Maybe it was one of felt board lessons I heard in one of the eight to ten Sunday school lessons I endured. Or maybe I was just distracted by the talking donkey. Either way, I’ve never thought of Balaam as a bad dude. I’ve always thought he just had a dark moment where he committed the sin of donkey abuse, but for the most part he was faithful in speaking God’s Word.
Numbers 24:13 seems to back up my perception of Balaam being a faithful prophet. I mean what an awesome verse for a preacher to put on his wall:
“If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak…”
In other words Balaam was a prophet. And if he were to remain a prophet then no amount of money could persuade him to speak something other than God’s Word. That’s stout.
Problem is, Balaam really wanted that house full of silver and gold. But he also wanted to have the perks of being a prophet. And so this is why his story ends with him giving advice on how to destroy the Israelites without using prophetic voice (See Number 31:16). He found a way to still look like a prophet but also make bank off Balak.
Balaam was a wicked dude.
Our Balaam Hearts
If I’m being honest, I can see Balaam rear his ugly head in my heart.
In Numbers 22:12 the Lord speaks very clearly to Balaam. He tells Balaam that he’s going to do the opposite of what Balak is asking. Then Balak comes back with a little more cash and a promise of honor. In verse 19 Balaam goes back to the Lord to see if he missed anything.
Do you see it?
Being faithful to God’s Word is going to cost Balaam. And so he wonders if maybe he can convince God to tweak His Word just a bit. Not much. Just enough to get Balaam his prestige and prosperity.
Balak has stolen Balaam’s gaze. He’s the cool dude with all the cool toys that Balaam wishes he could play with. And he’s come to town promising to let a little of his cool rub off on Balaam if only the prophet will do him this little favor.
The desire to tweak God’s Word to keep ourselves in favor with our culture is a temptation that all of us likely face. We are prone to do this in distant relationships and even in the face of absolute strangers. None of us are immune from wanting the perks of a prophet without the pain of declaring uncomfortable prophecy.
Rescue From Balaam
Thankfully, the Lord is working in our hearts to boot out our Balaams.
The root cause of Balaam’s error is found in 2 Peter 2:15. There we see that Balaam was in love with shameful gain. It was his love for Balak’s life that caused him to want to change God’s Word.
The more we are enamored with Christ the less we’ll be prone to desire Balak’s shiny junk. And the more I believe that God is all I need, then the more I’ll affirm that His Word is sufficient.
If our hearts are satisfied in the Lord we won’t ask him a second time to change His Word. We’ll believe that He is enough and that He knows best. The converse is also true. The more dissatisfied I am with the Lord the more likely I’ll be to want to get Him to change His Word.
Let’s be the type of people that say with Balaam, “I’m not able to go beyond the word of the Lord”. But let us be people that say that because we are truly enthralled by the Lord.