In my daily reading I am currently in the book of Numbers and I just finished the chapters on Balaam and Balak in chapters 22-24. Balaam has always been a little confusing to me. On the surface, he seems to say some good things but we know from the book of Jude that he is not put forward in a good light and is even classified with Cain and Korah. I was struggling to combine this truth with the fact that he seems to only say what the LORD tells him and on a surface level he seems to do what he is supposed to. With all of this in view, I decided to bring in a helpful resource. The following quotes are all taken from the Preach the Word commentary on the book Numbers by Rev. Dr. Iain Duguid.
I am cataloguing these comments here for my own personal benefit and future reference, maybe they will be of benefit to you as well. I also encourage you to obtain this resource, it has been a great benefit to my own study of Scripture.
THE DONKEY HAD MORE INSIGHT THAN THE SEER (CH 22)
“Here is a man who is a professional seer, the kind of person who makes a living discerning messages from God in places where other people see only random tea leaves and miscellaneous flights of birds; yet he cannot see the angel of the Lord when he stands there in plain sight in front of him! His donkey can see the Lord’s messenger, but Balaam cannot. Moreover, here is a man who has been hired to travel some distance in order to harm an entire nation — Israel — with the mere power of his spoken word; yet when a simple donkey makes a fool out of him, he is reduced to beating her with a stick and uttering empty threats. He has no power to curse her by turning her into a frog or a pumpkin! The world famous super-prophet is both spiritually blind and unable to inflict harm, while a mere donkey whose mouth has been opened by the Lord is able to see the truth clearly and speak it out in a way that delivers from death (my emphasis). The scene forms a wonderfully humorous picture.”
“Ironically, at the very same time that Balaam was threatening his donkey with death if he only had a sword in his hand, his own master had been standing over him with a drawn sword. Only the donkey’s faithfulness had saved him from death (my emphasis).”
“His heart was still captive to his idolatry, and even a face-to-face encounter with the Angel of the Lord did not free him from its chains. At the end of the day his donkey saw the Lord more clearly than he did; the brute beast understood more of God than the professional theologian. (my emphasis)“
THE DANGER OF SPIRITUAL COUNTERFEITS (CH 23-24)
“That is always the way it is with spiritual counterfeits: they make grandiose claims for themselves and promise to give us substantial rewards, yet in the end they turn out to be expensive, uncertain, and ultimately impotent. There is neither blessing nor curse to be found in psychics or mediums, in astrology or horoscopes, or in any other source than the one true living God. These spiritual counterfeits have no power to affect either the present or the future.”
“In fact, the same is true of all of the many created things to which we offer allegiance as our idols. They are all ultimately equally impotent to bless or to curse. Some seek their value in money and possessions, but wealth cannot make us genuinely worthwhile as persons, and its absence cannot rob us of our dignity. Others look to power for their validation, but power cannot fulfill us, and its loss cannot make our lives meaningless. Still others invest the approval of people with ultimate significance, but gaining the love of a particular person is not where our value lies, nor will we be destroyed if they are taken from us, however painful that loss may be. None of these created things can make or break us, even though we continually act as if they can. The power that we ascribe to these idols that we have set up for ourselves is evident in the way we pour ourselves so devotedly into pursuing their demands and are so wrapped up in fears of their loss. We would willingly go to the ends of the earth to do their bidding, and we regularly sacrifice on their altars whatever they demand. They fill our dreams and our nightmares, and they shape our expenditures and our relationships. They are profoundly expensive masters, both in financial terms and in terms of the turmoil that they create in our souls. Yet in the end, like all idols, they are impotent to deliver what they promise or threaten. (my emphasis)“ UNLIKE OUR GOD!
“In dramatic contrast to the expensive, uncertain, and ultimately impotent search for blessing and curse through spiritual counterfeits and the idols of our hearts, there is the free, certain, and effective way to blessing through Israel’s God. Israel did not have to pay Balaam or offer special sacrifices to receive a word of blessing from the Lord through him. On the contrary, the Lord had already freely committed himself in advance to bless Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:2, 3). The Lord had already told the Aaronic priests to pronounce his blessing regularly on the people, without any fee changing hands (my emphasis) (Numbers 6:24-27). Balaam’s words of blessing were simply a reflection of the Lord’s settled attitude toward his people. As Balaam himself put it, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it” (23:19, 20). Human beings are fickle and changeable creatures, but when the Lord declared a people blessed, they were indeed blessed.”(my emphasis)
“These oracles of Balaam, which declare not merely positive present realities but a glorious future yet to come, are most certainly true because the Lord’s sovereign power extends beyond the present into the future. What man cannot predict — what the future holds — the Lord is able to declare, because he himself holds the future in his hands (my emphasis). Even sickness, disease, and the schemes of evil men are not exempt from his sovereign will to bless his people. For that reason, when Jesus and his disciples encountered a man who had been born blind, Jesus explained that this personal tragedy had happened precisely so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (John 9:3). That man’s disability was not an accident of fate: it was part of God’s plan to display his glory. In fact, even the most wicked act of history, the crucifixion of Jesus, was the result of God’s set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). God’s sovereignty does not free human beings from their responsibility for their acts, but it does assure us of the certainty that his purposes of blessing and curse will assuredly come about. Who but the Lord has the power to foretell what the distant future holds? Who but the Lord holds that future in his hands?” (my emphasis)
“When you even out the merely temporary fluctuations in the fortunes of people and nations, there are ultimately only two fates offered in this world. There is the Lord’s blessing leading to a flourishing life and an enviable death or the Lord’s curse leading to defeat and ultimate destruction.”