Thursday, January 03, 2013

What's with Balaam?

Balaam's Donkey - Numbers 22:22-35
Balaam's Donkey - Numbers 22:22-35
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 24:1-19

TO CHEW ON: "So Balaam said to Balak, 'Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, "If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord, to do good or bad of my own will. What the Lord says, that I must speak."?'" Numbers 24:12,13

 Our reading today is the end of a longer story that begins in Numbers 22. Balak, the king of Moab, is afraid because the Israelites are camping near him. He finds a prophet, Balaam, and sends his messengers to ask the prophet to curse the Israelites for him.

The first time his messengers approach Balaam he consults God and God tells him no, don't go because it isn't God's intention to curse Israel (Numbers 22:12).

Balak sends another delegation and this time when Balaam consults God, God gives a seemingly reluctant, well, go if you want to, but say only the words I give you (Numbers 22:20).

On his way to Balak, Balaam's donkey has a word with him and he realizes how serious God is about blessing His people (Numbers 22:22-35).

Balaam reaches Balak and two times the king takes the prophet to high lookouts but on both occasions only words of blessing come out of Balaam's mouth. Our reading tells the story of Balak's third try, where  Balaam again blesses Israel.

When king Balak in anger threatens him, "Now therefore flee to your place. I said I would greatly honour you but in fact the Lord has kept you back from honour," Balaam replies in the words of our focus passage, quoting what he had first said to Balak's messengers (Numbers 22:18; 24:13).

This story has always intrigued me in the way Balaam seems to be of two minds. He knows he will say only what God tells him to say, and that God wants to bless Israel. But still he goes with Balak's men. Why?
  • Is he wanting favour with Balak as well as favour with God?
  • Is he hoping God will change His mind?
  • Is he, in some way, a wishy-washy people pleaser who wants to keep everybody happy?

This story is a cautionary tale to us. For we too may be tempted to curry favour with the world's elite and powerful, to change our message, to care more about what others think than what God thinks, to be double-minded.

Of course Balaam could have avoided the whole scenario if he had taken God at His word the first time and refused to move even one step toward enemy territory.

Dear God, I recognize Balaam tendencies within myself. Help me to resist compromise by not taking even that first step toward sin's camp. Amen.

MORE: Double-mindedness

Whenever I think of double-mindedness, I think of James 4:8 
 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:8 NKJV
Here it is in the Message:

"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet." - James 4:7-10

Here are a few other Bible passages that speak of being double-minded:

2 Kings 17:33; Luke 16:13; 1 Corinthians 10:21; James 1:5-8
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