After Israel had defeated Egypt, the Amelekites, and Sihon (king of the Amorites) other local nations were starting to get a little nervous. Balak, the king of the Moab, was quaking in his boots (OK, they were probably sandals); but he had also figured out that Israel was unconquerable as long as their God was blessing and helping them. So, Balak wisely tries to “fight fire with fire”. Balaam, a prophet of the true God, but not an Israelite, was widely known for being someone who could quite effectively bless or curse; and Balak sends emissaries to buy Balaam’s curse on Israel.
By the way, at an excavation site known as Deir ‘Alla in Jordan, fragments of a text from the prophet Balaam were found which date back to at least 800 years before Christ. One of the fragments is inscribed with the words “Warnings given by Balaam, the son of Beor. A seer of the gods.”
At first Balaam refuses, telling the emissaries that he could speak only what God tells him to say. When they come back with even more money and pressure, Balaam decides to go along with it, with the caveat that he’ll only speak what God gives him to say. God is not pleased, however, and Balaam almost gets killed by an angel, had it not been for his donkey, who later speaks to him. How embarrassing it must have been for the great prophet to be upbraided by a donkey?
When Balaam meets with Balak, Balaam makes every effort to bribe God with multiple sacrifices (three times) in hopes of receiving a curse for Israel. But every time Balaam opens his mouth to prophesy (four times), he blesses Israel rather than cursing them — much to Balak’s displeasure! Those who God blesses are blessed, and those who God curses are cursed.
I’m reminded of Paul’s famous paean of praise for God’s love and faithfulness:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39, NAS95.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.