Our Sunday School lesson this past week was about Balaam. Here are some of my thoughts about this person of the Bible.
Bible Passage: Numbers 22 – 24
Here is my MIT (Most Important Thing) to communicate to the kids (Can you have two things?):
1. Obey the first time: While Balaam did technically obey, he asked God multiple times to do something that he should not have done. When you ask for God’s will you should want what God wants; you should not want God to want what you want.
2. Peer-pressure: There are people out there who want to destroy you. Balak did not foil the Israelites with the curses of Balaam, but he was able to succeed by tempting them to voilate God’s commands. God will protect us from evil attacks from robbers and those who seek to destroy us physically, but we have to watch for the “friends” who sneak in and cause us to destroy ourselves. Actually, God will protect us from those, too, if we let him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
One thing I noticed about the account in the Bible is that they left out a number of things. I guess God included only what he thought was important.
- Balaam’s Origin: Numbers doesn’t say much about where Balaam came from. I guess I am supposed to know where Pethor is. But, it doesn’t say how Balaam came to know God since it implies he was separate from the people who came out from Egypt.
- Balaam’s Response to the donkey: I find it odd that Balaam just replies to the donkey as if it is normal to talk to a donkey. Did God leave it to Sunday School teachers to have fun imaging this interaction? Was Balaam surprised when he heard the voice? Did it take a few minutes to find out it was the donkey talking? Numbers 22:21 says that he went with the Princes of Moab. So, what did they think about the donkey?
- Balaam’s instruction to tempt Israel: Revelation 2:14 says that Balaam taught Balak how to be a stumbling block to Israel. But, our account in Numbers here doesn’t really describe that.
- Balaam’s death: In Joshua 13:22, the Bible says that Israel killed Balaam. Again, that is not covered here in Numbers.
While mankind definitely comes first (Gen 1:26 — dominion over all the earth) and the creation never comes before the creator, God still expects us to treat animals properly. Maybe I am stretching the application a little bit, but God could have communicated about the Angel to Balaam differently. Instead, he allowed the donkey to defend himself after getting hit those three times. Remember, Jesus knows even when the sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29).
Nugget of Gold
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. — Numbers 23:21
Remember Jacob is the trickster. Even after God did all of those mighty works in Egypt, the Israel still complained and forgot God. How can God say he hasn’t seen any perverseness? Israel was His chosen and redeemed people. He cleansed them from their sin so that he no longer even saw their faults. In the same way, he can clean us. All he asks is that we put our trust in Jesus, and he will wash us from all our sin — that is called Mercy!