Balaam’s Future (3 of 3)

I want to quickly write about something I decided NOT to talk about in my sermon. Why?  Well, because I had to ‘tie things up’ in this last sermon of the series. Please feel free to listen to the actual sermon and write any comments or questions you may have here in this location. However, as I said, I want to bring up another point not discussed in the sermon…

I want to stay with the character of Balaam. We learned in the second sermon about his profession. He is a ‘diviner’, a sorcerer, a soothsayer, a future teller. It appears that he has by the end of the 22nd chapter “found God” (although I would say that God found him). As we work into the 23 and 24 chapter of Numbers, he seems to fulfill the role of a full fledged prophet. Fighting against the ‘outsiders’ of Moab and not simply refusing to curse the people of God, but even uttering one of the most profound blessings in the Hebrew Bible.

It would seem that this story could be lifted up as the epitome of ‘salvation’ stories. The stereotype of a life turned around. But it isn’t…it hasn’t…

Where it appears Balaam is left in a good place in the eyes of God and the Israelites by casting down on the people of God multiple blessings (as opposed to curses), that is not the end of Balaam’s story. It appears that Balaam ended up turning his back on the people of God. He was killed (Num 31:8) by the Israelites for something referred to as the “Peor incident” (Num 31:6). Balaam, though he once blessed the Israelites at one time…he is referred to in the rest of Biblical history as an insult to good God fearing people everywhere. There are commentaries and online bible studies that project what it was that he did to reverse he status….but it is all conjecture….we just don’t really know.

So the question is obvious, is he in the good graces of God? How can he be such a good and powerful prophet and then be killed by the same people he blessed? What does this mean for you and I? What does this say about God? Prophets? God’s people?

We’d like to believe that Balaam continues his life blessing God’s people in some single line trajectory towards a Godly man…but he doesn’t…what are we to think?

Balaam Part Duex

On Sunday we continued with part two of our three part series on Balaam and his talking donkey…Shrek style. In Numbers 22:28 we have a scene that reminds me of nothing other than Shrek the movie…a very strange leap to make when reading the book of Numbers.

What I found interesting about the story (up to about verse 40 anyway) in this second addition to the series was not the hard-to-believe human language that came from the mouth of a donkey but the person of Balaam himself. It turns out that Balaam in his name (which means foreigner and a “person without a people”), in his occupation (a ‘diviner’ or a seer, sorcerer, soothsayer – an occupation and practice explicitly deemed unacceptable to God), and in the view of the angel of the Lord Balaam may be in some way an adversary to God (22:32 uses the Hebrew word for adversary or ‘satan’ in a way that is a bit unclear). In every way the teller of this story want the reader to understand that Balaam is about as far outside of the Covenant of God, the People of God and you can possibly get in a written story…he simply is the opposite of what God’s people, the Hebrew people, are supposed to be…

And yet…God finds him…God talks to him…God uses him…

How many of us feel ‘unworthy’ to be called “child of God”? How many of us know for a fact that our actions are unacceptable to God? How many of us feel like we are butting heads with God in our lives (in a manner of speaking)? How many of us feel as ‘outside’ as Balaam looks to be?

Yet…God…uses…Balaam.

Among many many many many possible messages in this story, at least one is this. There is no distance away from God that God cannot cross. There is nothing that we can do that keeps God from finding us. There is not one of us that God cannot use for his purposes. Even if it means God has to use a talking animal to get our attention…

Balaam’s Talking Donkey

Today at Spirit Alive Church we began a series on the odd story of Balaam and his talking donkey found in the book of Numbers chapters 22-24. It was the beginning of a three part series on the infamous talking donkey.

As odd as it is to have a story in the bible about an animal reminiscent of Shrek’s best friend, there are some profound possibilities found in this story. Today we stopped after only 22 verses that ‘set up’ the rest of the story. I am still in awe of the odd behavior (or maybe perceived behavior) of God here at the beginning. God gives seemingly clear direction telling Balaam to go with the emissaries from Moab who have summoned him and yet when Balaam does as his is directed from God…God still gets angry (22:22)! Why? What is up with that?? I don’t understand!

I wonder if on some level this “set up” does two things for us. First, I wonder if maybe we are being bought in to a profound reality of the nature of God. The reality that we can not ever really know the mind of God. That God is always elusive, to the point were we never really see God directly but only see the back of God…not directly “God’s face” (Exodus 33:20-23). Is that true also for the ‘will’ of God? That we don’t know it directly or completely? That certainly is my experience of God, is it yours? I may know for a fact that I am called to a thing, that God is clearly saying something to me…but that is never the whole picture. Do you experience God as elusive, mysterious?

Secondly, that following God’s direction (no matter how elusive or clear it may be), is never easy. It is always hard and there are always obstacles. God seems to place obstacles in our way even when we do what God asks of us. This is true in other parts of the Hebrew Bible as well. Moses was obedient to God and yet God tried to kill him (Exodus 4:24). Joshua also was obedient and yet an angel of God met him “…with a drawn sword…” (Joshua 5:13). God seems to place obstacles in our way even when we do what God asks…why?

Is this simply a way to ‘bring us all in’? The reality is, and I think we all have experienced this, that God’s will is hard! It is never easy, simple, smooth, to do what God asks of us. Is this true for Balaam also?

Read the first 22 verses of chapter 22 of the book of Numbers. What do you see? What do you question? How does God speak to you through the beginning of this story?

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK FOR PART TWO of BALAAM and his TALKING DONKEY!!