Two weeks ago we began the story of Balaam but we didn’t get a chance to finish it because we ran out of time. Then last week I had every intention of finishing the story, but God had some other plans in mind and our Sunday service went in a good, but different direction. So now today my plan is to finally wrap up our story of Balaam.
Now since it’s been a couple of weeks, I should probably give you a brief recap of the story so far. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers chapter 22. At this point in the over-all story of the Bible, the children of Israel are just about ready to enter the Promised Land, conquer Jericho and drive out the Canaanites. But before they do, on their way to the Jordan River, they park just outside the land of Moab for a while.
Now the King of Moab – Balak is his name – is very concerned about this massive group of Israelites parked outside his territory. He’s afraid they might just attack him, and if they did, he’s pretty sure he would be in big trouble. After all, the Israelites did just completely annihilate King Og of Bashan and King Shihon of the Amorites. King Og and King Shihon had attacked the Israelites, but of course, God was with them, and the Israelites defeated King Og and King Shihon, took over their land, and left no survivors.
So King Balak of Moab is understandably concerned. In fact, terrified might be a better word. He’s convinced that this massive hoard of Israelites is coming to wipe him out too, so he does the only thing that he believes might just give him a fighting change. He decides to hire this fellow Balaam to curse the Israelites.
Now that might not seem like a very sound military strategy – I don’t think many generals today would put much faith in the power of a curse – but Balak certainly did. So much so that he was willing to pay a handsome sum to Balaam if he would come and curse the Israelites for him.
Now as we saw last week, this Balaam character is a peculiar fellow. One one hand, he seems to be nothing more than a professional witchdoctor – calling down curses or blessings for the highest bidder. But on the other hand, he appears to know and follow the instructions of the God of Israel! So we’re not entirely sure where he stands with God – but we do know that other parts of the Bible view him as being ‘eager to earn money by doing wrong’. In the New Testament, Peter describes some false teachers by saying….
They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. 2 Peter 2:15
So maybe Balaam started off as a true prophet of God, but then got greedy? Or maybe He never really knew the God of Israel in a personal way…Maybe it was just business to him!… We’re not sure… But either way, whether Balaam truly knew God or not, he certainly wasn’t acting in obedience to Him in this case.
Because when we left off last week, Balak had offered to pay Balaam pretty much whatever price he named – if he would just go and curse the Israelites. So despite God’s clear command not to curse the Israelites, Balaam loaded up his donkey and headed out with the Moabite delegates. It says in Numbers 22:21….