As I continue to read through the Bible, I keep noticing things I hadn’t before. Or knowing my brain…I read them before but forgot. So when I read again about the famous Balaam, I noticed some things that motivated me to write about anger: it’s causes and solutions.
There are two main causes of our anger: a blocked goal and a diversionary tactic.
Blocked goal: we want something and when something blocks us getting it, we react with anger.
Diversionary tactic: we are seen in a way that we have vowed we don’t want to be seen, and we react in anger to divert attention to something else.
Balaam experienced both. First the background. Balak, the king of Moab is terrified that the Israelites have come into town and he fears (along with every Moabite) that they will conquer his kingdom (Read Numbers 22).
Balak knows of Balaam who is “the typical hireling prophet, seeking only to make a market of his gift” (Scofield).
Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites. The King’s invitation includes these words: “for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed” (22:6 AMP). The King is trying to appeal to Balaam’s pride. He’s saying, “I recognize you as someone who has power. What you say goes.”
Balaam seeks God and God tells him not to do it under any circumstance. Balaam tells the messengers, “No way, Jose.” In the beginning Balaam chooses God’s way. So far so good.
But the King is persistent. “Then Balak again sent leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former” (22:15).
See the tactic? More people and more distinguished. Oh…impressive. “Hey, Balaam, don’t you realize how important you are?” the King is communicating. And then the messengers say, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, ‘Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me; for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me‘” (22:16-17).
Balaam replies, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God.” Sounds good but can’t you almost hear a request in that?
Balaam was being offered something that he evidently wanted: approval, distinction, and prosperity.
Did Balaam already know what God‘s directive was? Yes. The Israelites were God’s people and they were blessed by God. Nothing was going to change that.
But Balaam succumbed. He agreed to seek the Lord again and even though it seems incongruent that God told him to go (but not curse the Israelites), we know that God is always faithful.
Commentators Keil and Delitzsch give this explanation:
God did this not merely because it was His own intention to put blessings instead of curses into the prophet’s mouth, – and “the blessings of the celebrated prophet might serve as means of encouraging Israel and discouraging their foes, even though He did not actually stand in need of them” (Knobel), – but primarily and principally for the sake of Balaam himself, viz., to manifest to this soothsayer, who had so little susceptibility for higher influences, both His own omnipotence and true deity, and also the divine election of Israel, in a manner so powerful as to compel him to decide either for or against the God of Israel and his salvation.
Let’s pause here for an application and we’ll continue in the next post. I have to admit that I’m fearful I would have been like Balaam. I might have succumbed to thinking, “Well, God might change His mind. What harm is there in asking Him again?”
Balaam’s response to the circumstances should have been a warning light that his heart is not pure. His motives are to receive what he values: approval, distinction, and prosperity. And he is “working the system” by calling upon God a second time: he’s hoping he can get his own way in having his desires fulfilled.
Let this be a warning to us. In what way are we trying, even testing God, to maneuver God into giving us what we desire? And we might be persistently asking even though God has already given us His message and directions. We’ll soon find out that Balaam’s response of anger reveals his divided heart. He doesn‘t really trust God to give him what he truly “needs.” He is being tempted to try to provide them himself.
Is God allowing any circumstance in your life to give you a warning light of a divided, impure heart? If so, thank Him. He loves you so much He doesn’t want you to succumb to temptation like Balaam did. Repent and ask for forgiveness. He eagerly wants to forgive, cleanse, and empower your heart for trusting Him.
(Image found at http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/photos/15-faces-angry-baby)