Summary: I'm trying to answer two questions - What went wrong with Balaam's sacrifice? How can we avoid it?
Numbers 22 to 25
You don’t read the word ‘altar’ or ‘sacrifice’ of the first instances where it’s mentioned. I often wonder why those words were left out, why did God not make a big deal out of something that was a foreshadow of what was about to fulfill in Christ as history unfolded? I’m talking about Genesis 3:21. Those of you who grew up in the church can repeat the sermon backwards of how that portion talks about God making the first sacrifice, how God had to kill a lamb to offer Adam and Eve tunics of skin (let’s leave the argument of ‘God can give them tunics of skin without sacrificing a lamb’ for another day), how that points to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary, how that tunic signifies the ‘robe of righteousness’ that we are clothed with as we are saved and so forth.
This message will not define or explain altars or sacrifices, but shed light on the significance thereof. I would like to look at what is acceptable and unacceptable to God as sacrifices. At the end of the day we are interested in finding out what pleases God and do it!
So, God did it first and our forefathers caught on. Eventually it became a law for Israel and as we read through the Pentateuch we see a sacrifice for every season and every reason; from sin, to dedication to thanksgiving. But through Israel’s rebellion and disobedience temple was destroyed, they were carried away captive and even though it was restored for a while, but after the perfect Lamb of God (Christ Jesus) was sacrificed on Calvary for the entire human race once and for all, and the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, the sacrifices ceased completely. Now all the Jewish people are left with are the synagogues, to the present day. The preparation for the third temple is underway. Altars and sacrifices are also planned. They even have found red heifer and Aaron’s descendants to conduct the services. Is it God’s will? I do not think so. No more sacrifices are needed because Christ was sacrificed for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.
As I was driving to work listening to the bible as usual, the story of Balaam was being read and the mention of ‘altars and sacrifices’ detained my attention. I have heard and read this portion numerous times since childhood but I never gave much thought to the altars built and sacrifices offered by Balaam and Balak. I will allow you the pleasure of counting how many times they built altars and offered sacrifices. Just by listening to the passage you can tell that they built more altars and offered more sacrifices than it is RECORDED about Abraham!
Mind you, sacrifices are expensive! Well, you can say Balak was a king so he could afford. But think about the effort it will take to build those 7 altars! And bringing wood and sacrificial animal (7 bulls & 7 rams) to the mountain. Then imagine the effort of cutting up those animals, cleaning them, arranging the fire wood and then burning it all up. And, this was repeated several times! The saddest part is, they gained nothing out of it! Every time an Balaam opened his mouth to pronounce a curse on Israel, he ended up blessing them and obviously it was a curse for Balak. All the sacrifice that Balaam and Balak earned them the displeasure of God! To me the saddest part is Numbers 23:4-5, in verse 4 Balaam tells God about the sacrifices he offered, but in verse 5 God totally ignore his mention of sacrifice!
You can build all the altars in the world and offer a million sacrifices, if God is not pleased with you, He will have no regard for your sacrifice. You could be building mega churches, undertaking huge projects and sacrificing your time, energy, effort, family and all that you have towards such endeavors, but if God is not pleased with your life, if God is not pleased with the way you conduct yourself, if God is not pleased with your heart and your attitude; it’s all a waste. All your efforts amount to nothing. It would be nice if it would amount to nothing, but in fact it will bring you shame! Imagine, if at the end of it all God says, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me.’ May none of us ever end up like that, is my prayer. And, may all of us hear ‘good and faithful servant…’.
Why did God have no regard for Balaam? Because Balaam was a pagan priest? Because Balaam was a medium, a spiritist? Because Balaam disobeyed God? Because Balaam was arrogant? Because Balaam was greedy? Listen, we can set up idols in our life. Anything that takes the place of God in your life is an idol! Be it your wife, your children, your business, your job, your hobby, your friends, your family, your wealth, yourYOU’RE YOUR favorite football game/team, your addiction to food, your addiction to shopping, or if you enjoy doing nothing! We too can become idol worshippers, may not even recognize them as idols.