Thursday, July 13, 2017

Checking our Motives

Read Numbers 22-24.

This is a story of a pagan prophet, yet, at least here, God spoke to him directly.  Balaam obviously had some reputation of being a seer whom could be called upon in time of need.

Balak, king of Moab, became frightened at the sight and size of the nation of Israel.  His terror caused him to seek spiritual advice before going to war.   His solution was to pay Balaam to curse his enemy.  When Balaam could not be bought, Balak next offered him basically a blank check to come and curse Israel.

This may have been a custom for other enemies but such was not going to happen here.  The true basis for the denial of cursing Israel goes all the way back to Genesis 12.  In His covenant to Abraham, the LORD promised, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse."  The continuing validity of this promise is underscored in Balaam's oracle in 23:19-"God is not a man that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken and will he not fulfill it?"

Evidently, Balaam began thinking about Balak's offer.  Curiosity about the experience of meeting with Balak and getting paid did not seem wrong in itself.  Perhaps, he should go and check it out.  What harm would it do?  God gave him the green light to go, but the LORD had more to say. 

Now we get to see another preincarnate appearance of Jesus.  The angel of the LORD met Balaam on the road.  God was angry with him.  Not because he went but because thought he could personally profit from this.  2 Peter 2:15-16 provides a commentary about false teachers-"Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness."

The LORD protected Balaam from being spiritually "reckless" (22:32).  Balaam became angry at the very thing God used to save his life.  He acknowledged his sin and the LORD again allowed him to proceed but with care about the message to be delivered.   No less than four times in this story Balaam announced that he could only speak what the LORD has said.

God's message to the unbelieving world is not ours to change.  Some who are driven by personal preferences, or personal gain, or seeking to be accepted, or desiring to be relevant want to compromise the Word of God.  The scriptures, when rightly understood, are always relevant and powerful, changing lives forever.

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