The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness
The Lesson of Balaam
And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
John gives us the answer -
1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
The church has failed at this step. This brings us full circle in discussing the state of faith at the end of year 2002. The church, and its many, many individual members, has not come out from among the world. The church lives, eats, and acts live members of the world. The state of faith is poor.
Consider another biblical example:
There is an interesting case study in the Old Testament. It is a story most of us know - but one that we often leave to discussions about non-believers and their false doctrine. Indeed, the errors of this character are referred to three times in the New Testament. The individual I am referring to is Balaam. His story starts in Numbers 22.
Balaam is a "prophet." He rents his service to those with cash. While most remember his story because of his talking donkey, others struggle with some of the potential doctrinal conflict that arises from one or two verses. Let's review the story.
Balak, the king of Moab, is concerned about the influx of Israelites as they march toward the Promised Land. God brings the nation up the "wrong side" of the Jordan River, that is, to the east of the river. Back in the wilderness, the nation faced a fork in the road, and God led them along what must have seemed like the longer route. After all, instead of turning to the east and moving up along the Jordan, the nation could have just marched straight into Palestine. Of course, God had a lot of reasons for choosing this path.
God was out to show His glory to the nation and to the pagans occupying the land. This glory would be soon demonstrated in the parting of the Jordan River and the destruction of Jericho, but first the nation had to march through the lands of Moab and Ammon, descendents of Lot's daughters.
Balak is not excited about the Israelites, so he sends messengers to Balaam with the request that, for gifts and treasures, the prophet come and curses the nation. Balaam essentially agrees to do so, but pauses to "ask" God. Somewhat unexpectedly I think, God speaks to Balaam and tells him not to go. Balaam is faithful to God's direction and refuses to leave with the messengers.
Balak sends more messengers and, probably, more money. Balaam goes to God, who appears to tell the prophet that it is all right to go with Balak's men, but not to curse the Israelites. Balaam leaves on his donkey, only to have the Angel of the Lord block his path and attempt to end his trip. This is the troublesome passage.
The solution to the dilemma lies in God's initial command - Don't Go! Balaam knew and understood God's express purpose in this situation. Nothing had changed. Balaam could not curse the nation - God was not going to allow that. What benefit, then, was it to Balaam to go to Balak, even if God allows the action? The answer is absolutely none! Yet, God's "Words" to Balaam show the concept of trials and testing.