Friday, March 13, 2015

Please God, change Your mind

Balaam Receiving Balak's Messengers - From The Child's Bible, Cassel
Balaam Receiving Balak's Messengers - From The Child's Bible, (Cassel © 1880)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 22:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight that I may know what more the Lord will say to me." Numbers 22:19

The massive nomad nation of Israel is camping right on King Balak's doorstep—the Plains of Moab. Balak is terribly afraid ("sick with dread") because of the number of the Israelites and their reputation.

He is so scared he sends servants all the way to Mesopotamia (about 400 miles—a month's journey) to fetch a powerful prophet (Balaam) to curse Israel for him. Only then, he thinks, will he be able to defeat the Israelites in battle.

When Balak's delegation arrives, Balaam, who appears to be a worshiper of Yahweh, though not an Israelite, asks God what he should do. God answers him with a clear " 'You shall not go with them' " and so Balaam refuses to go (Numbers 22:12,13).

Balak won't take no for an answer though. He sends a second richer, bigger, more ostentatious delegation with authority to make grandiose promises: " '… for I will certainly honour you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me…' " - Numbers 22:17. (Do you think perhaps Balak has Balaam figured out?)

Balaam asks God about this second request and lo and behold, God changes His mind. Well, sort of: " ' … rise and go with them but only the word which i speak to you, that you shall do' " - Numbers 22:20.

If we read on to the verse past today's reading, though, we come across these puzzling words: "Then God's anger was aroused because he went…" (Numbers 22:22). What?!

I see myself in Balaam—perhaps you are there too? There is a thing about which we hear from God, but we're not thrilled with the answer. And so we pray some more, hoping this time God will say something different.

For Balaam the reasoning might have sounded something like—Look at the payment. How can I turn that down (after all, I would have so much more to give to You, Lord)? Look at the distance these folks have come—twice. Surely it's rude to send them away empty-handed again.

For us it might be, I need a different answer because the one You've given: a] is too hard; b] is out of my range of talents; c] conflicts with the values of my culture; d] does not make business sense…etc.

God (grudgingly?) says to Balaam, Have it your way. But in the end, it will still be my way (Numbers 22:20).

In the days ahead, we'll see how Balaam's waffling complicated the situation. How much simpler it would have been for him, and is for us, to take God's initial answer as final and adjust to that reality, rather than try to get God to change His mind. The words of James come to mind:

"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do" - James 1:5-8 NLT (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be less wavering, more quick to obey without questions or begging for a different answer. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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