Old Testament Reading: Numbers 22 & 23
Psalms Reading: Psalm 70
New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 7
Balaam is an interesting character – as is of course his famous articulate donkey. He must have been a very well-known and successful diviner – or pagan prophet – for Balak, the king of Moab, to send delegations twice to bring Balaam to curse the Israelites.
Balaam is not an Israelite. He does not serve the Lord Almighty. However, in these two chapter (Numbers 21 & 22) it appears he does a better job of listening to the Lord God and following his directions than most of the Israelites whom God had rescued from Egypt. From the Israelites who had experienced God’s mighty saving hand at work we have heard a whole lot of grumbling, complaining, and belly-aching as well as questioning God’s power and intent, His love and His faithfulness and His chosen leaders. In contrast, here we have the pagan prophet Balaam who (currently) seems to be following God’s every directive: Stay, Go, Speak. And Balaam does it. Perhaps Balaam has heard some of the stories coming out of the Israelite camp: the ground opening up to swallow the rebellious, the plagues of sickness and death, the water from the rock, the quail three feet deep, the sons of the priest burned to death by fire from heaven. As a sorcerer/diviner/soothsayer he has got to be more than a little curious about this God and all He can do. We do know Balaam heard his donkey speak to him (God truly can give His words to anyone, or anything) and God opened Balaam’s eyes. In response, Balaam speaks. And at this time, he speaks for God. It is as if he has no choice, just as his talking donkey had no choice. And so Balaam delivers God’s words:
“Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.” (22:18)
“But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” (22:38)
“Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says?” (23:26)
How silent the world would be if we erased all the words spoken that were NOT what God put in our mouths. This thought has been going through my mind the past couple of days (perhaps making it harder to write this devotion). Who of us can say (for very long), “I must speak (type) only what God puts in my mouth”? How would my house and marriage and work and church be improved if every word from my mouth first was reviewed to see if it was worthy of God’s seal of approval – “These words were brought to you by God”? I have said some pretty stupid, wrong, hurtful words that were definitely NOT from God. And, they get me into trouble and further from where He wants me to be. I know there are also many times I have failed to say what God HAS wanted me to speak.
Unfortunately for Balaam, his story doesn’t end there. Unfortunately for Balaam, his heart and motives and ethics were not in line with his words from the Lord. It is not enough to speak what is right while doing what is wrong. As we continue reading in Numbers we will learn more about Balaam. In the meantime, you might be interested in also checking out what some New Testament writers had to say about Balaam: 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14.
Dear God, please open my eyes and give me the words you want me to say. THOSE are the words I want to speak. Help me live your words and show You to the world.
- Re-read carefully the words that God put into Balaam’s mouth (23:7-10 & 18-24). What does God want to be made known about Him and His people? What do you think God wants you to tell others about Him? How? Where? When?
- How can you guard against saying the right thing but doing the wrong thing?
- What does God reveal about Himself in your Bible reading today? Why is that important?