Thursday, March 15, 2018

March 14: Numbers 22:9-20; The Balaam in Us

            Balaam is introduced to us in Number 22 as person who had a very unique relationship with God at that time in history. We’ve read how God spoke to Moses, but he also spoke to Balaam so that he was able to bless or curse people and the Lord would do it. He was able to do it because he said that he would only do as the Lord commanded him (Num 22:18). He had a two-way conversation with God where God came to him and asked him who had came to him. Balaam answers that they are Moabites who want him to curse a people who came out of Egypt. God told him not to go with the Moabites because he had already blessed the people who was Israel.
            You would think that would be the end of the story because Balaam obeyed. However, when we are dealing with the devil’s schemes, our initial obedience is often tested and that’s exactly what happened with Balaam. The Moabites came back and offered even more treasures if Balaam would go with them to curse Israel. On the surface, it seems that Balaam was still being obedient, but true obedience would have been to tell the Moabites he wouldn’t go because God had already spoken. But no, Balaam leaves room for God to change his mind, after all there was a lot of treasures to be gained. Indeed, God tells Balaam to go with the men, but he must do only what the Lord tells him. We often go back to God and look for loopholes to do what we want.
            It is evident that Balaam’s heart is not in conformity with his outward obedience and that is how we are when we are getting ready to sin. We do what the Lord wants on the outside but on the inside, we would much rather do what we want. God sees that in us and he saw it in Balaam. You know the most famous part of the story where God sends an angel to kill Balaam on the way, but Balaam’s donkey rescues him and even speaks to him. God got Balaam’s attention. He does the same with us. It may not be as dramatic, but it starts in our conscience and sometimes goes on to include stressful relationships, and other consequences of our sinful attitudes and actions. Balaam listened to the angel and made up his mind to say only what the Lord wanted regardless of the temptations to do what he wanted and get the Moabites’ reward.
            I am struck by Balaam’s faithfulness in the next chapters as he blesses Israel at the Lord’s command. He utters word that I’ve memorized to remind me that God is immutable, he doesn’t change (Num 23:19). Even though God knew Balaam’s heart, which was full of greed, God made sure that Balaam fulfilled his purpose when he pronounced a coming Messiah to bless Israel and destroy Moab (Num 24:17).
             Yet, Balaam still found a way to get his evil gain. He taught the Moabites how to entice Israel with sexual immorality and eating the sacrifices to other gods (Rev 2:14). Even when we repent of our sins, we have the ability to do as Balaam did and find another way of sinning. We can’t assume that once a temptation has passed it will never come again. But we have one thing that Balaam didn’t have. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and we can “cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps 57:2). God fulfilled his purpose in Balaam, which ended in his death (Num 31:8). But God’s purpose for us is to become more like Jesus (Rom 8:29).

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