Hi. Welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host of the daily challenges. Today is Tuesday, the day we study the Bible together. This week we’re going to study one of the more bizarre stories you’ll find in the Bible! It’s about a man named Balaam, a spiritual leader working for the King of Moab who sees the new Israelite nation, camped just outside his land, as a threat. Balaam was asked to pray for their destruction, and got a huge surprise.
And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”
Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these. And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’” But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more. So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me.” And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. (Numbers 22:10-21 ESV)
Balaam was a diviner, like a psychic or fortuneteller, who would pray to or consult anyone, including the Lord, as part of his business.
In this case, though, he made a big mistake. He prayed to the Lord, Yahweh, asking him to curse the very people God was leading and protecting as his chosen people.
His prayer is all wrong – even though it’s addressed to the all-powerful God fo the universe. It’s wrong because he is being paid to pray, he prays against God’s own people, and he ignores the answer.
But Balaam clearly doesn’t believe he’s heard God’s voice, or at least that he doesn’t need to pay it much attention. He is working for Balak, the king of Moab, after all. So when the king’s men ask him to curse Israel again, he admits he shouldn’t question God, but agrees to listen one more time for God’s voice. He risks angering God to make more money, and get in the king’s good books.
So, God let Balaam go with Balak’s men, but God was angry because he knew that Balaam was acting from self-interest and greed. He had never really expected to hear God speaking to him, and now that it had happened, he was willing to ignore it. There was money to be made in pretending to hear God, but just telling people what they wanted to hear. But actually hearing from God, when God might disagree with you? That would be very costly.
In letting Balaam go but not letting him do anything that would please Balak, God was showing how he disliked Balaam’s money-hungry attitude, and that it would take more than mere words to change that.
Question: Why do you think God let Balaam go with the king’s men, even though he disagreed with their plans? What might he have planned, and why?