Balaam was persisting in his stubbornness. First, he argued with the Lord; then he argued with his donkey. One way or another, he was determined to get his hands on the rewards offered to him by the enemy of God’s people; and here he was now, standing before King Balak himself.
King Balak was a bit perturbed: “Why didn’t you come to me right away? Don’t you know I have power to honor you?” Once again Balaam shows his real lack of confidence, even in his own course.
“I have come to you, but do I have any power to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth is the word that I will say.” So, what was Balaam thinking! The Bible says repeatedly, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent [many Bible versions say “change his mind”]: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Ironically, these were soon to be Balaam’s own words.) God can be trusted. What He says, goes.
Apparently Balaam, in spite of once being a true prophet of the Lord, did not have this lesson engrained on his heart. He thought he had a great plan. He would bribe the Lord, and perhaps God would change His mind. The Lord Himself had not long before instructed Moses to counsel the people, “Thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.” Balaam was being persuaded by riches and honor; somehow, he thought the God who created all things and rightfully claims the earth and the fullness thereof as His own could be likewise influenced. He could not have been more wrong.
Balaam and Balak offered their sacrifices of selfishness. They made sure it was large and showy: oxen and rams on seven altars on the hill. That ought to do it.
Balak had made sure that Balaam was strategically placed. From the top of that hill, nearly all of the Israelites were visible. Balaam told the king to stay with the sacrifice and he would go to a high place just in case the Lord would meet him.
The Bible says, “And God met Balaam.” And Balaam told God all about their “impressive” sacrifices. The Lord was not impressed. He gave Balaam something to say, alright: “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?…Who can count the dust of Jacob, and number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”
And we thought King Balak was upset before! “What have you done to me! I ask you to curse these people, and instead, you have completely blessed them!”
Balaam gave his same, old answer: “Don’t I have to pay attention to what God puts in my mouth?”
Well, Balak had an idea. Maybe Balaam was just intimidated by that huge mass of people. So he suggested they go to another place where the Israelites could not be seen so clearly. Maybe if Balaam could only see a few of them, he would feel a bit braver….
*** VBS—The Land of Milk & Honey talks of God’s law, the Ten Commandments, and of some of the Israelites’ experiences on their way to the Promised Land—their encounter with Balaam and the Moabites being just one of them. Find it here. ***