God Is With You: Balaam's Story

Balaam was a prophet well known in the Scriptures

God Is With You: Balaam's Story
There are many great stories recorded in the Bible. They are real and deliver profound messages to us.

One of such remarkable stories is Balaam's account recorded in Numbers, chapters 22-25. This story describes God's power to protect and his ability to closely watch over his people.

Who is Balaam? We may ask. To answer this question, let us explore his background and all that the Bible tells us about this well-known "prophet", and how he came to be a resister of God's will.

Balaam was a prophet well known in the Scriptures. He had a reputation of pronouncing effectual curses and blessings on people so much so that his fame had spread beyond the borders of his native land. He was from Pethor, a town located in the upper Euphrates valley near the Sajur River. Not far from there lay Haran, where God-fearing people such as Abraham, Lot and Jacob had once lived.

Balaam Resisted God's Will
When the Israelites were about to enter the promised land, Balak, the Moabite king, saw a multitude of Israelites and was afraid because they were many and it would be difficult to conquer them. He probably had heard of their fame and how they crossed the Red Sea. He knew God was with them. Balak then took counsel with other representatives of the Moabite nation and decided that Israel was a threat to their welfare. Balak knew he could not conquer Israel in battle so he devised a means to attack them. He reasoned: "What if the Israelites could be cursed? Might that not serve to weaken them, making it possible to drive them away?" Therefore, King Balak, with a view to gaining the mastery over Israel, was moved to seek Balaam's services.

To achieve this, King Balak sent a delegation to Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7). Balaam asked them to stay overnight that he might seek God's face concerning the matter. After Balaam had sought the face of the Lord, he was commanded not to curse the people of Israel. God specifically told him that he had blessed the Israelites and whomever he has blessed, no man can curse. In view of this,  Balaam told the men to go back to their country because God had refused to let him go with them (Numbers 22:13).

Balak, however, refused to listen to what Balaam had said. He decided to send a more distinguished delegation this time. Balak must have concluded that the offer made to Balaam and the delegation itself were not impressive enough. The king apparently reasoned that Balaam had his price.
What did Balaam do? He knew fully well that any attempt to curse Israel was against God's will. Yet, he did not send the men away but he toyed with the idea that God might allow him to go with the messengers. Subsequent events revealed that this was indeed how Balaam felt. God later allowed him to go with the delegation, with a strict instruction: "Only the word that I shall speak to you is what you may speak." (Numbers 22:20) But Balaam was not ready to follow God's order, he was determined to curse Israel and thereby get the promised reward that King Balak had prepared for him.
God was not pleased with Balaam for choosing to go against his will. Balaam did not know he was in for quite a surprise. On his way to where he was going to curse the Israelites, his donkey began to behave in a most unusual way. Why? An angel of God had blocked its path. Again, Balaam was instructed to speak what God had commanded him to say (Numbers 22:22-35). Did Balaam change his intention after this unusual encounter? It might appear that way from what he said to King Balak: "The word that God will place in my mouth is what I shall speak." (Numbers 22:38) In actuality, however, Balaam still wanted the reward and was willing to do what he could to gain it.
Little did he know he was going to be forced to bless the Israelites to the limit despite his contrary wishes. Would this not prove that no weapon could succeed against God's people? So, it evidently served God's purpose well to use Balaam to bless Israel.

Balaam proceeded to go to the hill where the curse would be pronounced with the intention of cursing the Israelites but there God compelled him to pronounce a blessing upon Israel. He did this three times! Other attempts to curse God's people also failed miserably (Numbers 23: 1-24). God did not stop there, he impelled Balaam to utter a message of doom for Moab.

God Watches over His Own
Balaam attempted to curse the Israelites three times. He did this against God's warning and will. Instead of cursing God's people, he ended up blessing them three times (Numbers 24:10-11). No matter what, the Moabites just could not say anything that would make God's blessings depart from the Israelites. Is it not comforting to know that your enemies can do nothing to harm you?
God does not just protect us, he blesses us. According to Psalm 23:5-6, he prepares a table before us in our enemies' presence. He anoints us and makes our cups overflow. The passage further says that goodness and God's undeserved kindness will never depart from us for the rest of our days.
God Almighty has the power to protect us from curses. God is fully aware that his children are constantly battling against spiritual forces. We are involved in a real spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 clearly explains this: "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." God understands our plight in this dark, tumultuous world, and he knows that he is the only one who can clothe us with his garment of protection against the evil intentions of the wicked ones.

God further assures us that we are not alone. This he declares in Isaiah 54:17: "'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from me,' declares the Lord."
Just as Balaam went with the intention of cursing the people of Israel but ended up blessing them three times, so also is God's assurance for protection in Romans 8:31 which states: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" All these point to the fact that God is the only one who can protect us. Total reliance on God is needed to be part of his protected flock. If we put our faith and absolute trust in him, we can count on his divine protection from the forces of evil.

Sin Leads to Destruction
Another lesson that can be learned from this account is that God's protection can be withdrawn if we go against his will or follow false prophets.

The Bible account goes further to show that God's blessing upon the Israelites was withdrawn and 24,000 of them died from a plague. This was as a result of immorality and idolatory. God's supernatural protection over them was revoked. Who instigated the false teachings that led to the Israelites' fall from grace? Balaam. Balaam was a crafty man. Because of the handsome reward he wanted from King Balak after he had failed to successfully curse the people of Israel, he instructed Balak in how to tempt God's people to sin, so that God's punishment could be meted out to them. According to Revelation 2:14, "Balaam...showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin."

"While the Israelites were camped to Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshipped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the Lord's anger to blaze against his people..." (Numbers 25:1-3). As a result of this, 24,000 Israelites lost their lives.

There is an important lesson here for us to reflect upon. The Lord did so much to prevent the Israelites from being cursed. Balaam could not change God's mind so he manipulated the people of Israel to sin against Him. The Israelites were careless and did not realise they were being manipulated and lured into destruction by their enemies, who would do anything to make sure they were disfavoured by the Lord. Likewise, we should protect ourselves from false teachers like Balaam, who acted more like a diviner than a prophet.

We can only be protected by the truth of God's Word. 2 Peter 2:1-2, 14-15 reveals that there will be false teachers among us, who will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny Jesus Christ who redeemed them with his blood. In this way they will bring sudden destruction upon themselves. Many will blindly follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. The way of the truth will be slandered because of them. Their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. The passage goes further to say that they live under God's curse and they have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong.

In our day, there are many prophets and so-called teachers of God's word who act just like Balaam. Our duty is to be watchful and carefully study the Bible. When we are armed with the truth, it is impossible for false teachers and prophets to manipulate us and make us err against God (John 17:15-17).

God's plans for us are pure and true. As children of God, let us remain in God's truth and love for his purpose to come to pass in our lives. Through Prophet Jeremiah, God said to the Israelites, "For I know the plans I have for you ...They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Living in sin means choosing to walk away from God's covering, protection and his will for you. Do you long to live "under the shadow of the Almighty?" Do you want to bask in God's protection and intercession? If you are God's child, his blessing is upon you and no one can take you from his hand of protection. 

By: Olaide Ekunsumi

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Arinola O. Yinka

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