Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why the World is in Woe: The Error of Balaam

"Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." (Jude 11)

In the last post, I wrote about the Way of Cain, in which man wanted to approach God through his own efforts, disdaining the blood as the sole means of atonement and cleansing before God.

Cain's efforts speak of man-centered religion, which ignores the fundamental reality that man is dead, needs life, and this life must be purchased through the incorruptible blood of Jesus, not man's efforts.
Not through his work, through religious exercises, or penance of any kind, but through the blood of Jesus, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12: 24).

Now, what is the error of Balaam which Jude speaks of next?

The Error of Balaam: Seeking Ungodly Gain (at One's Peril)

"Error" also speaks of wandering, deception, or delusion.

Man is not just trying to justify himself before God through His own efforts, but he is seeking to enrich himself through his own efforts, despising the riches of God's grace and embracing unrighteousness as a reward.

The account of Balaam connects with the book of Numbers, or wanderings, in which the Israelites had rejected the perfect promises of God's Promised Land, yet God did not reject His people.

One of the enemies of Israel, Moab, wanted to place a curse on the Israelites so that they would not become too numerous and overtake them.

So, Balak the King of Moab hired a professional wizard named Balaam to curse the Israelites:

"And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. 5He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: 6Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed." (Numbers 22: 4-6)

Right away, the LORD told Balaam that there was no way that he could curse His people:

"And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. 13And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you." (Numbers 22: 12-13)

Still, the greedy running of Balaam has not yet occurred.

This passage sheds light on the Error of Balaam:

"15And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. 16And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: 17For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. 18And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. 19Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. 20And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
"21And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab." (Numbers 22:15-21)
Notice how Balaam went to meet with the princes, even though they had not called him. The LORD clearly told Balaam not to go unless "The come to call thee."
Enthralled by the more honorable princes, seeking gain and glory from men, Balaam jumped on his donkey and rode of to meet with the princes.
Intending to prevent the foolish wizard from entering the prince's services, the Angel of the Lord stood in his way, ready to kill him:
"22And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. 23And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way." (Numbers 22: 22-23)
The "dumb ass" was the wiser ass of the two, as the donkey refused to put herself in danger, yet Balaam was desperate for the money from the Moabite princes, and he tried to continue:
24But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 25And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again." (Numbers 22: 24-25)
Not content to quit, Balaam beats his donkey once again, even though the animal is clearly disturbed about something, enough that she hurts her master, crushing his foot against a wall.
"And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. 28And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? 29And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 30And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay." (Numbers 22: 26-30)
The last thing that the donkey can do to save herself is fall down, and Balaam strikes the animal over and over. Finally, God speaks out of the mouth of the dumb ass (funny, once again, how this animal is wiser than the greedy, heedless wizard).
Balaam finally heeded the talking donkey.
Finally, Balaam sees the Angel with a sword drawn, ready to strike him down for going out to meet the princes. Instead of following the directions of the Lord, Balaam set out to enrich himself without heeding God's Word.
Peter offers greater revelation on this error, describing the false teachers who will pervert the Gospel:
"Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet." (2 Peter 2: 13-16)
The world is seeking goods, gain, and glory through unrighteousness, through sin, but we must recognize that just as Peter and Jude were speaking of false teachers, the context is religion. Just as religion, man-centered efforts toward justification, so to men will use religion as a means to enrich themselves, seeking gain and preeminence through their efforts, putting themselves in great danger, harming themselves repeatedly, just as Balaam endured pain upon suffering, ignoring all the signals that he was going the wrong way.
In modern times, there have been many mad prophets, driven by hollow, unscriptural arguments to justify sinful actions and decisions. "Prosperity" preachers who really seek to enrich themselves by deceiving others, make the righteousness of God an unimportant element, and put the love of money head of receiving the Love of the Father:
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6: 10)
Notice that Paul writes about people who have "erred from the faith": The Error of Balaam.
The writer of Hebrews exhorts us where we find our true wealth:
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13: 5)
"Covetousness" speaks of the love of money, but the true fulfillment we find in Christ:
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" (Ephesians 1: 7)
We receive all other prosperities in our life once we receive first and foremost His righteousness:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6: 33)
Instead of striving for preeminence, let us rest in the perfected standing which we have received through Christ Jesus:
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1: 3-6)
and also
"4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesian 2: 4-6)
Forget the Error of Balaam. Like the prodigal son who returned home to find that all he needed and wanted was always at home (and thus there was no need to wander), so too let us take God at His Word, accept His righteousness as a gift, and let Him bless us with all spiritual blessings in His Son.

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