Friday, April 22, 2011

Numbers 22 - Balaam and the Donkey

LINK: Numbers 22

Numbers 22:1 - 36:13 covers the second approach to the Promise Land. The old generation had died, and the new generation was on the edge of entering. There were neighboring nations that were standing in the way. Numbers 22-25 is the story of Balaam and the Moabites.


Balak, king of Moab, was terrified of Israel after he had seen what they had done to the Amorites. Actually, he had nothing to fear because the Moabites and Ammonites were descendants of the sons of Lot, Abraham's nephew (Genesis 19:26-37). Consequently, the Israelites would have not attacked their kinsmen, but he responded in fear.

In that fear, Balak invited Balaam, a diviner or prophet, to rain curses down on Israel. His city, Pethor, is believed to be near the Euphrates River and close to the city of Mari. Archaeological discoveries in Mari have revealed that there was a cult of prophets and seers. One of the roles of the prophet was to pronounce curses on enemies. Before Balaam could do that, he had to contact Israel's God.

God appeared to Balaam and told him not to go. God had revealed himself to unbelievers before: Abimelech, king of Gerar (Genesis. 20:6-7), Pharaoh (Genesis 41:25).  Next year, we will read about God revealing Himself in dreams and visions to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:1-18). Even though Balaam did not want to go, Balak persisted, and God told Balaam to go and bless Israel instead of curse.

So, why, if God gave him permission to go, was God angry and why did the Angel of the LORD (a theophany of the Lord) block Balaam's path? 2 Peter 2:15 says that Balaam "loved the wages of unrighteousness." Commentators believe God was not angry with Balaam's going but with the motive behind his going, perhaps greed rather than the glory of Israel's God? God had instructed Balaam to "do only what I tell you to do." Apparently, Balaam was not doing that, and he needed a "course correction."

The LORD caused the donkey to speak, and Balaam did not get who it was until the LORD opened his eyes and gave him spiritual perception to see the Angel of the LORD. He responded by falling on his face, repenting, and listening to God's rebuke. Again, he was told, ". . . speak only what I tell you."


How often do we hear God's voice and set out on a course of action but not listen to His voice along the way? I do it more often than I probably realize. I had a house guest last week who said, "We would all be better off to listen to God more and speak about God less."  Good words.

May we all be sensitive to the voice of God and speak and do only what He tells us.


Take some time to surrender your plans and purposes for today and listen to His voice. Do not be afraid. He will speak. Just listen and obey. He makes it very simple.

Remember God Guides.


Lord, what would you have us do today? For the glory of Your name. Amen.
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