Before I start I have to say that this study isn’t about the donkey. There are tons of teachings, preachings, and even songs about the donkey out there. No, this study is about Balaam. Specifically Balaam’s first encounter with the messengers from Balak, and his first message from the LORD.
Numbers 22:12-13, “God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balaak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (ESV)
Notice something interesting in what Balaam told the messengers? He didn’t tell them all of what God had said. It reminds me of how a child may act when he asks his parents if he can do something. They say no and explain why. The child then goes to his friends, pouting, and says, “my parents won’t let me.” Balaam is acting the same way, and in doing so, two things are set in motion.
First, Balaak is encouraged to ask again, but with more reward promised. I wonder if Balaam didn’t hope this would happen…
Second, an opportunity to honor God was lost. God’s words were changed in that Balaam only reported some of what God said. Balaam never reported the explanation God gave. Balaam dropped the bit about a blessing. Balaam was looking for immediate rewards (from Balaak for cursing Israel) and thus chose to ignore God’s promise.
So to do we today change God’s words. One way is that people who give “a word from the Lord” may interpret those words into something different – something the speaker thinks the hearers want or need to hear. This is a dangerous thing to do. It puts one into the ‘false prophet’ camp. However, much more rampant is the other way God’s word is changed.
The majority of us take some of God’s word, ignore or explain away other parts, and then run with it. We forget that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I see way to many examples of this behavior to even begin to list, but here are two examples:
God said (somewhat contracted for emphasis ), “Don’t eat pork … therefore you should be holy for I am holy.” (Levitcus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). As Balaam only reported the first part of what God said, so people only report the “Don’t eat pork.”
The blessing is deliberately left off to make it easier to disregard the command in favor of the immediate rewards of the world (eating anything we want), just as Balaam didn’t say that Israel was to be blessed as he was looking for rewards from Balak.
Another example is this, “Don’t store up treasures for yourself… for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Matthew6:19-24). All of us make excuses why we can’t give to charities or the poor. We remember only the command “don’t store up treasures for yourself” and disregard it in favor of immediate “rewards”, forgetting the blessing that would come (in this case, our heart being in heaven).
So it comes down to this. Yeshua (Jesus) never said that following God wouldn’t require hard choices. Rather he said the opposite with such as the words, “take up your cross daily and follow me.”
It is making those hard choices that refine us into the holy people we are to be. Choosing to follow His word, even when it goes against what we want to do, or what everyone around us is doing, refines us to be the set apart (holy) people God wants us to be.