If you continually plead with God will He give you the desire of your heart even if it is not His perfect will and even if it means certain judgment will follow? The answer to that question will be discovered as we study what the Bible records concerning Balaam, a prophet of God.
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28 NKJ)
Both warning and teaching others is the call of a teacher/preacher. This lesson serves to both warn and teach concerning the danger in asking God for permission to do something that He has revealed is against His perfect will. This lesson may reveal some hidden wrong desires in your heart or sin in your life. However, God does not reveal to condemn or embarrass but rather to deliver and heal.
...the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:56 b)
Our nature is to want what we cannot have – remember Adam and Eve. When you tell a child they cannot have something, that is the only thing they want!
But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. (James 1:14 NET)
However, Satan can only tempt you with what you desire or covet (1) (i.e. what you like or want in your heart). For example, you are going to have a baby and someone offers you a free abortion. There is no temptation but righteous indignation – NO! Later you are offered a promotion at work, which you have been wanting for ten years, with a liberal increase in pay. However, this promotion involves moving away from the church in which the Lord has planted you. Tempted? What happens to thriving plants that are transplanted at the wrong time? They stop thriving!
Planted in the LORD's house, they grow in the courts of our God. (Psalms 92:13 NET)
The Lord plants you where you will grow and if you move outside of His timing will only slow or stop your growth. Jumping from church to church will surely prevent the bearing of mature fruit. Many do this knowing that the Lord has a calling of ministry on their lives and they sincerely are looking to find the church that will recognize it, too. However, they fail to see the connection between many re-transplants and the failure of their ministry to mature and bear fruit. We need to stay where the Lord has planted us and trust Him to grow the ministry He planted in our hearts. Then we will have fruit – fruit that remains! (1)
For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. (Romans 7:5 NET)
The law states what we cannot have; therefore, we scream out for it! (Romans 7:5-8) However, this does not make the law bad.
The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one's life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. (Psalms 19:7 NET)
The law reveals the hidden wrong desires of our hearts so that we, through the grace of God, can place them under the cross thus converting our soul. However, if we choose not to place them under the cross then the law will cause the desire to continue growing in our lives (1 Corinthians 15:56). We can then create more laws and rules to prevent living out these wrong desires only to find the wrongful desires to have increased in intensity with each law or rule we create.
Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. (Galatians 3:24 NET)
The law was our tutor (1) to show man that keeping rules could never save us. We can only be saved by a living faith in Jesus Christ! This living faith only comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (1).
What is the application to your life? Do you have to read your Bible every day to feel accepted and pleasing to God? What about having to go to church every week? What about having to pray every morning? What about having to pay the tithe?
If you believe you have to do these things to be accepted by God then you are under law! (Ephesians 1:4-8. Colossians 2:20-23) We have a personal relationship (1) with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ so we get to read the Bible (they are love letters from your Beloved)! You get to go to church and corporately praise the one you love! You get to go into His presence and talk with the “Lover of Your Soul” early in the morning. You get to be a business partner with the King of Kings in giving your tithe. If you are living in law (i.e., legalism) then repent and get on your face determined not to get up until you have experienced this living relationship with God. Call God’s emergency number of the scriptures “3-3-3”:
Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.' (Jeremiah 33:3 NET)
BIBLE STUDY TIP: If an Old Testament truth is not mentioned at all or very little in the New Testament (e.g., tithing) it is because the requirements have not changed or have had minor changes. Perhaps God is saying, what about giving the first ten percent do you not understand? How much more clarification do you need than I gave in the Old Testament? Think about it…
Let us study the life of the Prophet Balaam and further our understanding of these principles.
The Israelites traveled on and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. Balak son of Zippor saw all that the Israelites had done to the Amorites. And the Moabites were greatly afraid of the people, because they were so numerous. The Moabites were sick with fear because of the Israelites. So the Moabites said to the elders of Midian, "Now this mass of people will lick up everything around us, as the bull devours the grass of the field. Now Balak son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at this time. And he sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates River in the land of Amaw, to summon him, saying, "Look, a nation has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are settling next to me. So now, please come and curse this nation for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will prevail so that we may conquer them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed." So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fee for divination in their hand. They came to Balaam and reported to him the words of Balak. He replied to them, "Stay here tonight, and I will bring back to you whatever word the LORD may speak to me." So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. (Numbers 22:1-8 NET)
Why did Balaam have to pray about cursing Israel? Could it have been that Balaam wanted the money offered to him but knew that you cannot willfully disobey God and still be blessed?
And God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?" Balaam said to God, "Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent a message to me, saying, "Look, a nation has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Come now and put a curse on them for me; perhaps I will be able to defeat them and drive them out." But God said to Balaam, "You must not go with them; you must not curse the people, for they are blessed." So Balaam got up in the morning, and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your land, for the LORD has refused to permit me to go with you." (Numbers 22:9-13 NET)
Look at the motive behind what Balaam was really saying. He actually wanted to go but used God as his only reason for not going with them. He talks to them the way a child tells friends that he cannot come out and play because the mother will not allow it. He really wants to go but understands he must obey God to be blessed. This is the picture of a person under the law and not living in a relationship.
So the princes of Moab departed and went back to Balak and said, "Balaam refused to come with us." Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. And they came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak son of Zippor: 'Please do not let anything hinder you from coming to me. For I will honor you greatly, and whatever you tell me I will do. So come, put a curse on this nation for me.'" Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, "Even if Balak would give me his palace full of silver and gold, I could not transgress the commandment of the LORD my God to do less or more. Now therefore, please stay the night here also, that I may know what more the LORD might say to me." (Numbers 22:14-19 NET)
Now men that are more honorable are sent, with the promise of more honor (and money), then Balaam decides asking God again would be appropriate. Balaam does not know God’s ways only his acts or deeds (Psalms 103:7).
He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. (Psalms 103:7 NKJ)
This is because Balaam does not “fear” the Lord. Balaam is “afraid” of the consequences of disobeying God; however, this is not the same thing as the fear of God (Exodus 20:20).
Wives, have you ever disagreed with a decision your husband was making? You believe him to be completely off base, based on your intuition. You grudgingly go along – after all, he is the “head of the house” (or at least you allow him to think he is – right?). Later you see that it was God who gave your husband the idea. He was correct. You realize that God did this in order to change you from yourself to Christ. You humble yourself and yield to this work of brokenness that God wants to perform in your life. Over the years you learn to see God operating in your husband’s life and reverence him. You realize that there is nothing hidden from He whose eyes are like fire (Revelation 1:14). He is the one that discerns the thoughts and intents of your heart (Hebrews 4:12). You grow to trust Him without any masks on for He is the lover of your soul. A bond of loyalty grows between you and your Lord like between a horse and the owner that has “meeked” them. A fear develops from the realization that you are nothing in comparison to His strength, power, and majesty. However, a bond forms that transcend the fear until all you want is to live with Him forever! That is the fear of the Lord! (Exodus 20:20)
God came to Balaam that night, and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, get up and go with them; but the word that I will say to you, that you must do." (Numbers 22:20 NET)
Do you understand that if you continue to go back to God requesting something He has already let you know is not His best for you that He will give you the desires of your heart even if it is not His perfect will and even if it means certain judgment will follow? That is, God will judge it right for us to be lead by temptation (1) if we chose not to be lead by His will (realize His Word recorded in the Bible is His will). Recall, one request in the Lord’s prayer (1) is not to be lead by temptation (Matthew 6:13).
Have you ever reasoned with God until the thing you know is not right suddenly seems acceptable to God? (Isaiah 1:18) Perhaps because of His silence on the matter? (1 Thessalonians 5:19) However, later you find having this person, place or thing removed the peace of God from your life? (Isaiah 48:22. Isaiah 57:21. Psalms 78:10-35)
There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked. (Isaiah 48:22 KJV)
Israel wanted a king so they went to the prophet Samuel. Samuel asked God on behalf of Israel for a king. God said He was their King and sent Samuel to tell of the misery a human king would bring them. The people still wanted a human king so God appointed Saul (1 Samuel 8:5-22). Then Saul and the kings that followed brought misery to the nation.
God sent Balaam because this was the desire of his heart even though it was not God’s perfect will. God will tell you His perfect will the first time we go to Him. Consider people that reject God’s plan of salvation and trust in their plan. God will go after this person for a long time but will ultimately let them have the desire of their heart even though it means the judgment of Hell (Luke 12:5. Romans 1:18-32. Romans 2:1-11).
So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. (Numbers 22:21-22 NET)
God did not change His mind. The angel (1) of the Lord is there to judge Balaam for going against God’s perfect will. God will give you permission for His plan “A” without judgment or your plan “B” with judgment. If it were not for the mercy of God then Balaam would have been killed on the spot. It is like that with salvation, too. God will give you a chance to accept His plan of salvation for a long time. However, after some time He will give you permission for your plan of salvation knowing the judgment will be eternal separation and confinement in Hell (1)(2).
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, so the donkey turned aside from the road and went into the field. But Balaam beat the donkey, to make her turn back to the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a path among the vineyards, where there was a wall on either side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself into the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he beat her again. Then the angel of the LORD went farther, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she crouched down under Balaam. Then Balaam was angry, and he beat his donkey with a staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?" And Balaam said to the donkey, "You have made me look stupid; I wish there were a sword in my hand, for I would kill you right now." The donkey said to Balaam, "Am not I your donkey that you have ridden ever since I was yours until this day? Have I ever attempted to treat you this way?" And he said, "No." Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; so he bowed his head and threw himself down with his face to the ground. The angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you because what you are doing is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. If she had not turned from me, I would have killed you but saved her alive." (Numbers 22:23-33 NET)
Except for the Lord God opening the eyes of the donkey, Balaam would have died. The donkey was not concerned for her life but that of Balaam. Balaam is thinking of only himself (Proverbs 12:10).
"Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law– justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 NET)
Furthermore, note that even in judgment God remembers mercy (Luke 1:72. James 2:13. Romans 9:14-18). Oh God, great is thy faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:23) God the Son has your name written on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:15,16). Our names were written there with the indelible ink of Roman crucifixion nails! Jesus has chosen to wear these scars forever – He is the lover of our soul! (John 20:27)
Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood against me in the road. So now, if it is evil in your sight, I will go back home." But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but you may only speak the word that I will speak to you." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. (Numbers 22:34-35 NET)
Balaam is sorry for being caught and having to face the consequences. This is called worldly sorrow in the Bible and it leads to death. Worldly sorrow is being sorry for the consequences of our actions. Worldly sorrow does not cause you to be delivered from sin for it does not lead to repentance but rather regret. It is based on the law that arouses your desire for more of the same sin (Romans 7:9-11, 1 Corinthians 15:56 b). The focus of regret is self! What is going to happen to me! Juxtaposed to this is Godly sorrow which leads to repentance and provides the grace to escape strongholds of sin.
For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NET)
Godly sorrow focuses on your sin hurting a Holy God thus wounding the lover of your soul.
For the music director; a psalm of David, written when Nathan the prophet confronted him after David's affair with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts! Wash away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me of my sin! For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin. Against you– you above all– I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me. (Psalms 51:1-4 NET)
Do you have a sin in your life that you cannot seem to get rid of after fasting, prayer, confession to others, etc.? You must get to the point that your motivation (1) for ridding yourself of this sin is not just about how the consequences will affect you, your ministry, family, relationships, etc. Your motivation must be that you are disgracing the one that paid for you at Calvary. It is against a Holy God that you are sinning (1) and bringing reproach to the name of Jesus. In short, you must stop liking the pleasure of your sin and this can only be done when He, who alone is worthy, is your sole (soul) pleasure.
The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 NET)
We need to not only confess our sins but also forsake them to receive mercy.
When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at a city of Moab which was on the border of the Arnon at the boundary of his territory. Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not send again and again to you to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?" Balaam said to Balak, "Look, I have come to you. Now, am I able to speak just anything? I must speak only the word that God puts in my mouth." So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. (Numbers 22:36-39 NET)
Balaam says that he must speak only what God says. Again, this is an indication of a person living under law and not a relationship. He should have said that he only desired to say what my God tells me to say and do what my God tells me to do (cf. John 8:28). Balaam wanted the honor of a human king more than the honor from the King of Kings! This desire for man’s honor led him to self-deception and spiritual blindness.
How can you believe, if you accept praise from one another and don't seek the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:44 NET)
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3,4 NET)
Balaam proceeds to bless, instead of curse, Israel three different times to King Balak’s chagrin. The Lord is speaking through this corrupt prophet. Realize the anointing of God in a person’s life is not God’s stamp of approval for everything that a person says or does! The fruit of godly character is God’s stamp of approval! You must look beyond the pulpit and podium to see if someone really has God’s approval. Many have had the anointing in the pulpit only to live in sin outside the pulpit. Those that live twisted lives will have a twisted view of the Bible and will rationalize their sin (James 3:11,12). They will through self-deception and rationalization begin to believe that their pet sin(s) must be excused by God or else He would not continue to anoint them (James 1:22).
Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish." (Now he did not say this on his own, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish nation, and not for the Jewish nation only, but to gather together into one the children of God who are scattered.) So from that day they planned together to kill him. (John 11:49-53 NET)
Caiaphas was anointed by the Holy Spirit to correctly prophesy that Jesus would die to save the Nation of Israel. However, later he was part of the process to condemn Jesus and turned Him over to the Romans for crucifixion.
Danger: Many have thought that the presence of God’s anointing upon the ministry is God’s stamp of approval for all they are doing and especially if they seem to get away with their sin(s) for a season. This is a deadly mistake! (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30. Ecclesiastes 8:11)
"Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit. (Matthew 7:15-20 NET)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25 NET)
That is, those that hang around the master become like the master (cf. Acts 4:13):
Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry." (Matthew 11:29-30 NET)
Look for true humility (1) in a person’s life. This is a person who is patience, kind, selfless, approachable, tolerant, etc. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
However, some do a fair job of faking humility in the pulpit or podium. Humility behind the pulpit or podium is not their humility but the Holy Spirit’s. Their humility is only revealed in the furnace of everyday life (1) (Isaiah 48:10. Proverbs 27:21). Remember the saying, “fruit does not fall far from the tree.” Look at their family life. What about their children that are still being raised by them or their spouse? Do you see Christ working in their lives? I am not talking about perfection but continuing spiritual progress.
Then Balaam sees a way to make a profit while conducting his second discourse with God.
He has not looked on iniquity in Jacob, nor has he seen trouble in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; his acclamation as king is among them. (Numbers 23:21 NET)
Balaam realizes that if the Israelites will sin then God will judge it right for the curse to come upon them (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Consequently, God will do what Balak is trying to get Balaam to do – judge it right for the curse to come upon Israel!.
Look, these people through the counsel of Balaam caused the Israelites to act treacherously against the LORD in the matter of Peor– which resulted in the plague among the community of the LORD! (Numbers 31:16 NET)
Balaam sells this information (i.e., the secret to destroying a nation protected by God) to Balak and Israel is enticed into sexual sin that results in judgment from God – the plague at Peor (Numbers 25:1-9. Joshua 22:17).
Recall any present-day examples of a nation being lured into sexual sin? Know then judgment is coming! (Mark 9:42)
So Moses sent them to the war, one thousand from every tribe, with Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest, who was in charge of the holy articles and the signal trumpets. They fought against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian in addition to those slain– Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba– five Midianite kings. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31:6-8 NET)
Balaam reaps the error of his folly, for God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). Realize, sin pays a minimum wage – death! (Romans 6:23)
If someone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, which is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:17 NET)
By forsaking the right path they have gone astray, because they followed the way of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, (2 Peter 2:15 NET)
Woe to them! For they have traveled down Cain's path, and because of greed have abandoned themselves to Balaam's error; hence, they will certainly perish in Korah's rebellion. (Jude 1:11 NET)
But I have a few things against you: You have some people there who follow the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel so they would eat food sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality. (Revelations 2:14 NET)
Balaam is remembered in the New Testament as an example to us of a Prophet gone bad. The love of money is a root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Balaam, as many have done in this hour, pursued the blessings and not the Blesser.
So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe. For our God is indeed a devouring fire. (Hebrews 12:28,29 NET)
Many years ago I was offered a position with increased responsibility that included a commensurate increase in pay. I knew immediately in my spiritual heart (1) that this was not God’s desire; however, I told the management team that “I would have to think about it”. They, in turn, stated that they needed me as I was only one they had that could do the job (Unique, really?). After the offer was made I left and prayed to God about it, studied His Word and sought the counsel of others in the faith. The advice that was given to me from others was that perhaps God wanted to use me like Joseph in the Old Testament to save others in the World. However, I still did not have peace about the promotion in my heart. Realize, not having done what I knew to do upon being asked (i.e., turn down the offer immediately) I opened the door for the tempter to enter (Ephesians 4:27. 1 Peter 5:8). I started thinking about the pay increase and the fact that others thought I could be a witness from that position. I finally sensed no objection from the Lord, accepted the promotion and spent the next two years in absolute misery! The Lord still blessed the work of my hands including national recognition; however, I felt as if I were working for Satan himself. That is, I had absolutely no peace in the relationship with my boss and had “Potiphar’s wife” for an assistant! Furthermore, within weeks of accepting this position, I was offered an interview for a job that I truly desired with the same company. Nevertheless, I had to pass on that opportunity since I had not been in the new position for a year. So, by taking the wrong offer I also missed God’s better job offer! It was during this time in my life when God taught me the unforgettable lesson that I just shared in this blog. That is, God will give you the desire of your heart even if it is not His perfect will and even if it means certain judgment will follow – if you continue to pursue it. It could be that we have quenched or silenced the Holy Spirit thus no longer have the still small voice of God warning us (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Then we wrongly assume that since God is not expressibly denying what we want, then He is inexpressibly permitting it! Another way of saying that would be – if you insist on not listening to Him then He will cease warning us about touching the hot stove – thus we think He allows it – we then touch the hot stove and get burnt! Nevertheless, He will be there to provide mercy and not judgment to deliver us from our sin,
Again, our ways are not God’s ways… (Isaiah 55:8,9) but they will be… (1 John 3:2. 1 Corinthians 13:12)
God’s Thoughts and Ways Series:
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part I (Jeroboam)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part II (Paul)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part III (Lazarus)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part IV (Balaam)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part V (King Saul)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part VI (Abel and Cain)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part VII (National Judgment)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part VIII (Joseph)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part IX (Peter)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part X (Invitation, Refusal, Banishment)
- God’s Thoughts and Ways – Part XI (Mary Mother of Jesus)
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) If you are not sure if you where you will go when you die then please select this link.