I am up to Numbers22-27 and I am just totally fascinated with reading the story of Balaam again. It was one of those OT stories that I wasn’t all that familiar with until a few years ago, but now going thru the Chrono read for the second time, I was looking forward to this, and I have learned more this time than last time!
Israel has “gotten back on track” with the LORD after the whole disaster at Meribah and the bronze snake on the pole…they really gain momentum and are defeating enemies left and right. Balak and Moab see this and they get nervous and are ‘overcome with fear of the people of Israel”. (Num 22:3). So, he and Moab get together and come up with a plan…they will ask this dude Balaam, a diviner…sorcerer for hire, to come and curse the people of Israel. Balaam at first refuses the invitation, but then eventually agrees. On the way, God assigns an angel to block his path – only Balaam can’t see the angel, only the donkey he is riding on can. Needless to say, the donkey is like “I am so getting out of here” and 3 times takes a turn off the path to avoid the angel of the Lord. Each time, Balaam strikes the poor donkey. At the third time, the donkey has had enough…and this leads to a HILARIOUS verbal exchange between Balaam and his donkey…
27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28Then the LORD(A) 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?” 29And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
The Lord then allows Balaam to see the angel and not surprisingly, Balaam wants to do an about face and run back home…I think I would to, but God will use Balaam, despite who Balaam is and the true intentions of his heart because God is sovereign over all – even evil – and uses everything to accomplish his purposes.
Fast forward a bit — Balaam eventually meets up with his employers, they quickly take him to places where he can overlook the nation of Israel, I can just see them both standing in the background rubbing their hands together and drooling…waiting for him to curse the nation of Israel and rid them of this problem…but he doesn’t. Each time (FOUR times in fact), he BLESSES the nation of Israel. I have to admit, I was reading this part and saying to myself “Why is Balaam getting a bad rap in the rest of scripture? He looks like the Lord spoke thru him and he actually blessed Israel…?” (See 2 Pet 2:15; Jude 1:11; Rev 2:14). Well, I kept reading in Numbers this morning and I found out that there is more to the story…
It appears that Balaam had a master plan and after all this “blessing” encouraged Balak and Moab to get to the Israelites a different way – thru women and a false god named Baal. (see Num 31:16)
We read in Numbers 25 that Israel is presented with the opportunity for free sex, food, and a giant party at the altar of Baal – and they jump headfirst into the deep end of the pool. (Num 25:1-3) They may have just been looking for a good time, but in fact the Bible says that they “yoked themselves” to Baal. Where Balaam was unable to curse them, probably because the Lord didn’t allow him to – Israel did it to herself and again found satisfaction, joy, fulfillment in the arms of some slutty women and a false God.
Is that not fascinating?
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Are we not still struggling with those very same things?
Perhaps the biggest threat to our own journey of sanctification is ourselves, our resident sinful nature, and our desire to find worship and pleasure in something other than God. It could be anything…it doesn’t have to be sex (though how frequently is it?), it can be food, work, unhealthy desire for self-esteem — you name it.
This is a battle. As Paul David Tripp says “there is a battle going on and it is being fought on the turf of your heart.” Calvin calls our hearts “Idol Factories.” Our own worst enemy is ourselves. So…where do we go from here?
- Be aware – know this is a battle, know it is going on in your heart and be vigilant. Be aware that everything around you (almost) is trying to lure you away to worship Baal…taken a walk in Time Square lately and seen the billboards? YIKES. You need a strong Biblical world view / filter…see next point…
- Be in the Word – pour yourself into the Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you, and SUBMIT to it…don’t just read it, let it change the way you live (Ps 119:11)
- Be praying – pray for God to help you, pray for your heart to find it’s fulfillment in God and His word, and not the world, not sin. Pray for your heart – tell God that he has free reign to come into ALL areas of your heart to clean it out, own every dark corner. I have referred this article before from John Piper and I can’t tell you how much it has helped me to pray this way….Nine Ways to Pray for Your Soul
- Do not hide any sin in your heart. He sees it. Just like he saw into Balaam and what would truly happen. God knows our heart. Check out these great verses on God knowing our hearts….
- Read great books by great authors about a great God. I can’t get this out of my head lately — stop reading books about YOU and start reading books about GOD. See my list on the side for “must read” books…if you don’t know where to start – start with Pink’s Attributes of God – then think about how THAT kind of God.