Numbers 24:10-11 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”
It is very hard to know what to make of Balaam, son of Beor. In his dealings with Balak, king of Moab, he starts off very confused and duplicitous, but he comes good in the end and acknowledges Israel’s God, Yahweh (the LORD), as the true God who must be obeyed, regardless of the cost. Balak’s anger at him for this seems to confirm that he acted commendably. Although he would miss out on Balak’s ‘handsome’ reward in this world, his ‘reward’ in the world to come would far outweigh any loss here. Balak obviously doesn’t see the irony in his intended cutting remark: “the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”!
However, the problem for us is the severe condemnation Balaam receives in the New Testament, with warnings against being like him, in 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11 and Revelation 2:14. These warnings probably refer to Balaam’s guilt by association with the sexual immorality connected with the Moabite women and the idol worship of Baal of Peor reported in Numbers 25, and Moses’ admonition in Numbers 31:16 – “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people.”
Perhaps the real lesson we all need to learn from Balaam is not to vacillate in our commitment to serve Jesus as Lord of every part of our lives – our thoughts, words and actions in every situation – and to keep our minds firmly fixed on the ‘reward’ he promises in the world to come, rather than being drawn to the empty attractions of this world. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
“Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear that this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear; yes, and when that world’s glory shall dawn upon my soul, tell me the old, old story: ‘Christ Jesus makes you whole’” (Kate Hankey).
– Bruce Christian