Summary: How many of you have a knowingness of God’s ways but don’t necessarily chose God’s way over your own way?
I believe it pretty much goes without saying that “God’s ways are best.” But how many of you have a knowingness of God’s ways but don’t necessarily chose God’s way over your own way? There’s a BIG difference between "saying" and "doing" – isn’t there? I believe it was Bernard Shaw who said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Today’s story is about a seemingly-religious man who seemed to have some good intentions, but his follow-through was lacking. He had one foot in religion and one foot in the world. He reminds me of Paul’s prophetic description of those who will be living in the last days, - "…having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them." (2 Tim 3:5)
Balaam was such a man, but a closer look at him can help us understand why he acted as he did and why God dealt with him the way he did. For instance:
Balaam was a gentile from Mesopotamia – which point is easily overlooked. Since he speaks with God, most figure he’s a righteous man – wrong. Apparently he was considered a prophet, but he wasn’t; at least not in the Biblical sense. A more accurate description would be a sorcerer from the Far East. Apparently he was renowned for placing effective curses on people. That’s why King Balak called on him to place a curse on Balak’s enemies. In this case, the enemy was the Israelites.
In OT times, sorcerers were thought to have influence with the gods. So the king of Moab wanted Balaam to use his influence with god (whoever god was) to place a curse on Israel. Just as obviously, neither Balaam nor Balak had any idea who they were dealing with!
Interestingly enough, Balaam acknowledged that Jehovah (the God of the Israelites) was indeed a powerful God. But he didn’t believe He was the only true God. Nevertheless, he was ready to obey Jehovah’s command as long as he could profit by doing so.
Although Balaam realized the awesome power of Israel’s God, his heart became distracted by the wealth he could gain in Moab – greed has a way of doing that. Reading this story by itself might lead us to believe he turned completely to God, but later we see that Balaam couldn’t resist the attraction of money and power. “...having a form of godliness but denying its power...”
Balaam did have some knowledge of God, but not enough to turn whole-heartedly to God. He knew God’s way was the best way, but he had his own agenda. One other thing about Balaam; if you’re like me, you might read this story and scratch your head wondering, “Why would God speak through or even use a sorcerer like Balaam?” Here’s why:
* First, Balaam was available for God to use much as he Cyrus, King of Persia, to free the Israelites, or Caesar Augustus to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so His son could be born there according to prophecy. God wanted to give a message to the Moabites. The Moabites had chosen to employ Balaam. So God used Balaam. God can use someone to accomplish His purpose even if that person could care less about God.
* Second, I believe God was giving Balaam a chance, as he does with every one of us, a chance to turn to God. Throughout the course of our lives, God tries repeatedly to get our attention because he loves us. The question is; will we be listening when he calls? Balaam had a direct encounter with God. It was an incredible opportunity to get his life on track, but he blew it. God had a plan and Balaam was in it, but Balaam had his own plan.