Previously I wrote about God’s question for Balaam in Numbers 22:9, “Who are these men with you?” (NASU) Balaam answered truthfully enough about who they were, but discernment should have convinced him to avoid them. Because of greed, Balaam wound up going with them which angered the Lord.
Along the way, God sent Balaam three messages. In each case, an obstacle was placed in the path of Balaam. Balaam could not see the obstacle.
And oh, what an obstacle it was! The angel of the Lord blocked the path each time. Only the donkey, on which he rode, could see the angel of the Lord. God used the donkey to get Balaam’s attention. In v. 20 and v. 35, God explicitly gives him permission to continue the journey, and yet, God is angry with him and goes to extraordinary means to get his attention. Clearly something is not right, but what? Numbers does not clearly state it, but 2 Peter 2 makes it plain that Balaam was still harboring thoughts of benefiting financially from this ill-advised expedition.
Numbers 22:22-35 is the record of God taking extra-ordinary means to protect Balaam from the temptation he was about to fall into. God Himself appeared to Balaam’s donkey and gave the donkey the ability to speak. Three times Balaam’s faithful, long-serving donkey behaves in ways that it never had before. Balaam fails to see what is happening. God, appearing as the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword, opened the eyes of Balaam and said, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live." (Numbers 22:32-33, NASU) Balaam had been blinded by his greed. He refused to consider the trustworthiness of the messenger, the circumstances of the situation, or the repetition of the warnings. Rather than benefitting from the warning from a friend, Balaam reaps anger, aggravation, and a crushed foot. Furthermore, he antagonizes and inflicts pain on the friendly messenger.
Surely, you and I would not be guilty of this, would we? For us, the temptation might be greed just like it was for Balaam, or it might be something else. When we are offered a message of warning, why don’t we examine closely the circumstances, consider the faithfulness of our friends, and stop beating them? Why is our preferred response to a friendly warning so often jumping to conclusions? Why is it that we first consider a friendly warning to be an insult? Why don’t we calmly and graciously ask for an explanation before blurting out angry and hurtful words? Why do we so often run to everyone who will listen and share our “Oh, you won’t believe how I’ve been wronged” story? Why can’t we assume the best rather than assuming the worst? Why can’t we just be nice? The answer to those questions involves the fact that we are fallen sinners succumbing to temptations instead of following the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Oh, may we learn from Balaam! Perhaps you remember the warning of Joshua 13:22, “The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain.”(NASU) It did not work out well for Balaam and it will not for you or me either.