Have you ever encountered one called a Christian, who chooses the ways and riches of this present world instead of walking a Christ-like life? This brings to mind a very real man named Balaam from the book of Numbers in the Old Testament.
Balak, king of Moab, (along with all of the Moabites) were afraid of the Israelites, God’s people. Balak sent for Balaam. He wanted Balaam to curse God’s people. Balak had heard that whomever Balaam cursed was cursed, and whomever he blessed was blessed. Balak sent money with men to give Balaam as payment to come to him and curse the Israelites. God spoke to Balaam and told him not to go with the men and not to curse God’s people, for they were a blessed people. Balaam told the princes of Balak to go home. God would not allow him to go with them.
Balak sent more men to tell him not to let anything keep him from coming to him – even giving promises of great honor. “And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more” (Numbers 22:18). Yet Balaam told the men to stay the night, and wait to see what God would tell him that night. “And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do” (Numbers 22:20).
God had already told Balaam not to go. God’s people were only to be blessed, for they were a blessed people. Yet when Balaam was offered honor, a house full of silver and gold, he told the men to wait. Why is that? Do you think he was hoping God would let him go so he could have all of that honor and gold? That night, God told him to go. Do you think that maybe this could have been a test to see what was in Balaam’s heart? Balaam went. “And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him …” (Numbers 22:22a). Balaam heard what God said, but he was not listening to what God had told him. God was angry with him for going.
Balaam rode his donkey, heading to see Balak, king of Moab. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, but Balaam did not. The donkey understood that he was not to continue forward. Balaam was angry at his donkey, and began to hit the donkey when it sat down (Numbers 22:23). The donkey was trying to save his master’s life. God opened the mouth of that donkey, and he spoke to Balaam. And Balaam answered the donkey. He told the donkey that if he had a sword in his hand, he would kill him. “Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face” (Numbers 22:31). The angel told Balaam that if it hadn’t been for the donkey, he would have been killed. Why? “…behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me” (Numbers 22: 32b). Balaam was not supposed to go to speak with King Balak. The angel of the Lord told Balaam to go on to see King Balak, but only speak the words God gave him to speak. Balaam went, told King Balak God’s Words, and blessed God’s people.
If the events ended here, it might have seemed good. Nevertheless, at some point, Balaam gave King Balak counsel of the way to cause the Israelites to trespass against the Lord (Numbers 31:16). Balaam had not obeyed God. He was to have only spoken the words God gave him to King Balak. He chose to do disobey God, apparently greedy for reward and wages.
Read the insight about the life of Balaam in the New Testament: “15. Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16. But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17. … to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness … 19. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:15-19). He loved the wages of unrighteousness, and people like him allure through the lusts of the flesh, wantonness, promising liberty, but they are servants of corruption. They end up in bondage.
Another insight we read in the New Testament about Balaam: “10. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. 11. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:10-12). It declares that Balaam was in error and went after reward. His end was described as “twice dead, plucked up by the roots.”
Would you want to be remembered as one who loved the wages of unrighteousness, ending up twice dead?