Post 128 / The Next Language
February 7, 2023
Those “Other Sheep” 4 — Balaam
Though Balaam was not as distant from the household of Israel as many that we encounter today, he is nonetheless instructive about God’s workings with those “other sheep.”
The value of Balaam’s story can be deduced from the fact that the divine record dedicates three chapters to Balaam in a side bar to the Israel story and then refers back to him throughout the entire length of Scripture. One of the points I learned in school was that of proportionality. A good principle: major where God majors and minor where He minors. I encourage you to read Numbers 22-24.
Balaam was known widely for his ability to bless and to curse. If the geography indicated is correct he was living close to the Euphrates River – a long way from the Jordon where Balak, King of the Moabites, had his heartburn. The Moabites and Midianites seem to be somewhat blended, but between them seem to have controlled nearly everything between the Euphrates River and Egypt. Moses had married into the Midianites during his 40 years in the wilderness after leaving the court of Pharaoh. A caravan of Midianites had carried Joseph to Egypt in a slave trafficking venture.
The terror of God’s chosen people had gone before them. Balak had no doubt heard all that Rahab knew in Jericho about the plagues of God on Egypt and the successful challenge to their gods and the miraculous deliverance. They would have known that the god/king Pharaoh was under the waters of the Red Sea. They might even have learned the song of Moses and Miriam. We must remember that God does not work in isolation. His works are seen and known by many that are not directly involved and even many that are not visible. The demon’s ability to identify the Divine nature of Jesus is an example. One would wonder if they didn’t already know each other.
Balak wanted a curse. Balaam wanted to garnish his pride and feed his greed for fame and reward. In the end those desires were all smashed by God.
Notice that God spoke directly with Balaam. God will do that. And there are pagans that are gifted and motivated to reciprocate.
God will also bend to accommodate the wrong desires of His medium. His first direction to Balaam about whether to go with the curse seekers was an absolute no. That should have been the end of it but when they came back with more and more important princes and more booty Balaam went back to God. And God said, “Go, but only to speak what I tell you.”
Gleefully Balaam mounted his perceptive donkey the next morning to go on with the entourage and their wealth. He was ignorant that “God’s anger was kindled because he went.” He was not ignorant for long.
How do you explain God’s behavior? He says one thing one day and something different the next. There is a Psalm that says, “God gave them the desire of their heart but also gave them leanness of soul” (Psalm 106:15). If we persist on a passion contrary to God’s will He may just give us what we want but there is a price to pay. Remember, we are in charge down here.
Anyway — Balaam’s donkey is more perceptive than he is. The nameless donkey avoided two times the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) with drawn sword who later said He would have killed Balaam were it not for the donkey’s defensive actions. The third time the donkey just laid down. This was very damaging to Balaam’s pride. He beat the donkey with a staff this time and said he would have killed her if he had a sword because her actions had “mocked” him. Imagine the disgrace to have all this happening before the princes he was accompanying. Here is the guy who is supposed to save a couple of nations and he can’t even manage his donkey.
Then to make things worse “the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey” and the logic and reason of a brute beast finally opened Balaam’s eyes “and he bowed down his head and fell flat on his face.”
From this point forward everyone knew who was really in charge. At least two members of the Godhead were simultaneously dealing with Balaam, or three if it was the Spirit that gave voice to the donkey.
I have learned to pay attention to the environment around me, especially if I am going for the first time into the unknown. Hunter instincts taught me by the natives of Alaska indicate that if I want to really know what is around me, I need to harness every sense into such intense focus that every clue springs to the forefront while I make my own presence as invisible and silent as possible. I am conscious of the wind direction, sun angle, and low frequency sounds I wouldn’t even normally hear. I am tuned to the bird language around me. I have trained my eyes to analyze every detail in my field of vision. Normally the brain fills in most of that with what is expected, or what is like everything else, or even what I want to see. I remember one morning shooting an upside down stump because it looked like a bull moose lying down. I was chagrined but turned around to see the moose I was looking for! Who soon became breakfast.
Once in my career I have seen a spirit being camouflaged as a jaguar.
Months after the fact I was told by the Embena people that simultaneous to my arrival at the headwaters of their river, some talking pigs in a village at the opposite end of the river were reported to have told them that Jesus was coming.
God is not limited to anything but our own unbelief especially when we are in the business of delivering the Good News.
God was insuring that Balaam blessed His people. Three times Balaam tried for a curse and three times God gave this far-flung prophet some of the clearest prophecy about this fledgling nation of Israel to be found. “The Spirit of God came on him” even revealing the shout-out of a King coming from His people and a Star of Jacob and a Scepter rising out of Israel. This last was actually in a fourth utterance that was actually a curse on Moab and all the nations around, uttered from a state of “falling into a trance, but having his eyes open.”
Balaam failed to deliver a curse of God directly against Israel but after the public show was over he coached his people how to use their women to lead God’s people into idolatry. Even with God’s surveillance God’s people are not above testing and failing and inviting God’s judgment.
Balaam knew that what a curse could not accomplish sinful behavior could. Twenty four thousand men committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab and participated in the sacrifices of their gods. Twenty four thousand heads were removed and hung before God before the plague was stopped.
In the retaliatory strike against Midian, Balaam’s body was found amongst the dead — a just reward for pride and greed.
Ever wonder how this story in great detail got into the Bible since its origins had to have come from the enemy? My guess is that some or at least one of the observers believed the Word of God through Balaam and converted. God is not limited and God doesn’t take sides. Shortly after this Joshua was confronted by God on the outskirts of Jericho.
[Jos 5:13-14 KJV] 13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, [Art] thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but [as] captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
There is also an other possibility. Great detail was given to the loot that was captured which makes the point that Balaam’s donkey and any wealth he got was given back to Israel! [Num 31:34, 52 KJV] 34 And threescore and one thousand asses, … 52 And all the gold of the offering that they offered up to the LORD, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels.] That could explain how the Israelites got the inside story- the donkey told them!
Whatever the answer to that interesting question, let us not forget the Lord of Hosts who is operating universally in this world for His glory.
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