Balaam: Part 1

Scripture: Numbers 22:1-14
Date: 04/09/2005 
Balaam was paid by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites. His life of covetousness is a warning to us.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Turn with me in your Bibles to Numbers 22. We're going to do a two-part series on Balaam. There's too much to put into one message because of the time constraints, and there's so much material. This experience of what happened on the borders of the Promise Land very much applies to us today because I believe that we are on the borders of the Promise Land. I think that we are reaching the end of our 40 years of wandering, so to speak, and that we are soon to cross over. So there are a lot of lessons that we can learn.

The story of Balaam deserves special attention, not only because it's in the sacred record, but also because it is referred to several times in the New Testament. Even the book of Revelation refers to Balaam and this experience. So let's set the stage. God worked a number of miracles to part the Red Sea. He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and delivered them. Then for 40 years they wandered through the wilderness with the ultimate goal of getting to the Promise Land that He had promised them. Now news did not travel very fast back then. They didn't have the Internet and satellite delivery systems. But it didn't take 40 years for news to get around. It traveled the speed of caravan. And eventually, after a few months, certainly after a year or two, everybody throughout the civilized world had heard the story of these colossal plagues that fell on Egypt, of the miracles of the parting of the Red Sea, of this nation of nomads, delivered slaves that were going through the wilderness, being fed miraculously every day (bread from heaven, quail would come, water out of a rock). And now they're at the borders of the Promise Land. They've won several battles. Matter of fact, they've won every battle against some of the nomadic people that lived on the way to the Promise Land.

And as they are encamped. Let me tell you where they are. If you've got a map in your mind and you can see the Dead Sea. The north end of the Dead Sea, by the Jordan River, right near where John the Baptist baptize, by the way, they are not on the western side. They are on the eastern side. The Jordan River is the boundary. Spread out on the plains there are several million Israelites that plan on taking possession of the Promise Land. Now this was very unnerving for the nations that lived in the Promise Land. There were seven pagan Canaanite nations. And you've heard about the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites and the Ammonites, the Amalakites, and all these different nations that were to be dispossessed.

There were three nations that were related to the Jews. The children of Israel were told not to molest them. The Moabites were related to the descendents of Lot, as were the Ammonites. And then of course, you've got the Edomites, the descendents of Esau. But there were others that were related. And the children of Israel were told, “You can go through their land. Don't bother them. Don't attack them. They are your relatives.” But the Moabites were very rude. Moses sent a delegation to the king of Moab and said, “We’re just going to pass through your land. Will pay for the water that we drink and any grain that our sheep eat.” And he said, “No, you can't come through.” And was very rude to them.

Numbers 22:1, “Then the children of Israel moved and they came encamped in the plains of Moab on the side of Jordan, across from Jericho.” They're right on the boundary of Moab. Moab, they were up in the mountains, and they could look down and see the plains of Moab. The children of Israel are all spread out. And the king of Moab could look out and see them there. Now would it make you nervous if you saw this nation that's camped right on your borders, and you know that they're going to take the Promise Land? They've won every battle. At night, you can see their camp glowing. Why? Because there's a pillar of fire illuminating their camp, supernatural fire. In the morning, you see them roaming around picking something up off the ground that's going to evaporate soon and they make bread out of it. In the evening, flocks of quail go through their camp. Would it make you nervous, if they have that kind of evidence of God's presence?

Well, the king of Moab was very nervous. “Now Balak the son of Zippor,” the king of Moab, “he saw that all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many. And Moab was thick with dread.” They were physically sick with dread just looking at the people there. “Because of the children of Israel. So Moab said to the elders of Midian.”

Here's a new people I want you to think about. Where did the Midianites come from? Remember when Gideon fought against the Midianites and they were called the people of the East? Sometimes they're called the Ishmaelites because after Sarah died, Abraham got married again. We got the miracle was that Abraham was a hundred years old. No, the miracle was that Sarah was as old as she was and she was past the time of childbearing. Because after Sarah died Abraham got married again to a concubine named Katurah [?].And he had a whole litter of kids with her. And among them was one called Midian. And evidently the Midianites mingled with the Ishmaelites. Remember Joseph was sold by his brothers to, one place says the Ishmaelites, another place says the Midianites. They were the same people.

So the Midianites and the Moabites are worried about the children of Israel who are about to enter the Promise Land and they have a plan to hire a prophet. The idea was, “We’re going to fight fire with fire.” Let's keep reading here. “So Moab said to the elders of Midian, Now this company,” the Israelites, “well lick up all that is around us as an ox licks up the grass of the field. And Balak, the son of Zippor, was king of the Moabites at the time, that he sent messengers to Balaam, the son of Beor of Pethor, which is near the river in the land of the sons of his people to call him saying: Look, this people has come up from Egypt; see they cover the face of the earth, and they’re sitting next to me. Therefore, please come at once and curse this people for me, for they are mighty, they're too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed. So the elders of Moab with the elders of Midian, they departed,” to make this journey, to go to Balaam, this famous prophet, “with the diviner’s fee.” They've got their credit cards. When you've got to pay for a prophet you've got to question the prophecy. “With their diviner’s fee in their hand. And they came to Balaam, and spoke these words to him.”

Now we’re setting the stage for you. You've got the Midianites; are they related to the Israelites? They are. They believed in circumcision, they worship the same God. You've got the Moabites; are they related to Israel? They are. They believed in circumcision. They worship the same God, called Him by the same name. And they're going to hire a prophet. Now we're not exactly sure where Balaam’s living, but there's some speculation. I've done a lot of study about it. It says, “by the river.” We believe that this is the River Euphrates. Do you remember when Abraham came out of Ur that he didn't come directly to the Promise Land? He stopped on the way at a place called Haran. Do you remember when Jacob went to get his wife? He went back to Haran. And that was the last place; he would leave the Euphrates River, before you cross the desert and came into the land of Israel. It was the closest point. There were a number of people living there that were descendents of Abraham, that worshiped at the same God (though they had probably apostasized some—the same way Laban had). And it's possible they had to send the camels all this way, this caravan went from Moab to Balaam.

Now Balaam was a prophet of God. His heart had been sensitive to God. He wanted to serve God, what he had a problem. Covetousness. The love of money. And you know, the love of money is a handle that fits on everything else. Some people love money because of materialism; they love things, and money buys things. Some people love money because of power. How many will agree there is a certain amount of power with wealth? For good or for evil, but there's power. And some people love money because of the lust of the flesh. Can use money to buy that. Whether it's a buffet of a casino.

I'm really disappointed. I've heard some have gone to the bingo, because it's cheap food. Bingo parlor. “Oh, I wouldn't gamble there, but the food is good and it's cheap.” What are people going to think if they see members of my church going into a bingo hall? Even if it is just for the buffet. Get a grip. Go to Subway. It's cheap enough. Pastor Doug isn't going there. It's a bad witness. Why would you want to support that?

Anyway, back to money. Three principal sins: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life. Money will fit all those things. Well. There are parts of him, that wanted to serve God, but things got in the way. You remember, another good man came to Jesus one time, a young ruler. He said, “Good Master, what good thing should I do that I might have eternal life? And Jesus, beholding him, loved him.” Mark 10. He loved him. H had potential to be an apostle. He said, “Go, sell what you have. Give it to the poor. You’ll have treasure in heaven, and follow me. Take up your cross and follow me. You’ll have treasure in heaven.” He was yearning to follow God. He wanted eternal life. There were good things in him. “But he went away grieved, for he had great possessions.” He could not let go of his love of stuff, materialism, the mall. That sums it up for us, doesn't it? Do you have to go to the mall, once a week?

Judas. Was there anything good in Judas? I'll submit to you that if Judas was alive today, and he came through the doors of your church, speaking in modern vernacular. I mean, assuming he understood the age in which we live. Most of us would be happy to have Judas part of our church, probably part of the leadership. Jesus chose him as part of his leadership. There were good things in Judas. He wasn't all bad. But love of money, it just kept, the materialism, it kept turning him off the right road. And this is where Balaam was. By the way, the word Balaam means glutton, or devourer. It comes from the word bala, to swallow or to devour. He is the son of Beor or Bosoer, which means destruction. So his name is swallower, son of destruction. You know, in some respects those who know something about God that do not totally commit are more dangerous than those who have always been pure pagans. It is those who are not totally converted that are more dangerous. Who do you think is going to cause the greatest harm for God's people in the last days? Those who once walked with us, who turned away.

Now get this, friends. Don't miss this. In the last days, before they crossed the border of the Jordan, you've got a confederacy of the Moabites, the Midianites, and a corrupt prophet that tried to bring down the downfall of God's people. Does the Bible tell us in Revelation there will be a confederacy in the last days of those apostate Protestants, apostate Orthodox or Catholics, and spiritualism—false prophet, that will try to bring down God's people? History is going to repeat itself. Is the story of Balaam relevant for us today? One of the things that was a big problem for Balaam was the love of money. We’re going to get to that in more detail in a minute. The Bible tells us in the New Testament, that was his problem. He loved the wages of unrighteousness. There were good things in him. He had an element of truth. He even spoke prophecies of truth. But it was neutralized by his love of money.

You know, we are living in the most materialistic time in the world's history. All of the world, to some extent, is paying homage to America because we've got so much stuff. The gross national product of the United States is the strongest in the world. We have more things you can buy and we’re being copied and replicated by the rest of the world. And on our media, that can be seen everywhere in the world, we are bombarding the world with images of all this stuff they could have if they want to be like us. You know what brought down communism? Capitalism, all of the stuff that we have. Now, I'm very thankful for the freedoms that we have. Don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting communism. But there are risks with the freedom that we have that you can get where you love the stuff. Why do you think our founding fathers stamped all our money with the phrase, “In God we trust.” Why do you think they did that? They knew that there was a risk that we would love the money instead of the God who gave us wealth. Materialism on the borders. It's going to happen again.

So basically, what they're doing is they're looking for a hit man. You see, the people of Moab and Midian realized that the children of Israel have God on their side. It is a spiritual battle. And if you're going to fight spiritual battles you need spiritual weapons. They were right. They're going to fight fire with fire. A spiritual war. I'd like to quote to you from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 438. “The Moabites dare not risk an attack upon them. An appeal to all arms was hopeless in the face of the supernatural agencies that wrought in their behalf. But they determined, as Pharaoh had done, to enlist the power of sorcery to counter act the work of God. They would bring a curse upon Israel.” We are going to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. And you know, biblically, we are told to do it that way. II Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God to pulling down strongholds.”

How do we fight the devil? With boxing gloves? With a .22 pistol? Is that anything against the devil? Spiritual warfare, spiritual armor. Ephesians 6:12, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you might be able to stand.” It's a spiritual war, and we need spiritual weapons. But the good news is, do Christians need to worry if someone gets a voodoo doll of you? Do you and I need to worry that someone out there is making a little effigy of you, and they're sticking it with pins? There are people out there that if you tell them that it really is unnerving to them. A Christian doesn't have to worry that anyone is casting spells on you or using witchcraft or voodoo, because there's a promise for you. Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” If you are walking with the Lord then He is your shield, the Bible says, right? Is it a physical shield or a spiritual shield? Spiritual shields are for what kind of weapons? Spiritual weapons. And so, if you’ve got the shield of God around you, that the Lord has put a hedge around you. Remember, Satan couldn’t get the hedge around Job unless God removed it. You don’t have to be afraid. Somebody out there says, “I’m going to put a whammy on you.” I know Christians that are superstitious. “Oh no, I saw a black cat. I walked under a ladder, in front of a broken mirror.” They get all worked up. You don’t have to worry about that stuff. If you believe it you’ve got a problem. Something might happen if you believe it.

I’ve had people pretend to put curses on me before. I said, “Help yourself. It’s not going to do any good. You’re wasting your breath.” Matter of fact, you know what a shield does. It deflects things. Sometimes a shield will bounce something back to its source. And the Bible says if you try to roll the stone on God’s people it will roll back on you. Hamaan was hung on the gallows that he made for Mordecai. And don’t forget. What did Hamaan do? He cast lots. He tried to cast some kind of spell on Mordecai. But it bounced back on him. So you don’t have to be afraid of those curses. But they were going to try and fight fire with fire. By the way, Balaam did come up with a plan—this is part 2—he does come up with a plan that works later.

So they get this spiritual hit man and they’re going to buy a cruse. “So the elders of Midian departed with the elders of Moab,” 22:7, “and the diviners fee in their hand. And they came to Balaam and they spoke the words that Balak said.” You might say that Balaam was a prophet for profit. You’ve heard of non-profit ministries. He was a prophet with a for-profit ministry. Can you name any time in the Bible when somebody had to pay a prophet to get a prophecy of God? Did anybody say to Isaiah, “Here’s some money, now what’s God’s word?” Matter of fact, a real prophet of God will tell you what the word of God is whether you pay him or not. And you can’t stop him if you pay him.

I remember when my brother and I were little. I must have been five or six years old. My mom took us on a vacation to Acapulco. She bought us a couple of these little Mexican violins. My brother and I were so happy. We went from one table to another in the restaurant there in the hotel and said, “We’ll play for you if you pay us.” And you know, most of them said, “We’ll pay you if you don’t play.” And we made a lot of money. We said, “Hey, we’ve got something going here.” We’d just go up to the table and say, “We’ll play,” and they’d give us money to go away. My brother and I had buckets of pesos. Of course, they were worthless back then.

But with a prophet of God you can’t pay him not to prophecy. If he’s a real prophet. So as soon as you know that somebody is giving you a bill, the diviner’s fee, they’re not a prophet of God. Isn't that right? I am so thankful I'm paid to share the gospel, because I do it anyway. It's a nice fringe benefit, but I'm not preaching the truth because I'm on salary. I'm preaching the truth because that's what I've been called to do. You remember when Naaman was healed of his leprosy, he went to pay Elisha a fabulous sum. He said, “I won't receive any because this is a symbol of salvation, and I want you to know it's a gift of God.” Balaam was not that kind of prophet. He was a prophet for profit.

Jude 1:11, “Woe to them, for they have gone in the way of Cain and they have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit.” Jude says that Balaam ran greedily for profit. When these messengers came from the princes of Moab and Midian to Balaam, did Balaam know about the God of Israel? Of course he did. Matter of fact, when you read it in the original, which I did, he uses the name Jehovah. He knew who the God of Moses was. He calls him by His name. He was a prophet of God. Were the only prophets of God, the ones who were directly related to Abraham? No. Of course, you've got Enoch, Methuselah, Melchizedek. Remember, Abraham brought his tithes to Melchizedek. He was a king and a priest and a prophet of God. But he wasn’t directly related. So God has His people out there, this is sometimes hard for us to believe, He’s even got some people and other denominations, doesn't He? And He's speaking through them. That's true. He wanted the rewards. As soon as these messengers came and they said, “We would like to pay you to curse Israel,” he should have booted them out of his door right away.

It says in II John 1:10-11, “If there comes any to you all and he doesn't bring this doctrine, don't receive him into your house, neither bid him Godspeed. For he that bids him Godspeed is a partaker of his evil deeds.” As soon as they said, “We’ve come and we’re asking you to curse Israel,” that would be something like somebody coming to you and saying, “We want you to assassinate your best friend's wife.” If he's a prophet of God and God's best friend, and the church, Israel, is His bride, you should've kicked them out of the store right away. The very fact that he even listened to their proposition was a sign there was something corrupt in his heart. It was like when Judas went to the priests and said, “What will you give me if I turn Him over to you?” He's going to curse God's people for profit. So he receives them into his house in order to do that.

You know, part of the reason he did this is he was flattered. They came to him and they said, “We know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is cursed. You've got this power. We've heard about you. You've got a reputation. And if you tell us you can't do it, well then maybe that's because you really don't have the power that we've heard about.” And so they are playing upon his pride with flattery. They've got this diviner’s fee in their hand. And I began to work on him. He should have given God credit for the power. He should have said, “No, I don't have the power to bless or to curse. It's all with God.” But, you know, he doesn't say that. He just accepts the accolades.

Notice how different the response of Joseph was. When the Pharaoh said to Joseph, “My wise men can't understand my dream, but I've heard about you. I've heard you've got the special power.” Genesis 41:15, “Pharaoh said to Joseph, I’ve heard it said of you that you can understand a dream to interpret it.” What to Joseph say? “Yes, it's true. I have special power.” No, Joseph said, “It is not in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” You notice these prophets of God that were true were humble. And again, Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar said, “I have heard of you. My wise men don't know what the dream says, but I've heard of you that you understand. Daniel answered in the presence of the King and said, The secret the king has demanded, cannot the wise men, nor the astrologers, the magicians, or the soothsayers show the King, but I can.” Is that what he said? No. Daniel said, “There is a God in heaven that reveals secrets.” He never takes the credit himself. One thing you notice right away about Balaam, he embraced the flattery. He never refuted it. He never straightens them out. So there's something wrong in his heart.

So he says, “I tell you what, let's pray about it.” Do you know how many times I've heard people use that as an excuse? “I'm not sure what God wants me to do. Let me pray about it.” You'll preach the Sabbath truth to somebody, it's as clear as day in the Bible. The logic and arguments are just irrefutable. And I'll ask them what they think of the message, and they'll say, “I'm going to pray about it.” It's a diversionary tactic. It's a stalling mechanism. Sometimes God tells us what He wants us to do. We know what He wants us to do, but were going to pray about it. So Balaam says, “Spend the night here.” And what he's really doing is he's praying that God is going to let him go so he can get the honor and the money. So they come and they give this message. Verse 8, he says, “Lodge here tonight and I'll bring back word to you as the Lord speaks to me. So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.” He should not have even entertained them. He knew that the people were blessed. “Then God came to Balaam, and He said, Who are these men with you?” Did God know? Why does God say it that way to Balaam? God knew Balaam knew also. He says, “You know who they are. Who are these men? What are they doing with you? They are the enemies of my people. Why are you housing them? Who are these men with you? Why did you invite them into your house?”

And Balaam said to God, he's playing dumb, “Balak, the son of Zippor, the king of Moab has sent to me saying, Look, this people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face.” He quotes the messengers. “They cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me. Perhaps I can overpower them and drive them out. And God said to Balaam, You shall not.” Isn't that how the 10 Commandments appear? Is this a recommendation or is it a command? “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people. They are blessed.” Can you be any more decisive than that? Why would you ask a second opinion after God is that clear? “These people are blessed. These are the ones that I’ve been with. I’m feeding them from heaven. I delivered them from Egypt. Why would you even contemplate cursing them? They’re the ones that I’ve called to be a nation of priests.”

“Balaam arose in the morning,” he goes back to the princes of Balak and he says, you can just hear his voice, “Go back to your land, for the Lord’s refused to give me permission to go with you.” “My parents say I can’t come out and play.” They are the bad guys. “God won’t let me go. I want to go.” Can you hear it? “And the princes of Moab, they rose and they went back to Balak.” And I can just see it. As they’re going down the road, Balaam probably accepted at least a gratuity for housing them. But he knows there are much bigger rewards that he’s missing and he’s wringing his hands with regret that he can’t come up with some plan to still get the money. That’s why it says, “He ran greedily after.” “So they came to Balak and they said, Balaam refuses to come with us.” “But there was something about the tone of his voice, King Balak. It sounds like he was ready to negotiate. We just think maybe the offer wasn’t enough.” It’s like the corrupt judge who’s approached by somebody being tried under his jurisdiction and he offers the judge $5,000 to find him innocent. And the judge says, “Who do you think I am?! I would never let you off for that amount.” [end side one]

The problem is that the price is too low. It’s a matter of negotiation. They heard, they detected, he left enough signals in his voice, body language. He really wanted to go. They just didn’t offer enough. And so Balak picked up on that. And so it says, “Balak sent again,” verse 15, “more princes, more numerous, more honorable,” the prestige, the honor of the office they held, their titles, the clothing they wore, “and I’ll send more money. And they came back to Balaam.” Now they’re making this long journey. Keep in mind, Israel spent 40 years so they’re camped for a while in the Plains of Moab. And so they have to make this long journey at breakneck speed to get back to Balaam. And Balaam sends this message, “Thus saith Balak, the son of Zippor, please let nothing hinder you from coming to me.” “Don’t let anything come between you and me.” Even God’s will? “For I will certainly honor you greatly, and I’ll do whatever you say to me.” “Not only will I provide whatever you need to curse the people, I’ll give you. You need a harem? I’ll give you a harem. I’m a king. I’ll give you whatever you want. Your wish is my demand [command]. Whatever you want. I’ll make you rich, famous. Clothe you in silk and you’ll live in a palace.” Why would you say no? The temptation. For a man with a covetous heart this is almost unbearable.

“Then Balaam says to the messengers of Balak that come, Even though Balak was to give me his house full of silver and gold, I can’t go beyond the word of the Lord.” He’s still struggling. He’s got this moral dilemma. “To do more or less.” “But don’t leave. Please stay here tonight. I’ll pray one more time. Maybe things will change.” “And I’ll know what the Lord will say to me.” He’s going to get a second opinion. When you’ve been to the very best physician in a certain area, why do you get a second opinion? If God’s Word says, “do not be unequally yoked,” but your heart is set upon an unbeliever, and you say, “Well, I’m going to pray about it. I’ll see what the Lord says.” Don’t get a second opinion. Amen? Why do you want a second opinion on a “thus saith the Lord”? Do you think God’s going to change? You know what happens in cases like this, when people are supposedly getting a second opinion? They are imperiling their own soul. Because, in trying to get the Word of God to say something that it doesn’t say by praying about it, really, what you’re doing is you’re not changing the truth, you’re changing your attitude towards the truth. And you’re convincing yourself; you’re becoming so deluded into thinking God is going to give you permission to do something that you’re really not supposed to. If you reject the clear teaching of God on some area, praying for a second opinion, God might allow you to self-destruct. It doesn’t mean it’s His will.

It’s like the man who is struggling with his weight. Every day on the way to work he gets doughnuts. So one day he says, “Well look, I’m not going to stop for donuts today, unless there’s an empty parking place right in front of the donut shop.” Because they’re always full he knows there’s not going to be an empty place in front of the donut shop. He says, “I’ll just pray about it and if I’m supposed to get the donuts there will be an empty spot.” So he shows up at work and folks said, “We thought you were going to try and stop eating donuts.” He said, “Well you know, I prayed about it. I said, if there’s an empty spot, and what do you know? There was an empty spot right in front of the donut shop. Of course, I had to circle the block 10 times before it opened up. But there it was. It must’ve been the will of God.” Now I’m using this humorous illustration to help highlight something that we all do. Sometimes we play games with God and we try to make God. I go to the store, Haagen-Dazs is on sale. It must be God’s will. Gods trying to tell me something. “Doug, tonight you’re supposed to have Haagen-Dazs because it’s on sale.” We can convince ourselves what ever we want to believe. Isn’t that right? It doesn’t necessarily make it the truth.

So he reluctantly refused. He was willing to do wrong if the price was right. That you might be thinking, “Doug, how could Balaam have been a prophet of God and behave this way?” Let me share a very important truth that is often misunderstood. Sometimes we’re inclined to think that only those who are doing God’s will have spiritual gifts. That’s not necessarily always true. Sometimes there are those who have the Spirit of God, and they have spiritual gifts, and they abuse those spiritual gifts. And God allows them to. God will sometimes even answer the prayers of those who are praying for the wrong motive. James says, “You pray and you don’t receive. Sometimes you pray that you might consume your answers on your own lusts.” When Moses became angry, lost his temper, and struck the rock two times did water still come out of the rock? Even though he disobeyed God still answered the prayer. He obviously sinned because God said, “Because of what you did it you’re not going into the Promise Land.” But water still came out of the rock. That doesn’t mean Moses was right.

Who was it that gave Samson his supernatural strength? Does it say anywhere in the Bible that Samson had big muscles? There is absolutely no reference in the Bible to Samson’s size or his bicep measurements. When the Spirit of God was withdrawn he was just like other men. That’s what the Bible says. And yet, he abused that gift that God had given him of supernatural strength. The Bible says that he went to one of these Philistine cities and went to visit one of the ladies of the night. And when they tried to capture him he tore the gates off the city, carried them up to the mountains of Hebron. Here he was showing off with his supernatural gift while he’s totally missed behaving. Who gave him the power to carry those gates? God did. Then, Jesus sent the apostles out preaching. Did He always send out 11 apostles, or did Judas go, too? And you know what the Bible says? They all came back and said, “Even the devils are subject unto us.” Judas also met with success in preaching. That does not necessarily mean that it was under the power of God. I remind myself of this frequently, friends. It’s a very important truth. You should never become deluded into thinking because God has given you gifts and you see some success connected with those gifts that means you’re doing everything right. That’s a very dangerous mistake.

A little later we’re going to find out God talks through donkeys, doesn’t He? I said it again. Are you still with me? Some were listening. Matthew 5:45, Jesus said, “He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good.” So he goes to Lord and he says, “Lord, now what am I supposed to do?” Well, God had already told him what to do. But he didn’t like the answers so he keeps praying about it. Verse 20, “And God said to Balaam at night, If the men come to you rise and go with them, but only the word that I speak to you, that shall you do.”

Quick story. Not connected, but whenever I read this verse I think about. I knew a woman who was asked by an Adventist evangelist to marry her. His name was W. W. Simson. You can read about him in some of the testimonies. And the lady’s daughter tells me the story that she wanted to marry the man that God wanted her to marry. And I don’t recommend you read your Bible this way. But she said, “Lord, I need something more. I don’t see any reason not to marry Elder Simson. He’s a man of God, and I want to serve God, and it would be great, but I need to know.” And she prayed fervently and she opened her Bible. She put her finger down, and this was the verse her finger landed on. “If the men come to you and call you, rise and go with them.” So she married him. They had a happy marriage, too, I understand. Don’t read your Bible that way. Some of you are going to find out what you want until just keep opening your Bible and pointing until you find it. That's sort of using the Bible like it’s an ouji board. Don’t do that.

“So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.” Now he’s going in a way he shouldn’t be going. God has given him permission and you might be wondering, “Isn’t this a conflict?” Let me give you another Bible principle that’s often misunderstood. God will sometimes give you up to what you want. It does not mean it is His will. Don’t miss that because a lot of us, we think God is blessing us and all that’s happened is God has removed the restrictions. He's letting you go your own way. But it doesn't mean you're in the way of the Lord.

Psalm 81:11-12, “My people would not hearken to my voice so I gave them up to their own heart’s lusts and they walked in their own councils.” Typically, the cowboy on the horse controls the direction of the horse. But if you've got a stubborn enough horse you can let go of the reins and the horse is going to go his own way. The cowboy may still be on the horse, but he's not going where he wants to go. And sometimes God will release the reins and just let you go your own way. It doesn't mean you're going according to His will. I think right now if God could remove the veil a lot of us would be shocked to find out that for years we've been doing our own thing thinking it was God's will and all the God did was, He let you do your own thing. He has a plan for you that's entirely different, but you're not surrendered. You want to do your own thing so He's letting you do it.

Romans 1:24, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness in their lusts of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” God gives us up to do what we want to do. Romans 1:26, “For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions.” Isaiah 53, “All we like sheep have gone astray. We've turned everyone to his own way.” We want to do our own thing. And because sometimes we meet with blessing and prosperity, don't forget God is love. He will send in the rain on the just and the unjust. He will bless you, even on the way to destruction. So Balaam's off doing his own thing. Hosea 4:17, listen to what God says. “Ephraim is joined to idols. Let him alone.” He's in love with his idolatry. God says, “You know, I've done all I can do.” God will back off sometimes. So Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness. And so he's going after his own thing.

Covetousness. That tenth commandment, you hear very little about that commandment. It's a very specific. Now covetousness in itself is not bad if your coveting is to desire. If you're desiring something good. Paul says we should covet earnestly the best gifts, coveting spiritual gifts. That’s all good. If you’re coveting to be like Jesus that’s fine. The commandment says, “Do not covet what you should not covet,” something that doesn't belong to you that you have no right to: your neighbor's house, your neighbor's wife, his servants. Don't be coveting what you shouldn't have. And there is a general attitude of materialism, wanting more than you really need. That's covetousness.

One of the biggest problems in North America today is the litigation for everything. You know why your drugs are so expensive? You know why your car insurance is so expensive, and your house insurance is so expensive? Because of greed. Because people defraud, the companies. Everybody is suing everybody for these mega, deep-pocket suits. And what happens is, because of the greed, and a lot of it is there are some dishonest attorneys out there and they charge these exorbitant fees. And the prices of everything go through the roof. And if everybody was honest and only took what they really deserved or needed you would see things come down 90%. But some of the inflated costs are because of the greed. A lot of doctors are going out of business. You know why? Because they make a little mistake, cut off the wrong foot or something like that; pull the wrong tooth, and they pay these multi-million dollar suits when you and I know it’s often just little things. Mega-suits are paid and they can’t even afford their insurance anymore.

So he’s on his way doing his own thing. There’s a tension that exists in every man’s heart between what he has and who he is. “So Balaam rose in the morning,” verse 21, “he saddled his donkey, he went with the princes of Moab. And God’s anger was aroused because he went. And the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. Now the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand and the donkey turned aside to go out of the way and he went into a field. So Balaam struck the donkey with his staff to turn it back onto the road.” Donkey, poor thing, goes back into the road. “Then the angel of the Lord stands in a narrow path between the vineyards with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again. And the angel of the Lord went further and stood in a narrow place where the donkey couldn’t even turn. And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord.” The donkey saw. You notice that? “And she laid down under Balaam.” Can’t even turn. “So Balaam’s anger was aroused and he struck the donkey with the staff in his hand.”

I want you to notice something. There is a narrowing in the way. First the donkey goes to a field, but the angel comes to a place where there are walls. He bumps his foot against the wall. Then he gets where he can’t even turn, so he just lies down. I think in God’s efforts to save people He keeps trying to hedge us in more and more to get our attention. We keep trying to go around the angel of the Lord and God, through circumstances, is trying to put an angel in the way where there’s no way around him to save us. And we keep beating our donkey trying to get around the angel, to do what we wan to do and go where we want to go and do our own thing. You know, that donkey in some respects is our conscience. Torturing our conscience. Sometimes it talks to us.

“And the angel of the Lord said to him.” I want to give the donkey a chance to talk. I jumped ahead. “Then the Lord,” verse 28, “opened the mouth of the donkey and said to Balaam, What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?” And Balaam is so enraged with greed and anger that he begins to dialogue with his donkey and he never makes a comment that there’s anything unusual about that. Have you ever seen a person so enraged, they’re so angry they’re actually spirit possessed? So he thinks this is normal, for moment anyway. “And Balaam said to the donkey, Because you’ve abused me these times. I wish there was a sword in my hand for I would kill you. And the donkey said to Balaam, Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you? And Balaam said, No.” He’s starting to think. “Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes.” Balaam is now beginning to think maybe there’s a spiritual something going on here. The Lord opens Balaam’s eyes and “he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with a drawn sword in his hand.”

Now, Balaam has just said, “I wish I had a sword because I’d kill you, donkey.” Now he sees and angel that does have a sword ready to kill him. Balaam would have killed his donkey, but the angel says, “I’m sparing your life because of the donkey.” “He saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand.” I wonder how many times in our life, if our eyes could be opened, we’d see angels in our way; we’re trying to go through them. You know, this happened to Moses, too. You remember? Angel of the Lord stood, was going to slay Moses. You know what it was. Moses is getting ready to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery; this nation that had made a covenant through circumcision and Moses had not circumcised his own sons because his wife thought it was barbaric. And I guess they had this family dispute and he was letting her have her way. What kind of example was he? And the angel of the Lord, he's getting ready, and he stops and Moses in the way and they have a circumcision right there on the road. He says, “Look, you're out of God's will. You're wanting to do your own thing. You're thinking this little thing doesn't matter to me.” The angel of the Lord stopped him in the way and was going to slay him. Have you wondered about that? I wonder how many times, if our eyes could be opened, we'd see that what we thought were circumstances was an angel of God in our way trying to save us. Because we’re out of God's will. We're doing our own thing and not His thing. Where we’re compromising in some little area.

“And the angel of the Lord said to him, Why have you struck your donkey these three times?” Was the angel of the Lord counting? Does God care how we treat our animals? Proverbs 12:10, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” I think that Christians should treat their animals better than people in the world. I think we ought to care about them. Sometimes you can tell about Jesus in someone's heart by how they care about the animals. We can learn something from our animals. Balaam could've learned something from his donkey if he had been paying attention. The he was trying to save his life. Job 12:7, “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you, and the birds of the air, and they will tell you, or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Oh, all these do not know the hand of the Lord has done this?” Sometimes the animals are more in tune with what God is saying that we are.

You think about it, Balaam owed his salvation to this poor donkey he treated so poorly. So the donkey speaks. God speaks through humble instruments. What does a donkey represent here? For one thing, I told you it might represent his conscience. A donkey was the humblest of conveyances in Bible times. You might ride a horse, you might ride a mule, you might ride a camel, but a donkey. How did Jesus ride into Bethlehem? “Your king will come to you, He is a meek and lowly riding up on a donkey.” What I think is interesting is the donkey that Jesus rode was the opposite of the donkey that Balaam rode, in that Balaam's donkey was experienced, but it didn't go where he was supposed to go because he was going the wrong way. Jesus’ donkey had never been ridden before. I've ridden donkeys, I've ridden wild ones, and you've got to break them just like a horse. They're not born letting you ride. That was a miracle. But Jesus’ donkey, who had never been ridden before, went where it was supposed to go because he was in the will of the Lord. Balaam was the opposite of that. It's an animal that represents humility.

I heard somebody say this week, “Nobody is too small for God to use, some people are too big for God to use. Nobody is too little for God to use, but some people are too great for God to use them. You are never too small for God to use you. You're never too little for God to use you, but you could be too big for God to use you. Sometimes we become confused by our own self-importance. He said, “The donkey saw me and turned out of his way.”

I Corinthians 1:27, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame those things that are mighty, and the bass things of the world and the things that are despised, God has chosen, and the things that are not to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” Why did God speak to Balaam through a donkey? Balaam was a prophet of God and he began to think, “Because God speaks through me I’m really something and people owe me. I'm really something, because God speaks through me. I'm the mouth of God. People ought to worship me. I deserve the reward, because God speaks through me. I'm a prophet of God.” And you know, God sends him a special message. He speaks to him through his donkey. He says, “You think you're hot stuff because you're a prophet? The donkey listens to me better than you do, and I can speak through the donkey just like I can speak through you.” Do you get the message that God has given Balaam here?

He was so distracted with the things of the world. “What profit is it if you gain the whole world and you lose your soul?” By the time the story is over, because Balaam does not turn around, he keeps on going. You'd think after you've seen an angel in the way you'd say, “I'm going home now. I got the message.” He still goes the wrong way because he wants the reward. You'll find part two, I think, very interesting.

I thought it would be appropriate if we sing that song, I think George Beverly Shea, actually put the music to it, I'd Rather Have Jesus Than Silver or Gold. What a gift that God would give you the truth and speak through you. He'll speak through you, right? God can use you. He can use humble instruments. As long as we realize our need of Him, He can use us. And I'd rather have Jesus than anything the world offers. “What profit is it if you gain the whole world and you lose your soul?” A man is not valuable, because he’s got a lot of valuable stuff. A man is valuable because he knows what he's worth in Christ. Let stand and sing this together.

[verse] [prayer offer] [verse]

Father in heaven, Lord, the message of Balaam is not only a message to your church; we see it as a message to us individually. His distraction for the love of money is really a handle that fits all of our sins. Sometimes we become confused between what we want and what you want. Sometimes we are in danger because we do not receive a love of the truth. You might allow us to believe a lie and we can be on the road to destruction thinking we're doing your will. Lord, I pray that we'll really be surrendered to know what you want and resigned to do your will, not ours. Lord, don't let us go, don't give us up. I pray that we'll hear your voice and be willing to obey. Please bless us now and use us, Lord. If you can use a donkey, you can use us. We pray in Jesus’ name amen.

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