Starting Points#6. “Balaam—The godless prophet.”

Starting Points#6. “Balaam—The godless prophet.”

Any thoughts that the prophet Balaam may have been a “misunderstood” man of God who got caught up in the affairs of Israel (Numbers 22-24) are dashed in Numbers 25.

Although all of us are sinful to one degree or another, Balaam was guilty of leading God’s people into immorality and idolatry in an incident that Moses called “the matter of Peor” (Num.25; 31:16).

Balak, king of Moab, wanted the prophet Balaam to come and curse Israel. It was commonly reasoned that such a curse could weaken an enemy’s god in battle, so Balak sent envoys to buy Balaam’s services.

When God finally allowed Balaam to go to Balak, He clearly told him, “But only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”

On Balaam’s journey towards Moab God sent an angel to block Balaam’s way. Though Balaam could not see the angel, his donkey could. And while trying to avoid the wrath of the angel, and wounding Balaam’s leg in the process, the donkey sat down and was beaten for her kindness.

The fact that Balaam didn’t as much as flinch when the donkey started speaking to him, showed that God’s interaction with Balaam could hardly be described as “normal.”

Balaam had unholy visions of grandeur. This was made obvious when the angel repeated God’s original instruction: “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.” (Num.22:35). Before the donkey stopped him, Balaam had his mind on money and power. He had already forgotten who he was really working for.

There have been a lot of good sermons and articles demonstrating “God’s use of broken people.” However, Balaam wasn’t broken or weak—he was godless!

Balaam’s starting point couldn’t be missed. Though gifted by God with the power to bless and to curse, Balaam could be bought, and everyone knew it. Much to Balak’s chagrin God made Balaam bless Israel, but Balaam’s plan ‘B’ – to get the Moabite women to draw the Israelite men into immorality and idolatry – showed the consistent corruptness of Balaam’s heart.

It is sobering to think that God uses whom he chooses – no matter how good or evil – to do His will.

John Staiger


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