Heroes and Villains: Balaam
Do you enjoy people-watching? I enjoy watching the world around me, making up stories as to the characters standing before me. You can go as wild and outrageous in these stories and a lot of times, they just work. It's all based off of the story that we make up for them, what the character is wearing, and the attitude the character walks around with.
But at the heart of this silly little game, we discover that our own judgments aren't usually correct or true to these character's real life. Our game is misinformed and is only informed by our imaginations.
Have you ever paid attention to the crowd? Even in the Bible, the crowd can be helpful or it can be a huge, misinformed, hindrance. Usually, it's a hindrance, but there are stories in the Gospels about how the religious leaders were afraid of how the crowd would respond, and they wouldn't apprehend Jesus.
Have you ever looked at the comment section of a news story on the internet? Depending on the story, the crowd is usually violent. Either violently compassionate (compassionate towards a victim but calling for violence for the perceived enemy) or just plain violent. With every new piece of information, the crowd can be swayed towards compassion or extreme violence or both.
The crowd is always fickle. What happens when the fickle crowd meets the steadfast and unchanging? What happens when my own fickle self meets the steadfast and unchanging?
Read Numbers 22-24
This story starts off as a bit reminiscent of Pharaoh in Exodus 1. Both Balak and Pharaoh saw the Israelite's numbers as a threat and both sought to do something about it. Where Pharaoh took steps to kill off the male babies, Balak took steps to curse his enemies.
What is so bizarre about Balak's attempt is that he thought he could bribe God (and God's messenger) into cursing God's own people. Knowing how much God loves His people, it just was never going to happen!
Anyway, one issue we see in this story is how Balak offers Balaam a sort of blank check. "Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, for I will surely do a great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come curse this people for me." (Verse 16b-17 ESV). This blank check is enticing to Balaam who keeps hoping that God will give in and allow him to cash in this check and stay in God's favor. He chooses to entertain Balak's messengers with "stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me." (verse 19 ESV) He keeps hoping God will change His mind, even though God has already spoken clearly on the subject.
How often do we think we can change God's mind on a matter He's already spoken definitively on? God's answer will never be "yes" to our own greed. God's answer will never be "yes" to our own pride. Yet, so often we think we can change His mind. It's not His mind that needs changing, it's ours!
What Balaam's story teaches us
Sometimes what we want and God's plans are at odds with each other. It's an either/or situation. It's either our way or it's God's way. It's either humility or pride. It's either greed or generosity. It's either love or hate. Yet Balaam wants both His way and God's way, even though they're at odds with one another. He wants a steadfast, generous, and faithful God to compromise Himself to give way to Balaam's own greed. God won't compromise Himself and aren't we thankful for that? Aren't we thankful that He can't be bought? Aren't we thankful that we can trust His character and His Word when He speaks?
Where others want a curse, God speaks blessing. I love how God speaks blessing over His own people. Where Balak wants a curse, God refuses to abandon His people. God doesn't give into Balak's fear. God doesn't give into Balaam's request. God doesn't compromise Himself. Instead, He speaks blessing over His people. God doesn't abandon us because of someone else's fear. God doesn't abandon us because of someone else's anger, greed, or selfishness. God is true to Himself and to us.
Balaam chooses to not speak beyond the Word of the Lord. This is one part of his story that I love and appreciate! God doesn't need help. His word is enough. He doesn't need us adding to His Word and saying "God says..." The world around us doesn't need us adding to His Words. His Word is enough. His Word is able to cut to our very heart. His Word is living and active. His Word shows the world exactly who He is. He doesn't need us adding even a letter to His Word! His Word is enough, do we believe that? Do we trust Him in that? Do we trust that God knows exactly what each of us needs to hear?
Bottom line: God is faithful. God won't compromise Himself. God is trustworthy. Do we trust this?
Let's Discuss! Comment Below!
What does Balaam's story teach you about God's character?