkey did, he fell down before God. We all need to pray that the Lord will open OUR eyes, so that WE will fall down before Him.
“And the angel of the Lord said to him; Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I went out to withstand you because your way is perverse before Me. And the donkey saw Me, and turned from Me these three times. Unless she had turned from Me, I would moreover have surely slain you, and let her live.”
“And Balaam said to the angel of the Lord; I have sinned; For I did not know that you stood against me in the way. Now, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back. (in other words; If what I’ve done is evil) And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam; Go with the men; But only the word that I shall speak to you, that YOU shall speak. And Balaam went with the officials.”
Balaam is lucky he wasn’t slain by God! And now all of a sudden, he’s willing to turn back. But for some reason, God says NO, now you might as well just go ahead. Why do you think God finally let him go? God was going to turn Balaam’s disobedience, into something good.
God finally let Balaam go to Moab, but instead of cursing Israel, God used Balaam to bless Israel. He blessed Israel three times. The same number of times that he had struck his donkey. The same number of days that Jonah was in the belly of the fish, for refusing to do God’s will. The same number of times that Peter had denied knowing Jesus. The same number of times that Jesus made Peter say that he loved Him, afterwards. The same number of days that Jesus spent in the grave. Interesting, isn’t it?
I need to end the lesson, but before I do, I want to give you a quick illustration of people today, doing what Balaam did. When God had given Balaam a choice, He said; “If you rise up and proclaim to take part with these men, go with them; But yet, what I’ve said to you, that’s what you should do.” But do you know what part of that, Balaam heard? The only part that Balaam really heard was; “Go with them”. Balaam really didn’t want to hear anything else, so he didn’t hear anything else. Just like when he didn’t see the angel of the Lord, standing in the way; He wasn’t looking for God, and so he didn’t see Him.
Well, that’s the way it is with people today. They’re not hearing what God said, because they don’t really want to hear what God says. Let me read a scripture to you. 1 Corinthians 1, verse 26 says; “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death, until He comes.” Do you know which words most people hear, when they read this verse? They only hear two words; And those words are “as often”. Do you know what those two words mean to those people? They mean.. “whenever”. In other words; Whenever you want to eat this bread and drink this cup, that’s OK. As often as you want to.
Balaam wanted to hear that he could go with the men, and so what he heard was; “Go with them”. People who don’t want to take the Lord’s supper every first day of the week, they hear the words “Whenever; As often as you want”. And you can apply that to any of God’s teachings. We only hear what we want to hear.
Let’s pray that we’ll want to hear ALL of God’s word! Because that’s where our faith comes, it comes from hearing the word. And because of hearing the word, and acquiring faith, we’ll also repent of our sins, and we’ll confess the name of Jesus, and we’ll be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. And when we hear ALL of the word, we’ll understand that we’ve got to remain faithful unto death, so that we can receive the crown of life.