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

Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. 2 Peter 2:15

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. Revelation 2:14

We had a really good Bible study last night. It was interesting because we worked our way through a passage of Scripture, figuring out the details in order to understand it. We are working our way through Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, and our teacher is learning how to teach better, and improving. I don’t mean to say that a bad teacher is one that fails to work his way through a passage any time he teaches, but what really helped this teacher was to work his way through a passage. It also helped to bring the rest of us along that he is learning how to put the questions to us so that we’ll engage in figuring out each step along the way: in this way he brings us.

We studied Balaam, and Balaam is a curious chap. He was some kind of wizard that truly had dealings with the Living God. But all was not well in the heart of Balaam. You can compare him with the true prophets of God who stood up to kings and scorned to serve men rather than God. One thinks of Elisha the Tishbite, of Micaiah, and even of our Lord who refused the kingdoms of this world. Against these, Balaam is ridiculous, and that he is ridiculous appears to be the whole point of his journey.

He is invited, God explains why he must refuse, he replies to the invitation in terms that almost certainly mean he would come if it were up to him—he implies this. So he refuses but gives Balac hope. Balac is a man of the world, he understands these things.

So Balaam is invited a second time, with more allurements, he gets a reply from God that no longer has any explanation and seems to border on sarcasm, he finds he can accept.

God becomes angry. If God had meant his second reply as encouragement, he would not have become angry. Clearly Balaam is missing something (the explanation from the first reply is absolute), and that is what the episode of the talking donkey illumines. So oblivious is Balaam, so intent on what Balac is offering him, that he doesn’t seem to notice he’s having a conversation with a donkey (even a wizard’s life can’t be so characterized by weird situations); he just has the conversation.

He is confronted in unambiguous terms.

Notice his reply to the angel of the Lord: And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.

“If?” The angel just told him he was about to die and only the sense of his donkey saved him. Clearly the discerning reader is meant to grasp the unfavorable contrast between Balaam and the donkey.

Balaam sought a yes and no answer from God, and God gave him a yes and no answer. The whole thing turned out a fiasco, but that did not deter the resourceful Balaam. He eventually found a way, and presumably was able to retire from the rather meager and unrewarding business of wizarding on the proceeds that Balac provided.

Here is an essay about the idol of our age, after which we have run greedily, vandalizing the our own possessions and loving the wages of unrighteousness. Don’t miss the point here.

We have replaced the void left by the former candlestick with christian merchandise—all kinds of artefacts that need the adjective . . . for clarity one supposes, or prurience: to have the copulation of sacred and profane.

The idol is a bit like the Holy Ghost in that it makes one wonder, wither shall we flee from it?

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