Friday, May 04, 2012

120504 - Numbers 24-25 - Example of Balaam

Friday SOAP: More reflection on the strange character of Balaam, the self-styled gentile "prophet of the LORD." We are living in a time, sadly, at which it's more important than ever to learn the lesson Balaam provides - not his "doctrine" but the contrary example he makes. (See 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Rev. 2:14, 2 Timothy 4:3)

S: "WHEN BALAAM saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as he had done each time before [superstitiously] to meet with omens and signs in the natural world, but he set his face toward the wilderness or desert." (Numbers 24:1, AMP)

O: This was a strangely worded verse in the translation I read. It said Balaam didn't go up to seek "enchantments." Looking behind the English to the Hebrew word and its definition, I was surprised to see that the word is bascially the same word as "serpent." It means "enchantment" or "divination," but it has this distinctly sinister cast to it. That's why I chose the Amplified version to quote, because it supplies some of the things implied in the original. So now I'm rethining my opinion on Balaam a bit. It seemed to me, from his testimony in Numbers 22:18, that despite his being from a gentile nation, he is a true prophet of God. After all, he seeks the Lord and God does appear to him. He prophesies the truth about Israel, even seemingly providing the very prophecy which led the Wise Men to Jerusalem to seek Christ the King. (Matthew 2:2)

A: But after reading this, and thinking more about his determined opposition to God's revealed will, his teaching which resulted in the idolatry and corruption of Israel's worship, (of which God is especially jealous! - Numbers 25:11), I'm now considering whether he might always have been an enemy of the Lord, (as his death among them implies - 31:8), though he listened to Him at times.

Just because a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD and the Lord causes the prophecy to come to pass, does not necessarily mean that prophet is a true prophet of God. In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, a hypothetical situation is brought up, that if some prophet or dreamer of dreams gives a sign, then tells them to serve other gods, it is the Lord testing the people and the "prophet" should be put to death.

Some similar examples:

And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, “nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52).

Although Caiaphas violently opposed Christ and even blatantly broke Jewish law to arrest and convict Him, this unspiritual man was moved by the Spirit to prophesy truth about Him.

Gamaliel, the Apostle Paul's instructor, warned the people that if the Apostles' work was of God, it couldn't be overthrown. (Acts 5:34-40) It's not expressly stated that this is a prophecy of God's Spirit, but it certainly is God's truth, spoken from the lips of an unbeliever. Why else would he be moved to say something that effectively condemned him?

I think this shows how very hard it is to tell a false prophet from a true one. I believe even Balaam himself thought he was God's man, but was deceived. He was his own man --- or actually, even this is deception, for he was the devil's. (Eph. 2:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:25-26)

This makes me think once again of Pilgrim's Progress and the sad case of Talkative, one who was well-acquainted with the whole gospel, yet was self-deceived, because he heard but did not do. (John 13:17, 2 Corinthians 13:5) Balaam is the "fair professor" in the iron cage at the Interpreter's house, who says,

For the Lusts, Pleasures, and Profits of this World; in the enjoyment of which I did then promise myself much delight; but now every one of those things also bite me, and gnaw me like a burning worm.

God hath denied me repentance: his Word gives me no encouragement to believe; yea, himself hath shut me up in this Iron Cage; nor can all the men in the world let me out. O Eternity! Eternity! how shall I grapple with the misery that I must meet with in Eternity!

It seems Balaam makes two lessons - teaching the enemies of God how to entrap God's people into idol worship, but teaching, by example, that the disciple must "watch, lest ye enter into temptation.."

P: Father, teach me to hate every false way.


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