As it was for the Israelites in the end-times of their desert wanderings, so it is for us as we close in on the Second Coming; both the Balaams in our midst and the Spirit of Balaam are doing their best to keep us from Eternity, just exactly as the enemy fought hard to keep the Israelite out of the Promised Land.
Balaam was an Old Testament prophet whose life is recorded in some detail for us in the Book of Numbers, Chapters 22-25 and elsewhere. At the start of his life, Balaam was a Prophet of God, speaking the words of God, but then he became more and more interested in spiritualism and began practising enchantments – or spells – which were an abomination of God and in absolute contradiction to the Law which God had provided for His chosen people. As a prophet, the Bible records four of Balaam’s prophecies which God gave him in Numbers 23:7, 23:18, 24:3 and 24:10.
Without doubt, Balaam led a double life for the most part. However, at the beginning, this could not have been the case. At the beginning, Balaam was all for God, was highly anointed, blessed and gifted by God, such that God revealed Himself and spoke directly to Balaam and more than once. In Numbers 22:9, God came to Balaam to speak to him, in 23:4 again He met with Balaam and “put a word in Balaam’s mouth,” the Lord’s first prophecy for Balaam. This was again repeated in second prophecy, v16 and again “put a word in Balaam’s mouth.”
If we take the reasonable and biblical view that God would not appear to a spiritual medium operating in witchcraft, we have the basis of an understanding that initially, Balaam was all for God and God blessed him. Yet, as Balaam grew in rebellion to God his giftings, for the most part, appear to have remained intact, being able still to prophesy for God and operate under a true Godly anointing, yet slip into demonic, as circumstances dictated. This is apparent in v24:1 where we read that “Balaam saw that it pleased Jehovah to bless Israel, and he did not go, as at other times, to seek for secret arts (sorcery & witchcraft), but he set his face toward the wilderness.”
In looking at the life of Balaam, we can see that it moved between the Godly and the ungodly, as the confidence of his power in rebellion increased and as he saw opportunities for success. Perhaps six notable aspects of Balaam’s character can be listed in helping to explain his personality:
A passion for Idolatry
A lack of conscience in inducing others to commit fornication
An interest in Witchcraft and Divination
A True and False anointing mindset
The greed of Balaam is also evidenced outside the Book of Numbers as he became a byword, an expression, for the sin of greed in Jewish society by the times of Jesus. The Apostle Peter refers to him in Second Peter 2:14-15 saying “having eyes full of adultery and never ceasing from sin, alluring unstable souls, having a heart exercised with covetousness. They are cursed children who have forsaken the right way and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Similarly, Jude 1:11 uses Balaam as a warning against the sin of greed saying “Woe to them! For they went the way of Cain, and gave themselves up to the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.”
Within the Book of Numbers, at v22:7 are evidenced both Balaam’s greed and demonic involvement, as we find a patron of Balaam, “the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian” leaving to meet Balaam with their payment fee for his divination. Thus, not only was Balaam working in both Godly and ungodly callings, he was earning handsome fees in the process, as he hired out his skills. Balaam’s fame and distinction as a diviner is recorded in Joshua 13:22 “The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword, among their slain.” Here diviner, is also interpreted as a soothsayer, a magician, a false-prophet or a worker of witchcraft; none being Godly associations.
We then read in Revelation 2:14 “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the teachings of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.” Here we find accusation against Balaam not only for practicing idolatry, but in teaching it to God’s chosen people. He is also accused of teaching God’s people to eat things sacrificed to idols as well as inducing them to fornicate, both gross violations of the Law (Numbers 25:1-3).
Balaam appeared to work in both the Godly and ungodly with equal skill and results; operating as he did, under two spheres of spiritual power, the Godly and the Demonic. From what we read of Balaam in the Book of Numbers, we quickly come to the conclusion that Balaam’s base instincts and motivations were corrupt and he was outwardly opportunistic and without conscious, in his approach to gain. His corrupt motivation not only caused him to be lead astray, he too led countless others astray and into camp of God’s enemies.
This aside, Balaam was obviously widely famed throughout the region, and not just Israel, as a man of accomplished spiritual power and results. In Numbers 22:1-14, we are first introduced to Balaam as Israel is heading for the Promised Land at the end of 40 years of desert wanderings and is temporality encamped in tents, on the Plaines of Moab. As the Moabites are afraid of the Israelites, their King Balak and the tribal elders agree all to send emissaries to Balaam, to pay him to put a curse on the Israelites. After meeting the emissaries, Balaam told them to stay overnight in the camp while he sought God’s guidance. Balaam’s petition to God was quickly answered as God told Balaam, v12 “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” On hearing of Balaam’s rejection of their offer, King Balak ‘ups the anti,’ as it were, offering Balaam more, saying v17 “For I will raise you up to very great honour, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then and curse this people for me.” The twin offers of more money and more honour speak to the very heart of Balaam’s greed and pride and in v19 Balaam goes back to God to plead for a change of mind on His part. The reply of God to Balaam’s second request, or perhaps more correctly put, to Balaam’s appeal to God’s previous decision, is very meaningful and insightful for us, as He said in vv20-22:
“And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, If the men come to call you, rise up, go with them. But still, the word which I shall say to you, that you shall do. And Balaam rose up in the morning and saddled his ass, and went with the rulers of Moab. And God’s anger was kindled because he went. And the Angel of Jehovah stood in the way as an enemy against him. And he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants with him.”
The Life Application Study Bible says of these verses ‘God let Balaam go with Balak’s messengers, but He was angry about Balaam’s greedy attitude. Balaam claimed that he would not go against God just for money, but his resolve was beginning to slip. His greed for the wealth offered by the king blinded him so that he could not see how God was trying to stop him. Though we may know what God wants us to do, we can become blinded by the desire for money, possessions, or prestige. We can avoid Balaam’s mistake by looking past the allure of fame or fortune to the long-range benefits of following God.’
What I find interesting are two things: first that Balaam did not wait for the call of the emissaries in the morning, but was up and off early to join them at his own volition. This shows that King Balak had read Balaam’s heart well and offered him temptations which he could not resist, indeed, he yearned for them. Secondly, though it appears that God and Balaam had a conversational relationship similar to God and Abraham, the comparison between them, could not be greater. In Genesis 18 we find God telling that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham’s reaction was to negotiate with God for the lives of the people. Balaam, by comparison, kept silent. It was as though he knew his appeal to God would be dismissed as summarily as his initial plea. Balaam was just going through the actions, for his mind was already set, entrapped by a snare of King Balak.
Balaam had not only disobeyed God, he has wilfully and intentionally done so, trotting off to his paymasters at the break of day on a white donkey and accompanied by two servants, without waiting for their message or saying farewell to his family (v22:22). What follows and transpires is one of the most unusual and interesting passages in the entire Bible, Numbers 22:23-31
“And the ass saw the Angel of Jehovah standing in the way, and His sword drawn in His hand. And the ass turned aside out of the way and went into the field. And Balaam struck the ass, to turn her into the way.
But the Angel of Jehovah stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the Angel of Jehovah, she pushed herself into the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. And he struck her again. And the Angel of Jehovah went further and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the Angel of Jehovah, she fell down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the ass with a staff.
And Jehovah opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you, that you have beaten me these three times?
And Balaam said to the ass, Because you have mocked me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you.
And the ass said to Balaam, Am I not your ass, upon which you have ridden ever since I was yours, to this day? Was I ever known to do so to you? And he said, No.
Then Jehovah opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the Angel of Jehovah standing in the way, and His sword drawn in His hand. And he bowed down his head, and fell on his face.”
For born-again Christians who would say ‘well God wouldn’t do a thing like that,’ or words to that effect, here we have God ready to kill is prophet and using a donkey as His mouthpiece to get the message through to Balaam. When God wants to speak to us, He will use talking donkeys or anything else He needs of thinks appropriate or effective, to get our attention.
Balaam so enraged God that He sent an angel with drawn sword to bar his way from meeting King Balak or his emissaries. When the donkey on which Balaam was seated saw the angel, it pulled aside causing his rider to lose his temper at this odd and unexpected behaviour. Finally God opened Balaam’s eyes and allowed him to see into the supernatural and see the angel before him. Immediately Balaam fell on his face and in v34b, confessed to the Angel of the Lord his sin saying “I have sinned. For I did not know that You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will go back again.” It is plainly clear that Balaam instantly recognised his guilt: his guilt in asking God twice for that which God had refused him; his guilt for going to those intent on cursing Israel.
The question for us here, both personally and for our Churches, is what is it that God is telling to us here in this historic account of Balaam, which He caused to be recorded for us? Perhaps, like Balaam, many born-again Christians and their Churches come before God asking for that which is not in the will of God, yet, when they receive God’s rejection or denial, still persist in asking again and again and again. They continue until God says, or appears to say, yes. Then they say and claim that God has asked them to do this, or that, perhaps or even confirming their position by citing visions and confirming prophecies.
God is warning us here, that if we continue and persist like spoilt children and asking against His will, he may well grant us our request, allowing us to suffer the consequences of our desires and the leanness of soul, resulting therefrom. Psalm 106:14-15 confirms and supports this view saying “but they lusted greedily in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them what they asked, but sent leanness into their soul.”
Balaam knew that he could not curse Israel, for God told him so, as well as telling him why; for they were a blessed people. Yet Balaam in his greed and desire for fortune and fame ignored the precise words of God and hid them from King Balak, while still seeking to gain from the King’s offer. Joshua 24:9-10 also records this saying in the words of God as spoken through Joshua “Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam. And he still blessed you. And I delivered you out of his hand.”
First Timothy 6:10 confirms to us the root cause of Balaam’s greed and pride saying “For the love of money is a root of all evils, of which some having lusted after, they were seduced from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” This is precisely what happened to Balaam. Being unable to curse Israel as King Balak wanted him to do, Balaam instead resolved to find another answer to the King’s quest, yet without breaking the words which God had given to him. Balaam then counselled the King to bring the judgement of God upon His own people; he had Balak send Moabite women to fornicate with the Israelites.
Numbers 25:1-3 records the results of Balaam’s counsel thus “And Israel lived in Shittim, and the people began to fornicate with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods. And the people ate and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel.” Not only did the harlotry of the Moabite women corrupt the Israelite bloodline, it also led to idolatry as many Israelites abandoned God for heathen idol worship. Jude 1:11 above, also confirms this as does Second Peter 2:15-16 saying of them, “who have forsaken the right way and have gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but had reproof of his lawbreaking, a dumb ass speaking in a man’s voice, held back the madness of the prophet.”
The words and counsel from the mouth of Balaam to King Balak were to have pronounced consequences for Israel as we find recorded in Numbers 31:16 “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit sin against Jehovah in the matter of Peor, and the plague was on the congregation of Jehovah.” The consequences are also recorded in Revelation 2:14 in the words of God as dictated to John: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the teachings of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.”
The effects of Balaam on the destiny and course of Israel and its people were great and far reaching, as Balaam operated under two spirits. Being a false prophet, did not mean that his prophecy was inaccurate or did not come true. A false prophet in the Old Testament was one who changed the words of God or one who misquoted God. Balaam was false because he was prophesying for corrupt reasons, though his words did come true. Balaam took the good and the blessings from the Lord and turned them to his corrupt and short-term advantage.
For us, in our own personal journeys through our own wildernesses and times of hardship, seeking our own Promised Lands, the history of the past and the Words of God must be on our minds. We must not allow the enemy to use the Balaams of today, nor the Spirits of Balaam today, to cause the same divisions and grief as they caused in the past. Remember, Balaam hit the Israelites at the end of their 40 year desert wanderings, just as they were about to enter into the Promised Land united in power and strength and under one God. Balaam corrupted Israel as he planted the seeds of idolatry and division which inevitably grew, in time.
Regrettably, there are many Balaams in the Church of Christ today as it enters the end-times and prepared for the Second Coming of Christ. Indeed, the spirit of Balaam appears to be particularly active in the Church as this time. Present day Balaams are dragging the Gospel of Jesus Christ down and diluting it, such that many Christians can no longer either understand the real and awesome power of the Gospel, or avail themselves of it to fight the enemy. The full Gospel is no longer being preached without fear or favour in many places. God’s standards are being lowered as worldliness is promoted over Godliness; immorality is endorsed under the guise of freedom of expression at the expense of our souls; families are in crisis as broken marriages are tolerated among the Church and its leaders; humanism is preached over doctrine and the Word of God; false doctrines replace the sure foundations of the past; false anointings proliferate, with self appointed “messengers” demanding and receiving idol status within the Church.
As Dr. Brain J. Bailey warns us after a lifetime battling the enemy for God: “To the degree that we operate in God’s power, to that same degree we can begin to operate under Satanic influence, if we do not walk uprightly.”
Amen and Amen.
I pray Lord, that as You opened the eyes of Balaam to the supernatural around him, You will open my eyes to the ways and wiles of the enemy around me. Open both my eyes and my mind, oh Lord, to the Balaams and those who operate under the spirit of Balaam, who are separating me from You and Your will for me and my Church. Empower me Lord, as I law down my will before You here and now, to stand up for You and deny the enemy. Lord, as You spoke through Balaam’s donkey, speak through me. Help me be as effective in speaking Your words as was that donkey. Give me that humility Lord, that at all times and in all places, Your words are all that are on my mind and in my heart. Use me Lord, for the furthering of Your Kingdom. Not my will Lord, but Your will be done!
In Jesus name I pray. Amen and Amen and Amen.