Friday, November 21, 2014

Doing What God Says

And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. (Numbers 22:1-2 KJV)

These next few chapters in Numbers tell a story of Balaam – whose name has been carried forward as a stumbling block, though he was in conversations with God:

And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. (Numbers 22:9-11 KJV)

Balaam was truthful in his conversation with God – Balak requested that Israel be cursed, that Balak would be able to drive them out of Moab. God gave His answer:

And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. (Numbers 22:12 KJV)

Unlike Jonah and so many others who heard from God, Balaam responded exactly as he had been told:

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you. And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. (Numbers 22:13-14 KJV)

Then this story diverges. Balak didn’t give up. He continued to press Balaam, offering more and more:

For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. (Numbers 22:17 KJV)

Balaam still sounds good:

And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. (Numbers 22:18 KJV)

Whole different story, if it had ended there – but it continues for additional verses, more chapters. Why? When Balaam can only give blessings for Israel. The Pulpit Commentary gives good reason:
God was angry with Balaam for going at all on such an errand. It is true that God had given him permission to go, but that very permission was a judicial act whereby God punished the covetous and disobedient longings of Balaam in allowing him to have his own way. God's anger is kindled by sin, and it was not less truly sin which prompted Balaam to go because he had succeeded in obtaining formal leave to go.
Balaam’s actions were not that of a prophet of God, but a diviner, a soothsayer, paid by those who came to him for answers – a money-maker. I also like how the Pulpit Commentary explains that the miracle of the ass seeing the angel and speak was a lesson:
which was to exhibit in such a striking manner the stupidity and blindness of the most brilliant and gifted intellect when clouded by greed and selfishness.
Thinking we're doing what God says without giving ourselves to the will of God can be a similar stumbling block. Going through the motions of a religious ritual without seeking God’s companionship thwarts what He requires of us:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)

This Balaam did not do.

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