We know there are spiritual forces that we cannot see. They are both good and bad. Paul speaks of these things in his letter to the Ephesians, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (6:12). In this we see the hierarchy of the spiritual world from princes of kingdoms such as the one of Persia who fought against Gabriel who had the help of the Prince of Israel, Michael, (Daniel 10) to governors and viceroys, down to Satan's lowly foot soldiers. We would do very well to remember these are very real creatures in a very real spiritual battle that we are sucked into on a daily basis.
Nothing illustrates this better than the story of Balak, Balaam, and Balaam's donkey in Numbers 22. This is the first in a study.
Balak (means devastator) was the king of Moab, the nation which sprang from the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. Also the nation from which came Ruth the mother of Obed, the grandfather of David, and mentioned in Jesus' lineage.
Balaam (means devourer) was a diviner, a soothsayer, one who divined the future from the stars, and worshiper of the heavenly bodies. This abomination was forbidden by the Law of Moses. Keil and Delitzsch comment on this saying, “Moses groups together all the words which the language contained for the different modes of exploring the future and discovering the will of God, for the purpose of forbidding every description of soothsaying, and places the prohibition of Moloch worship at the head, to show the inward connection between soothsaying and idolatry, possibly because februation, or passing children through the fire in the worship of Moloch, was more intimately connected with soothsaying and magic than any other description of idolatry” (Commentary on the Pentateuch, III, p. 393). Peter called him the prophet who turned profiteer.
The Children of Israel were camped outside the border of Moab filling the horizon with all the peoples which terrified Balak and made the people of Moab sick with apprehension. He had a great deal to gain by ministering to God's Chosen People due to the triumph of the Israelites over the Amorites (vs. 2). News of their continued military success had preceded them, and we can safely assume that Moses had sent a herald to inform Balak that God had forbidden the Israelites to contend against Moab (Deuteronomy 2:9) when he asked permission to traverse the country. Yet, Balak trembled in fear and sought the help of Balaam, some 400 miles away, to curse the Children of Israel. It is a well known fact that a person who is prone to a particular type of behavior such as lying will assume everyone else is prone to the same habit. It is common for those who are bent on deviltry to presume the devilry of others. Balak must have assumed this was a ploy to lull Moab into a false sense of security. Balak's fear is voiced in verse 4: So Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." Instead of rejoicing to be freed from the oppression of Sihon, king of the Amorites, Moab refused to hear the Word of God, and set out to curse God's children.
Nothing quite riles up the LORD God Almighty more than touching the apple of his eye which is what Balak did when he summoned Balaam with the words, “He whom thou curse is cursed and he whom thou bless is blessed.” Balak clearly believes in powers greater than himself, and believes in asking the powers for something to be done. Yet, he looks toward a false power rejecting the true God of his forefather Lot for lesser occultic powers. (We know this because of the words “diviner's fee”.)
So the princes of Moab set out to Pethor with a hefty diviner’s fee to seek out a curse upon God's people. Anyone with half the sense of a wit knows how this endeavor turns out without reading the end of the story. So goes most of those who do not believe in the all powerful God, but look to the created beings to worship such as the demons Chemosh of Moab or Molech of Ammon. Both of these demonic idols required human sacrifice for their appeasement.
Balaam receives these princes from Moab. Hearing the plea of Balak, he must have known who the “people coming out of Egypt” were and therefore, if Yahweh were truly his God, then he would never have entertained the request for a moment much less have taken the fee, most especially after God Himself spoke to him that they were blessed. Balaam tells the princes he can't do what they want, so they leave.
Bearing in mind that the 400-mile journey would have taken the entourage about a month, it would have been two months that the Israelites would have been camped on the edges of Moab. Would it not have given Balak enough time to realize Moses and the Israelites were abiding with the command of God not to contend with the Moabites? How much food and water could more than one million people consume in two months time? Balak's claim that they would lick up everything about them like an ox had been proved false. Yet, Balak sent the princes back again, more honorable princes and more numerous than before (let's make note that because of Balaam's mention of money they probably had brought another diviner's fee).
For the sake of money, Balaam spoke as he should have but his actions spoke volumes from his mercenary heart. Outwardly, he said no amount of money could make him go against what the Lord had told him to do. Yet, once again he told them to wait a night while he “consulted” God. How much so today's psychic fakers do the same thing. They will tell you what you want to hear, feeling you out, dragging you along, taking your money. How incredibly sad that these fakers listen carefully to the indrawn breath, start a sentence leaving a blank for you to fill in, or just stroke your ego with one hand while cleaning out your wallet with the other. How much the astrologers will try to foretell the future with educated guesses and with widely general terms so that you can “see” what you want and “read” events as you please.
Make no mistake, God does use these fakers when it suits His purpose, (the Bible expressly shows us this by this story) but why would anyone give hard-earned money to a person when God offers His counsel for free? To me it is the height of foolhardiness to trust that which God calls an abomination.Balaam proved his mercenary intent, but within his heart there was no denial of the honor Balak offered. He said offer me a house full of gold and silver and I'll withstand it to not go against what the Lord says. But he spoke no denial of the proffered honor and glory from the king. Then even though he knew God's final word on the subject, he implied God just might have more to say on the subject. When God did again speak to him, he deliberately disobeyed God's command. How often we treat God this way! How often we hear His command and then deftly turn aside, hoping He meant something else entirely. How often we listen to the world's siren song, our minds and bodies thrumming to it, blind to the dangers and succumbing to the pleasures. Praise God He gave us the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin. Praise God He cares more for us that He gave His precious Son so we would be reconciled to Him. Praise God that Jesus looked past the shame to the joy beyond the cross. Praise God that we have the Holy Spirit to help us make those same kinds of decisions that Balaam had to make, may we be worthy to bring God glory through this coming year. Amen