Doctrine of Balaam : the good, the bad, and the hidden deceit

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  But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. Revelation 2:14

Balaam is mentioned 7 different times in scripture as a warning. His story is found in Numbers 22-24.  Why is this ancient prophet mentioned so many times ???????? 

This is what we know about Balaam:

  1. He was a well-known prophet
  2. His curses and his blessings came about
  3. he was a teacher who tried to teach others to trip/stumble/sin
  4. he showed Balak how to trip the people of Israel to sin
  5. He taught people to sin by eating food offered to idols
  6. he taught people to sin by committing sexual sin or idolatry
  7. he intentionally tried to destroy God’s people
  8. he deceived people for money Jude 1:11
  9. false prophets of today follow in his footsteps Jude 1:11, 2 Peter 2:15-16
  10. loved to earn money for doing evil 2 Peter2
  11. a talking donkey stopped him 2 Peter 2:15-16 (or was it the angel?)
  12. he was eventually killed by the Israelites (Joshua 13:22)
  13. he used magic to tell the future J 13:22
  14. he was hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel
  15. he heard from God
  16. he told half-truths and obeyed only partial to what he was told to do.
  17. he was the son of Beor which means ‘burning’, so I guess we could call him the son of fire

  Those who follow in his footsteps:

  1. scoff at what they don’t understand
  2. indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight (No fear of God, prideful, haughty)
  3. delight in deception
  4. commit adultery with their eyes
  5. their desire for sin is never satisfied
  6. lure unstable people to sin
  7. they are trained in greed and live under God’s curse

     There’s got to be more to this Balaam story than what we see. I  think it’s very interesting that he is mentioned so many times. Of all the people to use as a warning- why him? Jesus mentioned Jonah on two different occasions in 3 gospels. Noah, David, Solomon and other godly men are mentioned often but this man Balaam is mentioned throughout scripture even to the last book of Revelation as a warning to those living in the last days.  

  With all the warnings we are given about Balaam, we read that he continually blessed Israel, he obeyed God’s voice (sometimes), and he prophesied about Jesus!

  I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth vs 17

    At first, you may wonder- What did he do wrong? We find one of the many clues in Numbers 31  “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord

And so we can conclude, although it is not mentioned in Numbers 25, that Balaam and his leading was behind the great sin spoken of in Numbers 25 that brought about the destruction of the Israelites

 “and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.”

  Do you see how sneaky that was? You have to really search to find out he was a bad prophet- same with prophets today. It’s unbelievable that a prophet who hears God’s word and obeys Him can do the exact opposite at the same time. Balaam did all the right things- but then we see that he actually caused the people to sin so their own sin would curse themselves. Balaam didn’t actually curse them, but he caused the people to curse themselves. Interesting….. 

      Balaam was a prophet/seer, possibly a soothsayer as history records, he had the ability to bless and to curse. He also had the ability to hear God. What? I thought only godly prophets heard God, but then who exactly is godly? Jonah was a prophet of God but we see a man who was disobedient, rebellious and angry- even until the end! His last words were “Yes! I’m even angry enough to die”. Yikes, I bet he regrets that, or does he? Do prophets curse people? In 2 Kings 2:24, we read that some kids made fun of Elisha and he cursed them to death- all 42 of them were all eaten by 2 bears. Ezekiel was a prophet of God- but God created him to be hardheaded like the rest of the people. Hardhat Ezekiel probably wasn’t the nicest guy or mr. churchman who walks around smiling. Maybe I’m wrong, but the hardhats I know are only happy when they get their own way. Ezekiel was disobedient also- he didn’t speak when he was told to. Well, maybe that is up for debate, but I think there were many times Ezekiel didn’t speak when he was told to- and possibly why he was tied up and wasn’t allowed to speak unless God allowed him. Look at Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father…he was made(temporarily) mute because of his unbelief. What’s my point? Well, I’m guessing that prophets of God are not perfect people like I would suspect (and hope), in fact, they still have their own free will. For instance,  we have the prophet Balaam, who heard God’s voice, but made his own way and sought out things for himself. He used his ability for his own gain and greed while he destroyed people by leading them to live sinful lives. His intention was to destroy them. We are told he was out for his own good – greedy for money among other things. Why would God give such a wicked person a prophetic gift? Let’s look at the parable of the talents- each of the three was given a gift, they each had their own free will to do whatever they wanted with that gift. It wasn’t until the end when they received their reward/punishment.

 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven

   In Matthew 7 we are told that some people who PROPHESY IN Jesus’ name, cast out devils, and do miraculous works in Jesus’ name will not enter heaven. Here we have the same situation as Balaam. They are workers of iniquity and don’t belong to the Kingdom of God. They mingle among us (or do we put up with them) and have many followers. They are mighty in works, words, power, and seem super holy and wise but their deep motive is greed and possibly their sin is pride.

   All this is quite frightening if you ask me – I hope I don’t get complacent or vain in my life as a Christian. And exactly who is fake? Would the real Balaam please stand up? They wont- and I wonder if their conscience could be so seared they wouldn’t know it? Yet, the message is clear- these false teachers and prophets – fakers – INTENTIONALLY deceive. Come on! Balaam totally knew the Israelites were God’s people, His mighty works drove nations to fear. Balaam knew he was not to curse them – but sneaky, sneaky- he figured a way to get around it. He decided to tempt them with sin. How crafty. This is our warning- that there are teachers and prophets that have full intention to lead people away from God. It’s difficult for me to get that thought processed in my head, it just doesn’t make sense to me – but it’s true.

       Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock

   We find another interesting story in 1 Kings 13 of a prophet who- disobeyed  because another prophet of God lied to him. What? That story always has my head spinning. What a jerk! Or was he? What!

  
Let’s look at the elephant in the room. Balaam had an argument with a donkey. You would think that a talking donkey would have made him run far, far away, but he talked back to him like it was normal. Did Balaam have no respect for the supernatural? I would pass out if my dog asked me why I just threw him off the couch. I certainly wouldn’t have the nerve or strength to argue back with him like Balaam did! “Look you dumb dog, and I don’t care if you are talking to me- you crapped on my floor, ate my shoe, and I just stepped in your vomit, you deserve a beating!. Uhhhh no, none of that would come out- I’d be passed out in fear or screaming my head off trying to claw my way out of a window.  The first thing that comes to mind is this verse in Jude 1:10

 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

  And interesting enough…. The next verse mentions Balaam

11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core

And this verse in 2 Peter 2

they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.- Balaam had no respect for the things of the supernatural world

  And interesting enough….four verses later, Balaam is mentioned

15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

  2 Peter goes on to describe Balaam and people like him as: wells without water and clouds that bring no rain. They speak great words of vanity and they use lust and greed to get what they want. And this verse ends with a lovely Christian OSAS debatable verse-

20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

And since I’ve been sidetracked onto that subject, I thought this verse was interesting in 1 Corinthians 15:  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

   Let’s look at this: We are saved by the gospel of Jesus by which we stand IF we keep it in memory unless we have believed in vain. All these ifs and no ifs in different versions get really tricky- so let’s assume there is no if there- we find an unless we have believed in vain.  Can someone believe in Jesus in vain, idly, to believe but have no affect?… apparently so. Yet it seems that this would only happen at a christians first moment of belief, but also possibly after one has become a Christian. It’s like the parable of the seed- the guy was super excited at church waving his white flag and accepting Jesus as his savior- started reading his bible, going to church…. But the pull of the world, troubles, trials, material wealth snatched that seed out of his heart and his religion becomes vain- could it be? I got sidetracked, but if you want to know my theory on this: Can a Christian lose their salvation? Exposing satan’s schemes

        The Doctrine of Balaam is alive and thriving- it’s an important warning for today. Balaam is mentioned in 2 Peter 2, Jude 1, and Revelation 2:14. We are warned of teachers/ prophets of religion who will use God’s word for greed and personal gain. These false teachers/prophets intentionally deceive people and do not care about the salvation of others. They gather in the people to commit great sins, specifically idolatry and sexual immorality.  They do not care about God’s lost sheep. They appear to be powerful and wise full of good works. Honestly, is there anyone righteous out there? I just don’t know. The wisest decision you can make is to spend time with the Lord and study His word so you won’t be deceived.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect Matthew 24:24 

Well known verse spoken by Balaam:  God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Numbers 23

 
It’s interesting that God made the donkey talk like a human and Balaam, a false prophet, spoke as a real prophet when he wasn’t. Is there more to the story? The angel first stood standing in the way, then in the path of the vineyards, and finally the angel stood in a narrow place. I would get mad at my donkey if it was being disobedient, but it seems that Balaam was angry at the donkey for embarrassing him. “Because thou hast mocked me” Hebrew word means- to make a fool of, to act childish. Just thoughts…. anyways, Balaam finally shows some respect to the mighty angel and bows down and falls flat on his face. The lure of riches, wealth and fame were too much for Balaam- let’s face it, it could happen to us if we are not careful. Balaam hit his donkey 3x and God spoke to Balaam at 4or more different times in the story. 

Judas and Balaam?  As I read the story of Balaam, it reminded me of Judas. Judas was (or seemed to be) a disciple of Jesus just as Balaam seemed to be a prophet of God. Both men tried to bring destruction on God’s people. Both were religious men who were greedy for money and popularity. Greed, money, materials, fame, man’s approval are things we are not to seek out. Are these sins in our heart?   Are Christians are immune to these sins? I don’t think so- look at Solomon’s downfall. Not only should we be aware of false teachers and deceivers, but maybe we should make sure these sins have not crept into our own hearts. David asked the Lord to search out his heart:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139

  And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever 1 Chronicles 28:9

  I have much more to say on Balaam- but I think this is a good place to end today. May God search our hearts and show us any wrong way that might have crept in so we might be cleansed in Jesus name, keeping our feet on that narrow path that leads to salvation.

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Disobedience to God. “my ways are higher than your ways” says the Lord Isaiah 55: 8 – 9

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“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

      God’s thoughts are above mine and His reasoning is above mine. The Lord has taught me a big lesson this week. As I think of it, I stand trembling before Him. He has given me instructions and at times, I’ve altered them according to my own ways, thoughts and understanding. I meant good, but what I should have done was to seek God’s guidance. I didn’t even notice my wrong until I was reading through Numbers this week and suddenly this was revealed to me.

Blessed is he whose sins are forgiven
I acknowledged my sin to you
I will confess my sins to the Lord
and you forgave me the iniquity of my sin Ps 32

Moses Punishment: He was not allowed to go into the Promised land- that’s a huge punishment! He spent the last 40 years trying to get there- and he never did. Why? Because of disobedience.

Pay close attention- so you understand what he did wrong.
The Lord’s instructions to Moses: (when the people were crying out for water) Numbers 20
1-Take the rod
2-Gather the Children of Israel
3-Speak to the Rock

So Moses did the following:
1-took the rod
2-Gathered the Children of Israel
3-He spoke to the people (he was not told to do this)
4-Struck the rock 2x  (he was not told to do this)

He did three things wrong. He did not speak to the Rock.  He struck the rock 2x. Isn’t that interesting. I wonder if in anyway this is symbolic of Christ?  Instead of speaking to the rock to give them water, he struck it. Jesus is our rock, our source of living water and He was struck.
I’m sure at the time, Moses thought he was obeying- but he added on things of his own understanding and with that we know there was a lack of trust/faith there that was a sin before God.

God said to him in vs 23: because you did not believe in me- to hallow me before the people

Walk in God’s ways not our own ways

” When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.[f] 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.  For,
“Who can know the LORD’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to teach him?
But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ

If we are going to walk with the Lord, we need to make sure we are not walking in our own understanding or our own knowledge. We need to seek the Lord’s counsel in all things and obey with complete obedience and faith. We obey, we trust. We cannot make the water come out of the rock- we have to trust Him-the Lord. This is similar to stepping out praying for healing for others. We just need to step out in faith knowing we, on our own, cannot do the healing, but our Healer can. We obey- we pray for the sick as Jesus commanded us to (do the works He did) and we have to trust Him that He is there and He heals.

Little sin of Balaam? No, not so little-  punishment of sin is death
In Numbers 24 evil King Balaak wanted Balaam (sorcerer- prophet) to curse the Israelites . The king called for Balaam but Balaam would not go to see him. So Balam went to the Lord to ask Him if he should go to the King.
the Lord said:
You may go only if they ask you again –
The bible says, the next day Balaam got up and went.
Did you notice what Balaam did wrong? He went even though they didn’t ask him to go. Again we see human reasoning. This is probably what ran through Balaam’s mind:  “Well, if God said, I could go, I can go, and they didn’t ask me, but they asked me before, and God didn’t specify exactly what time they were to ask me, therefore I’ll go, and I’m not sinning, because I’m obeying- just with a twist”
Big Punishment: The angel of the Lord tried to kill him 3x while he was on his donkey on the way to see King Balaak. (Balaam needs more study- but just the point here- that he obeyed partially and made up his own way and the Lord counted that as a sin- that deserved death)

Little sin of complaining people against Moses? not so little-they were swallowed up by the earth
 ” So what?” we might think, the people complained against Moses and Aaron. We are so conditioned to hearing complaints about leaders we might think nothing of this sin- but read in Numbers 16 what happened to the families of those who rose up Moses. Their children, wives, family and tents were swallowed up by the earth! The people around them ran screaming for their lives as they heard the screams of those who went down into the earth alive. Was it pride? God wants us to learn from these stories and put within us the first step in walking with Him – this is the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord.

Complaining was punishable by death (is your complaining really lack of faith?) Killed 14,700 people
The very next day! After the people saw the complainers getting eaten up in the earth the people complained against Moses again. What happened? A plague killed 14,700 people. Complaining is not trusting. It is so engrained in us, our conversations- do we even notice it?  When I think back of times when I complained- I have to wonder if it all stems from lack of faith in God. Do I really believe His Word? Do I really see Him as a Father. That is one thing I noticed when I studied David and Abraham. Even though they sinned, they both had complete faith and trust in God as their Father. They believed God as a child believes in His father. If you read through the Psalms David wrote, you will understand his relationship with the Lord. No matter what He faced- he always praised God for saving him, even when he wasn’t even yet saved.

“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,”
says the LORD.
You make plans that are contrary to mine.
You make alliances not directed by my Spirit,
thus piling up your sins.
2 For without consulting me,
you have gone down to Egypt for help.
You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection Isaiah 30:1-2

More Complaining punishable by fiery serpents sent to bite and kill
This happened right after the people had defeated the Canannites.  They had no food, no water and complained about the same old boring bread they were eating. Didn’t they know? Didn’t they remember? Didn’t they know God had never let them down? It’s easy for us to condemn them, but how many times have we feared the worst- when we know that God never abandons us? Don’t complain- go to the throne. This story can be found in Numbers 21. The people were finally spared when they looked at the pole with the serpent on it. That’s another story- Jesus quoted from this in the New Testament.

Little sin of Uzzah- he only touched the ark so it wouldn’t fall! We might think it was a little sin- but it was not before God- punishable by death
That’s too bad, because he was told not to touch it! 6 But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God.  Then the LORD’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this.[d] So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.2 Samuel 6:7 . The things we may think are little or unimportant- are not. We need  to be very careful as we walk with the Lord- especially leaders and teachers. We must know that only God is all knowing and that we are nothing without Christ in us and His leading in us. We are not empowered by our knowledge, our reasoning, our high positions or fame. It is only through God’s spirit that you lead, it is not in ourselves.

Even if we mean well and mean good -we need to make sure our actions and our words are not sin against the Lord our God.
O Lord, create in us a new heart and renew a right spirit within us. Thank you Lord God for saving us through your son Jesus Christ. Surely I deserve death, but Praise you Lord God for your Mercy and Love for us. Teach us to walk along the ancient paths of your prophets. To hear your voice, O God. Remind us to seek your counsel in all we do. Give us the faith of Abraham, to walk with you like Enoch, to live in obedience like Noah and to love others as you have loved us.  In Jesus’ precious name, Amen