Summary: What is your priority in life?
The story of Balaam is well-known and often quoted in jokes, such as, “If God could talk through Balaam’s donkey, then He could surely talk through anything.” In one sense, however, there’s nothing really funny about this story. Though it can be read on various angles, Balaam’s encounter with God can be seen as another example of how wrong priorities, if not overcome and wrestled with God’s power, can lead us into path of destruction.
Who was Balaam? “Balaam was once a good man and a prophet of God; but he had apostatized, and had given himself up to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High. He was not ignorant of God’s work in behalf of Israel and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and to dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to dally with temptation.” (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 439)
Throughout the story it seems as if Balaam was standing firm for God. But careful reading will show that he was playing with fire. “But Balaam responded to Balak's messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God. But stay here one more night, and I will see if the LORD has anything else to say to me.” (Numbers 22:18, 19 NLT). Instead of dismissing Balak’s messengers, he urged them to stay with him that night, saying that he must wait for what God will ask him to do. I personally believe that he didn’t need to ask for God’s response. He might do so in hoping there would be another answer. Balaam was confused in his priorities. His consuming desire for reward eclipsed both his common sense and his commitment to God. A glimpse at our day planner will reveal a lot about our priorities. Our priorities will determine how we will act.
Achan’s story is synonymous with a Malay saying, “Kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga” which means a single drop of blue colouring will spoil a pot of milk. It also suggests that wrong priorities, despite careful planning to conceal it, never affect just the culprit. The story of how the Israelites defeated the city of Jericho was a headline. And with that came the warning not to take any of the city’s spoils. But Achan succeeded to smuggle out “…a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound…” (Joshua 7:21 NLT). He was so certain that he would not be caught red-handed that he hid them underneath his tent. A humiliating defeat to the city of Ai revealed that there was something amiss inside the camp of God’s people. Through Achan’s confession we learn that our wrong priorities will inherently affect others around us.
We learn about Gehazi’s swiftness to do wrong in the story of Naaman’s miraculous healing in the Jordan River. After his miraculous healing, Naaman forced Elisha to receive his gift of gratitude in form of at least “…75 pounds of silver (which is equivalent to 68 kg of gold) and two sets of clothing…” (2 Kings 5:22 NLT). But Elisha refused to receive anything as he believed all credits were due to God and receiving gifts in God’s stead was wrong. On the other hand, Gehazi decided that Elisha needed these rewards, so he discreetly convinced Naaman that Elisha had changed his mind. The most interesting part of this story is Gehazi’s foolishness. He went straight to report in Elisha’s house. He was so sure that nobody knew what he just did. He was a man of no value. He might have had even convinced himself that need, not wrong priorities, had moved him to do such thing. In the end Gehazi got for himself Naaman’s leprosy secondhand. Wrong priorities also determine our value.