Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Look at the Life of Balaam, Part 3

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss poses a sobering question.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What's your price? What's my price? What would it take to get you to sin, to disobey the will of God?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, October 7, 2015.

We've been studying the colorful life of the prophet Balaam. What a life of extremes. We're in part three of a seven-day series on this complicated prophet. Here's Nancy in the series "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam."

Nancy: We've been having some interesting conversations with some of the women in the room in-between recording these sessions. After the last session someone asked me, "I have a daughter who's a prodigal, walking away from the Lord. Am I supposed to pray blessing on her? And is it okay to pray that God doesn't bless her by giving her the job she wants, by making her succeed in the things she's trying to do that are harming her?"

And I said, "You don't want to pray cursing on her, but the way you pray a blessing is that God will bless her by not letting her succeed at the things that she's doing that are sinful and wrong." That's not cursing your child to pray, "Lord don't let them succeed at sinning." Right?

You're blessing your child. You're saying, "Lord, hedge up their way with thorns. Make life difficult." That's God's way of blessing them. We're going to see that with Balaam that God actually sends an angel to keep him, to get in his way, to get in his path, to keep him from being able to go on headstrong, headlong in his own way.

So as you pray for your prodigal, you don't want to pray, "Lord make them succeed at what they're doing if it's going to take them further from You." Right? You want God to do whatever is needed that they can ultimately be blessed and be right with God.

We're in Numbers 22. If you've missed the first part, you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com. You can read the transcripts from the previous two days or listen to the audio and catch up with us. But essentially, Balak, the king of the Moabites, wants to curse the people of God. He wants to bring harm and misfortune upon them so that he can defeat them in battle.

And so he hires, tries to hire, a soothsayer, a magician, one who uses magical arts and incantations to curse and bless people. And his name is Balaam. So Balak sends messengers to Balaam, four hundred miles north and says, "Can you come and curse the people of God?"

And Balaam says to the messengers, "Stay the night and let me pray about this."

And during the night God comes to Balaam, and He says, "Don't go. Don't curse the people." Verse 12, "God said to Balaam, 'You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.'"

So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you." So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us." Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these" (v. 15).

So, Balak refuses to take "no" for an answer. He is determined to curse God's people. And he's convinced that Balaam is the man he needs to do the job. So he ups the ante. This time he sends cabinet level people versus just staffers. He sends a bigger entourage, more important people, more honorable people, more nobles.

It must have been at least six weeks later that they arrived back where Balaam is because it's 400 miles—at least a three-week journey each way. So the messengers had to get from Balaam's home back to Balak and then back from Balak up to Balaam.

Over those weeks I just kind of wonder what was Balaam thinking. Was he second-guessing himself? We know he really wanted to do this. And why? Because he wanted the money. He wanted the reward. The New Testament tells us this in no uncertain terms. "He loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2 Pet. 2:15 NASB). Was he regretting the fact that he had sent back those men with those bags of money?

Was he saying, "Oh man, I wish I hadn't done that"? Was he rationalizing, "It wouldn't be so bad. And really, those people are dangerous, and they need to be contained"? Was he trying to figure out a way that he could say "yes" when God had said "no"?

Well, verse 16:

They came to Balaam [these new messengers, these more honorable ones] and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: 'Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me'" (vv. 16–17).

So here there's a more earnest appeal. Balak is determined. He basically says, "Name your price, Balaam." He's appealing to Balaam's greed, his love of money, his love of honor, his love of prestige.

Which leads me to ask, what's your price? What's my price? What would it take to get you to sin, to disobey the will of God? Is there some fee that you would do it for? Is there some amount of honor or reputation that you would sin in order to have?

Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold [maybe, 'Hint, hint. Can you give me more?' Even if he did that], I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. [I could not go beyond. He's saying without realizing it that 'I can't do anything God doesn't allow me to do. I'm powerless if God doesn't let me.' So he says,] So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me."

Now, on first reading, that might sound spiritual. "Let me pray about this. Spend the night, again. Let me pray about this." But the question is, why does he need to pray about this again? God has made His will absolutely clear.

What did God say? "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people for they are blessed" (v. 12). What don't you understand about no? God has made His will clear. What more does He need to say? You don't need to pray about something that God has already told you is wrong.

You don't need to pray about whether to do something that God . . . "Lord should I forgive this person?" Yes. God has said "yes." You don't need to pray about something that God has already revealed to be His will.

But the problem here, as is so often the case with us, that Balaam is not resolutely set on obeying God. He's waffling. He's trying to get God to give him permission to do what he wants to do. He's saying in essence, "Not Your will, but mine be done."

You see, Balaam knew about Jehovah, the God of the Israelites. In this passage he calls Him "the Lord my God." He's a professing believer in God. He knew about Jehovah, but he doesn't know Jehovah. He had a pagan view of god, lower case 'g.'

You say, well, why is that? Pagan gods were believed to be fickle, open to manipulation. If you were persistent enough, insistent enough, you could get them to do what you wanted them to do.

Remember the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel who had a contest against Elijah and they built the altar? It's a story about how they cried out to their god; they cut themselves; they screamed; they yelled.

And Elijah said, "Your god's not listening. He's not doing anything." Asking him to send fire from heaven, their false gods. The thought was they could manipulate Baal to do what they wanted him to do.

It's like a child thinking that he can manipulate his parents if he just keeps begging and pestering and whining. And you want to say, "What part of 'no' don't you understand? The answer is 'no'." But the child just keeps on, and often times, sadly, kids can get their parents to change their mind. But God is not a man that He should lie. We're going to see that verse in the book of Numbers here.

Well, verse 20,

God came to Balaam at night [Balaam prays about this and God answers] and says to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you." So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab."

He's thinking no doubt, Woohoo! God has given me permission to go. I'm going to get that money!

So the question is, and this is what my friend Valerie was asking a few minutes ago, did God change His mind? This seems to be contradictory to what God said the first time Balaam prayed.

But remember, God had clearly forbidden Balaam to go. In verse 12: "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." God had not changed His mind. God had clearly revealed His will, and Balaam had rejected God's will. So Balaam asked again because he didn't want to take "no" for an answer.

Now, let me talk here for just a moment about the difference between aspects of God's will. We see God's revealed, what theologians call preceptive, will, the precepts of God, when God says, "Don't go with Balak's men; don't curse My people." But here we see God's permissive will: "You may go with them." God permitted Balaam to do something that God had forbidden and of which God did not approve.

God sometimes allows us to do something that is contrary to His revealed will. We have His revealed will, His perceptive will, and then sometimes God allows us in His permissive will to do something that is contrary to His revealed, perceptive will.

Just because God allows something doesn't mean that He approves of it. He sometimes permits what He hates, what He has forbidden, in order to ultimately glorify Himself, and to set someone on a course by going their own way to be turned over to judgment, such is the permissive will of God.

One of the worst things that can happen to us is for God to let us have our own way in response to our demands, when His will is contrary to our will.

I know single women who desperately want to be married. "I want to be married. I want to be married. I want to be married." Listen, you can get married if you want to get married badly enough. You can. You can find someone who will marry you.

But if God's will was for you for a season of your life to serve Him as an unmarried woman with wholehearted devotion to Him, and you push and prod and you say, "Let me have my own way" and you end up marrying a man who doesn't love Christ, doesn't know the Lord, or isn't walking with the Lord, who isn't scripturally free to be married, whatever.

God may permit you to marry someone who is contrary to His will for your life, His revealed will, contrary to what Scripture reveals. God may permit you to marry a non-believer, but God may be in the process of giving you over to having the consequences of going your way.

When God lets us do something that we really want to do that's contrary to His will, He may actually be setting us up to experience the consequences of our rebellion. I don't want that, so I don't want God to give me what I think I want if that's contrary to His will.

Now, for sure, when God allows us to do something that's contrary to His revealed will, that doesn't mean His will has changed nor will His ultimate purposes be thwarted. What's amazing is that our redeeming God can even use our foolishness and our disobedience to accomplish His ultimate will.

You say, how does that work? Well, think about Judas' betrayal of Jesus; about the Jews and the Romans turning Jesus over to be crucified. That was not God's decreed will. God allowed them to abuse His Son, to kill His Son, but that permissive will accomplished in God's hand, in God's sovereignty His eternal plan of redemption. Because the will of man can never undo or outwit the will of God. I take comfort in that.

Now, that is not a license to sin. Though the consequences of Balaam's willfulness were not immediately experienced, ultimately he paid a high price for his disobedience. Ultimately, lost his life. And so will we in some way pay a price when we say, "Not Your will but mine be done."

So, verse 21, "Balaam rose in the morning [with this permissive will of God] and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab." And I imagine he must have been feeling pretty high and mighty on his "high horse" as they say at this time.

This is quite the entourage that Balak has sent to retrieve Balaam. He's the VIP; he's the sought after noted name, celebrity, speaker, soothsayer, prophet. He's accompanied by Balak's top dignitaries, government officials, getting red carpet treatment and all. Here's a man who loves honor. He loves money. He loves prestige, and he's got it all in the bank.

Verse 22, "But . . ." But what? But God. Don't forget "but God" when you think you're just enjoying the spoils of getting your own way, having it your way. "Yes, God let me get this." But God.

God what? "God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary." Another translation says there, "The angel of the Lord took His stand on the path to oppose him" (HCSB).

God resists the proud. God opposes the proud. God sets Himself in battle array like a great football linebacker. Is that what it is? Have I got the right position there? I don't know anything about football. But it's one of those big heavy guys who's pushing, opposing you, your adversary there on the football field. God's anger was kindled, and the angel of the Lord set Himself against, as an adversary against Balaam.

You say, "God gets angry"? Yes, He does, contrary to modern theology and theological sensitivities of people who can't conceive of a God of love being angry. Romans 1:18–19) tells us that this is not just Old Testament, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." There's no excuse. Balaam knew enough of God's will to make the right choice.

When we sin, it's against some level of truth, some level of knowledge. Even people in far foreign places of the earth who have no word of God, they have some knowledge of God in their conscience, in natural revelation, something there suppressing this truth in order to sin against God. And God's wrath is kindled against the unrighteousness of men. It's righteous wrath.

Now, that Hebrew word for "adversary" or "to oppose" literally is the word "Satan." In some translations it's transliterated as Satan. Most times in the Old Testament that word is translated Satan. Satan is the adversary. He's the opponent of God and of God's people. God sent this angel, the angel of the Lord to be the adversary against Balaam.

In opposing God's will, in exerting his own self-will, Balaam had made himself God's adversary, even as Satan did when he fell from heaven. And God had become his opponent.

And who is this "angel of the Lord"? Well, we don't know for sure, but often in Old Testament, or from time to time, Christ, Himself, would temporarily appear on earth in human form, before He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. He would appear for a divine purpose.

You see this in Joshua 5. Remember when the commander of the Lord's hosts came and appeared to Joshua, the angel of the Lord? I believe it was none other than Christ Himself—a pre-incarnate appearance of second person of the Trinity—sent to deal with Balaam.

So, Balak has sent his highest level dignitaries to persuade Balaam to come and curse Israel. And God sends His highest level representative to oppose Balaam going. He sends His own Son.

"Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand" (v. 23). The donkey saw the angel of the LORD. That's said three times in this passage.

Prophets in that day were called seers. Their job was to tell people what they had seen from God. The irony in this passage, and there is quite a bit of irony, is that Balaam could not see the angel, but his donkey could. And the donkey began to tell Balaam what she had seen. It turns out the donkey was a better seer than Balaam. Right?

And it reminds me that you can have an important position or title or responsibility in your church, in ministry, and yet because of pride and disobedience and self-will, you can be totally blind to spiritual realities—to what God is saying, what God is doing, what He wants you to do.

And sometimes, conversely, those who you would least expect to "see" spiritual truths are the ones who can see best, can see it better than we can. It may be a child or a young believer or even an unbelieving mate who sometimes can see more clearly than a child of God, so-called, who is going down their own path of self-will and pride.

Well, "the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side" (vv. 23–24). Balaam's way is getting more narrow and more narrow and more narrow. And that's one thing to pray for these prodigal children we've talked about, that God would narrow their paths so they can't keep going in their way.

Verse 25, "When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam."

So, three times the donkey saw that the angel was standing in the road, with a sword drawn, to keep Balaam from going forward. Each time the donkey halted, of course, and refused to keep moving on the path. And in so doing, that donkey spared Balaam's life. God was hemming Balaam in.

And this was an evidence of God's kindness and His mercy and His grace toward Balaam, sparing His life. Balaam, on the other hand, is not acting very godlike. It's as Balaam's anger was kindled that he struck the donkey with his staff.

Here's God being merciful and gracious, and Balaam is being cruel and relentless and merciless to his donkey. James 1 tells us, "The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (v. 20).

God's anger is righteous. It's righteous anger against the unrighteousness of man. Our anger so much of the time is man's anger. It does not produce the righteousness of God.

So instead of seeing this as a means of grace in his life, Balaam is infuriated at being held up in this way, and he totally loses it. He begins to beat the animal that's saving his life. He's so hell-bent and determined to have it his way. He's not stopping to consider that God may be trying to save him from himself.

Imagine how ludicrous this all looked to the others in that entourage. They probably could not see the angel in the way. All they could see this was this famous, popular, in-demand seer acting like a crazy man, vainly trying to control his stubborn donkey. I mean, the whole thing had to look so foolish to them.

Balaam is out of control. He went from being a man who thought he was in complete control, to the point of trying to manipulate God Himself, and now he's not even in control of his own donkey. God was bringing Balaam to the end of his road—and that is a mercy.

It shows us, I think, our tendency to lash out at the very things, the circumstances, the people that God sends into our lives that He wants to use to protect us, to deliver us, to keep us from evil. And what do we do? We get angry, and we lash out. We strike out at those people and circumstances.

What are you angry about? Who or what are you striking out, lashing out against? And before we're too quick to be hard on Balaam, how often do we try to manipulate God? To say, "Not Your will but mine be done." Oh, we'd never say those words. But do we sometimes pray that way? Sometimes live that way?

And is there even today, as we sit in this room, any area of your life where you know deep in your heart that you're going against the revealed will of God? God may be permitting you to go there, but you know it's not His revealed will.

Is He permitting you to do something that He doesn't love, that He doesn't want, that He doesn't desire for you? And that you're going to have to suffer consequences for later on?

What's the answer? It's what Balaam should have done. Repent. Turn around. Go back the other direction. It's not too late. Say, "Lord, I have sinned. I want Your way, Your will in my life, not my will but Yours be done. And oh Lord, by the way, thank You for sending that adversary into my life, that circumstance, that person to make the way hard for me."

You may want to thank God for sending that adversary into the life of a prodigal son or daughter or wayward husband. Say, "Thank You for the reproofs of life that You use to stop us from going on in our waywardness and our rebellion." That's a severe mercy. It's a beautiful mercy. Thank God for it.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Let me remind you of a few highlights from what you just heard.

Nancy said, "You don't need to pray about something God has already said is wrong. Just because God allows something doesn't mean He approves it. What's amazing is that God can use us. You can never outwit or undo the will of God."

Those quotes in today's program is from the third day in the series called "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam." We can bring you programs like this because listeners believe in the value of this teaching. They get joy from investing in the program so you can hear it.

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When God wants to shake the nations and wake them up and draw them to His side, He will first motivate His people to pray.

Imagine reading one quote like that every month. This calendar is a monthly invitation for your passion for prayer to grow. We'll send the wall calendar to say "thanks" when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount.

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Well, we've been looking at the life of Balaam for a few days now. Tomorrow, we'll look more in-depth at the donkey—the talking donkey. Take this fascinating look with us tomorrow here on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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