Needed: A Spiritual Vision Check
Reading Numbers 22 you will note that the Hebrew word דֶּ֖רֶךְ (‘deh-rech‘ meaning ‘way’ – Strong’s #1870) is used 8 times [verses 22, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 34]. Often it has the Hebrew letter bet ( ב) as the prefix to indicate ‘the way’ or ‘in the way’ – בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ (b-derech). These verses contain the famous story of Balaam’s talking donkey. Balak, the king of Moab, had sent an emissary to Balaam in Mesopotamia asking him to come to Moab and to curse Israel. In Numbers 22:12, God clearly commanded Balaam, “Thou shalt not go with them [Moabites]; thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]: for they are blessed.”
At first Balaam said ‘no’ to the Moabites, but when they returned a second time, God permitted Balaam to go with them. Balaam had entered God’s permissive will which is evident by God’s admonition in verse 32, “I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me.” This verse sums up this passage about the way of Balaam – it was perverse or contrary to God’s way because he was intent to curse Israel. If one’s intent is to harm or curse Israel, then their way is contrary to God’s way!
As we continue reading ch. 22 and then esp. through ch. 24, the second ‘theme’ becomes apparent as we count the number of times the word ‘see’ appears in the text. First, the donkey ‘sees’ the angel of the Lord in verses 23, 25 and 27. The Hebrew root for ‘see’ is ראה (rah-ah – Strong’s #7200). Then God ‘opens’ the donkey’s mouth so that she speaks to Balaam. Here the Hebrew word for ‘open’ is פתח (pah-tach) which literally means ‘open’. Then God ‘opens’ Balaam’s eyes in vs. 31. Here the word translated as ‘open’ is גלה (gah-lah – Strong’s #1540). The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says, “When God revealed himself to Balaam it is said that Balaam’s eyes were “uncovered,” “opened” (Num 24:4, 6). It appears that in this manner Balaam saw something which he otherwise could not see.” From this point forward, Balaam refers to himself as “the man whose eyes are open” (cf. Num. 24:3, 15) There are least 24 occurrences of the word ‘see’ (in various forms) in this chapter! So it is all about spiritual vision!
God’s will was clear. Israel was NOT to be cursed. However Balak had offered Balaam great riches if he would curse Israel. Also, we have further insight from Deut. 23:5 that Balaam truly did WANT to curse Israel: “Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee.” Balaam blessed Israel four times when he really wanted to curse them because God overruled and turned the curses into blessings! One of the greatest prophecies in the T’nakh about the Messiah was given by Balaam in Numbers 24:17: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Seceptre shall rise out of Israel ..” I personally think this prophecy guided the ‘wise men from the east’ to travel to Jerusalem and worship the newborn king of the Jews many thousands of years later (as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew). Those wise men would have been of the same area as Balaam.
Despite all that God did to help Balaam find the right way, in the New Testament [2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14], he is used as an example NOT to follow. Primarily these verses refer to Balaam’s doctrine, but we could make a secondary application that Balaam’s way was to curse Israel. God is against anyone who is “cursing” Israel, but of all people, Christians should know better!! The modern “BDS movement” is clearly against the Scriptures!
I want to end on a positive note because God works out all things to our good and His glory! (Romans 8:28) One good thing we can glean from this story is that God would NOT let Balaam curse Israel! God overruled each time and caused Israel’s enemies to bless her with great blessings! God is still on the throne and looking out for His ancient people, and although many ‘Balaks’ and many ‘Balaams’ have come on the scene down through the centuries, no one is able to curse or destroy Israel. God is still telling these peoples the same words he told Balaam, “thou shalt not curse the people [Israel]; for they are blessed!” – Numbers 22:12 Every single person or nation who have gone ‘against God’ concerning Israel has met with destruction. I do not want to be like Balaam whose way was perverse before God. I want to be on the same page with God and I want to be a blessing to those He has blessed!