Summary: A spiritual experience is not faith, having God speak to you is not faith, Knowing about God is not faith, doing what God says is not faith - faith is based upon relationship - Balaam is a Spiritual Counterfeit.
You may have read in the paper that counterfeit bills have been turning up here and there around town. What you may have not heard about, is the amateur counterfeiter that was operating here in town. It turns out that this armature counterfeiter accidentally printed a large amount of 21 dollar bills. Only after he printed a large stack of these 21 dollar bills did he notice his mistake. At first he was just going to throw the counterfeit bills out, but upon closer examination, he saw that besides the 21 dollar amount, he did an excellent job creating these bills.
So he thought to himself, “I would love to pass these bills off…but who in Anchorage is would accept a 21 dollar bill”? Then it hit him – the Alaska state fair was in progress, certainly he could find someone at the fair he could pawn his 21 dollar bills on.
As he arrived at the fair in Palmer he was going to try giving the parking attendant one of his 21 dollar bills, but, on second thought, he figured that wouldn’t be too wise. Walking through the fairgrounds, he spotted several opportunities, various food booths, different artists…he even almost tried the honey booth, but chickened out at the last second. He thought, “All these people deal with money all day long, certainly I can’t fool them”. He became quite discouraged, perhaps the fair wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Just then the counterfeiter had an epiphany – “The Christians at the fair don’t deal with money, they just talk about religion, I’ll just go over to one of their booths”. With his new found enthusiasm the counterfeiter headed to the closest booth dealing with Christianity. After a bit of small talk with a nice young man, the counterfeiter slyly pulled out one of his crisp 21 dollars bills, held his breath and asked, “I was wondering….would you be able to give me change for a 21 dollar bill?”
“Why sure”, responded the young Christian man taking the 21 dollar bill, “would two sixes and a nine be ok”?
In our Scripture today we see the prophet Balaam, who not only has a great reputation for understanding spiritual matters but also presents himself to others as an expert on spiritual matters, but the reality is, the donkey he is riding is far more perceptive about spiritual things than Balaam is. Balaam is a spiritual counterfeit, his understanding of the spiritual is flawed.
Why is that?
Balaam understands and interacts with the spiritual through the eyes of the world and you know what, in the world there is great spiritual confusion. As a result, Balaam places himself in a precarious situation – but he is completely oblivious to it. Balaam’s spirituality isn’t spiritual at all.
Let’s look at the Word of God and see how we can apply it to our lives.
The Hebrews who have lived in the wilderness for about 40 years are now moving into the promise land. We see in the verses just prior to what we read this morning that the Hebrews are camped on the plains of Moab on the river Jordan, right across from the city of Jericho. The Moabites are afraid of the Hebrews – though they shouldn’t be – the Moabites are cousins to the Hebrews and the Hebrews have no intention of attacking them. The Moabites fear that the large population of the Hebrews will strip their land of produce, in other words, they fear the Hebrews will literally eat them out of house and home. They feel that the land cannot support themselves and the Hebrews. So the king of the Moabites, Balak, contracts with the prophet Balaam to place a curse on the Hebrews. The nature of the curse is to make the Hebrews go away. Balak wants Balaam to place a curse on the Hebrews so they will leave the area. I think that is known as, the visiting mother in law curse….oh come on, I’m just kidding.
As we move into our Scripture today, we need to know that, in the proceeding verses God has spoken directly to Balaam and told him not to go to Moab and not to place a curse on the Hebrews. But, Balaam, is intent on going anyway, so curiously God tells Balaam to go, but to do only what God tells him to do. So we arrive at our Scripture today and see that Balaam has saddled up his donkey and headed out with his two servants.
Balaam is not an Israelite, nor is he a Moabite, he is from Pethor, which is along the banks of the Sajur river, which is a tributary of the Euphrates river, and located in northern Syria. This is about 370 miles away and it would take about three weeks to journey to see king Balak in Moab. What all this means is that Balaam has quite the reputation, he is internationally known, verse 6 of chapter 22, says his curses were effective – so it is apparent that Balaam frequently places curses under contract.