Balaam’s course was leading him in the wrong direction. God spoke to Him directly, He spoke to him through Balaam’s donkey, He gave him the prophetic gift denouncing his own course, and yet Balaam persisted. And for what? The dim hope of worldly riches and honor?
Balaam himself repeatedly said that what God hath blessed, no man could curse. Yet here he was a third time now, giving it another try. King Balak was getting desperate. He had seen what God was doing for the Israelites. He had heard of the fate of the heathen nations around him, who refused to acknowledge the supremacy of their Creator, but rather persisted in their vile, selfish ways. The Moabites had no intention of repenting, so their King, Balak, thought the best course was to curse the Israelites, thus removing God’s protection from them. At least Balak understood that much: the Israelites were people, too; their greatness was really God’s greatness.
After two rounds of pretentious sacrifices and two rounds of blessing for the Israelites from the mouth of one who wished on them only cursing, Balak finally said to Balaam, “Don’t curse them at all or bless them at all!” But he did not even stick to his own idea.
When Balaam responded with, “Didn’t I tell you that whatever God says, that is what I have to do?” Balak decided to try again: “Well maybe if we go over here, God will be happy to curse Israel for us.” Persisting in obstinance to the obvious will of God only makes us more and more blind.
They went through their routine of sacrifices again, but Balaam had given up on cursing the people. The Bible says that “the Spirit of God came upon him”. Balaam stood in vision and pronounced the loveliest blessing yet:
“How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!
As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.
He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.”
Balak was understandably—albeit unjustifiably—angered. He hit his hands together, saying to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies and you have just absolutely blessed them these three times. Get out of here! I was going to promote you to great honor, but the Lord has kept you back from honor.” Honor? What honor? Riches that “moth and dust doth corrupt, and…thieves break through and steal”? Praise from man, who as the flower of the grass shall also pass away?
The open eyes could see plainly what real honor was—and the Israelites had it.
Balaam reminded the king how he had told the king’s messengers some days before that Balak’s entire houseful of silver and gold would not be enough to sway the outcome, but that God’s will would be done. And it certainly was.
At that point, Balaam took up the prophecy where he had left off. “Now I will tell you what this people will do to your people in the latter days….” He told of the coming Messiah and King. He told of the destruction of the unrepentant wicked and how the blessed of the Lord would inherit the land.
“And Balaam rose up, and went and returned unto his place”—the place he should have never left—“and Balak also went his way.”
Trials will come our way as we fight for the salvation of the children—and ourselves. If we fight alone, we are destined for disappointment and failure; but if we rely on the mercy of God who loved us and gave Himself for us, we are destined for sure success. As Gamaliel said in Acts 5:38,39: “If…this work be of men, it will come to nought. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
*** 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. ***