Lessons from Balaam’s Apostasy
The account of Balaam, the former good prophet, provides us with many lessons.
One key lesson pertains to communication – with both God and man.
Lesson 1 – Don’t Pray for Things You Know Are Wrong
How often do we pray for things that we know are not in God’s will? Why do we presume upon God’s mercy to ask for/about things that God has already made clear to us?
Would we ever pray for a successful bank robbery?
How about a successful bout of adultery?
Then why do we insist on praying for God to bless the choice of a spouse that does not serve Him, contrary to the clear word of scripture? (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Or, why do we seek out places of employment that will not be in keeping with our faith? (Obviously, you can’t control it if you are already working and a situation changes, but why look for trouble right from the start?)
When King Balak’s men approached Balaam about cursing Israel, Balaam had the nerve to suggest that He needed to check with God first.
Numbers 22:8 KJV
And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.
God was exceedingly merciful unto Balaam, and gave him a very clear answer.
Numbers 22:12 KJV
And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.
Lesson 2 – Deliver the Message the Way You Received It
Please notice the difference in the message that God gave Balaam, with the message that Balaam presented to King Balak’s emissaries.
Numbers 22:13 KJV
(13) 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.
What God said: “You will not go with them, and you absolutely will not curse them”
What Balaam said: “God didn’t give me permission to go with you.”
There is a huge difference between what God said to him, and what he said to the princes of Moab. His response was a lot less final than God’s was.
Lesson 3 – After You Pray, Follow the Instructions Given
Numbers 22:20-21 KJV
(20) And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
(21) And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
You pray again for the wrong thing, and God says, “Fine. *If* they come to get you, then go with them.”
What we see Balaam doing, however, is running off behind them, because it seems that they didn’t stick around to deal with him in the morning. This put his already tenuous relationship with God in a really bad spot.
Lesson 4 – Avoid Talking Animals
Numbers 22:28-30 KJV
(28) And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
(29) And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
(30) And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
Let’s just say that you’re heading down a very dangerous path when you engage in a prolonged discussion with an animal. Any discussion would be bad, but the prolonged ones have been particularly treacherous, from a biblical perspective (Genesis 3).
So, if you see or hear a talking animal, you probably need to stop doing whatever you’re currently doing, and start praying for some immediate guidance.
Lesson 5 – True Repentance is Much More Than Mere Regret
Numbers 22:31 KJV
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
You would hope that by now, Balaam had become truly repentant, and was willing for forgo his clear love of money.
You’d be very wrong. Look at the question that he asks of the Lord, as it is clear where his head is.
Numbers 22:34 KJV
And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stood in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.
*IF* it displease thee? IF?!?
Is it customary for people to show their great pleasure at your actions by coming to meet you with a drawn sword and indicating that were it not for the sense of a donkey, they would have slain you? (Numbers 22:31-33)
This question indicates that Balaam was still intent on going to do what he had originally planned to do, and was only sorry that he had gotten caught. There was no repentance.
He basically said, “Ooops. I’m sorry you found me beating my donkey, as I didn’t see you over there. If you’re not too upset, I’d like to be able continue on to Moab, please…”
Instead of thanking God for sparing his life, and retreating from the scene as quickly as possible, he made a polite attempt to continue on his way toward riches and honor – against God and His people.
God let Balaam go, but only to say what God intended him to say. And, Balaam was so intent on getting riches and honor, that he went back to King Balak a little later and introduced idolatry into the camp of Israel so that God would withdraw His protection and the Israelites would be helpless against the Moabites. (Numbers 25)
Instead, God’s people put away evil from their camp, and Balaam died in battle with the Israelites. (Numbers 31)
He is responsible for one of the most beautiful prophecies concerning the coming Messiah(Numbers 24), but he remained in apostasy and died as an enemy of God’s chosen people. Just another example that salvation is not just an event, but an ongoing connection with Jesus Christ.
Let us endeavor to pray in harmony with the expressed will of God, and let us further make sure that we communicate to others just as clearly as God has communicated to us.