22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.”
Balaam shouldn’t have gone to Balak. He should have just stayed at home. He should have just refused Balak’s request plain. When the first envoy came from Balak, God already revealed to Balaam His will:
9 And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’ ” 12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
When the second envoy, nobler than the first came, Balaam answered with his mouth that he would not go but he secretly desired the reward from Balak. So he hinted something to the envoy that it would be expensive and that he would try to ask God again, who knows God would change His mind.
18 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. 19 So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
The temptation was great this time. For Balak promised to give whatever Balaam desired: “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’” For the first request did not give any indication of a handsome reward – no wonder Balaam would not want to go the first time. Therefore, this time Balaam insisted to go to do Balak’s bidding, even though he said all the right words. God knew what’s in Balaam’s heart. God knew that Balaam would force God to grant his selfish request with as many excuses as he could come up with. And so God said to Balaam:
“If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.”
Balaam didn’t feel strange that God said the opposite of what He said before. God previously told Balaam clearly that he should not go. But Balaam was too happy to get what he wanted. He desperately wanted to go and get all the riches he could get from the king. His eyes were on the money, not on doing what’s right. His eyes were on his selfish gain, not on God’s will. So God tested Balaam. Balaam was supposed to complain to God and asked why the change. But Balaam never cared about God’s will. So he leaped for joy when God allowed him to go.
21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.
At the outset we would just think that Balaam was just following God’s command to go. There was nothing wrong with him going. However, appearance is often deceiving. The fact of the matter was that Balaam failed the test. As a “prophet” he was supposed to know the heart of God. And more importantly, he was supposed to convey only God’s message. God had made it clear that Israel was not to be cursed, but to be blessed. Yet Balaam went to Balak with the purpose to curse Israel. The deal with Balak was if he cursed Israel then he would get unimaginable riches. Balaam didn’t go to bless Israel. He went to curse Israel, to give Balak what he wanted, and thus to please Balak. It would be a different story if Balaam would go with a motivation to bless Israel. But sadly no, Balaam went to Balak as a “prophet” for hire. The contract was for Balaam to be paid doing what Balak wanted, even if the request was against God’s will.
So, God’s anger was burnt against Balaam. And God did not hide his anger. He showed it to Balaam full blown. Balaam was blind, however, that he could not see. He was blinded by the prospect of becoming rich, of becoming financially secure for the rest of his earthly life. He was so blind even though God’s messenger was so obvious that a donkey could see the angel of the Lord with the sword drawn on his hand.
22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.
An animal, a donkey, saw the angel of the Lord, yet a “prophet” did not. This is one of the biggest ironies ever written in the Scripture. It did not happen just once. The second happened like this:
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again.
Twice now the donkey saw the angel of the Lord and Balaam did not. The donkey’s eyes were open, but the “prophet’s” eyes were shut. The donkey could see, but the “prophet” was blind. Balaam’s blindness was the result of his greed. His blindness was incurable. So God had to open his eyes miraculously so he, a ‘prophet,” could see. But not before the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey to make a point of Balaam’s blindness.
26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.” 31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.
Yes Balaam’s donkey has truly made a fool out of Balaam. But not like what Balaam thought. It made a fool of Balaam, because a mere donkey, the most stupid of all animals – so they say, could see the angel of the Lord with the drawn sword and stayed out of the way so they would not die, but the “prophet” was ignorant of the spiritual event right in front of his eyes. Balaam even wanted to kill his faithful donkey which just saved his life three times. Balaam was completely blind spiritually. He was angry because his departure to gain riches from Balak was hindered. Balaam couldn’t wait to get to the king. He wanted all the honor. But now he was embarrassed in front of all the nobles of Moab. Because his own donkey acted up and moved like a crazy mad donkey. Balaam was angry at his donkey. But his anger was not a righteous anger. His anger was driven by his greed. His anger was driven by selfishness. Before he could beat the poor donkey, God opened the blind “prophet’s” eyes. And immediately Balaam could see the angel of the Lord standing in front of him opposing him with a drawn sword. Now, the angry Balaam saw the righteous anger of God in full display. So Balaam fell on his face in great fear.
What a pity? A “prophet” had to be reminded by his donkey of how blind he was. An irony for the prophet for hire. A prophet is supposed to serve the Lord, yet he was forcing the Lord to serve him, as he greedily desires the reward from doing an evil work. The donkey was not authoritative enough, and it was not smart enough to know the heart of God, so the angel of the Lord had to speak to Balaam.
32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.”
Another irony being spoken by the angel of the Lord that he would spare the donkey and not the “prophet.” A judgment was given that the donkey was more righteous than the “prophet.” The donkey’s way was right, whereas the “prophet’s” way was perverse.
This time, Balaam could not again go with joy. He was forced to be humble. He was shown clearly how evil his motivation was. Balaam could not hide his secret greedy motive from God. For God saw clearly what was in his heart.
34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” 35 And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.
Balaam was forced to admit that what he did was sin. For he went with the thought to curse Israel, even though God already told him not to. God’s decision was non-negotiable, and only now he knew. He should have known before. He knew only after being humiliated by a donkey. And so, Balaam at first set out to go to Balak with the motivation to do whatever Balak desired – to curse Israel – because he wanted Balak’s reward, but now this event changed him that he went only to do God’s will – that was to bless Israel.
It is a pity when God’s servants do not serve God. Balaam’s story is a warning for all God’s servants, or for all who claim to be God’s servants. The big question every servant of God must honestly answer is: “Who am I actually serving?” If the answer is not God, then they must stop pretending. They must quit their current job that is known as the job of the servants of God, which might include pastors, evangelists, preachers, teachers of Scripture, elders, deacons, etc. CNN interviewed some pastors who admitted of being atheists. For them being a pastor is just a job for them. Being a pastor is just a means to financial gain. It is no difference than working as a cashier in Walmart, or a driver of UPS truck, and so on. For them being a pastor is not a matter of calling, but a matter of financial security. And so these pastors have no problem “pretending” to believe in God while in reality do not. Well, these pastors did not expose themselves when speaking to CNN, but they asked for their face to be blurred, for their voice to be synthetically altered, and to be interviewed in a different place other than their own church. All those are to avoid detection. The church they served would have been devastated had they known that their pastors were atheists.
Recently, in April 2016, a shocking revelation of a pastor in the United Church of Canada broke the internet when she admitted that she was actually an atheist, and that she has led a local church within the denomination knowing that she was an atheist for seven years. The pastor’s name is Gretta Vosper. She is all over the internet. And this is her statement that shocks the church: “I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God.” At the time the shocking news broke out she was serving Toronto’s West Hill United Church. Her statement caused turmoil in the United Church of Canada. Another case of God’s servant not serving God.
There are many pastors, probably are not to that extreme, while claiming the title as God’s servants but actually are not serving God. They only go to seminary because they know that being a pastor provides them job security. They got a decent salary, there are multiple allowances: housing, book, study (to name a few), and then there is health insurance, pension, and so on. Their heart is not for God. But they are skillful in public speaking, in raising money, in organizing event, in facilitating a dialogue, in management or non-profit organization. So they choose to work in church. But they merely work in church, just not for God. They quickly learn that the council is their boss. The council resembles board of directors in business companies. Accountability is not to God, but to the council. The servant of God work gradually shifts into the servant of council work. And so whatever the council desires spells gospel. The ministers must obey. For they write their checks, they pay their utility bills, they sign their health insurance application, they approve the minister’s tuition aid, and so on. And so they become pastors for hire. The church needs a pastor to officiate a wedding, to lead a funeral service, to visit the sick, to speak words of encouragement every Sunday, to do the Lord’s Supper, to manage the church staff, and so these people fit very well. All they need to do is acknowledge that the council is their boss and that their job is to do their bidding, regardless if what they want is against the will of God or not.
All these so called pastors are the Balaamian pastors. Like Balaam, they are for hire to do just whatever the boss wants. The current trend is scary. Churches are declining in record numbers. Particularly in the Western Europe and North America. And so churches are panicking. Their default mode is to do whatever it takes just to maintain attendance and to keep the offering money flowing steadily. The most common solution, and the most used, is the market oriented strategy. The business analysis makes a suggestion to satisfy the customers. Churches are to follow the market. If the market wants a message that says everything is permitted, then the pastor for hire is to do just that – to preach that everything is permitted. If the customers desire that the Sunday message not be about sin, punishment, justice, and holiness of God, then the pastor for hire should be ordered by council to eliminate such themes from their sermon list, and they ought to give what the boss demands. The 21st Century church customers mostly demand the preaching about love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, without repentance, without life transformation, and so councils order their pastor for hire to preach only those themes. Just like Balaam, they do not care what God’s will is. All they care about is the paycheck every month, the bills paid, the children go to school, they have a house to live in, they have health insurance coverage, and all the rewards for their life in the short and temporary world. Their eyes are on the earthly prize instead of on God.
Like Balaam, these Balaamian pastors are never God’s servants. It’s not God who calls them into ministry. It’s the lure of earthly comfort that gets them to swarm the seminary. They say all the right things, but their hearts are far from God. They know not the will of God. They can interpret the Bible according to what they are taught in the seminary. They can speak the big theological jargons and explain them like it’s a piece of cake. Their academic knowledge is superb. They do know things. But their hearts are dull. They jump right away at the first sign of material reward. Who cares whether God wants them to go or not? Like Balaam, they would force God to serve them. They would quote the Bible to further their agenda. They unashamedly use texts from Scripture to justify what they want or do. When the market demands that they be confirmed of their conviction that following God means being rich, being healthy, being successful, these Balaamian pastors would exclaim: Amen! When the church customers demand that their gay tendency be considered no sin, and so be blessed in the church when marrying the partner, the Balaamian pastors will say Amen to that too. But what about the Scripture passages that speak against homosexual activities? They quickly dismiss the complaint by saying that those passages are no longer relevant in the 21st Century. God is not in the picture.
Same like Balaam, they are blind too. Even when a donkey sees the anger of the Lord so obvious, the Balaamian pastors can’t see. They beat the donkey because the donkey is hampering their way to worldly gain. They would quickly get rid of the donkey because the donkey is insignificant in their eyes. Well, if God is insignificant in their eyes, how could a donkey be significant? God says bless, but the customer’s demand is to curse, so the Balaamian pastors choose to curse. When God says curse, but the market’s demand is to bless, the Balaamian pastors choose to bless. There are Balaamian prophets in the time of Ahab King of Israel. The Balaamian prophets speak favorably to Ahab while Micaiah – the true prophet of God – spoke the truth, an unfavorable message, to Ahab (1 Kings 22). There are plenty of Balaamian pastors today. Those who don’t even think of the Bible as authoritative. Those who don’t practically believe in God. But their resume is good. They get along well with people. They speak favorably to the people who hire them. So the church customers like them. Because the Balaamian pastors do what they want. And they shower the Balaamian pastors with a lot of fortune and good life. When it’s time to depart, the Balaamian pastors get all the honor treatments befitting a king. All wealth, honor, fame, good recommendation come to them as long as they do the customers’ desire. It doesn’t matter whether the pastor is a great man or not, if the pastor does not do what Balaam did, the pastor will be left out to dry. Such was the case with Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Charles Spurgeon was a great servant of God. He was known as the prince of preaching in the English speaking world. None surpasses his ability to preach in the English speaking world. His faithfulness to the Scripture is exemplary. He spoke the truth. He did not mince words to satisfy the customers. He spoke the words that follow the Scripture heart and soul. But his church wanted to change direction. His church wanted to shift to the market oriented strategy. They wanted softer sermons, for liberal teaching, for pragmatic preaching, because they believed that the new generation would only come to church if their lifestyle was supported. No more preaching repentance. No more preaching the truth. Spurgeon took his stand. He stood his ground for as long as he could. But his church did not care. So he had to resign from his post. The greatest preacher the English speaking world has ever known had to resign his pastor position because of the shift to follow the market. Spurgeon reminded the church to follow God as the Head. But the mind of the leadership in that church was sold to the idea that the market determined the product offered. Spurgeon died four years after his resignation. He died in deep sadness because his church decided to follow the Balaamian track. Today’s churches too follow the Balaamian track. The Balaamian pastors reflect the line “Show me the money!” by Rod Tidwell in one of the most famous movies of 1996 “Jerry Maquire.” Balaam too wanted the envoy to show him the money. The first envoy did not mention any reward, so he gladly refused. The second envoy spoke of great reward, so he insisted to go.
The Balaamian pastors do not fear God. They fear for their life. They fear that they would fall into trouble. Only when trouble is threatened to them do they reluctantly obey God. Only when Balaam saw the great trouble ahead of him that he became afraid. He was afraid that he would lose his life. The selfish soul of Balaam was clearly expressed in our passage above. He knew that his going displeased God, yet he went. God told him already that he should not go. He heard of how God led Israel from Egypt to the border of Canaan. He heard of the ten plagues. He heard of the parting of the Red Sea. He heard of the destruction of the mighty Pharaoh and his army. He heard of the miracles in the desert. He also heard how Israel demolished the Ammonites. Yet his eyes were fixed on the money. When Balak showed him the money, his soul was sold to the devil. Even God he would ignore for the sake of gaining the temporary wealth. All he wanted to hear from God was that he was allowed to go to Balak. And deep down he wished for God’s approval of him to curse Israel. He would let Israel be doomed so that he could be rich. Yes, the Balaamian pastors would also let the church be doomed so that they could have a secure life. They give what the customers want. Regardless of God’s anger burning against the church. They continue to preach psychology, politics, sociology, business, science, without any Scripture in it. Gretta Vosper did. Her church service did not have the word of God preached. They heard the message of love, of peace, of tolerance, of grace, of mercy, and so on, but none of them were from the Scripture.
Many pastors are for hire. Just like a taxi driver they are for hire. To take the customers where they want to go. The pastors for hire drive the customers wherever they want to go, as long as they got paid the fee. No, they do not speak the word of God. They do not warn the church of God’s anger, His justice, His judgment, His holiness. No, because the church does not want to hear such things. They want to hear that it is okay to sin, for God has forgiven them for all eternity. So lies are being fed to them by the pastors for hire. The Balaamian pastors don’t care for the spiritual wellbeing of the church. They will just let them be doomed, just like Balaam could care less about Israel. Balaam would prefer Israel be doomed through his curse, so that he could rake in the gold from Balak.
Now, for you church, are you acting like Balak son of Zippor? Are you trying to entice a Balaamian pastor to come to your church to speak what you desire? Are you ignoring the word of God so you can maintain the lifestyle of sin you are in now? Isn’t it the reason you opt for the Balaamian pastor rather than the faithful one like Elijah, or Micaiah, or Charles Spurgeon for example. Do you know that even if Jesus is now here today leading your church, you would cast Him out, because He is nothing like Balaam? Jesus would not bow to you. He would not do your bidding. He would speak the truth no matter what. He would not be your servant and you will never be His boss. For His boss is God the Father. Even if you threaten to kill Him, He would not budge. But many Balaamian pastors would just give in when you threaten to take away all the convenient you promise them. The heart of the Balaamian pastors is small. They only think of their own life. They only agree to follow God’s directives if their life is at stake. Just like Balaam. As long as they do not feel the threat yet, they would just beat the donkey, and kill it if it is too bothering. Balaamian pastors are blind, but they act as if they can see. When a donkey remind them what actually is at the front, they are mad.
In the end what befell Balaam? In the end what will befall Balaamian pastors? A glimpse of what would happen to Balaamian pastors is cast in the death of Balaam as recorded in Joshua 13:22:
22 Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain.
Balaam was counted among those who were judged by God because their sin was mounting toward heaven.
16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:16)
God promised Abraham that his descendants, Israel, would come back to Canaan after 400 years and be used by God to judge the wicked nations there. Balaam was slain as one of the wicked people. He fell by the sword as Joshua’s army demolished Canaan and killed their 31 kings. Balaam was never counted as God’s servant. God used him to bless Israel in the plain sight and hearing of Balak the Moabite King. It is a statement from God. But Balaam was never God’s servant. Balaam never had in his heart the desire to please God. He only wanted to please himself. When he finally went to Balak, it was because he was “forced” to do it. It was not his desire to work for God without any gold payment from Balak. Balak contracted him to curse Israel. When he blessed Israel, Balak was not pleased, so he gave no reward to Balaam. Balak was gravely disappointed at Balaam.
10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the Lord has held you back from honor.” (Numbers 24:10-11)
Balaam did not go to Balak voluntarily, because he knew he would not get any reward from Balak. He went because God twisted his hands. No, that is not the mark of God’s servants. God’s servants go and do God’s biddings with gladness in their heart. Be rewarded by material wealth or not, they go. The church’s responsibility is to provide for the servants of God, and such arrangement is discussed elsewhere in the book of Moses. But provision for God’s ministers is not salary as the world knows it. Provision for God’s servants is the responsibility of God’s church so His servants may live and have dignity. Today, church’s council has acted like Balak son of Zippor – they act like they are king. So they call pastor to do what they want. They want a Balaamian pastor. They want pastor for hire. They want pastor who do not speak the word of God, but the word of the customers. And so the Balaamian pastors thrive in this day and age, because there are more Balakian council around.
Shame on you Balakian council and Balaamian pastor! Shame on you! You humiliate God’s name by what you do. Yes you thrive, money wise, material wealth wise, social wise, but you are not rich before the Lord. Listen to what Lord Jesus says to the church in Pergamum:
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:12-17)
Yes Balaam resorted to a different way and taught Balak a wicked deception through sexual temptation. Balaam did not repent, I trust you know that already. All for the love of money. Balak showed Balaam the money. And ever since, Balaam could not get that out of his mind. So he instructed Balak to entice Israel to sin. Balaam got the money. Balak got what he wanted. But that doesn’t mean God approved. What happened to Israel? God punished them for committing sexual immorality and for Baal worship. Twenty-four thousand people died because of that (Numbers 25:9). Balakian council and Balaamian pastor are a bad combination. They both destroy God’s people. They deceive God’s people into thinking that flirting with atheism, or scientism, or evolutionism, or any other ism, or LGBT movement, is okay. They deceive God’s people into thinking that doing all those things are approved by God because God is love and forgiving and merciful. Be careful with the Balakian council and Balaamian pastor!
I hope your church does not have Balakian council and Balaamian pastor. I pray that your church will have a Mosaic council and Elijah kind pastor. I pray that your church will have a Davidic council and Nathanian pastor. I plea that your church will have a council that rules like Jesus rules and a pastor that serves like Jesus serves. God’s faithful servants always go by the book – that is the Scripture. Jesus, the highest of them all, the Son of God, God Himself, fulfills all Scripture. Church council and pastor alike must follow the Scripture. And that’s how God rules His church, through His words. When you have to make a decision, do you open the Scripture O council members and pastors? Or do you resort to your experience, your logic, the world’s philosophy, the world’s definition of success? Beware of stepping into the footsteps of Balak and Balaam. Jesus Himself the Lord of the Church will oppose you and war against you if you do. It is my deepest hope that you all will be faithful to the Lord, listen to God’s word, obey His will, and only do His bidding. Amen!