BALAAM (Part 2 of 7)

  1.   The Persistent Snare 

Balaam was renowned for his power to pronounce blessings and curses.  His words were so potent that kings considered them more powerful than all their armies, so they would usually put their trained soldiers in second place to the pronouncements of that great prophet.  That was his CV, which attracted King Balak of Moab to hire him for the critical task of cursing the Israelites on their way from Egypt through his territory to their Promised Land.  

First, the king sent trusted “messengers,” inviting the prophet to his palace (Numbers 22:5).  It doesn’t appear that the prophet even answered those DHLs.  Next, the king sent an eminent delegation of “the elders” of Moab and Midian (Numbers 22:7).  Balaam housed those for the night.

While he lodged his guests, the prophet went about his night prayers, ‘seeking the face of God,’ as we would say, to know if he should go with them or not.  That night, God clearly said to him, “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed” (v.12).  (A fitting word for prophets with the penchant to threaten curses upon blessed heads.)

In the morning, Balaam dismissed the emissaries, saying to them in no ambiguous terms, “Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you” (v.13).  They returned to their boss with Balaam’s reply, but King Balak was not about to give up.  Hell seemed to have hired that king to distract the prophet to his doom.

Balaam was a topic in the Parliament of Midian (Numbers 22:4).  He was hot news in the social medias of the time.  The courier agencies knew his address at their fingertips.  Kings consulted and consorted with him.  The prophet was at the edge of great fame or great shame.  It was all in his hands.

What seems to be the third delegation comprised princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first”; a larger entourage of more eminent diplomats (v. 15, NIV).  Each time, the offer was made more alluring.  This time, it had gone too high to be casually dismissed.  Beyond their public displays of righteousness, Satan seems to know certain prophets’ prices.  Some heads carry an oil so precious that the desperate devil would do anything to pollute it.

The third delegation had come with more sumptuous ‘brown envelopes’ and, in case Balaam considered their offer too little, they promised much more: promotions, “very great honour,” and an open cheque of “WHATSOEVER thou sayest” (v.17).  Wow!  It was so tempting that Balaam pretended that God had not spoken clearly enough. Even God could change His mind at such offers.

Again, Balaam housed those emissaries for the night.  This time, it seemed, God had had enough of the prophet’s lustful rigmaroles and pretentious prayers ‘seeking the mind of God.’  God said to him, “IF the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them” (v.20).  Balaam did not wait for the men to come for him.  At least God had given what looked like a green light, or so his fogged vision presented it. “And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab” (v.20).  He must have savoured the sirens and the honour of the diplomatic retinue as they made their way lavishly from his house, through cities and kingdoms, to where his hirers waited.

He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth (Acts 8:32).

Satan never gives up without a fight, which is one ‘good’ thing about the bad devil (James 4:7).  Jesus had three consecutive ‘if thou be’s’ in the wilderness.  Satan wouldn’t flee at a first defeat, or the next (Matthew 4:1-12).  Balaam might have been unaware, but Balak was on a mission from Hell.  It was not entirely about getting the help of the prophet, it was also about getting Balaam off his divine path, even if it meant seducing him with all the gold that Balaam loved.

Balaam’s clients seemed to have learned that weakness in the man of God: “he loved the wages” ‑ call it ‘seeds’ if you care.  Even if they were “the wages of unrighteousness,” he claimed that his altar ‘sanctified’ the gift (2 Peter 2:15).   Balak exploited that weakness, each time sending “princes, more, and more honourable” than the previous (Numbers 22:15), until resistance was broken and he got the prophet out for the kill.

  1.   The Mission of Balaam 

What was Balaam’s mission?  Simple: take sides with enemies against the people of God, innocent people of God; plant mines in the path of a people who had done him no wrong at all, only because he had been hugely paid!

To be so blinded by reward as to be indiscriminate in the handling of spiritual matters; to have his actions dictated by reward rather than by the voice of God, he must have really strayed.  To so meticulously seek to put God’s people in subjection to their avowed enemies because of selfish benefits; to put colossal stumbling blocks before a people gladly escaping ancestral enslavements at last, that prophet must have really blinded by greed.

Balaam was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau the son of Isaac, hired to curse the Israelites, descendants of Jacob the son of Isaac.  Was Balaam being manipulated by what intercessors would call “foundations”?  Did his stubborn mission have to do with the feud between their two ancestors?  Nothing in the story suggests that.

Ok, was Balaam bewitched?  If so, by whom?  There was no greater mystic in all the land.  Who then could have bewitched him?  O no, it was silver, not sorcery.

Balaam was so desperate to see his clients prevail, that when curses failed, he proceeded to advise Balak to send his seductive girls among the people of God, to lure them into idolatry and fornication.  In that way, said the paid prophet, Balak didn’t have to fire a shot.  Israel’s own God would wipe them out.  He showed the enemies of God the weaknesses in the house of God.  He taught them how to ‘conquer’ the masses of God’s people, because he had been paid (Numbers 25:1-9; 31:16).  Are there today Balaams in the land who for a fat fee would strike unthinkable alliance with an enemy camp against the people of God.

  1. The Palace of the Prophet 

For each refusal (or reluctance) of Balaam, King Balak sent a more eminent delegation.  The delegation that swept the prophet comprised princes from the two nations of Midian and Moab.  That is how important Balaam was.  He did not deal with ordinary folks.  He tackled matters of international concern.  When kings got to their limits, they consulted him (Numbers 22:7-8).

Balaam hosted each set of those dignitaries.  He would say to them, “Lodge HERE this night” (v.8).  He did not need to go far to get a proper place fit for elders and princes.  He didn’t need to wait a week to find enough place for all those dignitaries.  There was always enough room “here.”  To have been able to host such eminent personalities, Balaam must have had a large estate.  He must have been a blessed man of great means; more than many others in his rank, but one blessed preacher who was never satisfied with what he had.  The same strength that had brought him fame was about to bring him shame.  Peter called it greed, as we shall later see.

From The Preacher’s diary,
January 18, 2023.
(to be continued) 

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