SCRIPTURE: Numbers 22
Israel is on the move, and Balak king of Moab is shaking in his boots. He has heard about the victories over the Amorites and Bashanites (chapter 21). So he decided to team up with the Midianites to ward off the Israelites. And for an extra measure of protection, he called in a prophet, or diviner, Balaam and asked him to curse the Israelites for him.
It is important to note that Balaam is not a true prophet of the LORD. He apparently recognized the God of Israel, but he did not align himself with God. Balaam would have liked to curse Israel and receive the large sum Balak offered him. But God would not allow him to do it and turned his curse into a blessing on Israel.
As you read this narrative, try to follow Balaam's thinking. Is he really obeying God with his heart? What can you learn of him by the way he treats his donkey and interacts with the angel? More of Balaam's character will be revealed in the coming chapters as well.
Balaam is referred to in several other passages as one of the biggest examples of covetousness and deceit. He was willing to perform religious services for personal gain. Do I seek personal gain -- money, recognition, praise, power, position -- when I am "serving" God? If so, my only reward will be those things I receive from man. And I'm not really serving God but serving myself while deceiving those around me and trying to make myself look good.
Lord, guard my heart against covetousness. Let me seek to serve you with pure motives and not be concerned about being rewarded by man. Help me to keep my focus on you and off of me. Amen.