Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A., I would like your commentary on what takes place with the prophet Balaam in the book of Numbers? It’s rather confusing. First of all, why would God speak through a man who was obviously not a prophet of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Then, God tells him to do something and then threatens to kill him for obeying Him. I don’t get it. Finally, God enables the donkey to speak his own mind. It’s really hard to take all of this seriously.”
Tom: Dave, I don’t want to defend this guy, but it is a really interesting and very curious part of Scripture. Sometimes we think God is only going to speak through a prophet who’s going to be a holy man of God and doing the right things, and we think that God’s only going to use those kind of vessels. But if that were the case, who would He use? But…what about some of these things? Let’s go through this…
Dave: Yeah, well, first of all, Balaam is in hell. We know that. He—well, let’s go back to the beginning. Balak sends his princes, and so forth, to ask Balaam to come and curse these people of Israel.
Tom: Now there are at least 600,000 men alone, and they’re right in the territory of Balak. So he’s—Balak’s got some problems. He’s worried about them.
Dave: Yes, and God talks to Balaam, and He says, “Don’t go with them.” And so he doesn’t. But they offer him a lot. They come back with more princes, more noble, you know, more impressive, and offering him…and you know, he says, “Though Balak should offer me his houseful of gold and jewels I’ll not do it.” Well, you could just hear, “Me thinketh thou protesteth too loudly.”
This time, now, the questioner says he did what God told him. No, he did not do what God told him. This time, God says, “If they come…” First of all, Balaam says, “Well, let me go back and ask God again.”
God had already told him not to go. He says, “Well, let me see what more He might say to me?” You know, in other words, “I’m going to keep praying until I can talk God into doing what I want to do.”
Tom: But God does give him instructions.
Dave: Yes, but the instructions were: “If the men come for you in the morning, then go with them.” Balaam doesn’t wait for the men to come. He saddles his ass—he’s over there waking them up: “Let’s go, guys! God says I can go.”
No, He didn’t say you could go. We have to pay attention to God, okay? And that was why the angel withstood him in the way. And that was why the ass spoke with a man’s voice and rebuked him. Okay. But now, why does God speak through this man? Because this man has been recognized as someone…he—Balak says, “I perceive that who you curse is cursed and who you bless is blessed.”
Well, what power is that? I would say the power of Satan. But on this occasion, now, God is going to speak through him, because Balak has asked for this man, and he’s not going to allow God to curse these people. And he says, “God won’t let me curse them.” And he does speak what God says.
Okay, then what happens to Balaam? Why is he in hell? Because Balaam wants that gold. He wants that promotion. He wants to be honored. He wants to receive the honor of man. Jesus, in John 5, said to the rabbis, “How can you believe? How can you be men of faith? You who receive honor from one another and you seek not the honor that comes from God alone.”
Balaam—oh, sure, he wanted honor from God, but he also wanted honor from men. No, you have to seek the honor that comes from God alone, and if you are seeking to please men, you cannot please God. So what happens? Well, God won’t let Balaam curse them, so he tells them, “Hey, here’s the thing you do. These are God’s chosen people—they’re supposed to be holy unto Him. Now you send your most attractive young ladies down there, and you seduce their young men, and then you get them to join you in sacrificing to idols, and offering to idols, and so forth, and committing fornication, and disobeying God, and God himself will punish them.”
Tom: Twenty-four thousand died right then.
Dave: He punished them. But he also punished Balak and his men, and Balaam. And he’s used as an example…
Tom: Well, God sent them back against the Midianites…
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: Dave, one other curious thing about this. The dialogue between the donkey and Balaam—the donkey’s got a mind of his…I mean, he understands, he gives him the history of how Balaam treated him, and so on—that’s curious, isn’t it?
Dave: No, the donkey doesn’t understand anything, but God is speaking through it. It says He used the mouth of an ass… But the donkey is not understanding—I mean, God is using the donkey, but not the donkey’s intelligence or the donkey’s understanding—just his voice, I guess, his mouth. But anyway, Balaam is used as an example of what not to be: disobedient, going over to the enemy’s side, and you’re not going to have God’s blessing. And the problem was Balaam wanted the fame and the fortune of this world, and that’s what he got instead of an eternal reward. He lost his soul for eternity. What a tragedy!
Tom: And he’s used as an example throughout the New Testament of…you know, as the Scripture says, “These things were given as examples for us…” This is how we learn—by what takes place—what not to do.