Balaam Blesses Israel

Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. (Numbers 24:1)

Was Balaam a pagan prophet-for-hire? Or was Balaam God’s own man? Well, he did God’s own job — which speaks volumes. But he was also a diviner … which also speaks volumes. But even as a diviner he understood that the true God would constrain his prophesy. So I think that he and God had some interesting history. In fact, during one of his “good” phases he did three things for the good guys: he blessed Israel; he taught God’s enemies a lesson… and he taught me, too.

For an enigma, Balaam shows up a lot in the Bible: Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Micah, Peter, Jude and John all referenced him… as a bad example. So my question for God is, with the entire world at his disposal, why didn’t he choose a notably righteous man to bless Israel? Why did he choose instead to promote Balaam’s sordid fame?

Now, let me ask you a question. Would you accept a higher profile position if God asked that of you? Or do you feel that you are too flawed, too soiled and too sinful to serve the Lord in such a capacity?  Or is there something in your past that you feel is heavier than the higher-profile-Christian-you can bear?

If your “humble” answer to God’s request is, “Surely not I, Lord!” … you need to get over yourself. Christian service is not about you — it’s about God… and it’s about others. Saying yes to God is not hubris; it is maturity… and if God protected Israel from Balaam, he can certainly protect people from you… unless your personal flaws are so great that God’s love and mercy cannot constrain them — and it could play out that way.

Here’s the thing: God does not do our work for us. And because of this, much of the kingdom’s work goes undone — that’s the price of free-will; we are free even beyond salvation. But how do we know that God does not secretly override our free-will? He made the ass talk, not Balaam.

I don’t want to give the impression that God never used people who lived notably pure lives; it’s just that they are notable because they are rare. Joseph, Samuel and Daniel come to mind, but most of God’s servants have significant character flaws — and Samson comes to mind. But let’s not forget David (adulterer, murderer), the Apostle Paul (persecutor of Jesus Christ — the one who by his own admission is “the chief of sinners.”), Peter (the coarse and impetuous denier of Christ), Matthew (despised tax collector)… and many more.

So what are your flaws? Are they worse than murder and adultery? Womanizing? Is your occupation despised? Have you betrayed and persecuted God’s people — perhaps even working for the enemy himself! God uses flawed vessels… so step right up!

Now, you’ll need to be soft like potter’s clay — so don’t harden yourself in the fires of wrong-headed humility… the unsaved do that. Many well-intended seekers approach God with the idea that they must do some house-cleaning first, but salvation is a come-as-you-are party.

So why not apply this thinking to Christian service? Because, much like salvation, Christian service is about the vessel’s willingness, not its worthiness. We only need to make ourselves available to God. Our hearts are more important than our history, our hands are more important than our inadequacy and our feet are more important than any self-doubt. So jump right in and have no fear… the ass already talked.

(End) 

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